Sometimes a musician (or maybe two) crosses into your auditory periphery and you can't help but to not only be intrigued, but to dive in deeper to learn more, to listen more. When I first heard both Vanessa Silberman and Carissa Johnson, I had to know more, hear more.
These two rocker girls are essentially living my dream (if I could sing or play guitar, that is). They took their love and drive for music further than just writing about it. Silberman has had nearly every job you could imagine in the music industry — assistant engineer on the last album for The Kills, running an artist development label, doing graphic design, intern at Warner Chappell Publishing in the A&R deptartment — in addition to rocking out both solo and as part of the band Diamonds Under Fire. Johnson recently won Boston's Rock and Roll Rumble as the first female since Amanda Palmer and The Dresden Dolls won it in 2003.
"I really wanted to take a chance on myself, give myself an opportunity to do what I'm supposed to be doing," Silberman says of her career in the music industry. "I feel like a lot of people are told you have to pick one thing. People don't understand the workload, but I'm working on stuff I love that drives me and makes me happy."
Silberman, whose early influences came from the Northwest grunge scene, grew up watching Nirvana music videos on MTV at her friend's house, because her family didn't have a TV or radio. She picked up the guitar and that was it. Hooked.
"I was completely driven to do music," Silberman recalls. "I had a few music lessons growing up and I went to a couple music camps. I remember them very vividly. I took a guitar lesson from Anton [Vic Briggs] from The Animals. He said to me, 'If you decide to do music. it's really hard. It's a really hard path.'"
Silberman and Johnson met one on another tour when they both played at O'Brien's Club in Boston. "I admire that she is way beyond her years. She's a very intuitive, really talented player," Silberman says of Johnson. "I love her musical style — it's very different and creative. She does a lot of different parts. I find that to be really cool. She's a really great songwriter and performer. I think her energy onstage is amazing."
Johnson, who also tours around the country performing with her band Swivel, started playing guitar around age nine and then moved to bass at age 15. She loved it. She loves the power, the rhythm and that you can hear the bass over the top of everything. While Silberman took inspiration from Nirvana in the height of '90s grunge, Johnson loved the '70s New York punk and new wave scene, which you can hear reflected in her music.
Though she has a Joan Jett vibe, modern day comparisons lean more toward Brody Dalle, formerly of The Distillers, and Alison Mosshart of The Kills. She has the look and the sound you want your female rock stars to have — the IT factor. She's a badass and writes the way the rest of us feel.
I currently can't get enough of the track, "Bound to Be," which you can hear on her Soundcloud profile.
"You wanted something disposable
And maybe you thought it was me
I made myself into a paper plane just to try to be
You wanted something that I did too
To be able to run from everything we knew
I made myself into concrete blocks just to walk with you
Even if you walked all over me
I wanted something stronger than me
Maybe I thought it was you darling
You picked me up and put me out of reach
I always knew I was bound to be"
"I love that she's out there doing it," Johnson says of Slberman. "She's almost fearlessly taking on the whole country. She keeps a very level head and has such a positive outlook on everything."
Silberman takes a different direction with her solo recordings than she did with her band. With Diamonds Under Fire, the sound leaned more on the grunge and alternative rock side of the spectrum. Now, she's exploring different genres. "Hide My Love Away," finds Silberman taking a more folk-minded approach, with a bit of her rock 'n' roll growl hidden in the depths. "Think Tank" features her friend Derek Jordan rapping on the track. She felt inspired to blend punk and hip-hop with an alternative rock chorus — and it totally works.
"I feel like I'm adding to the world instead of taking away," Silberman says. "I just want to make a difference in people's life. Man, that totally strikes me. Music never goes away, it's always there."
Vanessa Silberman & Carissa Johnson
Wed., July 19. 9pm.
Third Street Pub
314 SE Third St., Bend.
EDITORS NOTE: This article has been updated to correct two facts. Vanessa Silberman interned at Warner Chappell Publishing in the A&R dept and took a guitar lesson from Anton (Vic Briggs) of The Animals. We regret the error.