Friday, November 27, 2009

Die Mannequin enlivens sleaze-core

She's the scratchy voiced, cigarette-wielding, tattooed She-Devil singer of Toronto sleaze-core band, Die Mannequin.

But despite her ferocious presence on stage and in videos, Caroline Kawa insists she's not as scary as she comes across.

"I'm a huge wuss and I wear my heart on my sleeve all the time," says the 23-year-old vocalist, who is also known by her stage name Care Failure.

"I have a huge problem where I get stomped all over and taken advantage of a lot."

It's difficult to imagine the same girl standing up in a racing vehicle and snarling at bikers in the video for Die Mannequin's latest single, Bad Medicine, could be taken advantage of.

It's even harder to believe Kawa when she admits she's actually quite a dull person.

"I'm pretty boring on the road," she says. "I have to take care of my voice so I can put on a good show, which means not drinking after a show and only drinking a little bit before the show and not staying out all night."

Kawa also says she and her boyfriend -- Mannequin bassist Anthony Bleed -- don't do a whole lot off the road, either.

"Once you're in a relationship, a lot of times you end up withdrawing from society," she says. "We're on the road a lot, so when we're home we're hermiting."

It's no wonder Kawa is drawn to moments of calm these days. Her teenage years were tumultuous, with Kawa leaving home at 16 and falling into a life of hard drugs and alcohol.

At the same time she was living on the streets of Toronto, Kawa was making quite an impression on the punk-rock scene with her bigger-than-life personality.

A&R reps from EMI saw talent in the young punk and did something very rare: They gave her time to hone her skills.

"The whole plan started with me wanting to get my footing as a songwriter and as a musician, and in order to do that, you need time," says Kawa, who was playing piano at age two and guitar by 10.

"But they don't give you the time in the industry these days. It's not like the old days when Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath had like, six albums to get it right. Now, you have one shot and that one shot might even get shelved."

Die Mannequin, however, was able to record two EPs before releasing its debut CD, Fino + Bleed , earlier this year.

Influenced by Nirvana and Sonic Youth, Die Mannequin's music is heavy on the guitars. But the style is more raunchy and raucous than Sonic Youth's waves of noise or Nirvana's inspired melodicism.

The band recently added guitarist Stacy Stray, as well as drummer (and former Calgarian) Derek 'Dazzer' Scott.

"I made a new resolution that the band should always be fun," says Kawa.

"Rock 'n' roll is supposed to be fun. Sometimes you get caught up in the business side of things and forget that it's fun."

Die Mannequin plays The Gateway on the SAIT Campus tomorrow night.

Lisa Wilton
JAM! Showbiz