If you’ve ever read Book IX of Virgil’s Aeneid there’s a good chance you’ll remember the part where the three Trojan battleships transform into water nymphs and swim away, thanks to a little intervention by the gods, when the Rutulians attempt to launch a sneak attack and set them on fire:
“And all at once, each vessel snapping her cables free of the bank
they dive like dolphins…turned into lovely virgins
each a sea-nymph sweeping out to sea”
…but the chapter also tells the story of Euryalus which is more relevant to our purposes here, a fresh-faced Trojan teen voted “most handsome in Athens” who bravely/foolishly follows his older man pal Nissus into battle and despite the latter’s well known skill with a spear (*ahem*) they both end up getting captured and beheaded thanks to the young soldier’s fecklessness…
…and once Euryalus’s mother catches wind of her beautiful son’s head being impaled on a pike she rushes to the front lines heedless of the raging battle, her voice rising above the surrounding mayhem with wailed lamentations and recriminations delivered with such force and fury that the Trojans almost pack up and go home on the spot…
…cuz the Trojans knew just as well as the Romans there’s no sound quite so devastating as a mother’s voice wracked with grief and rage wailing raw-voiced lamentations especially when it’s their only outlet for emotional release and their only means of protesting the patriarchal system that burdened them with such misery in the first place (women’s laments were once considered so subversive they were outlawed across ancient Greece) which debatably makes them the first riot grrrls ever…
…but if you’re looking for a raw-voiced punk rock Mom in the current day and age who’s likewise capable of entrancing listeners with melodic lamentations delivered in a voice that even at its most restrained is laden with heavy emotional resonance, that is, before lashing out in unrestrained fury and nearly ripping your face off with belted banshee wails worthy of those ancient Hellenic mothers raising their voices to the heavens then you’ll no doubt wanna check out Sarah Hamilton fronting the band Wifeknife first chance you get…
…and you’ll get that chance soon since Wifeknife is performing live tomorrow (Thursday 3/30) at local "fave hang" Alphaville as part of a stacked lineup chock full of female-fronted sonic fury alongside recent SXSW compatriots Tetchy and Big Girl (not to mention the mighty Nihiloceros) and if Virgil were ever to rise from the dead and oversee a cinematic reboot of the Aeneid with its action moved to modern-day Brooklyn which is maybe less a stretch than you may think when you consider how crossing the raw sewage and industrial waste laden Gowanus Canal would be no less perilous than the River Styx back in the day…
…no doubt the Greek bard would be keen on assembling a kickass soundtrack for the film adaptation chock full of heavy metal bands adept at summoning punk rock levels of urgency and immediacy, and punk rock bands adept at summoning Heaven & Hell-era Black Sabbath levels of Dio-fied epic grandiosity, all of which means said soundtrack would no doubt include Wifeknife given how they check off both boxes above with music suitable for virgin water nymphs and brutal battle scenes alike…
…all of which probably makes you wish you knew more about these fearless warriors of rock ‘n’ roll and lucky for you the Deli conducted an interview with Wifeknife’s Sarah Hamilton not long ago—alongside hubby/drummer Keith—a transcript of which follows below minus our own inconsequential interjections so by all means enjoy and never forget what’s truly best in life…. (Jason Lee)
Sarah: We’ve been called The OWL Family Band with Keith Hamilton being co-owner of Our Wicked Lady (OWL) and with me working at OWL since the beginning too. Besides the two of us, our lead guitarist Benny Oastler ran OWL’s livestream shows during quarantine and to this day helps screen band submissions. Rhythm guitarist Ramsey Elliott (also bass/guitar/keys in ExPollutants) is a veteran OWL bartender and Marcello Ramirez (bassist in WifeKnife and Whaat) barbacks at OWL part-time.
Keith’s dad was a hippie drummer who instilled a deep love of music in him from an early age. Keith, a drummer himself who hadn’t picked up the sticks much in the last 20 years, missed the outlet and invited Benny to jam with him in his rehearsal space at OWL Studios. Benny was in a band called American Fever that disbanded after Bryan Tell (vocals, guitar) moved to Austin and Benny was also itching to make music again.
After Keith played me a few of his and Benny’s instrumental recordings I honestly started hearing lyrics right away. I’m a long-time actor who’s always loved to sing, and sang via theater and choir, but never like this. But as a new mom coming out of a bout with postpartum depression followed by a pandemic, the intensity of this music, and just getting to go to a safe space with friends and scream once a week, was incredibly cathartic for me as an artist missing creative expression deeply.
I did book a play at Florida Studio Theater (Late Nov-early March) shortly after we first started jamming together. The band would send me instrumental tracks and I would send back vocals recorded on top via GarageBand. That’s how we began to develop our earliest songs, “Move On” and “Blackout.” The play was a great experience. I’d missed acting so much after a five-year hiatus, but honestly after a month or so I couldn’t wait to get back into the rehearsal space with the band.
I’m an introvert who became comfortable on stage after years of training and jobs and really just working through the nerves; I finally kind of learned how to turn the nervous energy into fuel. Being in Wifeknife is more daunting than acting in a big way, because these are my words, not someone else’s, and I’ve infused my experiences and truth into the lyrics. It’s more vulnerable. The goal is always to leave it all on the stage.
Our friend Amanda Hurley knew we were still exploring band names and sheepishly proposed the name WifeKnife. We all instantly loved it. It’s sort of badass and funny all at once. Being a wife, a nurturing mother, but also having a wild side and demons to release just like anyone else, it totally clicked with me. I’m a Gemini, what else can I say?
Keith: Sarah is a really talented actress. I knew her stage presence would be there, and that she had the pipes thanks to her background in musical theater. It’s just a matter of using your instrument a little differently.
Sarah: Yeah, really differently haha. It’s been a learning curve for sure, staying on pitch when sing-screaming like that. I do want the songs to have lyricism too. I’m still finding that balance; places where I can bring it down a notch and find the melody. I’d never want to be a one-note actor, and I don’t want to be a one-note vocalist. “Blackout” is my favorite song of ours so far. It’s the most personal and the most vulnerable for sure.
Billy Aukstik of Dala Records has a studio called Hivemind Recording in Bushwick, close to OWL. We’ve known him a long time through the Daptone family, he’s the nicest guy in the business and tremendously talented.
We went and recorded for two days for the release of our two singles, which we called Double. It was the best experience. We got “Blackout” in like two takes. Billy really nailed it, he engineered and mixed it. We’re pretty raw and intense live and it was interesting recording in the studio (the first time for me and Keith) and having such control over sound levels and everything.
I had to remind myself not to strive for perfection in the studio, to keep some of the rawness. At the end of “Blackout,” the very last note, you can just hear my voice cracks at the end. There was a take where it didn’t that I wanted to switch it out with but the rest of the band, including Billy, insisted that the cracked take was better–because of the intensity and the emotion there on that take. Of course they were right.
We also recorded “Dead Ringer” also engineered by Billy at Hivemind. It came out well but we decided it needed more grit, so we shared it with our friend Rich Crescenti, drummer in Bugs in the Dark, who was Head of sound at OWL for 6 years and moved to LA a few years ago. He ended up mixing and mastering it, and he just crushed it.
We hope to record another song or two now that we’re back from Austin and are starting to discuss some music video concepts so there’s definitely some exciting shit on the horizon!
Some other things Wifeknife would like you to know:
- Re: bands sharing the Alphaville bill on 3/30/23: Tetchy has a new EP out, Nihiloceros will be performing new songs, and Big Girl is celebrating completion of a cross-country tour with Tetchy!
- If you enjoy epic rock tunes by female-fronted and -backed bands, the Rites of Spring weekend fest to be held on 5/6 and 5/7 at OWL (booked by Wifeknife’s very own K. Hamilton) with a mind-boggling lineup of 30+ female-fronted bands from NYC. A fundraiser for women’s reproductive rights, bands will perform atop OWL’s open-air rooftop while DJs spin and tattoo artists offer cheap flash tattoos downstairs. Bands include Thick, Tetchy, The Silk War, Frida Kill, Big Girl, Nevva, Shadow Monster, InCircles, Tea Eater, Powersnap, The Rizzos, WifeKnife, Bugs in the Dark, Gal Fieri, Abby Jeanne, Catty, DJ Sarabeth of Tower and more.
- TV Eye’s two-night series “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” on 6/3 and 6/4 will likewise feature female-identifying led bands as well. Includes Baby Shakes, Mel Machete, The Out-Sect, The Dracu-las, Tits Dick Ass and lots more as assembled by Jen Manfredi of Fear City Presents