Stolen Babies are one of the most unique bands out there right now. They have been on tour with big names Pop Evil and Stone Sour to start 2014. What separates them from their touring partners is the fact that they have a female vocalist, Dominique Persei, who just might be the greatest accordion player in rock music. Persei sat down with us for a rare interview.
“I had more training in accordion than vocals” explains Persei. “When I was about nine I wanted to take voice lessons. I remember going to see this guy and he had his students sing for me to just show what I could do and what he did with pupils. I always had issues with anxiety and I had a panic attack. I ran out and that was my attempt at voice lessons. When I began screaming I went to see a coach just to make sure I wasn’t hurting anything.”
Her other musical training experiences were less frightening:
“Accordion lessons, I did take when I was about 16 or 17. I took piano lessons when I was really young but stopped. I’ve had a history of on and off music lessons”.
Part of Persei and Stolen Babies’ interesting sound may come from the range of influences. “When I was younger I was influenced by Raffi the folk singer. I liked musical theater. There were certain musicals I really loved and I would make my toys put them on. I would study the Cats’ makeup and draw on their faces. I built a theater out of a cardboard box. I don’t really like rock musicals like Rent but Andrew Lloyd Webber and Sondheim. Out of the bands that I listen to, Faith No More was a big influence. I remember seeing them when I was a kid and Babes in Toyland opened for them. They left a huge mark on me too. I wanted to play bass and I played for a while but I met Rani [Sharone] and stopped”.
The group has had their share of memorable concert experiences. One of them was right after they took a hiatus. “There was a show when we started touring again two years ago in Denver and it was our first tour in a very long time. I thought I wanted to start a song off a capella and to everyone’s surprise the audience came in and sang it with me. It was a pretty crazy moment.”
Another one was on a tour with the Dillinger Escape Plan, whom drummer Gil Sharone played for.
“In 2008, we toured Europe with the Dillinger Escape Plan. There was like a Metal Mania Festival in Poland and we headlined the second stage which was mainly the hall, but it was huge. All these people knew who we were and they were going crazy. We use to cover this Polish song which was this huge drinking song. It was an old Stolen Babies song so we just did a little bit of it and it was the most surreal thing. They just went nuts and I swear there were people floating. Afterward I told the guys not to get used to it. You can get spoiled by that kind of thing.”
Besides their accordion driven sound, Stolen Babies is known for the theatrical presence onstage. They actually got their start as a theatrical/improv music group, from which their current band name was derived. Persei elaborates upon these crucial elements of their performances: “Inever knew it was so important until tonight. I think it’s just part of what we do and we can’t not do it. Tonight I didn’t really dress up. This is just a plain black dress, it’s cold out there, we had a rough day and the show last night got canceled. We’re sort of drained but I never don’t put the makeup on. Tonight I felt a little bit like something’s kind of off and I think I do need to dress up. It was kind of this accidental experiment. I guess we have this inherent theatricality.”
Stolen Babies very recently became a three piece with the departure of guitarist Ben Rico. It has proven to be both a beneficial and disadvantageous shift.“It’s a good thing because it is a new thing and scary. I think that’s a good thing to be always pushing boundaries for yourself. You have this energy and the audience picks up on it. The drawback is that we don’t really fit in. People go to a metal show and want to see like five dudes onstage. We have all these elements that people aren’t familiar with. I think it can confuse people a little bit. A good thing is that we all have to play more. Rani is starting to sing more, I’m playing percussion a bit more, and Gil is starting to play more melodic instruments like a glockenspiel. All three of us are stretching ourselves out.”
Owing to the fact that the band has played with diverse acts from death metal, to hardcore, active rock and only occasionally finding some common ground with tour mates, definitely sees them challenging audiences. Like every band, Stolen Babies has played for tougher crowds, including on this tour. “Standing on that stage and every night on this tour so far you look out into the audience like ‘Are they staring? Do they get it? Rani said he saw on Twitter or on Instagram that someone posted a picture of us like ‘What the fuck am I looking at right now?’. We get a reaction whether it’s good or bad. People will remember us, even if they hated us. It’s better than being forgettable”.
Persei sees the bands uniqueness as very positive, especially in the long term. “It seems like it’s always been good and bad. I think it’s always good if you do what you do naturally. Maybe you want be a millionaire but you want to do it your way. In the end I want to feel that I expressed myself in the most honest way I could. I want to know that I put out a product that represented me.”
There was a six year gap between Stolen Babies’ last two albums, leaving fans to wonder if they will see another release any time soon. “We were supposed to be working on it and didn’t plan to tour until March or April before we were offered this tour. We have new songs that were so excited to play and one of them we wanted to play on this tour, but it just didn’t work out. However, the answer is yes”.