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Interview with Brittany Bindrim (I:Scintilla)

In November 2012, I:Scintilla returned to their hometown of Chicago to perform once again on JBTV, the same stage that such local rock legends as the Smashing Pumpkins had graced. Performing a selection of fan favourites, the show is set to be released as Live at JBTV on 16th August, with an album release party the following evening at the Cobra Lounge. This follows on less than three months after Marrow 2, an eight-track EP and the second in the series of Marrow mini-albums, which has seen the industrial metal group experimenting with an array of genres.

Formed a decade ago in Champaign, Illinois, I:Scintilla first appeared on the scene with their self-released debut The Approach, but it was following their signing with Belgium label Alfa Matrix that the group began to make an impact in the metal scene. The brainchild of founding member Jim Cookas and vocalist Brittany Bindrim, to-date I:Scintilla have released two official albums and four EPs, while the upcoming Live on JBTV demonstrates their ability to recreate that energy and passion onstage.

Brittany Bindrim talks about her experiences fronting a metal group.

Does it take a certain personality to be willing to walk out in front of an audience of strangers and bare their soul, and is the vulnerability that often drives the songwriting not too exposed when on stage?

Well, sort of. I think musicians have different reasons for doing what they do and for pursuing music in the first place. Whether it is an artistic temperament, natural talent, a need to be the centre of attention, etc., certain personality traits (or disorders) will drive people to it. I for one am an introvert and it was a love of writing the drove me. Do you need to have a hint of narcissism to front a band? Not sure, maybe. Performing live in front of a crowd was not something that I was comfortable with right off the bat. But I do get off on taking risks and challenging myself. I did feel vulnerable and overexposed the first few times I sang in front of any audience. It took me some time, experience and experimenting to feel at home up there. From there grew my love for performing.

Would you say there is still too much focus on female vocalists being treated as sex symbols first and artists second?

I think so. I would say the general public is quicker to judge a female vocalist based on her looks and focus more on her level of attractiveness than her voice and talent. I think men get much more slack in this area. For example, to some, a female singer being physically attractive may discredit her talents. At the same time, many of the top male musicians are physically fit or sexually charged; most don’t judge men quite as harshly. I think the best thing you can do as a female artist is just be yourself, whoever that may be, and try to remain in control over your image, despite of what the record labels, the public, or anyone else has to say.

When you were a child who was your idol and are they still a strong influence on you today?

My first childhood idol was my dad, a talented musician and singer. When I was a very young kid and my parents were still together, he often performed with his band and would play guitar and sing for my sister and I. He really made an impact on me growing up, and I knew from a young age that he had passed on to me his love of music. He is still a strong influence on me and continues to write and perform to this day. In fact, you can hear my dad on our Acoustic EP Marrow 1! It was a blast and such an honor to have him (dad:scintilla) in the studio to record guitars and vocals for the EP.

I:Scintilla

I:Scintilla

It could be argued that everything there is to say has already been said in a song, and that artists now find new ways to say the same thing. As an artist would you agree with this or do you feel that you have something new to offer listeners?

No. I don’t agree. I think it’s pretty pessimistic to say that everything has already been said before and you will never again hear anything original. Would you say the same thing about poetry? Literature? Art? I wouldn’t. I think the similarities in many songs over decades reflect the human condition and how so many of us go through similar life experiences and share similar ideas.

Yes, there are too many songs being written today chock full of musical clichés, and yes we’re all guilty of writing some craptacular doozies from time to time. It is true musicians all learn things from their musical mentors and those teachers certainly have an influence on songwriting. But I also believe there is a lot of new things to say through music. I think a lot of musicians have some original things to share with us. But as songwriters, your own quirks and personality will come and thus be unique. And when you write a song, others may identify with your unique approach to expressing something they have felt before or have gone through. That doesn’t mean everything has already been said. I do think I:Scintilla has something unique to offer, as do many other artists. I don’t think we’d be doing this if we thought otherwise.

Do you intend on your band crossing over into other mediums, such as movies or comics, and do you consider your stage persona to be a character or your true self?

We are crossing over into other mediums as we are beginning to work on soundtracks to films. Our first project is the score to Journey Through Fire, a documentary about the healing process of a survivor of childhood rape and abuse. We are honoured to be a part of the project, as it will help promote a realistic discussion on abuse to help many overcome their traumas, and also will help others better understand it. We hope to work on more movie scores in the future.

To answer the second part of your question: On stage I’m outgoing and aggressive. This isn’t due to a stage persona I crafted, this is just who I am as a performer. Off stage, I’m much more down-to-earth and reserved. Which one is my true self? Both.

So far have you had a good relationship with the metal press, particularly with how many websites like to build artists up so they can knock them down?

We haven’t run into any issues with the metal press. In fact, all of our reviews and features have been honest and fair. I’m curious; who is the Perez Hilton or a National Enquirer of the metal world?

Are there any central themes that you explore through your lyrics and would you consider yourself political in any way?

A major theme in my lyrics is the process of self-destruction, healing and self-discovery. Although the words often times may seem dystopian and dark, I find often that from great pain and suffering comes great wisdom and beauty. I find that message very hopeful and it has given me strength during times when I needed it. Also, puppies, unicorns and the youth of the nation are also recurrent themes. I am a fairly political person, so you will find my liberal and feminist ideals embedded in the songs.

Do you have any pre-show ritual before you go out on stage; some that that gets you in the right frame of mind to perform?

Before I hit the stage, I always warm up my voice a bit by doing a few weird and annoying vocal exercises; which my band mates enjoy mocking. I feel that this also may relieve some of their tension. If I need to take the edge off a bit, a shot of whiskey puts me in the right frame of mind to perform.

There must be nights when due to the pressures of being on the road or personal issues you can’t wait for a show to be over. In these situations, how do you turn that negativity into energy?

I honestly really love touring and everything that comes along with it. The long and sometimes smelly trips in the van, sightseeing, late nights, hotel rooms, and the amazing people you meet…I could be on the road forever. The only time I hate performing is when I am sick with a sinus infection. I feel like my voice can be so unpredictable during those times. It’s frightening when you lose control. So I make sure to warm up my voice extra, drink plenty of water and tea, and just hope for the best. There’s nothing you really can do in those situations but neti pot, perform your heart out and hope the audience doesn’t notice.

Brittany Bindrim

Brittany Bindrim

Do you feel that the energy and passion you create onstage has been captured on your recordings, and are you more at home in a studio or onstage?

I feel most at home and comfortable when I’m writing or recording in the studio. Writing lyrics and melodies has always felt natural to me; similar to that flow of energy you feel when you are drawing, painting or creating some other form of art.

And though at first performing in front of people wasn’t second nature to me, I now feel that same energy when I hit the stage. I go to the same headspace as I do while writing music. It is really exciting to see what happens to a song when we perform it live for the first time.

What I love most about performing is bringing new life to the songs. Sometimes they become something completely different on stage from what they were born into as the recording.

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