With a background in baroque opera, Charlie now growls and screams as the frontwoman for the metal band Bipolar. Yes, frontwoman, and yes, her name is Charlie (don’t ask for her real name—she’ll only cringe).
A choir major who graduated from the Las Vegas Academy, Charlie and drummer Brian Hanks left Vegas for California and formed Bipolar in 2003. After making a name for themselves in Sacramento—even garnering a Sacramento Area Music Award as the best hard rock/metal band in the area—they returned to Vegas last year in hopes of conquering our local music scene as well.
“Guys in other bands see us as ‘Oh, they’ve got that chick singer,” says Charlie. “Before they hear us, they think that I’m a gimmick. But when they see us live, usually they’re completely proven wrong.”
In Sacramento, Bipolar not only won the aforementioned Sammie award (after which the Sacramento News & Review incorrectly reported that they had broken up), but also released four CDs, earned a strong fan base and played shows to their heart’s content. Yet, after eight years in the scene (Hanks and Charlie were in another group before Bipolar), they decided to pack up and head back to Vegas. “It just got stagnant,” Charlie says. “It got to the point where there weren’t any clubs we hadn’t played or any bands we hadn’t played with.”
Originally, the entire band was going to relocate to Vegas. “Our guitar player and bass player wussed out,” jokes Hanks. When it finally came time to leave Cali, it was ultimately he and Charlie that moved.
Thanks to Craigslist, Hanks and Charlie regrouped with new bassist Chris Kmit and Dave Soto on guitar.
“It’s weird, because in Sacramento, we never really had to book our own shows,” says Charlie. “The bookers [in Vegas] are used to their little group of bands that they deal with, so breaking into that has been really hard. To them, you’re a new band, so you don’t really have a draw.” Charlie adds, “It’s like I’m 20 years old again and having to start over. But now they know that we’re serious, so we’re starting to get offers for more gigs.”
Currently, Bipolar’s goal is to play enough shows to earn money for recording time for the new songs they’ve written since Kmit and Soto joined the group. “We already have our stuff up on iTunes,” says Charlie. “It’s just a matter of getting more stuff up there and selling more CDs.”
Still, Bipolar understands the hurdles they must overcome, especially as a female-fronted metal band. “I had to learn over the years to take criticism,” Charlie says. “Not everybody’s going to like us or our kind of music.”
“Not everyone likes a woman screaming in their face!” jokes Hanks. “My friend Mike said, ‘Dude, I can handle the mellower stuff, but when she starts screaming, I only hear: Take out the garbage. Wash the dishes!’”
“People expect me to be some big abrasive loudmouth lady, and I’m not!” says Charlie.
The relatively quiet, unassuming blonde and the rest of Bipolar are prepared to melt everyone’s faces off this weekend with the same sweet voice that was once dedicated to choir.
“One thing about training for opera, arias and operettas is you have to learn how to control your diaphragm and control your breathing,” explains Charlie. “Screaming is the same way.”
And as for their Saturday night gig at the Playground’s Rock Room? Charlie has one suggestion: “Bring earplugs.”