When you create your own lane, people are bound to take notice. That’s why pop punk group Shiragirl has defied easy definition for the past decade, bouncing between speedy guitar-based anthems and sugary bops while earning the appropriate title: “Punk Rock Madonna.” Lead singer Shira is a veteran of the New York punk and hardcore scene who loves Rancid and the Ramones, but is also an unabashed dancing queen who’s not mad at Pink or Charli XCX.
The singer (born Shira Yevin) and her band — drummer/musical director Raine Palladino, bassist Leanne Bowes and touring guitarist Moa Munoz — exercise their dual musical muscles on their upcoming EP, Brooklyn Goes Hollywood, due out in June, which was co-produced by Rancid singer/guitarist Tim Armstrong (Pink, Jimmy Cliff) and former Dust Brothers member John King (Beastie Boys, Beck).
“I’ve always been about doing things differently and blazing my own trail because all legends blaze their own trail,” Shira tells Billboard. “That’s why it’s hard for artists like me because people want to put you in a box, but I’ve never let that stop me and I’ve always done my own thing.”
The latter includes the time Shira famously crashed the Warped Tour in 2004 and set up her own bootleg stage in an effort to get more girl band representation on Kevin Lyman’s annual traveling punk rock festival. Billboard talked to Shira about how she manifested her Warped Tour dreams, got to jam with her punk godmother Joan Jett and why King and Armstrong were the perfect duo to bring her latest musical dreams to life. Below, get an exclusive listen of Shiragirl’s “Summer’s Comin.”
It’s legendary now, but talk about how you bum-rushed the Warped Tour in 2005.
Back in the day, I noticed that there were really no females on stage at Warped Tour and I was taken aback, coming from New York and knowing so many rad all-girl punk rock and hardcore bands. They had the Girl’s Garage tent at the time and I approached [Warped Tour founder] Kevin [Lyman] to bring some girls into that and he said, “Next year.” So we got this pink RV in 2004 and we just set it up outside and played and were waiting to get kicked out, but Kevin loved it and embraced us and invited us on, which was amazing. By the time we reached Randall’s Island in New York I said, “We have all these amazing female bands, can I come out and join you?” And he said, “For sure. If you can make it happen, I’ll let you.” So we got in the next year and came back with an official stage and we got Paramore on there for their first-ever Warped Tour.
So you went from being unofficial to putting Paramore on for their first Warped Tour?
Yeah, we got this box truck, it was super-DIY and we got house paint that we color-matched to a Barbie doll box. We enlisted our friends to do some construction and we hosted over 250 girl bands that first year. We had The Shocker with Jennifer Finch from L7; the Dollyrots. It was super cool to be part of something that was bigger than myself. Paramore were just getting started then — they were signed to Atlantic but were being put out by Fueled by Ramen — and they reached out to Kevin and he said, “Talk to Shira.” I didn’t realize they would be the next No Doubt when they sent me a CD. I thought it would be like the female Thursday, female screamo. We wanted to show that girls could be just as tough and aggressive as guys and that this wouldn’t be your typical melodic girl band. But when they sent the CD it sounded like Avril Lavigne and I didn’t see it. I didn’t hear anyone screaming…but we saw them live and they were amazing, they killed it.
How did it feel from being bootleg to legit in one year?
The second year, we got Joan Jett to make an appearance on the stage and we were featured in the Warped Tour Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Time Capsule. But we haven’t done it every year because it’s a huge amount of work. It was a bit hard to balance focusing on my career and managing the stage, so we did it in 2005, 2006, 2014 and this year, and I played it in 2010 and 2011.
Do you have a favorite memory?
When Joan Jett played and we did “Bad Reputation,” and I got to sing lead in Cleveland on the last day of tour in 2006. She would ride her bike over every day to watch girl bands and her crew took us under their wing, inviting us onto the bus to smoke joints. One day she just said, “Okay, we’re going to do this song,” and then we were rehearsing and I felt like I was in the Runaways!
What are you looking forward to this year?
It’s kind of bittersweet, with it being the last Warped Tour. I’m looking forward to inspiring the next generation of female artists. I love getting feedback from girls saying “thank you” for doing the stage. For so long, girls didn’t realize they could be the band, because they were so used to watching all these guys on stage.
Before we talk about your new EP, can you describe what it was like to film your video for “Resist” at the Women’s March in 2017?
It was incredible because the first year, no one realized how big it was going to be. For us, it was a last-minute thing, “Let’s take a camera and shoot some video.” We had recorded the song on election day and I had no idea as I was recording the vocals that [Donald Trump] would win. I was wearing my Hillary [Clinton] shirt and as the results came in I got angrier and angrier. We went back and performed at this year’s march and we got ot meet the women who organized it and they’re so focused on action and voter outreach, so it seemed like the perfect place to shoot that video. It was really powerful to be in that crowd of people and participate in something so huge. We also have a song on the new EP, “Girls Just Wanna Get Some,” which is about respect, but also, people have become complacent.
Tell me about “Get ‘Em Hot,” which is such a great, mash-up throwback of funk 80s dance pop with a bit of a punk edge, but also…Jazzercise.
I’m very excited about going out on the road with the new EP. I worked with Tim [Armstrong], who is such a legend and worked with me after he’d worked with Pink back in the day. He likes all different kinds of music and he’s very open-minded and doesn’t give a fuck, either, which is the most punk rock thing about him. We had been talking for a while about doing new music and were even talking about a side project — he loves the B-52s — and we had written some songs and played them for him. He was originally only going to do three songs but he loved them so much that we decided to do an EP.
It’s a new era in our musical journey. I’d taken some time off to do dance music, but I never forgot about my punk rock roots. I’ve been a dancer since I was three years old and I’ve always loved performance, but I missed the punk rock thing, so I had this concept to do this punk rock and dance thing and I wanted to fuse those sounds, which are both a huge part of my style. You know how Prince has his vault? Well, Tim is the same way, he has a huge amount of music and he played me some stuff and said to pick out our favorites. Raine came up with the concept for the hook and I built on the verses and Tim gave guidance and played on the track. When we all got in the studio it was that magic and Tim loves harnessing that old school vibe of people in a room making music. My vision was Ramones-meets-Devo or early ’80s Madonna. The synth is fun, but the guitar is Ramones-style.
“Summers Comin,” is, of course, a perfectly timed seasonal single, but also exactly that mash-up you were talking about, with bits of Rancid, the Donnas, a bit of Spinerette, Toni Basil…
For that song, Rancid was a huge influence. Tim had a different idea for the hook, but he’s such a humble guy to work with, not ego-driven. Raine sent over her idea of channeling [Rancid guitarist/vocalist] Lars [Frederiksen] and Tim threw up his hands and said she won the hook Olympics! Her hook was better. It’s definitely a punk rock love story about harnessing the excitement that summer’s coming. It’s about the summer time and that excitement when everything in summer is just new and that sense of, “What are we going to do this summer? What stories will we tell at the end of summer that will be so epic?” I usually don’t write love songs, but this ended up being one.