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"ShiraGirl started doing this because they felt like the Warped Tour was very male-dominated -- and it is. I think in general, music is," Jett says. "It's great ... but if I had my druthers Shira would be on the main stage. Maybe that's coming, but it takes time." Joan Jett "Shira is multi-talented, beautiful, and has a great spirit. I've always had her back and I'm behind her all the way. She definitely has that star power. She's really evolved as an artist."
- Tim Armstrong, Rancid, The Transplants At first listen, Shiragirl comes off as in your face, fearless, true to her art. Shira is all those things...what do you expect from a protégé of Tim Armstrong (Rancid), Joan Jett and other punk rock luminaries? Yet Shira is smart...scary smart...and her honest, hard-hitting brand of pure punk rock music is only one of the many layers to Shira. Shiragirl has shared a stage with Rancid, Joan Jett, NOFX, Donita Sparks, Pramore, and Juliette Lewis, among many others. This is just the start for this recipient of MTV Warpie Award, and featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Warped Tour Exhibit. Shira sees something she wants, and doesn't hesitate to go after it.
Shiragirl is perhaps best known for literally crashing the Warped Tour in '04. "We drove our pink RV into the gates of Warped Tour and set up right opposite the skate ramp. Doors opened and everyone came running over to see what all the pink was about. We played a fun and raucous set with our lo-fi sound system. Then Kevin Lyman walked by and we figured we were done for. So I walked up to him to say hello, and he smiled and said, 'Shira! So you on for the whole tour now?' He was impressed with our chutzpah. From there I put together a proposal for a whole all-girl Shiragirl Stage. I wanted to provide a platform for girls to play on the tour, since there weren't any at the time. The next summer we hosted over 200 bands all over US and Canada, including Paramore. The following year is when Joan Jett graced our stage. Running the stage was a LOT of work, but it was for a good cause."
Shira's background is not the typical story of the front woman of an NYC all female punk rock band.
Shira got into music through dance. She started taking professional dance lessons at the age of three...ballet, tap, jazz, hip-hop. "Growing up, I was in a dance company and performed solo and with a group in competitions and special events like the Orange Bowl halftime show with Jon Secada. I've also taught dance, tap and hiphop. I've always felt most at home on stage, performing. Then I got into creative writing, and song writing was a natural extension to that. I hooked up with a producer in London and before long, I was singing and performing my songs live with a DJ. That evolved into putting together a full-fledged all-girl band.
"I always performed musical theatre, but I was also a overachiever in school," Shira continues. "I went to a math/science magnet high school, and wanted to do science research. I won first place at the science fair and worked at a genetics lab at Columbia. I set my sights on going Ivy League and went to UPenn. There, my focus shifted from science to writing, then eventually to songwriting. I also studied Theatre Arts, and became Artistic Director of Strictly Funk Dance Company.
"Currently, I hold down a day job. I work with Pabst Blue Ribbon doing field marketing and event sponsorships. I've gotten to sponsor a lot of awesome events including Brooklyn Electronic Music Festival, a Psychobilly Luau, a huge New Years Eve bash, New York Burlesque Festival and many more."
Shira was inspired to choose music as a career in a surprising way than one might expect. "When I was 7 years-old, I saw Debbie Gibson perform in the Meadowlands in NJ. Debbie came up from ground on a grand piano singing "Electric Youth" and the crowd went wild. I just loved how she had that ability to excite the crowd, and I wanted to be able to do that for people. I love to travel, write and meet people. It just seemed to be the perfect fit for me. I need to perform like I need to breathe. I want people to feel inspired to create art of their own. I don't have the greatest voice in the world, but I do have things to say. I want people to feel like they can do it too."
Shira's musical heroes are as eclectic as Shira herself. "Since I was a young girl I always admired Madonna. Not only is she a great dancer and performer, but she always makes a statement. The way she manipulates her imagery to keep people engaged and entertained, no one does it like she does. And her use of in-your-face, unapologetic female sexuality is very empowering.
"Joan Jett is the ultimate...we opened for Joan in '06 and toured with her on Warped Tour '06. I actually had the honor of performing "Bad Reputation" with Joan, playing guitar and singing back-up. It was surreal. Joan helped me get thru that tour. While running the Shiragirl Stage (we hosted over 200 female-fronted bands) we had a couple girls drop off the tour. Joan Jett herself came to my RV, sat down, looked me in the eye and said, 'You have to keep going. You're doing a great thing. Girls like that make girls like us look bad, because they can't hang. Stick with it.' That meant so much to me at the time. I love how she doesn't take no for an answer when labels didn't want to sign her. She went and started her own label and did it all herself, and her career is still thriving. She is a legend.
"Tim Armstrong totally changed my life. Tim is by far the most down-to-earth rock star I know. Tim approached me on Warped '03 when I was working for the Truth. It was right after he worked with Pink, whom I love. Tim said he wanted to work on music with me, which was amazing. I love Rancid and the Transplants. In fact, Tim helped write a couple of songs on our album: "Tantrum" and "Battles."
Shira loves to perform live, and all the songs she writes are autobiographical. "It depends on the show...sometimes it's scary as hell to perform onstage, like standing naked in front of a crowded room. Sometimes it's incredible, it feels like I'm on top of the world. Those are the times when I'm truly able to connect with the audience. And when I get feedback...positive or negative...that's the best, because that's how I know people are actually listening. Our live show is very in your face, aggressive, and sexy. At the same time we try to change it up and throw in some vulnerable moments."
"Our song 'Lights Out' is one of our heavier songs. A lot of people don't realize what I am saying because it's kind of 'screamy.' But it's about the environment, it's about the end of the world and how we are running out of energy. And how the government is turning a blind eye, and how we let them get away with it. 'Used up and abused all the energy of the earth/we cannot see in front of our own eyes.'
"Tim Armstrong originally wrote the music for 'Tantrum" in the sessions for the Transplants' second album. He gave me the track many years ago and I loved it, I already had written lyrics that I though matched perfectly. The lyrics are about rebelling against the norm, against conformity. Most people are followers and afraid to do their own thing. 'Ya tell me how to act/ya tell me how to be/land of followers/not the land of the free/I'm gonna deviate/cuz I'm willing and able/gonna take to the streets and turn off the cable'
"I want to take over the music industry with my all-girl band and show that we can do it BETTER than the big boys," Shira reveals. "I want to find our audience and have everyone singing our songs. In the long term, we want to sustain our career. A pink house in the Hills would be nice too..."