“If you find a path with no obstacles, it probably doesn’t lead anywhere interesting.”
I’m a firm believer in that saying through my own experiences and I am pretty sure that the band Sick of Sarah is as well. After a decade of battling it out in the musical trenches, this year has seen quite a few obstacles thrown in the band’s path. Those obstacles include major lineup change, parting ways with their longtime label and a bit of negative online feedback from people who disagreed with some of the changes. Yet, Abisha Uhl and Jessica Forsythe took a deep breath and continued to go after what they wanted. The band recruited new members guitarists Ari Applewhite and Jack Swagger along with bassist AJ Stone and took to the road in support of their latest EP Anthem with a new sense of determination and more focused than ever before. We sat down with lead vocalist Abisha Uhl and drummer Jessica Forsythe recently to talk about all these changes and what the future looks like for the band.
Hi, I know this may be a little early for an interview, especially given the fact that it’s the morning after a show.
Jessica Forsythe: No problem, I’ve got my cup of coffee right here.
Abisha Uhl: We’re still in our pajamas (laughs).
It sounds like you’re all prepared then! Your latest EP Anthem came out in June and it seems like a whole lot has happened in the Sick of Sarah camp since then. For those who may not be aware of it, there has been a major lineup change with the band. I am not sure if you would like to address that and explain what happened?
Jessica: No, it’s cool; two of the members quit and they were just done and they wanted to do other stuff like get married and whatever. That’s all good and they gave the band a lot of good years, but they were just done; one of the other members was on a sabbatical and then just quit. The band has been together since 2005 and after ten plus years of everyone giving their time, it can take its toll. This can be a very rough industry, but we decided we wanted to continue on and keep playing music. We had just done the record when all of that kind of went down, so we decided to grab some other players and at least do another tour to support the new record. We’re really excited and we’re having a blast and there’s a really great dynamic with the new people, but it really is a lot different from what Sick of Sarah once was.
Abisha: I do the majority of the writing, so as far as our sound goes, we’re still going to be Sick of Sarah.
People sitting behind a keyboard seem to feel empowered to say things that they probably wouldn’t say face to face and I noticed some really negative comments towards the band for bringing guys into the fold for the very first time.
Jessica: I am so grateful for the fact that that we have some of the most beautiful, most supportive fans who are 100% behind us. Abisha and I called some of them and talked to them, not necessarily about specifics but more in a general way, about some of the changes that we were thinking about and asked them what they would think about bringing in possibly a couple of guys. Although I love being in an all girl band and it has been a very cool experience, for me, it’s not as important as the fact of being able to play music. We did have some different feedback and ultimately we had to make a decision, but we did not have a lot of time for it to happen. Abisha knew these guys and knew that they could learn very quickly, plus they live in Minneapolis where we live. We definitely anticipated that there would be some people who were into it and some would not be. I think we prepared ourselves the best that we could for the negative feedback that we got.
Abisha: Haters gonna hate.
Jessica: Change is inevitable and some people are open to that, while others just aren’t. We really hate to lose anyone, but we want to keep playing music and we will.
The release of your new EP also saw another major change for the band as this one is self released as opposed to being on Adamant Records. What’s the story there?
Jessica: We did the Warped Tour in 2012 and then another tour after that and then we kind of went on a hiatus for about a year and a half or so. We had been on the road a lot and had been making music, but we were all kind of in a weird spot, kind of in a funk. We decided that we wanted to be in more control of the sound and the music and maybe try a different producer. We had a manager for a really long time who kind of acted as our label and our producer and so we really just wanted to try something different. That’s when we decided to go our separate ways and we raised the funds ourselves to get into the studio. We hand-picked the songs that we wanted and that we thought the fans would really like. It was a lot of work and we were forced to learn more about the business side of things. It has been a big growing experience for all of us, but I feel really good about what we have accomplished on our own.
I read that you have teamed up with the Torn Labels Project for this tour and just wanted to ask how that came about?
Abisha: We were familiar with them because we had a friend who had this project going and we were interested in being part of the campaign and help out. It’s an important issue because a lot of our fans struggle with being bullied and have to deal with hate. We just wanted to do our part to help raise awareness to the campaign and give our fans or anybody an outlet to reach out to if there are any issues or needed help. The Torn Labels Project also helps to get medication into the hands of those who cannot afford it. We’ve all struggled with difficulties in life, so we really wanted to be a part of this project and help out as much as we can.
Jessica: I had a middle school principal at one of our shows, I think it was in Chicago, and he came up to me and asked for more information on the project. I have a lot of experience working with nonprofits and I do quarterly sales training for a nonprofit in Des Moines called Rock Intervention; I know all about the different state and federal grants. I feel like the Torn Labels Project is bridging the gap getting information to the schools to help him get different programs to bring into the school. The Rock Intervention is a very hands on program that comes into the school and this guy was so surprised that I knew all of this information and about the resources that would help. We’re really proud to be a part of it because so many people are really digging it out and it feels really good to just spread the love and let people know that there’s hope. This tour seems to have a lot more meaning to it with all the negativity from the changes that we were talking about earlier and although I feel like it is been a very hard time for us, I feel like it was an appropriate time to do something like this.
Abisha: If we can make it through this and obviously it’s not easy, then you can make it through whatever problems that you have.
Jessica: A lot of our fans have seen the negative comments and backlash that we have gotten, but they are really excited for us for continuing on despite all of that. You really can’t control how people are going to react and what they are going to say, but what you can control is how you react to it.
You’ve been doing this for a decade and you’ve seen so many changes in the music industry. If there was one thing that you could change about the industry today, what would it be?
Abisha: I would change it to the way it was back in the day when musicians actually made money. People really don’t have to pay to get music anymore and they can just go online and get it, so I would change that aspect can make it more difficult for them to do that.
As much as I hate to do this, I see that it’s about time to wrap this talk up. I really do appreciate you taking the time to do this and I sincerely wish you all the best in moving forward.
Jessica: Thank you for wanting to talk to us and we really do appreciate that. I do want to add that we’ve been writing a lot and we’re going to go in and do some recording just soon as we can, whether that is an EP or maybe just a single. We plan on using a lot of the crazy experiences around everything that’s happened over the last year in our writing and putting it on paper. So, look for some new music from us hopefully right after the first of the New Year and thanks again to all the fans for their support.
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