Our regular readers may have noticed that this website has gradually steered more and more away from Q-&-A-styled interviews over the years. We’ve generally found the sort to be somewhat dull with really little to say that is new or interesting, and so have kept to regular news items, hunting our musicians rather for short and to-the-point statements about current affairs. However, if a unique opportunity such as has now arisen comes our way, we take it and post it here where it belongs!
WinterFest’15 is about to hit Cape Town in a way that it has not done before. With the event forced from it’s stronghold of nine years in Stellenbosch owing to the beloved Klein Libertas Theatre having burned down in recent months, our slave elves in the basement have worked some magic to relocate WinterFest’15 more centrally to Cape Town’s premier live music venue, The Assembly. And, the killer line-up of nine bands includes Junkyard Lipstick! As reported previously on this website, the JL squad recently received an upgrade with a second guitarist Robyn Bruwer added to the ranks; but for now, we went in pursuit of their new vocalist who was revealed at the same time. Jo Marie Smit, not quite so much your average ‘girl next door’ as your ‘noisy neighbourhood metalhead’, appears on stage from seemingly out of nowhere. After a bit of a chat, we decided that her candid personality and relaxed style deserved a full interview publication rather than our usual short news snippet. If you have not yet had the opportunity, it is time to meet the real Jo, interviewed by Darkfiend.
Darkfiend: I’ve met you personally once before, at that Fokofpolisiekar gig at Klein Libertas Theatre earlier in 2014, if you remember? You had quite a lot to say back then about metal and especially your enthusiasm for writing lyrics. Did you think at that time that you’d ever actually be fronting a band? Or so soon after?
Jo Smit: Wooooah! You actually remember meeting me and what I rambled on about? I am humbled and impressed. But no, not a chance; I truly never imagined myself as a vocalist. The plan was to write for other bands and possibly to get into a band marketing and management role. To be honest, if I had ever seen myself in music, I saw myself as a guitarist even though I can’t play guitar. At all! But dude, if you see my air guitar skills, you’d hire me on the spot.
Darkfiend: I’m sure that passion will serve you well as a growing performer! Speaking of which, how on earth did you come about the opportunity to join Junkyard Lipstick? Did you hear about it from a friend or were you a follower of the band already, or did they hear about you and approach you?
Jo Smit: I was at a gig last year in September to watch one of my long time favourite local bands, Mind Assault, and Junkyard Lipstick happened to be playing right before them. So what happened minutes before JL’s slot : a random but friendly chick starts talking to me about bands, genres, styles etc. As you would know from personal experience, this is one way of getting my attention and then wishing that I’d go away because I have so many views! But we had a chat, and right before she leaves – for the stage – she says: “Well I’m Junkyard Lipstick’s drummer and we need to find a new vocalist, do you want to audition?” At that point I didn’t even understand, let alone realize what had just happened, so I confidently just said “Sure, I’ve got nothing to lose!” – coz’ dignity is priceless right?
I freaked the hell out in the car on the way home; switched to instant nerves and panic mode! I kept on saying “what did I get myself into? I can’t do this. I’ve never done it before!” Reinhardt just kept assuring me by saying that it’ll be okay even if I totally suck, because nobody else would ever have the same passion as I did. We need to still ask Lucinda and Louise if the passion was part of their decision?! Anyway, they emailed me the lyrics and backing track for ‘Damned in the Deep South’ and a month later was D-day. I’m dead certain I sucked ass in the first audition because I growled the entire song through after I’ve never even tried growling before. But they offered some advice and we booked a second audition. I passed that one with flying colours, apparently! Two weeks, a braai, and some jam sessions later, I got the call: “the position is yours if you’re in it for the long run!”
Darkfiend: Talk about leaping into the deep end! Would you like to describe a little bit about the feelings at each step between meeting Lucinda at the September gig until getting that fateful call?
Jo Smit: Normal and relaxed; stressed and worried; positive and confident; stressed and nauseous; happy and calm; confident and inspired; ecstatic, blessed, overwhelmed and grateful. Have you ever heard of personality disorders? I experienced being somebody else through every step of the process and would have been any psychologist’s dream project! Well, maybe not quite, but I think that my body reacted quite seriously, because I started to realize just how badly I wanted this.
Darkfiend: I’d have expected nothing less, going from carefree fan in one moment to front-lady in the next. I’m not sure many people would invite that kind of pressure, considering that Junkyard Lipstick at Witchfest was only your second time on stage?
Jo Smit: Ah… yes. The pressure that the general public and friends don’t really think about. Myself, having being a committed metalhead and just another member of the crowd for over fourteen years; I never thought about pressure in our scene. It was non-existent for me. Until I had to prepare for my very first live performance! I’ve performed only five times to date, where WinterFest’15 will be my sixth show. The pressure I feel comes more from within myself. I have to get the lyrics perfect, and I need to growl longer, plus have to shout lower and so on and so forth. But I can honestly say I haven’t felt pressurized by anyone else; not by other bands, friends, crowds, or by the scene in general; simply because I know that the people who I care about won’t judge me. The point, I guess, is this: I don’t care what others – especially people I don’t know – think of me. Witchfest 2015 and the upcoming Aborted tour are kind of intimidating, I guess, but in a good way. Just because it’s an honour and privilege that so few get to experience. Some people will say I struck it lucky, and some will say that I worked very hard in such a short time frame. I’d say it’s been a combination of those and a bit more to sum it up.
Darkfiend: I’d say that is a very sensible mental approach for anybody looking to grow as a performer and an artist, or as anything really. As mentioned, I knew you previously only as a lyricist. Tell me a bit about your journey so far in developing your vocal abilities…
Jo Smit: Pat, the first time I ever tried to project some vocals was when I rehearsed for the audition, and then I went and got the right introduction to techniques when I started vocal training with George Schoombee in November last year. I started writing lyrics at age fourteen, working out melodies on the keyboard, and then turning that into a sort of poem if you will. After school I stopped using notes and just wrote about… whatever. This included expressing my emotions, views, anger, appreciation, and a weird sense of humour about politics, friendship, metal lifestyles, news, etc. All on paper. Covering a song you know and singing your own lyrics are worlds apart. That I can vouch for!
Darkfiend: Well, maybe it’s still too early – or maybe not – but have you had a chance to stretch your legs as a writer for new Junkyard Lipstick material yet?
Jo Smit: Your timing is perfect! I can confirm – with great excitement – that a certain piece of mine has been lifted into action. The title of the track is ‘Repulsive Judgement’. The girls have really burnt the midnight oil to make it work effectively. You will have to attend WinterFest’15 to get a brutal taste. Think: violent, sarcastic humour.
Darkfiend: Nothing like a little incentive to attend a show! Now, I have to ask, because I know that people are going to want to also know: How do you feel as a vocalist right now? What are your goals, or, to word it differently: in the perfect world where these things can happen, are there any special heroes out there who you would like to someday feel respected by through your own accomplishments? Can you visualize the kind of journey that lays between the present-day Jo and that future Jo?
Jo Smit: Hmm, tough topic. I’ve only just started to explore my vocal abilities, styles, and preferences, and started adopting known skills and techniques as my own; but this part of me is still in its baby shoes. I definitely have big dreams and goals. I think most of them would be obvious, and by that quite far-fetched, hahaha! I would love to make it on an international level someday, to preach the double-bass revelation of heavy metal worldwide! But if that never happens, I will be more than fine with it. I enjoy what we do. No, I love what we do! Metal makes me happy, so if I get to do this only in a practice room year after year, its still a privilege and dream come true. I have quite a few heroes that keep me inspired and motivated on so many different levels. Locally, the musicians behind ING, Suiderbees, Zombies Ate My Girlfriend and Theatre Runs Red – to name a few – are reminders of what can be achieved. Internationally, the icons who have molded me are Tom Araya (Slayer), Phil Anselmo (Pantera), Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God), Alexi Laiho (Children Of Bodom), Angela Gossow (Arch Enemy), Hellbent (Blood Red Throne), Dave Matrise (Jungle Rot) and Danni Filth (Cradle of Filth).
Darkfiend: And then last but not least, for others out there who might feel sometimes like they are just a face in the crowd… Life as a ‘public entity’. It’s not everybody who lands up, seemingly from nowhere, in a band that has already been building a name and gained significant ground like Junkyard Lipstick has. Does life or anything feel much different since before? I mean, could you say anything has changed for you socially, or personally, like in your mindset or ways of thinking about things?
Jo Smit: For sure! In a number of positive ways, both socially and personally. Previously I used to talk to random people at gigs. Now people would introduce themselves to me first and they usually start by asking “hey aren’t you JL’s vocalist?” What I enjoy about this is that I meet more people who share the same musical interests, views, and lifestyle as me. On a personal level, I’ve learnt that nothing else matters – pardon the pun. All the things I used to stress about have become totally irrelevant, because now I have band practice that evening, or because we’re gigging on the weekend – that kind of thing. I have more appreciation for the smaller things in life and I just feel like a happier and stronger person in general. My mindset about the scene, behind the scenes and closed doors, has changed tremendously. What I have gained more of is respect for local metal musicians and the teams that work behind the scenes and backstage. Their dedication is something admirable.
And with that, we encourage the usual ‘fashionably late’ crowd to come a little earlier and watch Jo in action with Junkyard Lipstick. They’ll be performing from 20h15 at The Assembly for WinterFest’15, along with eight other great bands on the night. Full event details are on the official facebook event page, and below is the first recording featuring Jo-Marie on her journey towards great things.