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Music

Sweden's Drain STH: all amped up and ready to roll

June 10, 1999
Web posted at: 2:25 p.m. EDT (1825 GMT)

By Donna Freydkin
Reporting for CNN Interactive

(CNN) -- Swedish hard rockin', guitar-grinding foursome Drain STH is no mere chick band. Indeed, the women are steadily building a name for themselves for ruggedly slaughtering the electric guitar, pounding out rocky drum solos and producing some of the heaviest, darkest metal in recent years.

And they intended to prove it.

Drain STH: Flavia Canel, Maria Sjöhölm, Anna Kjellberg and Martina Axén

Of course, hearing even a fragment of the band's music would abolish any initial comparisons to the frothy musical concoctions of their countrymates ABBA, Ace of Base and Roxette.

But Drain STH wasn't even sure if anyone, once aware of their gender, would get that far.

So, after making a name for themselves in their native Europe through word of mouth and endless touring, the striking women with a penchant for piercings and thunderous noise decided to do things a bit differently when trying to break through across the Atlantic.

When it came time to re-release their European debut, "Horror Wrestling," in the United States in 1998, they didn't put a single mug shot on the entire CD. No alluring poses, no seductive photos, nada, nothing.

"We just decided not to put any pictures on our album when we released it in America. And we did no press photos for four months," says guitarist Flavia Canel. "We wanted people to judge our music on its own merits, without our gender having anything to do with it."

FREAKS OF NATURE

"Enter My Mind"
[155k MPEG-3] or [210k WAV]

"Alive"
[155k MPEG-3] or [210k WAV]

"Simon Says"
[160k MPEG-3] or [220k WAV]

(Courtesy Mercury Records)

Who's that girl?

So just as the single "I Don't Mind" was finally getting U.S. rock radio airplay, Drain STH -- made up of Canel, vocalist Maria Sjöhölm, bassist Anna Kjellberg and drummer Martina Axén -- found itself embroiled in a singularly bizarre identity crisis. Listeners knew the band, but had no idea who was in it.

And that led to some fairly peculiar situations. Like when Drain STH would arrive at concert venues, ready to take the stage, and the audience brushed them off as the girlfriends of the real band or as the opening act.

But two years later, the band says its hard-headedness has paid off. Now that Drain STH is on the road with Ozzfest 1999 and about to release its sophomore album, "Freaks of Nature," on June 29, Canel says the winding road to recognition was worth it, allowing the band to demonstrate its metal mettle.

"Being a woman has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, everyone is curious to see if you're good," says Canel. "On the other hand, you have to prove yourself more than a guy band, or people will quickly say you suck.

"And now that we've proven ourselves, we're going all the way," announces Canel.

Metal sisters

Canel says she and her bandmates are still fast friends, both on and off the stage. And the ties that bind helped them weather some tough times.

Drain STH formed in Stockholm in 1993, but their history goes back more than five years before that, when drummer Axén met Canel in high school. From the start, despite parental bewilderment and general disapproval, the girls wanted to rock out.

"I wanted to play that kind of music since I was 13. People used to look at me and shake their heads, and wondered, 'What's the matter with her?'" recalls Canel. "But my parents were always supportive. For a short period, they felt I should have a career, but I told them that this was my career. Now, they're great."

In 1993, the band finalized its lineup and its name, spent a year honing its sound and writing songs, landed a deal with a Swedish label and started doing some heavy touring in Europe. Cranking out songs was one thing, but getting some respect proved to be another animal entirely.

Canel recalls that when the band was first starting out, one booking agency in particular refused to work with the women because the agency already had one all-girl band -- albeit one that played pop covers -- on the roster. But Drain STH kept going, and in 1997, released its debut, "Horror Wrestling," a melancholy, weighty album with singles such as "Stench" and "Serve the Shame."

The album led to tours with Type O Negative, Sevendust and Corrosion of Conformity, and garnered the band a slot on the 1997 Ozzfest lineup. The band's streak of luck persevered even through internal chaos -- after Mercury Records swallowed up the band's label, Enclave, Mercury decided to internationally re-release Drain STH's album in 1998. And the rest, hopes Drain STH, is history.

Grassroots growth

On the heels of a successful 1998 U.S. tour, Drain STH finds itself the object of overall critical exultation, prompting Time Out New York to write in 1998: "If these ladies know ABBA, it's because they've got them chained up in their dungeon back home."

Yet somewhat ironically, attests Canel, radio back home won't touch Drain STH. Canel says the band's music is deemed too heavy, too bleak and dark, for the average listener. So the band built a fan base strictly through grassroots efforts, bolstered by a reputation for putting on ferociously powerful shows.

Apparently, the perseverance paid off -- while you won't find Drain STH on any Lilith Fair lineup, they are the only women on the 1999 Ozzfest roster. And after Ozzfest wraps up in July, the women hit the road on a full-blown U.S. tour.

And as far as their gender worries go, the women now feel confident that they've proven themselves, physical traits aside. Other bands fully respect them, says Canel, and fans too are respectful and give Drain STH its space.

"Our fans are very nice. Men do hit on us, but mostly, fans just ask for autographs," Canel says.


RELATED STORIES:
Sweden beats favourite to win Eurovision title
May 29, 1999
Cardigans enjoying Swede sound of success
February 2, 1999
Ace of Base reaching out with 'Cruel Summer'
September 3, 1998

RELATED SITES:
Drain STH on Mercury Records
Official Drain STH site
Ozzfest
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