The Lady Lost Boy
A bit of girl talk with Sierra Kusterbeck, lead vocalist of VersaEmerge. The up-and-coming rock band makes a stop at Fubar November 8.
Florida-based band VersaEmerge have been kicking butt and taking names since the June 2010 release of their debut full-length album, “Fixed at Zero.” Their style of rock has an orchestral intricacy that’s earned them both critical praise and their first headline tour, which will stop in St. Louis at Fubar November 8. We spoke with Sierra Kusterbeck—the band’s pint-sized, spitfire lead singer—about life on the road, rocking with the boys and the cathartic nature of the band’s music.
ALIVE: VersaEmerge writes its own music. Where do you each look for inspiration?
Sierra Kusterbeck: Blake [lead guitarist and back-up vocals] gets a lot of his inspiration from film. He’s always been really interested in film scores and that orchestral sound. Mine comes from being on the road and sometimes feeling lost with all the traveling and whatnot. But we both get a lot of inspiration from things that we experience.
ALIVE: You toured for a while before recording your first full-length album. Why did you wait to put together your debut?
SK: We did the EP [the self-titled “VersaEmerge”] and we didn’t want to rush into a record right away. We were a new band and I had just joined, so touring gave us the chance to learn each other and become a solid band. And I’m glad we didn’t rush because it wouldn’t have been as good. We weren’t used to traveling or life on the road so waiting gave us a chance to realize who we are.
ALIVE: Have you noticed a change in your sound as you’ve toured?
SK: Definitely. Being on tours like Warped Tour [both in 2009 and 2010], we picked up some of the other bands styles and learned from them. There was a lot going into our ears, so when we started writing the album, we were ready.
ALIVE: You’ve described your concerts as “a cinematic presentation” What does that mean to you?
SK: It’s our way of saying that we try to give something special to our performances. We’re still playing smaller venues and there’s no crazy production budget, but we have something a little different for our audience like stage props, visuals and playbills. And it’s not just one song after the other; there are interludes and other things to make it special.
ALIVE: This past summer has been a big one for the band. This is your first tour as headliners and you’ve just release your debut album, which has been getting great reviews. What have been some of the changes you have noticed so far?
SK: Just the difference between the crowds from the first time we did Warped Tour to this last time. We’ve seen the crowd size grow and now people are singing along. And the fact that people want to do interviews with us. We’ve got to see the band expand with our own eyes.
ALIVE: You were recently featured in an episode of MTV’s new-ish reality series, “The World of Jenks.” There’s a great scene where you and the band are on the bus at night and you start a dance party. Is life on the road like that every night?
SK: Not every night, but you have to keep the fun factor up. Being on tour with your best friends is like being a group of lost boys, and if you’re not having a great time, you shouldn’t be on the road.
ALIVE: In the episode, we get to see clips of your performances. You give an intense amount of energy to your shows. How do you manage to do that day after day for months at a time?
SK: It’s hard sometimes. Some days you wake up and are like, “Ugh, I don’t want to do this,” but then I think that I’m really lucky that this is my job. That means being a professional and getting up on stage. But once you’re up there—no matter how bad your day’s been—when you see the audience, you can’t help but get excited.
ALIVE: With the intensity and emotion of your music, is it ever hard to get on stage and basically bare your soul to a group of strangers?
SK: For me, I think it’s a little different [than the rest of the band] because I actually have to sing the words out loud. But it’s therapeutic, and it’s way easier than talking to somebody sometimes.
ALIVE: You started touring with the band when you were still a teenager, so you’ve pretty much become a woman while touring. What has it been like being the only female in the band?
SK: I was pretty much always a tomboy, so I’m lucky to be surrounded by dudes. With those not-so-girly aspects of myself, it’s nice to have boys around. And it’s not as weird as most people would think.
ALIVE: Are there any challenges in being the only girl?
SK: Definitely. Sometimes there are those girly issues that I can’t vent to the boys; things that they don’t have any interest in. Sometimes I just have to bottle things up, and it can be a challenge, but if that’s my only problem in the world, I’m pretty lucky.
ALIVE: There have been some member changes throughout the band’s history. What about this lineup makes it work so well?
SK: We’re a team and a strong one. We connect and get each other. We want the same things, like the same music and are on the same page. In the past, there were the issues of being on tour a lot. But now [with this lineup], we all love what we do and we have no problem being on the road together because we have the same goals.
ALIVE: You all are obviously very talented musically; do you have any other talents or interests?
SK: Devin [bassist] is freakishly good at video games. If he were to do it competitively, he’d probably do pretty well. Blake can pick up an instrument and learn it like that. He’s all music, music, music. But he’s also into dirt bikes. Me, I trained in musical theatre and really wanted to be a dancer. It’s nice that I still get to do a little bit of dancing on stage.
ALIVE: What is the one thing you want people to take away from your music?
SK: I want them to leave inspired, feeling that they can do anything they set their mind to. I want them to get out into the world and try shit. People can hold back and not be who they are because they’re scared, but they don’t need to be. I have the best mother who told me differently. She let me take chances and be who I wanted to be. If it weren’t for her, I would be doing what I love.
For more info about the show and to purchase tickets, log on to fubarstl.com.
VersaEmerge: Bassist Devin Ingelido, Lead Vocalist Sierra Kusterbeck and Guitarist/Vocalist Blake Harnage.
Photo credit: Photos courtesy of Atlantic Records