Dead Sara Should be

the Biggest Rock Band in the World. Even the Foo Fighters Dave Grohl thinks so


Story and photos by Adolfo Tigerino


An anthemic and soulful soft humming seeps through the nooks and crannies of Los Angeles. What sounds like snapping is quickly enhanced with a powerful punch as the guitars and drums kick in. It grows stronger and changes tempo to explode into a hard rock song guided by Emily Armstrong’s vocals like a rallying cry that screams out. Los Angeles’ rock quartet Dead Sara proves that rock is still thriving and pulsating through the streets of the city.

Throughout 2014, Dead Sara performed a series of shows and festivals that kicked off with three L.A. shows at The Echo, The Bootleg, and The Satellite. The band showcased some of their new songs like “Mona Lisa,” “Radio 1 2,” “Lovesick,” and “California Ómbre.” To the DEADicated, a name coined for fans of the band, it was something they have been longing to hear. The long awaited album, “Pleasure to Meet You,” a follow-up to their self-titled album, shows promise that Dead Sara still kept their hard rock sound intact while also expanding their sound. The band is known for Armstrong’s voice that can range from screams to clean vocals, fusing the genres of blues, punk and rock. Their new song “Mona Lisa” sounds like a mix of soul, rock and hardcore.

The band announced on Dec. 19 that the new album will be released in March 2015 through their own record label, Pocket Kid Records, and pre-orders can be made through PledgeMusic, a music-based crowdfunding site, to help fund its release.

Lead guitarist Siouxsie Medley said the band has grown together, and although it may sound cliché, the new album is more mature.

“The first album we were teenagers. Now we’re a little bit more adult,” Medley said.

The band’s major source of inspiration comes from blues and rock. “Blues is where my heart is,” Medley said. “It’s so heartfelt, it’s so real; it’s not this thing that’s artificial.”

To record the new album they decided to rent a house, have fun, jam and record.

“That was like a dream of ours. ‘Okay, let’s a rent house, bring a bunch of equipment, and record a fucking record,’” Armstrong told Alternative Nation. “We didn’t think about it as a second record or anything like that. We just went in, had a great time, and finished a second record.”

The band is proud of their new album and it will be better than the first, because they wanted to write better songs. “A lot of things inspired us to write what we wrote, but ultimately we wanted to write better songs,” drummer Sean Friday said.

Medley said it was a little harder to write songs for the new album because for the first album she had a whole lifetime of material.

“The songs on the first record, some of those riffs, I wrote when I was like 14. You have this arsenal of all this shit that you know you grew up writing and things you’re inspired by, and the second record you have to top a lifetime of what you did and what you say,” Medley said in the Behind the Scenes video on PledgeMusic. “At the same time you’ve grown and experienced a whole new world of things. Definitely a lot more pressure on second record. You don’t want to mess it up.”

Emily Armstrong sings Dead Sara’s new song “Mona Lisa” at The Observatory in Santa Ana, Calif. on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.

Like many artists, the way they write is not conventional, but that is what makes them work well together.

“We’re a tight group and we feed off of each other’s energy,” Medley said. “When we write we get in a room and we just jam. We all individually do our own thing and then it kind of morphs into a song.”

She added that each person in the group brings something extra to their role. Their personality comes out through their instrument which makes it cool.

“Each player is very strong. Their personality really shines through their craft, their instrument, and it just fucking works,” Medley said.

Any DEADicated or show goer can attest to the band’s raw energy on stage, from breaking instruments to bassist Chris Null and Armstrong crowd surfing. It is always one crazy show.

“ Our shows are crazy, messy, sloppy and fun,” Medley said.

Dead Sara’s lead guitarist Siouxsie Medley tears up the stage during their set at the Observatory in Santa Ana, Calif. on Tuesday, Nov. 18, 2014.

Their stage presence does not change, whether it is at an immense festival like Bunbury Festival, opening for Muse at an arena, or at a small venue. Their raw energy and enthusiasm is always there. They feed off the crowd and the crowd feeds off of them.

“I like feeding off their energy and throwing it back and forth,” Medley said.

The energy pumped band is fueled with power riffs, melodies and an engaging vocalist. Armstrong’s vocals can be wailing screams that vary between an angry, I don’t give a crap attitude, to soft clean vocals constantly keeping you on the edge. She is able to switch between soul, blues, punk and rock with ease without missing a step or note.

At some live shows, Armstrong goes from all out screaming or roars to a sweet and soft rendition of “Amazing Grace.”

While the band is wildly unique, if you were to mix Led Zeppelin, Refused, Eric Clapton, and a cracked out version of Rage Against the Machine, and then sprinkle blues that is heavily influenced by Charlie Patton, you will get something that tastes like Dead Sara.

Their influence of older rock music allows them to breathe a fresh perspective into today’s music. Their versatility and their ability to fuse several genres is what makes them stand out as one of the most prominent and promising bands to come out of Los Angeles.

They pay homage to L.A. by covering “Killing in the Name Of” that is filled with that initial anger and energy that Rage Against the Machine always had. There’s never a dull moment when they perform. The band goes into a wild frenzy while playing that feels like they are unleashing a musical beast onto the stage. Armstrong goes out with rage, energy, and enthusiasm with no remorse to her instrument which she smashes it into pieces or throws it into the crowd. While Null and Medley are just tearing it into their bass and guitar while going completely wild on stage, Friday goes berserk on drums. Even in between songs, Armstrong tells jokes to keep the mood alive. Their shows are like a punk show with the amount of chaos that goes on.

The DEADicated love the energy the band delivers at their shows. Their performances are a definite must see. That rowdy, crazy and wildness that the band feeds the crowd and vice versa always makes it an ecstatic show.

“Emily’s energy is fucking rad,” said Tryna Ross, a 40-year old DEADicated for two years. “The energy was great. I really loved it.”

Dead Sara does not try to act or perform a certain way; they just let it happen organically.

“I mean there’s no other way. We’re not trying to be something,” Armstrong said about her onstage presence. “It’s just what it leads to. It’s not put on, it’s when we fucking play music, this is what comes out and we do this every night.”

Armstrong shows a vast array of emotion during her performances. She dives into the emotional state of each song that she sings. Her facial expressions will leave you feeling moved, excited or angry.

Ultimately, the band just has fun on stage. During their last show in Camarillo, Calif., the band randomly broke out into Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” when someone asked for a cover although Armstrong laughed and said she didn’t know the rest of the lyrics, and then continued with their set. It is one of the many things they do spontaneously that music fans do not see often because most bands stick to their set lists.

After finishing the 2014 west coast tour at Rock City Studios in Camarillo, the band said they felt good and ready to start fresh for the 2015.

“I felt ready, more than I’ve ever felt ready to be on the road again,” Armstrong said. “It’s a difference playing as us not opening up for somebody and being a headlining band. It was like ‘Oh my God we can do this.’”

Null added, “Rewarding to do headline shows. Super rewarding.”

Dead Sara, Lemon Scent

Dead Sara are caught off guard on how much support they get by fans.

“Some of them are dedicated, no pun intended, which is amazing and bizarre all at the same time that people follow and go to show to show to show,” Null said. “I never thought I’d be in a band and think that would happen. Most of the time they’re rowdy, crazy and loud and that’s great.”

As their new album approaches and success is on the horizon, they will keep doing their thing no matter what, always staying true to their voice.

“We’re just going to keep going. Obviously success and being mainstream is rad and that’s great, but we’re kind of doing it, just because we love doing it,” Medley said. “That’s kind of where I focus.”

Armstrong said at multiple shows that they have already started writing songs for a third album.

“We’ve already been writing the third record. Writing isn’t the issue for us,” Armstrong told Alternative Nation. “It’s everything else that needs to fall into place like labels and such.”

The band prefers the do-it-yourself aesthetic, because that is what works best for them.

“Our first record we did it all on our own, and we’re going to do our second record on our own,” Armstrong told Alternative Nation. “It took us a bit, it took us a path to realize that is the way to do it.”

Dead Sara had success with their first album in 2012 that featured the hit single “Weatherman.” Armstrong often jokes about the band riding the wave of that single during their shows. And the band continues to gain fans from all over the world, including Foo Fighters’ Dave Grohl who told Fuse in 2013 that “Dead Sara should be the next biggest rock band in the world.”

Adolfo Tigerino is an award-winning journalist and a graduate of the Mt. San Antonio College Journalism Program. He is transferring to Cal State Fullerton University to pursue a degree in journalism.

This story is a part of a special alumni series. Students who have graduated or transferred from Mt. San Antonio’s journalism program are featured weekly.

Substance is a publication of the Mt. San Antonio College Journalism Program. The program recently moved its newsroom over to Medium as part of a one-year experiment. Read about it here.