Music News

Hell on Heels

Anyone pooh-poohing the idea of an all-girl AC/DC tribute band is neglecting one very important factor: the schoolgirl outfit. Strewn across the three corners of the country -- Denver, Seattle and Austin -- Hell's Belles cross gender and state barriers in the name of girl power. We got to speak to two grrrls at once, bassist Mandy Reed and Denver's Jamie Nova -- the Brian Johnson to Om Johari's (the act's original vocalist) Bon Scott.

Westword: How does that work, being in different parts of the country?Are you mailing it in?

Mandy Reed: It makes it difficult to rehearse. To keep our chops up, we have to play along with the records at home. We get on a plane and meet wherever we're playing.

So that makes for expensive long-distance bills.

MR: It can get expensive, and we're racking up our frequent-flyer miles.

Rehearsing with the record explains why it sounds so accurate. I thought you took the vocal track off and recorded Ann Wilson over the top. And I challenge you to prove me wrong.

MR: That's quite a compliment to Jamie.

Jamie Nova: Wow, it is. I don't know whether or not I can accept that. Thank you. Mandy schooled me good. I had a lot of encouragement. That's me and my soul poured out on the record. Blood, swear and tears.

Has AC/DC heard you?

MR: Malcolm Young asked if we could open for them in Europe, but we had passport issues, so we couldn't do it. Angus Young mentioned us as being his favorite tribute band.

Is your drummer, Melodie Zapata, any relation to Mia?

MR: No, she gets that all the time. One time our old singer accidentally introduced her as Mia Zapata.

JN: She's like "No, no, I'm still living!"

Why AC/DC and not, say, Iron Maiden?

MR: The founding members of this band are no longer with us, but it was the idea of our original "Angus," Amy Stozenbach. AC/DC is obviously something that we've all grown up with. All the high school parties -- there was something wrong if you walked in and there wasn't AC/DC playing. It just hit our roots.

So the founding members moved on . . . Does Hell's Belles have an age limit, like Menudo?

MR: No, it was a personal choice. Amy wanted to pursue her solo stuff, and Om decided to get married and move to Germany. We did fly her back and forth for a little while, and we would have continued, but she just wanted to move on. She handed the torch to me, and I kept it going. And we found Jamie.

Which AC/DC singer do you prefer?

JN: Bon Scott was a very sly, snake-like character with great lyrics. He was very clever. But Brian came in balls-out. He kind of got lucky that he got to ride on Bon's shirttails, but he proved himself. He's total balls-to-the-wall, in-your-face sweat and rock and roll. He's a bastard to sing. He makes me clench my ass and pop a vein in my forehead, for sure.

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Rick Skidmore