Being a female metal musician poses it's challenges in what many would still call a male-dominated music genre, from the underlying threat of sexist commentary to the whole 'they play in a band therefore they're automatically hot' cliche. However bands like Jenner from Serbia certainly don't care about what people think about them, even if they're an all-female band.
Serbia in itself isn't generally a country that automatically springs to mind when it comes down to metal music as a whole, so GMA decided to investigate what is going down in the Serbian Metal scene and what makes Jenner tick along so finely... answers are by their drummer Marija Dragicevic.
"To be an all-female metal band is not easy, not even in Serbia. Prejudice follows us on every step, it’s a kind of etiquette us female musicians must carry."
Hi girls, how did Jenner form and how did you all become interested in metal music?
"Hello, it's nice that we have got an opportunity to chat a little about our band with you. Our story began 4 years ago when Alexandra Stamenkovic (guitars) and I, her older sister, Marija Stamenkovic, now Dragicevic (drums) formed the first incarnation of Jenner. We've already played in an all-female hard rock band, but Alexandra played bass, and since we've had many problems finding a good female guitarist, Alexandra decided to disband that band and learn to play guitar to form another band.
That was Jenner, but it was meant to be a hard rock band first, then she changed it to a old school heavy metal band with influences from Rock Goddess, Accept, Warlock, Judas Priest etc, whose songs we're covered at first. Jenner's first bassist, Jana Bacic was in from the very beginning as she was our friend before that. Andjelina Mitic (vocals) has joined the band shortly after that and over a years time, Alexandra and our friends realized that we should take a more faster and heavier sound, and we've started covering bands like Overkill, Anthrax, Exodus etc.
Unfortunately, Jana could not keep up with our new sound and the pace of work, so she was replaced with Mina Petrovic, our current bassist. Not so long after that, we recorded our first demo, two songs – 'Hear The Thunder Roar' and 'On A Judgement Day', (you can find it on our official YouTube channel) in order to promote the band and participate in the iconic 49th Serbian guitar festival at Zajecar. We made it to the semi-finals and had a remarkable performance which opened us the door towards further success.
Few months after that, our first album "To Live Is To Suffer" was prepared for recording. Since I have left the band during pregnancy, Selena Simic (Nemesis, Vibrator U Rikverc, Goatmare and the Helspades) helped the rest of the band to finish the drum tracks and do a few gigs, and both bands, Jenner and Nemesis, performed as opening acts for the Brazilian female thrash band Nervosa, here in Belgrade. A year had passed, and I have returned, the album is recorded, mixed and mastered at Citadela Sound Production in Belgrade and was released on February 20th via the French label Inferno Records. 1000 CD copies and 100 cassette copies are available for order, from the label and also from us directly.
The two of us (Alexandra and I) were intrigued by metal music thanks to our mum Aneta, who gave us her cassettes, vinyls, old magazines and posters when we were 15 and 12 years old, but we didn't start to play right away. Alexandra started when she was 15, firstly as a bassist and then she started to learn guitar and a little bit of keyboards. At the same time I was 18 and I had a passion for playing drums even though I had no drum-kit. Andjelina started to sing a little before joining the band, and Mina had her influences long before us, by her father Milutin who was a musician but had recently passed away."
What does the band name Jenner mean and who came up with it?
"The one who's "guilty" for the band having the name Jenner is, once again, Alexandra. She named the band after Dr Edward Jenner, who became famous by inventing the smallpox vaccine. She was studying microbiology at medical school, and found out about Dr Jenner, and immediately took a piece of paper and drew the first version of our logo, and we both liked it. When we presented it to the rest of the band, we decided to use that logo and we still use it."
Since you're all females, what are your thoughts on the terms 'all-female' and 'female-fronted' when describing a band? Do you receive any negative comments for being females playing metal?
"To be an all-female metal band is not easy, not even in Serbia. Prejudice follows us on every step, it’s a kind of etiquette us female musicians must carry. To be a part of a female metal band, that’s weird to most people. But we learnt not to pay attention and do what we love, the best as we can. There were some stories we’ve heard, that we haven’t even recorded our own demo. Some people just tend to overlook the real musical skills, not only because we're a female band.
Sometimes it's correct, but usually they just follow some trends and they don't wanna give us a chance. We’re trying to give our best to prove that our work and effort is not just for nothing. Female metal bands are rare everywhere but now, when our album is released and half of the world have already heard of us and have nothing but praise and admiration. In general, most of the people here are surprised by our decision to play Thrash Metal. They say we have a lot of courage for we have ventured into it and they all maximally support and assist us. Stereotypes, of course they’re everywhere, but we’re not worried, we know very well what we are doing and there will always be someone who appreciates it."
What is the state of the Serbian Metal scene at the moment? Popular or quiet?
"The Serbian metal scene is underground, as it's expected for one small country, but it's quite large because we have many bands with a lot of talent, quality and potential who give their best for their bands. Some of them are really successful and fond of touring Europe - Nadimac, Infest, Alitor etc... The thing is that we usually seek cooperation and help from foreign labels; even Serbia has few who are active. We're all making it, helping each other, assisting, supporting, and that's what is most important. It needs a lot of work and sacrifices to be noticeable. But with help of foreign labels and the internet, we're able to promote our music to the world, and it's accepted very well."
With Brexit are you worried about touring the UK and challenges you may face? Are there any problems in Serbia?
"Not exactly. Serbia is still not in the EU, so it doesn't seem to have problems. The only problem in touring the UK is a lack of money and free time. Serbia is a small, poor country, and we have many obstacles here regarding being metal musicians."
What hobbies do you have outside of music and your daily jobs?
"No time for hobbies! Unfortunately, our daily jobs and obligations are the ones we must deal with. I have a family, a 7 month old baby, Alexandra studies medicine, Andjelina is a hairdresser, make-up and tattoo artist, and Mina works with video editing and design. The band is our main hobby, and we always find time for rehearsals and gigs because we're doing it with love and passion. It’s only about the work and effort, as much as our free time allows us for it.
What plans do you have for the year ahead?
"The band will be quite active this year, we have to promote the album in Serbia and across the Balkans, shooting videos etc. We have a few gigs booked, including "Dan Rock Zena" on 11th of March in Ljubljana, Slovenia, with our friends Nemesis and Hellcats (also female metal bands), on 25th of March, we'll be in Skopje, Macedonia for the first time, with The Backdoor Band, and we'll promote the album in our home town, Belgrade, on 15th of April, with the help of famous Serbian bands and our good friends Deadly Mosh and Superhammer. The most important thing for us is that as many people from all around the world hear about us, and that's possible thanks to the many internet portals, webzines, and radios all across the world. We’d like to thank to everybody who supports and helps us!"
Catch Jenner at the following dates:-
11th March - Dan Rock Zena - Ljubljana, Slovenia
25th March - Skopje, F.Y.R.Macedonia
15th April - Elektropionir - Belgrade, Serbia