Basement Bar, Douglas. The gig comes to an end: Shaking and whimpering walls are now suffocated by the chainsaw fuzz of feedback. The whoops and hollers, sweaty revellers and potent scent of spilled beer suggest this was a raucous and rapturous affair. Gef walks out of the venue a mildly sozzled and bleary-eyed mess: Adrenaline zapping the innards and pulsing through veins; the simultaneous exhaustion / exhilaration feeling that blankets you in a comforting embrace; all amounting to the transcendent and all-conquering force that is live music.
The night in question was a recent dual gig from two of the Island’s most talented bands – Slow Decay and Last Drags. The style of both acts could not be more different: Propulsive goth-rock grooves (Slow Decay) and blissed-out, funk swagger (Last Drags). Yet both bands shared something in common – each were spearheaded by animated, dynamic and captivating frontwomen.
Sabina the Teenage Goth Rocker
When Gef catches up with both singers, it is apparent the confidence they both exude onstage is matched by dry, sardonic wit off it. When pressed on what makes her a worthy addition to the celebrations of all things female, Sabina Jarzabek notes drolly –
“I’m not Wonder Woman and I’ve never saved a dog from a burning house. We’ll see what the future holds”.
Sabina is a founding member of Manx goth rockers Slow Decay. Their sound is a deafening crescendo of swirling, whooshing guitars, sounding like distant thunderstorms, allied to their enigmatic singer’s Florence Welch meets Siouxsie Sioux banshee wail. There’s real songcraft at work here – soaring choruses and catchy guitar refrains to match the sonic assault of the rhythm section. Their image is more in keeping with the goth look but there’s a whole lot more to the band, and their singer, than black attire and moody aloofness. In fact, Sabrina admits she wasn’t even a goth when she first joined the band.
“I was in the band from the beginning, 3 and a bit years now. Even though when first coming into the band I didn’t really have a scooby doo about goth music, more the aesthetic. Within a few practices I started singing and put the guitar down. I’m shy so it was hard at first but I got over it”
Shyness is not a word you’d associate with Sabina’s live performance. She is every bit the flamboyant, immersive frontwoman; losing herself in the music, like a possessed and demonic Stevie Nicks. The exuberance of youth is something she admits herself, is something she cannot shake off, even in her day to day life:
“I’m not an adult and I never will be. Last year I fell out of a tree and broke my ribs”.
We’ve all been there.
Women are a bit whiney
It’s International Women’s Day, of course but Sabina, in true punk-rock fashion, gives zero flying f’s about being on brand.
“Gotta say I have always preferred male singers. Women are a bit whiney. In saying that, Courtney Love has an absolute belter of a voice. I wish I could do shouty angry vocals but I’m cursed with a velvety tone and oddly posh accent when I sing. Nightmare”
Gef can testify to this: The girl’s got pipes.
Is it harder being a woman in rock, in her opinion?
“Yes and no, it’s all about preference and individual opinion. My first rock influence were Nirvana, hands down – the first band I got into. And I wanted to be Kurt (awkwardly I’m not a boy)”.
She may be a force of nature on stage but Sabina hasn’t forgotten her roots. She and her parents moved to the Isle of Man, from Poland, when she was only 11.
“I’m super lucky as I have a very supportive family. Dad used to always cry when he heard me perform and that always cheered me on and embarrassed me a bit. Mum’s ace too and tells me I could wipe out anyone on XFactor and all the other bullsh*t programmes”
Beneath the gothic facade lies a beating heart. Burn your goth stereotypes to ashes you judgemental swine! In saying that, there’s no way any member of Sisters of Mercy has a soul, let alone parents.
Any final thoughts from Sabina on whether she intends to grow up any time soon?
“Peter Pan forever!”
It would appear not.
Boom Boom Shake the….Tiger?
Teresa, or Tiger Boom, when on stage, appears to be every bit the hippie – a free spirit floating blissfully through a Rainbow’s End daydream, swaying and swaggering to her band’s playful and melodic funk-rock jams. Her band, Last Drags, are that rarity in today’s musical climate: Unashamedly optimistic. It makes for joyous listening – a melding of pop sensibilities with funk-rock energy. The gig Gef witnesses is a sun kissed joy, full of hopeful vibes, catchy hooks and jangly guitars, all aligned to a steely confidence. Tiger has a soulful and sweet voice, deceptive in its power and on standout tracks “All my Loving” or the hit-in-waiting “The Path”, there are echoes of Blind Melon.
There’s a mystery and mystique to the singer – her stage name alone lays down the breadcrumbs of unknowable intrigue. What’s her backstory?
“Hard to say what my story is as it changes all the time, new dreams every day but a continuous ideal of being free, loving life and making cool music”
Such Lebowski-esque levels of bohemian cool are, it soon transpires, only part of the story. This free spirit has lofty ambitions:
“(Our) Upcoming plans are to get our long standing album recorded – the plans are in motion! Then go out and play everywhere, all over the world, get signed, play Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, go on Jools Holland, be millionaires, have appropriate amounts of fun….that’s the current plan”.
The locals are taking over
World domination aside, the band are receiving local airplay on Manx radio stations which is, unfortunately, a rarity for most Manx musicians. Hopefully, Last Drags not only achieve their global aspirations but they also open the doors for others, thus creating a vast portal of 3 legged enchantment, for all Manxies to swoop in like queenie-quaffing vultures. Or something. Point being, Tiger puts her own path towards the stage down to our historic local bands just as much as household influences such as Fleetwood Mac and Red Hot Chili Peppers
“My biggest band influences are local bands. For me personally, seeing them up there and knowing that was something I wanted to do: Vex Mamma, Grambo, The Heights, Your Gold Teeth – there are too many to mention”
Tiger Boom is modest when Gef raises the question of her being deemed an unsung heroine of the Man Isle, on this significant day and, like Sabina, she is not one for dwelling on hackneyed gender identity politics in music –
“Is it harder being a woman in rock? I’m not going to focus on stereotypes and I’m going to do whatever I want to do so no, in that case, it’s not harder for me personally”.
Her musical and lyrical idols of the likes of Beans on Toast, the inimitable Kate Tempest, Janis Joplin and Bob Dylan would all share that single-minded drive and clear-sighted focus.
In fact, Ms Boom sums up her own mantra rather succinctly in her own lyrics to ‘The Path’ –
“I won’t go down the same path as the ones who walked before, I’m making my own footprints as I’m walking out the door”
Check out both the Social Decay and Last Drags social media pages for gig details, album details and other updates.