Misstallica: Four Goofy Girls Who Shred.
Text and images by Chris Malo.
One repeatedly falafel belches throughout the interview. One works at the zoo and doesn’t want to tell her age. One talks about the chicken pox scar on her face and weird encounters with Facebook stalkers, including the guy who asked what she thinks about small wieners. And one is a crossword champ who is pretty much silent the entire time.
Maybe not be what you would expect of the country’s only all-female Metallica cover band, aptly named Misstallica.
Sitting in the dressing room before their first show at the TLA, lead vocalist and guitarist Gina Gleason (the James Hetfield of the group), lead guitarist Leanne Martz (part Dave Mustaine, part Kirk Hammett), bassist Teddi Tarnoff (the band’s Ron McGovney/Cliff Burton/Jason Newsted), and drummer Kaleen Reading (Lars Ulrich) repeatedly describe themselves as four goofy girls.
It turns out to be true.
Most of the band members are products of the School of Rock. Back in 2008, the girls – three of them are 20 years old and the fourth won’t reveal her age – played as a King Diamond cover band, aptly named Queen Diamond. Then they started playing Metallica songs, specifically the ones from Master of Puppets. From there, it took on it’s own life.
“We loved rock and metal,” Gleason explains.
She started her musical career on the upright bass. Reading began as a guitarist playing Black Sabbath material but when she sat behind her first drum kit, it just made more sense to her. Martz has always played guitar. Tarnoff’s background includes singing opera and playing the violin. All had been fans of speed metal.
“The classical background helped us applying things to metal,” Gleason says, “like shredding.”
“It helped us be appropriate in technique and know our shit going in to it,” adds Tarnoff.
Technique is something that the early albums of Metallica burst with. Misstallica only plays songs from the first four Metallica albums.
“That is the thrashy, shreddy, really badass stuff,” Gleason says. “I think people really appreciate when they come to see us, they know they’re going to hear that old school, classic thrash metal stuff.”
The girls agree that the early Metallica albums had a feel to them that sonically captured a particular time. It’s that era the girls want to replicate, which for a variety of reasons presents various obstacles.
“Anything off And Justice For All,” says Martz. “‘Dyers Eve.’ ‘Blackened.’ ‘Harvester of Sorrows’ was a bitch to learn for me.”
“‘Trapped Under Ice,’” Reading adds. “I’m not sure if it’s technical but it’s a physical thing. There is a very intense double bass.”
There is also the issue of four women trying to fill the shoes of a huge, internationally-loved band with a hardcore fan base that loves hyper-aggressive, testosterone-fueled music.
“Because we are all girls, we have to be that much extra on our game,” Gleason explains. “At so many shows, there will be the front row of dudes with their arms crossed saying, ‘Let me see if she gets this solo right.’ Then you do and they are like, ‘Oh shit!’”
It can be very difficult scheduling gigs and practices around each band members’ jobs and their other musical endeavors – between the four of them, they play in at least six other bands. But their hard work is paying off.
Misstallica has played everywhere from Alaska to the United Kingdom. Gibson Guitars named Misstallica as one of the top five all-female cover bands, and last year they were profiled in the New York Times.
One of their biggest highlights came in June when James Hetfield’s guitar tech invited the band to Metallica’s own Orion Music Festival in Atlantic City. The highlight came as Reading was sitting at the drum kit.
Suddenly, in walked Lars Ulrich.
After the girls were introduced to Lars as the all-female Metallica tribute band, Reading introduced herself by saying, “Hi. I’m you!”
The greatest compliment they ever received was after a show when someone told them when they closed their eyes during the show, it was as if they were transported back to the ’80s, listening to Metallica play.
“Tribute bands are a novelty,” Tarnoff explains. “But there is a difference between those who do it, and those who do it well. And that’s where the legitimacy comes in. We try to be as authentic as we can. We’re still girls but that’s kind of the point. If that is how we have to get your attention, that’s fine. But if you come out to a show you will see we are serious about the music.”