Guitarist and songwriter Kristen Henderson co-founded the all-women band, Antigone Rising, in 1993 with her sister, Cathy Henderson (lead guitarist), though the two have performed together since toddlerhood. Nini Camps joined the band as lead singer in 2009. Drummer Dena Tauriello is currently on hiatus but her presence is felt. The band brings its infectious rock stylings and powerhouse vocals to Fairfield Theatre Company on March 24.
Henderson is also author of a memoir, Times Two, Two Women in Love and the Happy Family They Made. She and wife, Sarah Kate Ellis, are vocal advocates on LGBT issues, especially marriage and family equality. We recently spoke with her about Antigone Rising’s upcoming concert.
Andrea Valluzzo: Give us a preview of your set at FTC.
Kristen Henderson: We are performing as a trio right now. Our drummer who is usually with us has something awesome going on so she is not touring with us right now. Performing as a trio really makes the show interesting and different so if you have seen us as a full band, this will be special. It makes for a more intimate performance; it’s a lot more of a storyteller situation and its been going over really well. It’s nice to get out of your comfort zone. It’s fun and it’s a challenge.
AV: This is the band’s 25th year. Did you imagine you would hit this milestone?
KH: I did believe that. I didn’t think we would ever stop. It absolutely did not follow the trajectory I imagined in any way. I think that life comes to you as it comes. We have been resilient and open minded, willing to pivot and let the path guide us … I would not want it any other way, it has gone the way exactly I hoped.
AV: Who are some of your musical inspirations?
KH: The Beatles, for sure. Everybody’s chasing the ghost of the Beatles. Shawn Colvin has always been a songwriter I try to emulate. She is someone I respect as a guitar player and a writer.
AV: Who are your favorite musicians you have toured with?
KH: We have been very lucky, touring with the Rolling Stones and with the Allman Brothers. That was like a master class to sit on the side of the stage and watch the Allman Brothers. Early on in our career, Sarah McLaughlin gave us a big break and Joan Jett was always very good to us. These are trailblazing female artists who have been there for us in our career.
AV: Tell us about your Girls Rising non-profit foundation.
KH: Girls Rising was inspired by a trip we took to the Middle East in 2012 through the U.S. State Department, as cultural ambassadors for Women’s History Month to perform workshops in school and community centers all over Israel and the West Bank. It literally changed our entire focus. We shifted in that moment as a band. We came home and we realized that things in the U.S. are not that much different in developing countries, where women are perceived the same way there as in the U.S. We have to change that, we have to change what is shaping that. We perform workshops and outreach during the day in schools and do shows at night. We talk about our experiences as women in a male-dominated industry. We talk about STEM issues also, we bring successful women from those fields into workshops — it’s not solely about music although music is sort of a universal language. Boys are in workshops, too. It is important for boys to see women in powerful positions too if anything is going to change.
AV: Equality issues have been close at heart for the band and you personally. How do you feel these issues have shaped the band’s music and the stories you tell?
KH: Some of the newer material speaks to a lot of what is going on with gun violence and with issues of gender equality. Love Don’t Work That Way was inspired by the events at Pulse nightclub but it’s obviously relevant to every mass shooting. That song will be on the new EP. Another song, Avalanche — it’s more of a gender issue, how girls are perceived one way and that society’s ability to sweep things under the rug needs to come to an end.
AV: Tell us about the famous kissing cover of Time Magazine on April 8, 2013.
KH: When we went in for a photo shoot on Monday, we had no idea it was for the cover. We just thought it was going to be a piece inside, and they wanted pictures of [same-sex] couples. It wasn’t until we were there and every shot they took, they were looking at on a computer in a template of the cover. As soon as we were realized that, we put on our game faces and got serious. They let us know the next day it was going to be a split cover, half the copies of a male couple on the cover, half a female couple, and they hadn’t decided which couples. That Thursday I was doing an interview and the host posted the cover. I was looking at it and I genuinely did not recognize us. Finally Sarah said, ‘That is us!’ It was an overwhelming experience, it was certainly an honor.