It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Shiragirl is something of an icon to the Vans Warped Tour. It’s been 14 years since Shira Yevin and her band first crashed Warped Tour in a pink RV to set up her own stage and play her brand of female-centric electro-punk. She might’ve been tossed out of the venue if she was at any other show, but “surprise punk show” is one of Warped’s MOs, so founder Kevin Lyman invited her back to host her own stage. Even on this year’s final cross-country run of the iconic festival, Warped Tour’s Shiragirl stage served as a launching pad for female-fronted acts as it has for over 200 other bands.
Ms. Yevin sat down for an interview at Warped’s stop at Northwell Health at Jones Beach Theater in Wantagh, NY. Sporting pink-tipped hair and cherry earrings, she talked about her fondest memories at Warped, her recent EP produced by Rancid’s Tim Armstrong and her impact on the legacy of Warped.
TYF: What’s the most outstanding memory of your time on Warped Tour that you’ve had?
Shira: The first thing that pops up is the 2006 show. Joan Jett came and performed on my stage in Cleveland with me. We played “Bad Reputation,” and she played guitar and sang backup and I sang the lead. Kevin Lyman was in the crowd and it was the last day of the tour in 2006. Joan was a huge supporter of the Shiragirl stage, she used to bike over and watch all the girl bands all day. It meant a lot to have her support and her record label, Blackheart Records, actually sponsored our stage this year.
TYF: So does this feel like the last tour ever? What does this tour feel like to you?
Shira: That’s a great question. It kinda does feel like the last one, because it’s like the last hurrah. It really feels like everyone is rallying and there’s a lot of sold out shows and sentimentality and cakes and memories. It does kind-of feel like it so it is bittersweet. At the same time, it’s a little hard to believe that this is the last one because we do it every year. We come back to these venues time and time again and there’s always that feeling of, “See you next year,” so it’s not going to be like that. But what I say with Kevin Lyman is that you never know. I know he’s going to do a 25th anniversary festivals next year, so who knows? I think that if there’s a demand for it, anything is possible.
TYF: Take me through the vibe and energy of a Shiragirl show. Does that change at all when you’re here at Warped Tour?
Shira: When you play a Warped Tour set, everything is heightened. It’s high energy and you’re playing to a crowd and you have to get them moving and they’re hot and sweaty and you really have to connect with that and motivate them. But at the same time, it’s a fun crowd and they want to rock with you and they want to have the best day ever. We play all of our high-energy songs, if we have a slower song we might save that for a club. My show is super high energy, it’s punk rock meets dance pop, and sometimes we call people onstage to dance with us and put on costumes. I always also like to go into the crowd and dance with them. We’ve been doing a medley of cover songs featuring women who’ve played Warped Tour like Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” and Paramore’s “Misery Business.” Paramore actually played my stage back in 2005 on their first ever tour, the label actually flew me down to Orlando to see the band so there’s a lot of history there. The last song in the medley is The Interrupters’ “Take Back the Power” and they’re like our family because they are produced by Tim Armstrong from Rancid and we just released a new EP that’s also produced by Tim Armstrong so we hang out with them in L.A. in the studio and couldn’t be happier for them and their success.
TYF: Tell me about what it’s like to work with Tim Armstrong because he has a very wide range of people he’s worked with over the years.
Shira: It’s amazing and he really does like a wide variety of music. Of course he’s into punk rock but he’s really into new wave and all these different kinds of styles that people wouldn’t expect. I think he enjoys working with Shiragirl because we are this outlet for him that he can’t do with Madball or all these other hardcore punk guys that he works with. He’s so humble, he has really positive energy and is very encouraging. A lot of other producers are very ego-driven and he’s not like that, he just kinda likes to facilitate. But he will be honest and will still push you, but it’s really good working with Tim. I actually met him at Warped Tour back in the day and I got to do one or two songs with him, so to be able to do this EP with him has been such a gift and a dream and I’m really thankful for it. There’s actually a song on the EP called, “I Must Be Dreaming,” and we co-wrote it and Tim plays guitar on the EP. He wrote the title and I wrote the song, but it is kinda about these moments in life where you’re like, “Is this my life?”
TYF: When you have a new band come up to you during the tour and say, “Oh it’s so nice to meet you, I’m a big fan!” If they ask for advice, what do you often tell them if this is their first tour they’ve ever done or the first big thing they’ve ever done?
Shira: That’s a great question because I do host a lot of baby bands on my stage. The number one thing is keep going, it’s the same thing Joan Jett said to me. You gotta just keep going, keep working, work hard, do your thing, ignore the haters because there’s always going to be people that don’t like what you’re doing, ignore the voices in your head that tell you you’re not good enough. Just have to keep going.
TYF: There is a vibe, an energy to Warped Tour and even though it’s ending, there’s this consistent oath to keep that going along. How does a group of friends who are coming to Warped Tour for the last time, or someone coming to Warped for the first time ever, keep that going even though Warped Tour is closing its doors?
Shira: I think it’s a question a lot of us in the scene and a lot of bands are asking: What’s next? And Kevin is waiting to see what’s next and who’s willing to step up to the plate. For me, I would love to take the concept of my Shiragirl stage, which features only female-fronted bands, and turn that into a festival or perhaps a tour or even a monthly thing like Emo Night. Kevin is socially responsible and working with nonprofits and really bringing the scene together. One of the big things that I think Warped Tour did for music was bring together these baby bands and emerging bands with these headliners and it’s very inspiring. It’s inspiring to these baby bands who are watching this and saying, “I want to be on the main stage one day.” Then at the end of the day, we’re all in the same lunch line and we’re partying at the same barbeque, it’s very democratic. At the same time, I think that the bigger bands like being there to check out the baby bands and see who’s coming up next and seeing who they might want to take on tour. Also I think that when you’re an artist that’s really big, you might get jaded after a while and then to be around the young excitement of this, it’s inspiring to everyone.
TYF: Do you ever just take a couple a minutes to get out into the general audience crowd and get the vibe of what the audience is feeling? Is it nice to do that and go “Wow, I used to be a person who was in a punk rock show and now I’m on the stage and seeing these kids.” Does that weird you out?
Shira: It doesn’t weird me out. It makes me happy because I feel like I’m living my dreams. I love performing, that’s why I make music. I’ve been on stage since I was three-years-old as a dancer, so whenever I’m at a show 99 percent of the time I’m thinking, “I want to be up there.” Part of what I do is inspire other girls and artists in general to follow their dreams. I can definitely appreciate seeing Yungblud and other bands and watching them and thinking from an artist’s perspective like, “Ok, what do I like about what they’re doing that I could incorporate into my own act.”
TYF: How does it feel to be in this movement where the world wants more female artists and rock bands fronted by women?
Shira: Honestly it feels amazing. It’s an honor because people have told me that they feel like I’m a small part of the movement to get more female bands on the tour, and I don’t take credit for that but it’s very humbling and it’s an honor to receive that feedback. I think it’s so important to keep going because there’s still not equality. There was a study that came out that said of the 1,000 top acts in the 23 biggest music festivals last year, only 12 percent of them were female-fronted and I think 14 percent of them just had one female. The point is that even though, yes people are talking about getting more visibility, we’re still not anywhere near equal. Kevin tends to bare the brunt of a lot of the blame because people are just like, “Look at the lineup and there’s only four girl bands out of 100. Kevin, why aren’t you fixing this?” But it’s symptomatic of a bigger issue in the industry. My thing is, why aren’t more female artists being played on rock radio? That is a huge thing: Why aren’t they being signed? Why aren’t they being invested in? So I think that there’s a lot of factors at play. It’s definitely exciting that we have the hype and it’s also important to follow up the hype with real actual success.
TYF: Weird question: If Warped Tour was a person who has supported you and brought you along for this crazy ride, what would you say to Warped Tour?
Shira: Well Warped Tour is a person, and it’s Kevin Lyman. I say to him what I’ve said to him before and I’ll say it again: There are no words to express how I truly feel and how grateful I am for this opportunity and how it’s changed my life. But I tell Kevin, “I want to be Kevin Lyman when I grow up.” He inspires me, I tell him, “You changed my life and so many others.” He’s a super humble guy, he’s not one to soak up the accolades but he really is a remarkable person. He’s welcomed everyone into his community and been so generous. He gets beat down a lot by the critics saying the line-up’s not good and the agents are yelling at him that he’s not paying enough, but he’s resilient and always socially responsible by involving nonprofits, recycling and water. How many festival promoters try to exploit the concert goers by not only charging $6-$8 for water but with the ticket prices? The ticket prices could be twice as much but it’s important to him to keep it down and he wants to make sure it’s affordable. It’s amazing and he does not get enough props for that. The number one thing to say is thank you for inspiring and affecting not just me but so many people, both bands and fans.