Queen Crescent is a heavy rock band with psychedelic leanings from Oakland, California. They’re women of color, some of them are queer, and all of them shred. Queen Crescent has a sense of humor, an unapologetic prismatic identity, chops, knowledge, confidence and direction. The guitars are tuned low, and the flute floats over in what feels like a playful counterpunch or call-and-response. Vocals seem to traverse the land between. The ambiguity of the crescent moon itself might reflect conceptually in sonic, layered anthems, which are physically hypnotic to witness live—such music pulses through your body, even if you’re wearing earplugs. I can especially hear this in the band’s vocals, which keep to a low register, even when belting truth before some guitar hooks hit, crashing like waves.
I got the chance to corner Queen Crescent and ask them some questions about their sound, their future, and their recently released video for their new song, “Zodiacal Woman,” which is directed by Doug Avery, with director of photography Ethan Indorf.
Elka Weber: How did you coax it to this point, and where will you take your sound from here?
Amy Martinez (drums): Our sound came from musical influences and people that we’re inspired by and from our own personal backgrounds as musicians. As far as where we’ll take the sound next, it’s important for us to keep it open to where that sound may go.
Andrea Genevieve (vocals, guitar): We put a lot of thought and heart into what we write. Every note matters. We definitely like to create a mood with our songs and we put a tremendous amount of attention towards our songwriting. It’s exciting to think of where we’re going next. We have some concepts, but I agree with Amy that we’re staying open. We don’t want to box ourselves in.
Melissa Vu (vocals, flute): We came to this point through a commonality in the music that we listen to and the life experiences that shape us as individuals. The more we listen and feed off of each other, the more we grow musically. We aren’t afraid to try new things in songwriting, which only helps in making fresh sounds.
EW: What will Chaz Bundick do to that witchy woman cocktail? I hear you are stepping into the studio with him?
Eden Savage (bass): We recorded a song with Chaz in his home studio and it was awesome. He had a lot of great ideas and added new elements to the song. He did some production, but he mainly recorded us. We aren’t necessarily recording a full album with him but it was a great experience. He also has the coolest dog, named Michael.
MV: Michael loves the flute and likes to bite knees. Chaz is an extremely talented musician and producer. It’s always a positive eye/ear-opening experience to work with an outside perspective. We are always talking about how we’d like to bring in some elements we have yet to experiment with. Working with Chaz gave us a little taste of the big things that we are capable of.
EW: Queen Crescent’s guitar solos are especially impressive. Women and guitar solos: not often historically paired.
AG: Whenever I go into a studio, I generally have them fully worked out and have lots of ideas of my own for guitar overdubs. We’re usually all pretty prepared and our arrangements are pretty solid ahead of time. Although, we do like to keep ourselves open to spur of the moment ideas. I think there have been (and are) fantastic female lead guitarists who write totally bitchin’ solos and leads. Immediately comes to mind are Nancy Wilson of Heart and Kelly Johnson of Girlschool. I think Nancy Wilson is right up there with Jimmy Page in many respects. I’m a huge fan of hers.
EW: Maybe you’ll influence more guitar leads in the future.
I can hear some influences in your music, but your sound isn’t derivative—somehow the flute coupled with your proggy turns pulls you from the psych-rock depths without sticking your noses in Jethro Tull’s armpits. And the confidence your performance gives pulls Queen Crescent forward. Women of color, mostly queer, chopping up male-focused tropes in heavy psych-prog rock lands requires a lot of confidence, I’d expect. Like, machetes of confidence.
Did you have to develop that confidence? How did you get that frame of mind? Were you born with it or get pushed into it? I know no one would ask a male band that, but I don’t often get to talk to female shredders.
MV: We came into this project with family histories and ancestral histories. Our band has a mission. We have a drive. The foundation of our mission is what gives us confidence.
AM: We don’t think about it so much as confidence as we’re doing what we feel passionate about.
ES: By not thinking about it so much. You just develop your skills.
AG: I think this band, just by its very existence, is proving a lot of assumptions to be wrong. Queen Crescent is an act of defiance in a way. It’s beyond confidence. You just have to walk onto every stage and into every studio like you belong there. We act like we own it because we do.
EW: You’ve mentioned Los Dug Dug’s as a musical influence—a number of Weird Sister readers might not know this amazing sixties/seventies garage rock band from Mexico. Can you talk about their influence on the band? What other bands have made an impact on your sound?
AM: Los Dug Dug’s have been incredibly influential for our band. Before Queen Crescent became what it is today, it began with a conversation about how rad it would be to start an all women of color band that had a flute in it and we were listening to them a lot at this time. We’re also very influenced by Zamrock bands, Witch and The Ngozi Family, Indonesian bands, AKA and Benny Soebardja, but we don’t just listen to psych —we also love Alice Coltrane, Grace Jones and ESG. We listen to all types [of] music and I think that contributes to our unique sound.
EW: The lyrics to your new single “Zodiacal Woman” are heavily feminist to me. I love the heady brew of heavy rock with vocals where a woman is singing that she wants to be supportive of other women, instead of judging or competing with them. It’s an anthemic call to action that plays with the stars. Can you talk a little bit about the lyrics you write, and the stories they help tell?
MV: The lyrics we write come from a place inside, not only in ourselves but from others as well. We live in a world where there is little humanitarian effort and togetherness in our society. Our lyrics come from lived experiences and reflect what people are actually going through. Our songs are like conversations. One thing we hadn’t talked/written about yet is the ongoing hatred that happens in relationships between women. It’s hurtful to feel and see when women aren’t supporting one another, when they treat each other like enemies, and hinder another’s success. Empowering women is a huge part of our mission. “Zodiacal Woman” is definitely an anthemic call. It’s about acceptance of our zodiacal spirits and [ourselves as] human beings.
EW: Are the lyrics brought to practice mostly fleshed out, like Andrea’s guitar solos, or are they pieced together to ride on the music?
AG: Generally we write songs first and then the lyrics come afterward, although we usually have an idea of what we want to say in a song ahead of time. Even though Melissa and I pen the lyrics, Amy and Eden definitely give input. We want the lyrics to express things that the entire band cares about. The next full-length album is going to feel much more like an entire package. There will definitely be a strong theme running throughout.
MV: It’s a collaborative combination of jamming and piecing together additional parts that come after. Arrangement and making good transitions is important in the way we write songs. We will try a part in a couple different ways until we all feel like it sounds the best.
AM: I also think it’s a very intuitive process for us and that songwriting, in some ways, has taught us to trust ourselves, and our instinct. Society tries to teach women not to trust their intuition. We are trying to challenge that.
EW: When you’re playing live, how long does it take to do a sound check when there’s a flute involved? Ian Anderson talks about the different ways to mic a flute. You have more control in mixing a recording, but there’s bound to be some flute insanity when you perform live. How do you deal with this?
MV: Haha, yes! There are definitely some times of flute insanity when performing in a live setting. I know what to ask for, but it also depends on the space and sound person we’re working with at the time. Some care more about working with the intricacies of the flute sounds more than others, some not at all—which then becomes a real frustration if it comes down to checking the flute in a matter of seconds. Mic’ing takes a few minutes right now as I play through a couple pedals and through a vocal mic, but getting the sound levels right is what takes the most time.
The best experiences are when we do have time to sound check a few different songs that have a range of highs and lows. Each song is different, so it’s something I need to pay attention to. A lot of people think the flute is the most delicate instrument. It can be in some ways, but it has its beautiful complexities. I’m still experimenting different ways to mic and get the most out of the flute tone and quality I aim for. When things aren’t ideal sound-wise, I just say “Fuck It” and really try to feel what I’m playing onstage. Sounds cheesy but it’s true.
EW: Speaking of live performance: you’ve got a steady roster of Bay Area shows under your belt. When and where are you going to tour—who with?
AM: We want to go to LA and the desert next. There’s not an exact date for a tour but we’re hoping soon.
AG: We have a couple of out-of-town dates soon that we’re keeping under wraps for now. But as far as a proper tour, as soon as possible. We’ve got a few bands in mind that we’d like to ask to tour with.
EW: By the way, I’m a double Sagittarius with a Sagittarius moon and no Prius. What are you guys?
AG: Sagittarius. Leo rising and a Scorpio moon.
MV: Virgo. Virgo rising and Gemini moon.
AM: Aries. Cancer rising and a Virgo moon.
ES: Aries. Gemini rising and a Capricorn moon.
EW: Do you need a roadie?
Elka Weber is a writer and artist based in Oakland, California.