Hervana: The Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Modern, all-girl takes on rock classics that would make Kathleen Hanna proud.
File next to: Vag Halen, Sheezer, Nirvana, the Constantines, the Breeders, Blue Cougars
Playing: #WL15 Night 1, Friday Feb. 13 at Sneaky Dee’s

Hervana is an all-girl Nirvana tribute band from Toronto. After someone tweeted that a band with this name need to be formed, the members took it upon themselves to see it through, and now perform the hits and deep cuts from Nirvana’s catalogue with their own spin, under the names Skirt Cobain (Carly Beath), Miss Novoselic (Erin Saunderson), Dave Grrrl (Adrian Pasen) and Pap Smear (Michelle Turingan). While the band has generally stuck to their namesake, they will be performing a set of Constantines songs for Wavelength’s 15th Anniversary Festival.

So, as a Nirvana cover band, does it feel weird to be doing an all Constantines set, or is it just part of the cover band life?

Carly: Not really – Nirvana and the Constantines both put out albums on Sub Pop, so there’s a connection there!

Michelle: It’s a lot of fun actually! It’s refreshing to switch things up every once in a while.

Adrian: We love doing covers! We’re great at it too. Plus, every new batch brings its own set of unique challenges (timing, instrumentation, etc.) and forces us to grow as musicians.

Had you listened to the Constantines before this, or is this all new for you?

Adrian: I definitely knew and enjoyed a bunch of their songs, but this opportunity has prompted me to really listen and appreciate the intricacy and sonic amazingness of their compositions. So tight, so powerful.

Erin: Somehow, this is all fresh ground for me. Sometimes it’s opportunities like this one that are the impetus. I think we’re all having a lot of fun sorting out the songs we’ve chosen.

Thinking of using alternative band member names for the Constantines as well? Like maybe “Steve Ma’amke”?

Erin: Or Will Kidwoman? Nah, I think we’ll reserve that for Hervana, haha!

Adrian: I hadn’t even considered this! But yes, I agree with Erin that these should be for Hervana purposes only!

Which Constantines songs are you excited to perform?

Carly: Find out on the 13th!

Adrian: It was hard to choose just a few! So many good ones. You’ll just have to wait and see!

So besides, Nirvana and the Constantines, is there any other bands you would want to cover?

Carly: Well, we did a show in December that had a 6 Degrees of Nirvana set – Hole, Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Pixies, etc. That was a lot of fun and the plan is that it will end up being an annual thing.

Michelle: Le Tigre was my favourite from that night. I’m into covering bands that no one is expecting us to cover.

Besides Nirvana, what sort of influences do you think you bring into your covers?

Carly: I’m influenced a lot by alt-rock bands of the ‘90s with female singers: Hole, The Breeders, Helium, etc. I’m interested in mixing those kinds of vocals with Nirvana’s sound.

Michelle: When I first started performing live (early 2000’s), I was listening to a lot of Tegan and Sara at the time. They have really great harmonies. So I try to harmonize on songs wherever I can.

Adrian: I’m heavily influenced by shoegaze, free-form/prog type stuff, minimal wave, plus a lot of straight-ahead classic indie rock. Lots of female vocalists too, from PJ Harvey to Kate Bush. Drum-wise with covers, though, there’s not always a ton of room for creativity. I tend to try to stick to the song’s original sound with my own little flourishes thrown in here and there.

Has Hervana ever talked about forming a side project for original material, or are you all just happy with your own projects?

Erin: I love to play with these ladies! It could be really fun to try our own songs some day.

Michelle: The idea has come up before. I don’t think we’re averse to it. I think it’s a matter of time and there not being enough of it.

What’s your favourite Nirvana album? (B-Side albums count!)

Carly: That’s a really hard question. But I think if I had to choose, In Utero has the edge.

Michelle: Nevermind — the album that launched them into the mainstream.

As a group you’ve been vocal about your support for all-female groups, do you have any all-female groups you’d like to give a shout-out to?

Carly: We’ve played with some really great bands — Nikki Fierce and The Sours are both all-female Toronto bands that you should go see if you haven’t.

Have you noticed any increased popularity for your own projects after starting Hervana, or has the attention stayed around Hervana for the most part?

Erin: I definitely feel my project, Blue Cougars, has benefited from some crossover interest, which is always nice. I think it’s because of the ‘90s/grungy vibe of the Cougars stuff maybe.

Have you received any sort of response from either Nirvana’s former members or the Constantines, regarding your tribute sets?

Carly: Not yet! But there’s a really great scene on Parks and Rec where Andy’s bandmates figure out he lied about Dave Grohl maybe coming to their show and he says, “Dave Grohl MIGHT be there. That guy is awesome and he’s unpredictable.” Which is true. So we’re holding out hope that maybe he’ll just appear one day.

Adrian: My feeling is that everyone who’s anyone is going to be part of this WL anniversary or attending, so who knows who might show up! Here’s hoping!

— Interview by Kristian Johnson