All the way from the U.S.A. in their first tour down under, Lez Zeppelin is set to lift the roof off a few venues – including Port Panthers! Lead guitarist Steph Paynes explains her relationship with the music of Led Zeppelin and the twist this all-girl, hard hitttin’, super-talented band lends to this classic rock …
Hi Steph. Just to break the ice … whereabouts are you speaking to me from today?
I’m in New York City … it’s chilly, rainy and grey – but otherwise, vibrant in spirit, because that’s New York! It’s been very strange weather, bouncing between freezing and spring-like.
Your upcoming tour of Australia will be your first trip down under. What are you most looking forward to about visiting?
That’s right! It’ll be our first time, and we’re totally excited! It’s been on the bucket list for a very long time, so we’re very happy that it’s transpired and we’re able to come visit and play for you.
I don’t know what to expect … we travel a lot. We’ve been to Europe, which is really not that much different, depending where you go, but Australia feels like a completely different environment and ecosystem. I expect everything will be new and refreshing. We’re looking forward to experiencing that and the ways and means of your culture. But, we’re also looking forward very much to playing the shows and seeing what it’s like to work with Australian audiences. I suspect it will be a great deal of fun!
The band’s been together since 2004, which is a long time in show business terms. What do you think keeps you all together and motivated?
Lots of alcohol! (Laughs) I’m kidding! Well gosh, there are so many elements … First off, the music of Led Zeppelin is actively loved by every country and state we’ve ever been to. It’s a universally loved entity; the music is so wonderful and timeless, it’s basically the classical music of our time. Playing this music is our foundation.
You know, bands come and go … There are ways to play this music, and outside of being Led Zeppelin itself, I think what we bring to it is a kind of energy, passion, a sense of fun and great musicianship, but all combined in a certain way. It really seems to affect our audiences – it’s a different kind of show from what you’d expect of a cover band … We’re something else! We’re a real band, and everyone in the band is interesting in her own way.
Of course, it’s a gender switch, so it’s women playing this music, which is very different. But, there’s also a great deal of passion – we bring ourselves to this music with everything we’ve got, and I think that’s why we’ve gone on for so long.
Back when you formed the band, why did you choose Led Zeppelin’s music in particular?
(Laughs). It was really a very naïve thing … It was just a funny little idea I had in between gigs, where I thought if I could play any music I wanted, what would it be? What was my fantasy? And, I thought what would really be fun was Led Zeppelin. I was really into them, I’d rediscovered them and was listening to their music a lot, and I was also hankering to play that type of heavy, interesting guitar – the guitar work is so varied and exciting.
I just wanted to have some fun with it – it was never any kind of career goal! It was never really even an idea to make money; it was just a dream to get together the best musicians I could – and I thought it would be much more fun if we were all women – and to go out and play the hell out of it for a gig or two. If we made $50, we’d go out for a beer – and that’d be it!
And lo and behold – here we are!
I really don’t think there’s much out there that comes close to touching led Zeppelin’s music for its intensity, dynamics, compositional aspects and the sort of je ne sais quoi or alchemy of the music itself that all comes together and when played right, it becomes a magical force. I’ve never been in any other type of cover band- this is the only one – and it’s because the music is what it is.
When you’re up on stage with the band, what are the songs that generally bring the roof down?
There are a handful that are must dos – you build up to them, and the audience loves them. I’d say, Rock and Roll, Whole Lotta Love, Black Dog, Ramble On. Audiences love the opening of the show, if we open with something like Immigrant Song. It’s the more heavy hitting rocker numbers that tend to get people crazed and sweaty!
The band has recorded a couple of albums, but your second album released in 2010, Lez Zeppelin I, was recorded on analogue recording equipment and played on vintage instruments – replicating Led Zeppelin’s debut album from 1968. Any plans for future recording?
We’ve almost finished recording album number three, which features the music of Led Zeppelin with a string section. There are some super cool arrangements with the strings for some songs … and it’s not like muzak or orchestral Led Zeppelin. It’s the full force of the band with some string parts in between. It’s very cool! Hopefully we’ll have some tracks to share when we come to Australia.
Final say …
I’d like to encourage people who are curious or who may have assumptions about what they’ll see to come on down and see the band – because I don’t think you’re gonna get what you’re expecting!
Interview: Jo Robinson.
See Lez Zeppelin at Port Panthers on Thursday, March 21.
Doors 7:30pm/Show 8pm.
Tickets presale $41 / Door $45.