"I don't like to say it's straight-up metal," former White Zombie bassist Sean Yseult says of her new heavy guitar band Star and Dagger. At a fighting weight closer to Down than her other band Rock City Morgue, Star and Dagger flirts dangerously with Southern metal.
Its online debut offered a different sound. The band put its heavy metal aside on its first single, the anomalous boogie-blues stomp, "Your Mama Was a Grifter." Yseult wrote the campy lyrics, a duty that normally falls to guitarist Donna She Wolf, late of Cycle Sluts from Hell. The song's video slips the band's founding female members — a trio rounded out by singer Marci von Hesseling (owner of the French Quarter wig and costume shop Fifi Mahony's) — into a black-and-white homage to Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!
The band's first press photo shows the three women performing a seance, but Star and Dagger also features two men. After drumming on Star and Dagger's three-song vinyl EP and its upcoming debut album, Tomorrowland Blues, Dustin Crops departed and Queens of the Stone Age drummer Gene Trautmann took over the kit. "He's kick-ass," Yseult nearly shouts. "It's really exciting to play with him."
Around the same time, Star and Dagger enlisted Eagles of Death Metal guitarist, quasi-New Orleanian and rock 'n' roll elder statesman Dave Catching. Yseult and Catching met in the '90s when White Zombie took Catching's band on tour. Catching assimilated into Star and Dagger quite naturally while he co-produced Tomorrowland Blues at his Rancho de la Luna studio in Joshua Tree, Calif. Rancho de la Luna is most famous as ground zero for the recording of several Queens of the Stone Age albums. "New Orleans is officially my home," says Catching, who also is known to DJ around town and has made a cameo in the parading Mardi Gras rock band Pink Slip with Sue and Jimmy Ford. "My business is out in Joshua Tree, and it is always busy," he says. "I live at my studio half the time, and the rest I try to spend in New Orleans."
Singer von Hesseling is a relative newcomer to the stage, but is familiar with New Orleans' rock 'n' roll scene via her husband Ryan Hesseling's ownership of One Eyed Jacks. Her voice — more Heart than L7 — is Star and Dagger's soulful centerpiece. "It's almost funny sometimes to hear Marci's beautiful voice on top of these metal riffs," Yseult says.
Finding themselves temporarily homeless after Hurricane Katrina, Yseult and husband Chris Lee of Supagroup bought a place in New York, where Star and Dagger lately has spent time playing shows and looking for a label to release Tomorrowland Blues. "I still have the place in New Orleans," Yseult says. "New Orleans is home, but after Katrina I remembered how much I loved New York." Following a year of brief tours and shows with Down, High on Fire, Helmet and Eagles of Death Metal, Star and Dagger is ready to return to New Orleans and will screen the video for "Your Mama Was a Grifter" during its show at Voodoo. — Michael Patrick Welch