Sierra Kusterbeck of VersaEmerge
VersaEmerge have traveled a long road but are finally able to celebrate the release of their first full-length album Fixed At Zero. Formed while founding member and guitarist Blake Harnage was still in high school the band has gone through several personnel changes before settling on the current line up which also includes vocalist Sierra Kusterbeck and bass player Devin Ingelido.
The band has spent their summer sharing tracks from Fixed At Zero to the massive crowds at Warped Tour and gathering new fans along the way. Sierra took a few minutes out of her hectic schedule to chat with us about the new album, covers, and collaborations.
Interviewed by: Mandi Loranger
You just released your album Fixed At Zero in July. Was it hard to adjust the theatrical, symphonic sounds of the album for a live Warped set?
It’s actually more fun. We added some stuff to make it bigger and a little punchier. It’s actually a lot of fun and it’s all on tracks for Warped. We don’t have the money now of the capabilities to play everything. So we have fun with it. We love making that our main type of sound.
That’s my favorite part. You hear a song, you know it’s VersaEmerge.
That’s awesome I like to hear that.
I didn’t realize how much the line up has changed through the years. I know you’re not the original singer and you’ve also gone through some line up changes more recently. Your current line up seems to mesh well together. How did this line up come together?
Well I found them on Myspace at the time they were [having] open auditions for a singer. I just got this strong feeling in my gut, “I just gotta do this, I don’t know why. I’m probably going to embarrass myself but I gotta do it.” So my mom helped me find a studio, we recorded the demo and sent it to them. Blake and I were talking about it and he said“Yeah I got a feeling in my gut, it was just a good idea.” So I went over his house, we wrote a song and we meshed. Musically we clicked so well. I’d never written a song in my life and there we were writing a song together which was “The Authors” that was the first song we ever wrote. I’d never written before and having to do it for the first time with Blake was perfect. We’re total opposites, polar opposite people but musically we clicked so well. So it worked out.
How has the journey been to get to this point where you’ve finally released your first full-length album?
It’s been crazy. It’s definitely been amazing. It feels more legitimate now that we have a full-length rather than just two EPs so we have something to work off of. It’s our beginning. We’ve been around for two years with our EPs but now it’s our real start so it’s kind of crazy to think that. I don’t know; it’s really cool. I’m glad that it finally happened. We’ve grown so much from this whole experience, from the first EP to now.
You did a cover of the Rolling Stones song “Paint It Black” for Punk Goes Classic Rock. Was that your choice?
Nope, not my choice whatsoever. They gave us a list. It was on the list and Blake chose that song. I hate that song. I was like “No. You’re crazy. That song…is so boring.” It’s just the same two verse things happening over and over just repeat, repeat, and repeat. I told Blake that it wouldn’t be a fun song for me to sing. I wanted to do Pink Floyd or Zeppelin or something. I wanted do something crazy. We argued about it for about a month. We argued about it so long that we basically ran out of time and had to do “Paint It Black.”
He knew that by the way. That was his plan.
Yeah probably. Blake did all the music for it; he was like “don’t worry. You’re going to like it.” He recorded it in a studio and added all of his instrumentation because I told him he could do whatever he wanted to do since I originally didn’t even want to do the song. He sent it to me and I was like “This is awesome!” [laughs] It was really awesome; he twisted it up and made it. That’s what Blake does. Blake is that Versa sound; that’s his little twist to it. Every time somebody is like “that’s so Versa.” That’s Blake. He’s very in his world and definitely goes his own way. But “Paint It Black” was great. I got to do some fun stuff vocally. We’d just be in the studio and say, “let’s try this. Let’s do this. Let’s blow it up.” So it actually ended up being a lot of fun.
“Paint It Black” is pretty dark so when I saw you were doing it I thought it was perfect for your voice and Versa’s style.
I’m glad we did it. I love it.
I was surprised to hear that you didn’t want to do it because I thought it was “so Versa.”
That’s what Blake said because of the sitar riff in the beginning. He thought that it sounded like something we would do.” I was like “all right, whatever.” [laughs] I wanted to do “Kasmir” by Led Zeppelin because we wanted to do something crazy.
Collaborations are really popular right now, would you ever consider it?
I’m not really into that. I did it with A Day To Remember because they asked me but for us personally we’re a newer band, a lot of people haven’t heard of us and we’re trying to promote us as ourselves. The last thing I want is “we got this really famous person to sing on our song” to gain fans. We want to be known for us. Kind of like what Kesha did, she’s on that Flo Rida song and she didn’t have herself featured on there because she wanted her own single to be out first and known for her thing rather than “the chick who sang with Flo Rida.”
There seems to be more haters with female-fronted fans, how do you handle that?
Oh Hell yeah. Gotta love the haters. Everything just goes in one ear and out the other personally. I don’t care at all. I see some terrible things said about me. I see sexual things said about me. I honestly think it’s funny. I’m a hard person to knock down so if anyone wants to hate on me I’m the perfect person. Go for it [laughs]. But you know what, you gotta have haters because haters actually bring you more fame.
Love you or hate you, they’re talking about you.
Yeah. You know that band? They really suck; you should listen to how bad they suck. “All right I’ll check them out right now.” [laughs]
You did a small tour after Bamboozle that took you to less-toured areas. Do you know how you ended up touring in places like Montreal where so few bands go?
That’s weird because people should tour there. I think the fact that they don’t is why the fans there are so awesome every time we play Montreal. We went there with We The Kings first and that’s how we got there. We probably wouldn’t have gone to Canada naturally because we don’t know what the turn out would be. So we went there with We The Kings, it was nuts and then we’re like “let’s go back, we have fans there now.” And every time we go back, it is just insane, they keep coming and it’s a great time.
What is it like being on a tour like Warped Tour? Are there things you like better? Things you like less?
I like Warped because you’re just surrounded by really great people who are all on the same page. They’re all here because they love music and it’s just a big family. You walk off the bus and you walk somewhere and you’re like “Hey!” “Hey!” It’s just a smiling face, everybody knows everybody and it’s really great and it’s a good time, the best memories. Last year I made some of my best friends ever, I’m making best friends this year. I like it because you get a large pool of kids, kids that would probably not check out your band in a million years. People here are waiting to watch The Casualties play after us and sit there through our music and then end up buying our record. If they saw our picture, never in a million years would they be like “I’m gonna check them out.”
Is there a typical Warped Tour day?
It’s usually just waking up and eating, finding the nearest port-a-potty [laughs], for me it changes every morning, I’ll either go make posters and post them everywhere or go walk lines and try to sell CD’s where a lot of kids just give you the cold shoulder or turn you down. Then some days I’ll wake up and I usually run around the grounds and go for a nice jog and try to have some alone time because you’re never really alone. And then when the doors open, that’s when the madness ensues and then you wait in line for catering most of the day because you don’t wanna miss catering. It’s the best part.
Is there a band on the tour you were really psyched to see or try not to miss?
I’m excited to see Juliet (Simms of Automatic Loveletter) because she’s such a good friend of mine. We live like 20 minutes from each other. It’s really weird. I just love being able to hang out with her and her set’s amazing.
I like to close with my staple question: If you could have one band or artist follow you around and perform the soundtrack of your everyday life, who would it be and why?
It would be Gaga. Lady Gaga…or Bjork. That might be a better choice. Maybe both of them working together, that would be awesome. I think they would do really well. I think that needs to happen.