Boozing, raucous antics, and a pickup truck – “That Was the Whiskey” has all the hallmarks of a bad-boy country song. But the lead in this rowdy anthem, who blames the whiskey for last night’s shenanigans, sports a little red dress and stiletto heels.
“Girls have fun drinking nights, too,” says Cathy Henderson of the all-female alt-country act Antigone Rising, which will be playing a show Dec. 7 at Jammin’ Java.
The single was inspired by real events, a wild late-night bar show by the band at a songwriters’ festival in Florida. The festival crowd had congregated at the bar, including some of the big-name acts playing the event. Guitarist Nini Camps was celebrating her birthday that day, and a steady stream of Jägermeister shots were finding their way to the stage. “Not that she was doing them,” Henderson said, but the mood of the evening was certainly boisterous.
“It was almost like this dirty drinking, hometown bar scene. It was packed,” Henderson said. “The night was primed to be fun and a little out of control.”
In the audience that night was songwriter Lori McKenna, whose songs have been recorded by country stars Faith Hill and Hunter Hayes, among others. She felt the evening was song-worthy, and teamed up with Antigone Rising’s Camps and Kristen Ellis-Henderson to pen a single “very loosely based on the experience everyone had that evening,” Henderson says.
The Henderson sisters are the core of this hard-touring act that’s played alongside Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones, but also endured hardships trying make music as an all-female act – from sexist remarks called out from an audience during soundcheck to being lumped into an ill-fitting category of “girls music,” Henderson explained.
“We’re out there to represent that music is genderless,” Henderson said. “It’s human. The experience and the expression of it is human. It transcends gender, race, religion, everything.”
They’ve faced label struggles and line-up changes, too, but fighting against the adversity is the drive of two sisters who from an early age had no other ambitions but to make music. Cathy and Kristen were the girls who learned to play an instrument as early as they could, who were always trying to throw a band together, and turned the basement of their family’s home into the site of countless jam sessions.
“It’s always been a part of us; it’s as much a part of us as your arm and your leg,” Henderson said. “It’s what we do.”
The pair formed Antigone Rising in the ’90s, and with the help of fan fundraising put out their albums independently until the band was discovered by Lava Records and signed with the label in 2003, releasing From the Ground Up as their major-label debut in 2005. These days they’ve returned to their independent roots, releasing their latest album, 2011’s 23 Red, on their own Rising Shine Records label.
They’re currently recording their next album, expected in early 2014, and are doing so in Camps’ home studio. Henderson says the private recording locale has allowed for a new approach to crafting the upcoming album, one in which time and budgets aren’t constraining, the band can experiment and rerecord easily, and several songs can be recorded so the band can pick the best for the album.
“It’s allowing us the time to really do it right, which we’re excited about,” Henderson said.
Leading up to the album’s release, the band is playing shows across the East Coast. The Jammin’ Java show, in advance of the holidays, will feature some seasonal tunes the band has prepared, including the upcoming single “Santa, You Owe Me.”
As for the “Whiskey” single, Henderson says it’s been a crowd-pleaser in live shows, getting a big crowd reaction from the first few notes and one evening spurring a line dance. And Henderson expects Antigone Rising’s show at Jammin’ Java will, similarly, get audiences moving.
“You’re going to want to get up out of your seat and dance.”
• For more information about Antigone Rising, visit antigonerising.com.