To vocalist/guitarist Brittany Hill, the name Vanity Theft suggests the idea of "being humbled. Experiences can kick you down."
But this four-piece, all-women Indie group doesn't feel the need to defend womanhood. They focus on the music. Gender's in the backseat. Hey, when you're good, you're good.
From the Lebanon area, they're young, but their sound is remarkably mature. At 20, Hill is the oldest. Ages follow in descending order: Elyse Driskill (drums), 19; Lindsey Keene (bass), 18; and Alicia Grodecki, (vocals, guitar), 17. Keene and Grodecki are seniors at Springboro High School, while Hill and Driskill attend Sinclair Community College.
Hill's phone voice is unmistakably a singer's; she sounds sultry, smoky, older than her age, and her words have an open-ended, breathy feel. Hill began with drums, then guitar, in the eighth grade. Both Hill and Grodecki contribute vocals, switching off as the lead singer.
Also learning guitar in grade school, Grodecki has become the band's "effects person," playing keys, tambourine, harmonica and then some. Openly creative, the band strives to add a new instrument to each song.
Hill met Grodecki three years ago at a Lebanon youth group event.
"For a year, we played in my basement," Hill says.
Sharing the mic, they learned Brand New and Blink 182 covers and wrote some songs. After a year spent underground, by May 2005 they were booking regional gigs. When Staci Farssing, the original bassist, left for college, Keene replaced her. Driskill started playing drums a few years ago, but her sharp, natural skill on their EP is something to note.
Recorded in Tennessee in 2006, Symptoms, a five-song EP, is artistic, engaging and captures a wisdom that reaches beyond a typical debut. Working with First Street Studio's Tyler Orr, Symptoms is professional and smart, with concrete, fully developed lyrics. The two voices contrast each other well, both melodic and rocking with presence. An underlying confidence.
On "Teeth and Bones," Grodecki sings lead as smooth as Juliana Hatfield, presenting clear-cut lyrics about a relationship gone wrong. These words could sound bitter, but don't; Grodecki's style comes across as bluntly up-front and far from self-pity. Stating it how it is, "Teeth and Bones" is the catchy one here; the melody and lyrics are memorable enough for a chart single.
On "Symptoms," Hill's vocal style is darker, older and more artsy. Her sound is similar to old-school Gwen Stefani — not her current fluffy Pop stuff, but Stefani from the bolder, more artisan, early No Doubt years, when she wore sweatpants and showed muscle, but still pulled off looking gorgeous. No bubble crap. More complex. Sometimes Punk ain't pretty. Sometimes it is.
Hill explains, " 'Symptoms' is about being obsessed with someone. It'll drive you to do crazy things sometimes." True. The tune expresses this off-kilter, slightly nutty feel.
Influenced by the shared vocal style of Alt/Emocore band Taking Back Sunday and Indie duo, Mates of State, Hill also gives a shout out to Garage UK band The Spills and American Indie rockers like The Shins and Rilo Kiley. But Vanity Theft strives to avoid being associated with one style, similar to the unattached attitude of bands like post-Hardcore New Jersey group Thursday.
Hill says, "In our earlier stages, we were more post-Punk/Emo, and now we're moving into more of an Indie Pop sound."
Individuality has gained Vanity Theft regular rotation on Engage Internet Radio, as well as play on various XM satellite radio Indie Rock stations.
Fully committed, Hill says, "We've been gaining momentum with interviews and exposure. Be on the lookout for some Cincinnati gigs. So many guys think girls can't rock as hard. Just because we're girls doesn't mean we'll sound exactly like The Donnas. So many times, we'll show up to play a gig and people will expect we're gonna suck."
She remarks that often they're met with the stereotypical crowd misconception that an all-female band is going to a) suck b) sound wussy or c) sound like loud, Hardcore Punk.
I think there's a "d." And Vanity Theft, among others, intend to invent it and tackle it.
Chew on that.
For more on VANITY THEFT, check myspace.com/vanitytheft. The band plays the Posion Room May 18.