The three women of the Smoky Mountain Sirens all had other things happening in music when they came together in 2019. They started like a lot of bands, covering other artists’ songs in local bars.
“It was, like, ‘oh god,' it just felt like selling our souls for a while,” said guitarist and vocalist Aimee Jacob Oliver.
But with the pandemic, Oliver, bassist Ashli Rose and drummer Eliza Hill committed to writing and moving forward with their own songs. The Sirens haven’t released any recorded music publicly but, with the return of live shows, they're still one of Asheville’s most talked-about newer bands.
They filled the parking lot last Friday for an outdoor show at Fleetwood’s and next play locally this Friday, July 24, at the Water’n Hole in Waynesville.
With Oliver and Rose sharing lead vocals, the Sirens are reminiscent of the riot grrrl sounds of Sleater-Kinney. Oliver said she feels more inclined to write socially charged lyrics for the Sirens than she does in the more established surf-punk band she plays in, Harriers of Discord, in which she is the only woman.
“I try really hard not to single myself out as a woman. I try not to sexualize myself,” Oliver said. “But I really want to have a voice for people who are growing up, and I just see a lot of people trying to trample over women speaking out. We’re not done with that fight yet, and I want to be part of it.”
For Rose, who has performed alone as a singer-songwriter since her teens, living out her alter ego through the Smoky Mountain Sirens is both a long-held dream and one she held herself back from.
“The whole reason I wanted to start a band and all that is because I was doing acoustic covers, playing request-based stuff for almost 17 years and I was just burned out,” Rose said. “I always wanted be in a really intense, fun band where I can write what I want to write and play what I want to play, and I never had that.”
Hill played drums for 10 years in the Asheville funk rock band Andrew Scotchie and the River Rats. She first formed the Smoky Mountain Sirens with Rose, who knew Oliver from working together at a local musical instruments store.
“Aimee wrote a bunch of cool, anthemic punk songs about conversations we’ve all had and experiences we’ve all had and issues we all share,” Hill said. “We all liked it and identified with it.”
As it happens so often in Asheville, each member of the trio is actively involved in other musical projects, including another band they’re all part of called Bombay Gasoline. But in their quick life as the Smoky Mountain Sirens, they see an avenue for their future they haven’t otherwise experienced. They hope to spend time in a studio and have some music out to the masses by the end of the year.
“We all have a lot in common, but we’re all really different,” Oliver said.
“We’ve actually gone through a lot as a band—personally, socially, musically—to get to where we are as a band,” Hill added. “I consider us in a place of still building that.”