Take a fiery-eyed red-head who’s known for staring down her prey at live shows, a lead guitarist who plays like U2’s Edge and looks like a ’90s version of Billy Idol, a mini metallic keyboard with more tricks than a two-dollar French prostitute, and you’ve compiled the unique traits setting apart Tampa-based band Brainiac’s Daughter from other unsigned Florida hopefuls waiting for their big break. This techno, sci-fi-distorto, rock act — composed of Kristy Jo Haima, (vocals, keyboard); Chris Skogen (guitar), Ike Glinsboeckl (bass), and Eric Toregersen (drums) — has made a sweet stink in the Tampa area, opening for national acts such as K’s Choice, winning a spot in a national Tommy Hilfiger television ad, and receiving runner-up distinctions at the Virginia Slims Dueling Divas Competition. I spoke with Kjo/Jojo/Kristy Jo/Chicky-babe (she hasn’t decided yet) and Chris about anything they wanted to. Here’s what we came up with.
Do you think the alternative music world has embraced female-fronted groups with open arms, or does a male-dominated stigma still exist?
Chris : Depends on the definition of alternative. Some “alternative” radio is overwhelmed with female acts, but I feel that women are only played on those stations if they tend to play music that is “pretty.” If the music gets too edgy or the women tend to have a good old-fashioned rock n’ roll attitude, they seem to be cut out. I don’t think there are enough descendants of Chrissie Hynde, Patti Smith, Romeo Void, and Siouxsie Sioux in music right now. The general attitude seems to be leave the heavier stuff to the men.
Kjo : Personally, I view most women in the music industry as having a little more of the male instinct and drive than other women might have. Take for instance Deborah Harry, Chrissie Hynde, and Madonna. These women set the path past and presently for others to follow. It’s no news to them that the industry is male-dominated, so they work to break new ground and set new goals. Every one of them knows how to get around the system in their own special way.
Do you think some boys don’t play fair in this business?
Kjo : A girl would have to be a fool to step up to the plate not thinking that she’s going to strike out a few times because the boys won’t play nice. I feel lucky that I picked up early that it was going to be tough going. I figured I had better get my shit together and learn as many aspects of writing, playing and decision making as I possibly could. To do so instantly gives you a little more respect from the opposite sex right off the bat. It’s still difficult at times, because boys always have some sort of frat ritual going on, making it hard to be one of the gang.
Is it hard having a Euro-pop/techno base in your music and be in an area that cherishes the Southern-style rock boy bands or the punk scene?
Chris : Absolutely. Florida clings pretty tightly to the tried and true. It’s not like there aren’t a lot of great bands in Florida, but I would like to see more bands that are pushing the envelope. To me, the most important ingredient to a great music “scene” is that the bands musically inspire and challenge each other.
Kjo : It is hard in some aspects. Brainiac’s Daughter has something special, though, although I’m not sure what exactly “it” is, where we appeal to all sorts of people, age groups, and musical tastes. We have played with bands similar to Matchbox 20, Godsmack, and Limp Bizkit and said to each other “oh shit, bad bad idea. We’re going to get out there and they are going to throw olives at us.” Those shows have turned out to be some of the best ones! I think it goes along with some preconceived notion that “chicks just don’t rock.” You don’t have to be a boy and be loud and noisy and swear a lot (although I do) just to rock.
Why do you think some people have placed false labels on your sound?
Kjo : With our music, people are obsessed with the electronica that we integrate. It’s automatically thought that because we’ve got a beat box, a keyboard, and a chick fronting the band, that we are just electronica or techno and definitely NOT rock. The fact of the matter is, the rock guys have got the whole electronica-drumloop-dancing groove down better than the pop artists.
Just how much did XTC influence your musical style? I mean, can we reveal the source of your band name to the public?
Chris : There probably isn’t a lot of direct XTC influence in our music, but I do admire their songwriting and musical ability. They’ve always been one of my favorite bands, and naming our band after one of their songs seemed like a fun way to acknowledge them. Buy XTC albums…..Buy XTC albums……Buy XTC albums…….
Kjo : Actually, if you want to get technical, our band name came from a song title off the Chips from the Chocolate Fireball album released under the name Dukes of Stratosphere. XTC influenced me just by getting me excited about pop music. I was stuck somewhere between Chopin and Rachmaninoff, and XTC pulled me out. Being a small-minded musical dork (a piano performance major in college), I didn’t think that any music other than jazz or classical could possibly warrant any respect.
I hear you’ve been wanting to play the role of journalist and interview your idols as well? Do tell…
Chris : We’ve been trying to hook up an opportunity for us to interview XTC via phone and then have the interview printed in one of the area music magazines. We’re just looking for an excuse to meet them.
Kjo : The band would like to set up an interview with Andy Partridge of XTC where we get to ask the questions instead of a journalist. We’re looking for help, though! We need a magazine to set up the interview with their management and print it for us. By now you’ve picked through all the fluff BS and figured out I just want to meet them. But hey, it certainly would make for a cool article.
What do you think about the competitive vibe felt between the Tampa/Orlando music scene? Are bands, publications, venues, etc. at each other’s throats, or are the playing fields pretty open and equal?
Chris : The competitive vibe is there. It’s weird. Some of the press seems to encourage the rivalry, but as the bands interact with each other more and more, it should improve. It’s all about perception and attitudes, if we could all just spend more time in each others towns, it would pass. Once a band makes some noise nationally, then that band is just a “Florida” band.
How do you feel when you are constantly compared to Garbage? Who do you think you sound like?
Chris : Honored. Garbage is a great band. Actually, I’m not sure who we sound like. A little bit like Siouxsie and the Banshees and a little like Garbage. I won’t deny that Garbage get us excited and fired up, but like any original band, we are working to find a sound all our own. Time will tell.
Kjo : I love Garbage. I think they’re an absolutely fantastic band, and although the comparison is a compliment, it’s getting old. I’m not afraid to say that they influenced our style and that our music is in the same vein as theirs, but it is still different. I think that people like to use that comparison because there’s a chick fronting the band with three guys in it. The moment you stick a girl up front to sing, you are opening yourself up for more “comparisons” than any boy band might get. Especially when she’s not a cookie cutter solo artist and she’s a redhead.
So, if you were a blonde…?
Kjo : If I were a blonde, we would have already been compared to Hole or Blondie. If I wore plastic, it would be Missing Persons. Too bad I’m so fucking confident of my looks, or I would have already dyed my hair blue. It might actually come to that to get people to concentrate on the music instead of on my hair. I suppose at the same time this could all work to our advantage.
Kjo, I am sure the male groupies are plentiful. How are you dealing with it, diva?
Kjo : I must scare the shit out of boys, because they haven’t been hanging out in droves after shows. I also don’t think that boys get as wild and crazy about meeting a band as, say, girls acted over meeting the Beatles. I can’t really think of a band where guys just went nuts and acted like those girls did. The most guys ever do is mosh until they split their heads on the ground (no pun intended.) Perhaps guys are just too cool for cats to get goofy and silly behind stage.
Have you had any really scary ones approach you at a show?
Kjo : We’ve had some pretty strange people confront the group as a whole. People have written contracts during our shows and given them to us that night wanting us to sign up with their organization or record their material. We did some research on one in particular, and as it turns out, this guy does it all the time. I think he took a special liking to our band because some of us in the band are from Wisconsin and he spent time in the state penitentiary there. I guess he figures we’ve got a lot in common that way… maybe?
Your live stage presence is hypnotizing – how important is it for the crowd to be on your side? Do you ever have to change your appearance or style to appeal to different crowds?
Kjo : It’s very important for the crowd to be on our side, especially younger ones. For the time that we’re on stage performing, I want to give them self-confidence that maybe they can walk away with.
Tommy Hilfiger ads? Tell us more…and be honest… do you all sport the red white and blue colors?
Chris : Just blue. Dark blue. Closest I could get to black.
Kjo : Well, we sold our souls to do television commercial and radio spots for the Burdines/Tommy Hilfiger back-to-school campaign. The band and a song from our debut album, “Fever,” is featured in the television commercial, and yes, we are sporting the Tommy Girl/Tommy Boy look. It was a shock for me to wear color, as most everything I own is black or earth tones. All those bright colors made me feel way too spunky. The wardrobe department didn’t have Chris’ correct shoe size, so wardrobe stuffed his size 13 feet into a size 11 Tommy-shoe. He had to wear them for hours. I think the most fun any of us had was watching the models compete for camera time while on set. The campaign will begin airing on major network television stations and radio the first week in August.
What is a “dueling diva” competition? Is that gender specific? I am probably asking the males of the Brainiac camp…
Chris : Nah, it’s not overly focused on the “Diva” thing. Since the women all get along too well, us guys have to wear dresses and stage a few “cat” fights to satisfy the crowd.
Describe the CD — who wrote the songs, and are there particular ones that are more personalized than others?
Kjo : We like to believe that my cat, Zero, wrote the songs. The songs that made the cut are the ones where he didn’t scratch at the recording console. Seriously, there hasn’t been enough distance since writing them for me to reflect on what I was emotionally going through when doing my part or the songwriting.
What do you hope your music gives to your fans’ lives? Where would they most likely be listening to it?
Kjo : We hope it at least gives them a nice beer coaster for their coffee table. You must have taken the fight out of me, because my answers are getting shorter.
Chris : Energy and some good memories. When you hear a song that you like 10 years from now, it always seems to remind you of people and places from the past. They would be listening in their double-wide.
How will Brainiac’s Daughter conquer the world from here?
Chris : Air superiority.