ABISHA UHL (Sick of Sarah) Interview

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Minnesota’s SICK OF SARAH lead singer ABISHA UHL is back in Japan. Considering it to be her first home, she lived there until she was 18, spending a lot of that time on military bases.

The five-piece band that brought Abisha to fame started out in 2005 and things have been busy since then, having produced 2 LPs, including their 2011 album “2205” shrewdly released through BitTorrent, achieving platinum-equivalent status. The band is known for stage-blasting performances, Abisha often seen crowdsurfing into the crowds. She loves the human contact with her fans and is one of those rare people who will spend real time with them, even joining them for a spot of sightseeing.

We met up with Sick of Sarah last year in London when they supported LA band UH HUH HER at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. A fine old time was had backstage and SoS went on to blow the headliner right off the stage. (READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH SICK OF SARAH HERE)

Almost one year on, we meet up with Abisha in Shibuya, Tokyo for a photo shoot (SEE OUR FULL PHOTO GALLERY HERE) and to talk music, touring and Japan. We settle ourselves into a cheap izakaya with edamame and “samurai sake” before getting down to business.



Welcome back to Japan! How long since you were last here?

I want to say about 3 years ago. I was visiting my parents in Okinawa and then I came to Tokyo to do a radio interview with Tokyo FM.

So, you grew up in Okinawa before moving to the States in your late teens. For people who don’t know, what are the differences between growing up in Okinawa compared to say Tokyo?

So, the difference between Okinawa and Tokyo is Okinawa has a very islander kind of lifestyle, it’s a lot more chilled and laid back, as opposed to Tokyo where it’s way more high energy, lots of people going places constantly – there are a lot more people – that’s the biggest difference. I really liked the islander style – it’s so laid back and I’m still like that. Tokyo is probably a little too much for me… I mean I love it, it’s like a party here, which is also fun.

What are some of your favourite things about Japan?

I love everything about Japan! I definitely consider Japan my first home, and I’m always going to consider it my first home, just because I feel more at home here than I do in the States. I like the people, I love the food and the vibe – people are so friendly and so down to earth, you can leave your bike somewhere and not have to lock it up, you don’t have to worry about people stealing your shit – it’s really cool.

As a band you’ve never toured Japan, is that something you’re looking into?

We would absolutely love to tour here. It’s just so expensive to do that, so that’s one of our dilemmas. But yeah we want to tour Japan – it’d be crazy! I would love to come over here with HUNTER VALENTINE or GIRL IN A COMA – bands that we’ve toured with in the States, because you kind of get this ladykiller tour thing that we’ve got going on, and we’ve done it all over the US and Canada. But, yeah I’m sure there are groups over here we’d love to play with – GROUP A would be the number 1 band we would want to tour with here!

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When did you start getting into music?

I started playing the drums when I was about 11 or 12. I played the drums for a couple of years, then as soon as I picked up a guitar when I was 13, I stopped playing drums and focused all my attention on writing. I started writing right away – I had a knack for it. Both of my brothers were musicians, so I really looked up to them and that’s what’s really got me inspired to play music.

I just grew into it and my brother was very encouraging, and that really made me happy. I wanted to be like my brothers – I was like, “They’re so cool!” so that was definitely a reason I continued doing it.

How long after you moved to the States did you form Sick of Sarah?

Well I moved there when I was 18 and I formed the band when I was 23, so I kind of lived a little bit, did some college, dropped out… I was 25 when we actually got discovered. We did this showcase that we really didn’t want to do because it was like 500 dollars to be in this showcase. They really wanted us to be in it, but we were like, “We’re not gonna pay 500 bucks to be in this show!” Then, they ended up just putting us in it anyway because they really wanted us to play it, and there was a guy from Hollywood Records who really liked us and told his friend to watch us. Then we were flown out to LA to record a five-track demo, which is really bad looking back at it now, but that’s how we got our manager. He then formed an independent record label, and 2 albums later this is where we’re at.

We’re now working on our third album, we’ve travelled all over the world, we’ve toured with THE BANGLES, we’ve made good friends with HUNTER VALENTINE, we’re friends with HEART, we’ve opened up for JOAN JETT – we’ve done a lot of really cool things and played with a lot of really cool bands… GOD-DES AND SHE, GIRL IN A COMA… It’s been a great ride and we’re still on it, so it’s fun!

How do you feel about being a female lead singer in an industry dominated by males? Do you find you’re treated differently?

I don’t feel like I’ve had any weird experiences and I don’t feel like I’ve ever been treated differently, but maybe I just wasn’t paying attention. I’ve played with guy bands and sometimes they’ll kind of brush us off, but then they’ll watch us play and and they’re like, “Ok, you guys are good!” I’ve noticed, I guess, that we get treated differently, no matter who’s watching, but then after they hear you play, you gain more respect. I think you’ll get that whether or not you’re a female or a male though.

And how do you feel about the state of the music scene for women in the industry? Do all-female bands get as much exposure?

I would think that, exposure-wise, it’s almost harder if you’re in a guy band, because the music industry is just saturated with guy bands. So if you’re in a female band, people might take more notice because it’s not as common to have that – there are fewer female musicians than male musicians, so it might actually be more of an advantage. I’ve always heard female musicians kind of get the brush off though.

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What was the deal with the BitTorrent re-release of your album “2205” in 2011?

Yeah, we released our music to BitTorrent – they liked our music and they asked us if we wanted to do this, so they were basically like, “We’re going to release your record for free on BitTorrent” and we broke the charts as far as downloaded records. Like we had over 1.5 million downloads of the record, so that was a great thing – it was awesome.

Amazing! So where is Sick of Sarah musically at the moment? Can we expect a new release soon?

Yes, we’ll be releasing a new album. We have all our songs demoed up and now it’s just a matter of kind of working out the kinks. We’re going to record at the end of summer, so it should be released before 2014.

Have you guys picked a title yet?

It’s going to be called “Abisha Rules!” No, we haven’t thought of a name yet, we’ll see… But I am thinking that “Abisha Rules” would be a fantastic name! Or “Abisha’s Awesome” or “Abisha’s Ichiban.” I’m going to talk to the girls about it – I hope they’re down with it? Probably not…

Any crazy stories from your last tours?

It was really cute in London – we ran into some girls at a Chipotle or something, and the girls literally dropped all their food when they saw us. That was really funny! There’s some crazy shit, people are funny and they’re aggressive, and we get a bunch of cool presents. And marriage proposals are fun – I think I’m engaged to at least a few hundred girls right now, and maybe like two guys. Oh bras, yeah, we get bras thrown on stage, which is fun. We got a really big pair of panties one time, and a huge bra! People drop their pants and take off their panties, which is a little strange. I’m like, “Uh… you might need that!”