The Gore Gore Girls set their rock ’n’ roll plan in motion a long time ago. You can almost picture the teenagers lying belly-down on a pink duvet, headphones sur la tête and legs swaying in time with the music. The voice on the radio must have seemed a million miles away.
But like many girls who came of age in the late ’80s and early ’90s, Amy Surdu (lead guitar/vocals) and Melody Baetens (bass) began their musical odyssey with campy musicals and piano lessons. Raised in a generation weaned on Annie, MTV and a new thing called “alternative” radio, the change from kid stuff to rock ’n’ roll fever was the first of many revelations.
Speaking via phone as she packs for a last-minute gig in Mexico, Surdu explains her pilgrimage. “When I was a teenager, I snuck out of my parents’ house to go to an Inside Out show,” she says. “That was the moment I knew what I wanted to do. Seeing women up there on stage playing rock ’n’ roll — that’s when I realized I could do it.”
She began auditioning for bands and quickly found trying out to be much more intimidating and difficult than she had predicted. So rather than wait for her chance, Surdu took the wheel.
Procuring the band name from Herschell Gordon Lewis’ classic B-film The Gore-Gore Girls, Surdu knew it as soon as she saw it: “I thought it was the perfect name for a band.”
And using her primal love of rock ’n’ roll, she began to write songs.
“I sucked when I started.” she admits.
Surdu and Baetens picked up instruments long before they ever picked up men, and the drive behind the band came long before the enticements of a scene ever sullied their vantage point.
Now a blonde, the formerly raven-haired Surdu has gone through a metamorphosis that extends much further than the peroxide level of her hair. Over the years, constant practice and gigging have helped her to develop into a bona fide front gal. The result has been simple but classic song stylings and a voice that is as soulful as any pro. The group’s latest album, Up All Night, on Get Hip records, is a lo-fi homage to the Motown and garage sounds of yore. It’s basically timeless.
Bassist Baetens cut her teeth on metal.
“My first concert was the Offspring with Quicksand and No Use for a Name,” she says.
She snagged a spot with female metal godheads Broadzilla at the tender age of 19, and had a crash introduction to rock ’n’ roll that set the tone for her future as a professional musician.
“I definitely learned what to do and what not to do,” she says of her experience with Broadzilla.
“I knew I needed to grow musically,” she says, and as a result, her first independent stab at the limelight began with Stoker Ace, a hard-rockin’ three-piece with Baetens at the helm.
She identifies with her female counterparts on many levels and knows how tough it can be to break through the male-dominated barrier that embraces “good for a girl” attitudes.
“I am a big fan of chick bands, but I have a problem with girl [bands] that don’t practice,” she says. “If they care more about their image than their music, it won’t go anywhere.”
“We think alike,” says Surdu of Baetens.
And it seems to be working — they were recently approached to join rockabilly sleazeoids the Cramps on the U.S. leg of their tour.
“I thought it was a joke,” Surdu of the phone call. “Once we discovered it was legit, we quickly agreed.”
Sacrificing jobs and the comforts of home, the Gore Gore Girls are leaving town. After their two-month stint with the Cramps, they leave for their second tour of Eastern Europe. (Substituting for drummer Cathy Carrell for the trip will be Nicki Styxx.)
“If you had told me when I was 17 that I’d be quitting my job to go on a world tour, I would never have believed it,” says Baetens.
But here they are, primed and ready to take on the world.
“We can do this,” she says.