On a warm spring night in April of 2003, Antigone Rising played to a large crowd at Maxwell's, not knowing that Jason Flom, president of Lava Records, was in the audience that night.
What every band dreams about actually happened. After the show the young women were told Flom was interested, and got signed to a record deal at Atlantic the very next day.
According to Kristin Henderson, the guitarist and back-up vocalist, they were shocked when it happened. "It was amazing," said Henderson. "It was the kind of thing that you dream about."
Grass Roots beginning
Although the major record album has catapulted the five to a larger fan base and national recognition, it was their sixth album. The start of Antigone Rising began with sisters Kristin and Cathy Henderson (guitar and back-up vocals), who grew up in Long Island with the dream of becoming full-time musicians. After finishing college, the sisters moved to Manhattan and began playing coffeehouses and small clubs with a variety of musicians.
In 1999, the band's current line-up was finalized and includes: Dena Tauriello on drums, Jen Zielenbach on bass guitar, and Cassidy (who only goes by her first name) as the dynamic lead singer. The five have opened for Aerosmith, Dave Matthews, and share a writing credit on the song "Don't Look Back" with Rob Thomas, which is on their latest album. VH1 named them one of the "Rising Stars of 2005."
Although their story sounds like a fairy tale to aspiring musicians, these ladies worked to get where they are today.
Working their way up
During the early years the band toured extensively, playing over 200 shows a year all over the United States and self-produced early albums. The ladies haven't been touring as much lately, they've been focusing on the music and are scheduled to release their next album in early 2007.
"One of the benefits of having a major record deal is that you are able to focus on the music," said Henderson. According to Henderson, the five of them have improved as musicians since they first started.
"I think we've all just gotten better at what we do," said Henderson. "We've all gotten more focused."
Flom secured a deal with Starbucks as part of the company's Hear Music division, which puts out CD compilations in their stores. The album "From the Ground Up," was released last year, and Starbucks has helped introduce their music to people in a demographic that normally wouldn't have access to new bands. The album shows a softer side to the band, which has been compared to Joan Jett, Janis Joplin, and the Dixie Chicks.
Their music will move you. The songs have a steady insistence - from the tight guitar work to the pounding drums to the storybook quality of the lyrics that have a simple honesty. Cassidy's passionate, low voice pulls the whole thing together. She uses it to great effect - sounding like a smoky jazz singer with the conviction of preacher.
The Henderson sisters sing harmony and give the band their distinctive sound.
Although all of the women collaborate on the original music, some of the songs on the album were written as a result of a personal experience. The rousing melodies will stick in your head long after the last note has played - but that doesn't mean you should think their music is bubble gum pop. These five are talented rock musicians, who happen to be women.
According to Henderson, it really can be harder to gain respect as a female.
"You've got to be better than the best," said Henderson.
According to Henderson, their fan base has changed dramatically since the Starbucks release, which is an unplugged version of their music.
"Some of our fans are like family," said Henderson. "We know their names."
Fans will get the chance to hear the passionate rock songs of these ladies on Saturday, July 15 when they play an outdoor concert in Weehawken at 7 p.m. as part of HRPAC's free concert series.
Although Antigone Rising has some shows scheduled, most of their work is going towards perfecting the 25-plus songs they have for the next album.
"Because we've been a live band," said Henderson, "we prefer playing songs live - to let them grow a little, live a little - before we go into recording."
According to Henderson, the band hopes to record their next album in Nashville, where they spent this past spring. As a band, they prefer playing live to anything.
"The most important thing is the tours and the live shows," said Henderson.
According to Henderson, she loves the connection with the audience, whether it is a small or large crowd. "If we are doing our job right, they all will feel it," said Henderson. "It's pretty intense."
Catch Antigone Rising live in Weehawken on Saturday, July 15 at 7 p.m. as part of the free summer concert series in Lincoln Harbor park. For more information on the band, visit: www.antigonerising.com. For information on the concert series, visit: www.hrpac.org.