Chicas of Corrosion: An Interview with Eye Ra Haze Frontwoman Natasha Singer, and the Premiere of Their Music Video, "New Beginnings"
Part tomboy, part femme fatale, Zeena Koda is a SiriusXM DJ, vocalist, journalist, and lover of all things hardcore. You can catch her radio show Monday through Saturday on SiriusXM Liquid Metal and watch her inquisitive feminist side via her video web series Boxx Talk and Ask A Bombshell. Rot and roll, baby!
Natasha Singer, the bold and sensuous frontwoman of Eye Ra Haze, has lived a traveled existence enriched with deep musical ties that have linked her to a wide variety of worlds. A devoted wife, proud mother ,and active artist, her passion for creating and exploring the deeper aspects of life spills out of her piecing eyes. With a vocal range that has graced a variety of styles from blues to punk rock, her versatility has culminated with the new Eye Ra Haze EP, Eye of the Storm, which is due out on June 11. In Eye Ra Haze, the powerhouse Singer, alongside two other talented women and two talented men, create heartfelt compositions that blend of atmospheric textures, poignantly soulful vocals, and thoughtful keyboard serenades. Nodding to her native culture, Singer thoughtfully named the band Eye Ra Haze and is poised to take the band to the next phase with their new video for the EP's first single, "New Beginnings" premiering at the bottom of this post.
ZEENA KODA You are deep in the rock world now, but I heard a random story that you had a drive-by hip-hop experience with some of its royalty when you were younger. What was that all about?
NATASHA SINGER When I was 17, I was working at a fitness club in the Valley in North Hollywood and one day this Aaliyah song came on and I was singing it at the front desk. I come from a pretty heavy blues background, like Etta James, so I really love that style. This guy approached me while I was singing and said that he wanted to introduce me to some people at Death Row records because he really liked my voice and I thought, Sure, OK, and laughed. Sure enough, two days later I was having a house party and got a call that at midnight there would be a car service waiting in font of my house because Suge Knight wanted to meet me. Here I am, this young skater girl with baggy pants and a beanie, and the whole process was so crazy because literally they are checking weapons at the door, welcoming them in, like, a coat check. That night I met Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, and right before Suge was ready to see me, security actually told me, "Don't step on the emblem when you walk in," which messed up my flow. I sang one of my originals a cappella and they were interested in working with me. Within two weeks, I was hanging out with them. It was overwhelming at 17, but I began going to after parties and even had a photo shoot, but soon after, I ended up moving out of Los Angeles and moving on.
How did you go from making your own music into working with the full Eye Ra Haze band?
I have never played an instrument but I write a lot of songs and grab melodies from what I hear, or write with others who plays guitar or piano. After I left Los Angeles, I ended up traveling for awhile and lived with a band called American Head Charge for a couple of years while working at an organic food co-op. Through that experience, I began to see many different things because here I was, a Cali punk rock girl, and they had so many widespread influences. Eventually, they hired me as their stage dancer and I would come out in kimono and Geisha makeup. During this time, I went to school to be an esthetician, but I quickly realized that if you have a backup plan, you won't do anything because you won't be hungry.
I decided to go back to LA and began working at a bar when a friend from high school asked me if I would be interested in singing for her husband's punk-rock band. I got to do Wendy O Williams style vocals, which burnt my voice out a little but it was punk rock, and I loved being in a band. You have to have a band if you want a uniform sound and if you want to play out unless you have a producer, but even that eventually might just become pop music. When that was dwindling, I realized that I wanted to do more and go on tour. Eventually I met Ceekay Jones who was in Skarhead with my now husband Danny Diablo, which later led me to singing a cover of "Don't You Want Me" by The Human League on Danny's International Hardcore Superstar album. It came out amazing and people kept calling me back for more stuff. I even did an Etta James cover and a gospel song. My style started opening up. At that point, I became Eye Ra Haze because I wanted to have a name that embodied my culture. My dad is Mescalero Apache and Yaqi Indian. It took a year to record the first three new songs as Eye Ra Haze, and I put up a Myspace page, but when motherhood came, I took a step back. When my child was born, I was just so deeply in love with him that I took a couple of years to do that.
Children are an incredible blessing--they change everything. How did you re-enter the music game and meet your current collaborators?
I met my current guitar player, Nicole [Papastavrou], initially at my house in California and immediately knew I wanted her to be in my band. It helps that she was in a totally different generation than me musically and she's so kickass--check out her YouTube channel. Her and her boyfriend, Matt, who played with my husband before, are serious guitar heads and have a house full of guitars and stacks--it's really cute.
Karine [Catenacci], who is my friend who is from Quebec, is an amazing piano player was suggested to me by my husband to play in Eye Ra Haze. I invited her to come to the studio to try out for keys, from there she literally went out and got a new keyboard and began to create those ambient sound that make the unique sound of Eye Ra Haze. We started singing and composing together, eventually becoming full-on writing partners, and I began traveling often back and forth from California to NYC. It was my families' intention to eventually move to NY and finally we decided to move in order to be together because I don't want to be away from them unless I am on tour.
It's always inspiring to me when a husband uproots to support his wife's career ambitions. Pretty incredible that he has been supportive enough to move across the US to help, especially in an industry where it isn't the norm.
My husband Danny said to me, "I've done what I needed to do for my career--now it's your turn." He is a great father and totally devoted--when he goes on tour, I stay home, and when I need to go out on the road, he is there. He really wants me to do this.
Anything about you that people would be surprised to know?
I'm a pretty raw person, I put things out there. Musically, I think people would be surprised to know that I can sing the shit out of some RnB. I'll kill some Mary J. Blige. [Laughs] Also, I'm a big reality show junkie.
Have you ever had a situation dealing with the opposite sex in the industry or notions about who you are as a musician because you are a woman?
Definitely, two major things come to mind. First, the "all girl band" thought. They tried to get us a female drummer but it's annoying dealing with people wanting to see that gimmick. This is a band, one that just so happens to have three women in it, but men as well. Second, having to disclose that I have a son to potential labels is unnecessary, and I thought to myself, No one ever asks a guy that--if they have a kid. Most male members in a band have wives and kids yet still go on tour, so even asking offends me. I don't think that is a fair question because it is none of their concern--it's my job and I have never not shown up for it. Think about it, is there much difference between going to work all day than working at night? Honestly, because of what I do, I actually get to be with my kid all the time. All my son's going to remember is getting to spend time with both his parents, and he will definitely respect women--that's for sure.
Tell us about your video for "New Beginnings."
Our sound has started to take shape over the last four months, and we recently recorded with the amazing Zeuss for this upcoming EP. On June 11, the full EP will be out and is going to be called Eye of the Storm, which is where our first single "New Beginnings" can be found. The video was cool to make because we got to come up with the concept on our own. What we really wanted to do for this video is to make it ambiguously indigenous because that's what I feels describes our band style and the style of our music. There are so many different cultural and music influences in it--it's ethereal, it's native, it's savage. The video shoot that day though was brutal because it was so cold outside and we were in a house without windows. I totally had my game face on because it was freezing, but I think it came out beautiful.