Jenner is an all-female metal band from Belgrade, Serbia. Recently, there have been major personal changes in the band’s line-up, while new songs have been born for the trio’s next album. I asked about these and many others the only permanent member of the band, singer-guitarist Aleksandra Stamenković (aka Alexandra Lioness).
Let’s start at the end: what happened with the two members of the previous line-up, bassist Katarina Henc and drummer Marija Dragićević?
The band became unstable back in 2018. It happened that two members got pregnant one after another, which forced us to take a little longer break, and during that time, our singer lost enthusiasm for singing and metal music in general and then left the band. At the time, I was writing songs that were later on our EP, but I was pretty sceptical about the band. I thought maybe it was better to keep working as a solo artist. However, after a lot of thinking and talking to close people, I decided to continue working under the name Jenner, but to continue both as a guitarist and singer of the band. I recorded the EP myself with the help of drummer Nikola Simonović, with whom I played in my other band Sigma Epsilon. After that, drummer Marija returned to the band after maternity leave, and instead of our bassist Nevena Ilić (who was still on maternity leave) the band was joined by Katarina Henc, who didn’t stay in the band for long time.
When did this parting happen?
After the release of our EP The Test of Time, in March 2020, when there was a lockdown in Serbia. Our idea was to practice during that time and to promote the EP as soon as the conditions were created. We had our first rehearsal after the quarantine in May, and then Katarina no longer wanted to be in the band, and a couple of months later, Marija came out as well. I was so disappointed, because I recently posted new members on social media and we announced a big comeback, and everyone supported us to the maximum. I had a feeling we needed to do something big, but instead the band dropped to zero. There was a huge disappointment, but I didn’t want to share it with anyone except my loved ones. I started to question whether I made the right decision at all when I decided to continue working with the band, instead of alone.
Instead of making drama and crying on social media, I used that time to build a new fan base on Instagram and YouTube. I started recording covers and posting videos where I play guitar more often. Also, I started working on new songs, and I had to study a lot, because I had few huge exams left until the end of my studies. I stopped burdening myself with the band, because it’s not worth forcing anything, but I never stopped playing music. In the meantime, I’ve written a lot of songs for the Sigma Epsilon album, which will hopefully be released next year. For a short time I formed a band again. Nevena returned as a bassist, and the young drummer Katarina Friščić was behind the drums, but that line-up didn’t work well.
Marija is your older sister, isn’t she?
Yes, Marija is 3 years older than me and I’ve played with her for the last 10 years, first in the glam metal band Cat O’Nine Tailz, where I played bass guitar, and since 2013 in Jenner. I’m so sorry we don’t work together anymore, but I think it’s better this way. She has two girls to whom she is completely dedicated, and she’d like to continue as a singer, which I fully support, but I’m sorry that she is giving up playing drums, because she is an extremely great talent.
How did you find your new bandmates, Anja Mirković (bass) and Selena Simić (drums)?
At one point I realized that if I wanted to play live, I had to ask Selena to play the drums. We’ve known each other for a hundred years, she performed with us and actually recorded the album To Live Is to Suffer while Marija was pregnant for the first time, but it was silly for me to ask her because I knew she was totally dedicated to her band Nemesis, and is constantly involved in some organizations and actions, and barely had free time. Somehow I forced myself to invite her for a beer, but after a couple of hours of constantly talking, telling stories and laughing, instead of asking her to play with me, she asked me to be a guitar mentor at the Rock Camp for Girls where she is in organization. I accepted, but I didn’t want to ask her to play, because I didn’t want it to look like we were doing each other a favour. I wanted to go to that camp for 4 days, to see how it works, and talk when we get back. However, it turned out that we were going to different cities, which made me sad again.
The camp was successful and a few weeks later we decided to see each other again and I casually told her that I wanted to ask her to play with me. She laughed and said, “Well, I wanted to ask you to play together! I was hoping you would ask me that day!” She is one of the best drummers in Serbia and beyond, and she is a very good person and I’m very glad that we are playing together again!
I’ve been following Anja on Instagram for a while now. I’ve noticed that she likes 80’s heavy metal, she dresses like a rocker, and I’ve seen that she has some pictures with a bass guitar. I didn’t know where she was from or how old she was, but I sent her a message without any expectations and I asked if she wanted to play with me, and she replied: “Well, I also wanted to ask you to play together!” It was so cute to me, because it was the same situation as with Selena. I found out that she is from Belgrade, same as me, and that she is very young, she will soon turn 16, but if she really likes it and wants to progress, I don’t have a problem with that. I also found out that she was a participant in a Rock Camp for Girls two years ago, so she already knew Selena. Soon we hung out and had a great time together, talked about plans and started practicing. I really like the energy of these girls! I have the motivation to work and progress again, but this time together with them!
The trio line-up remained but is your music going to change with the arrival of the two new members?
Yes, the sound will be a little different, but it’s not so much because of the new members. Like I said, I composed songs even when I didn’t have band members. These new songs are not classic Thrash Metal, they are more Heavy Metal, but in general I don’t want to tie the band to a certain genre. I want to make the music I want and how I feel. I haven’t managed to compose with new girls yet, but we will do it in the near future. I have great musicians around me and I would love for us to keep making music together. So far, I’ve mostly had to do everything myself.
You mentioned on your Facebook page that you were writing new songs. How many of them have already been completed and how many songs are you planning to put onto the new record?
I haven’t had time to think about it in detail yet, but there will probably be 10 songs on the new album. We’ve already played a new one live, and I have a few more in the writing process, and we’ll make some brand new ones. I can’t wait to hear how it all sounds.
Are you going to record the tracks in Belgrade again? Will mixing and mastering take place in the Serbian capital, too? Or is it too early to ask about this?
So far, we have recorded everything at the Citadela Sound Production Studio in Belgrade, so I believe that we will record there again. But I still don’t know when.
Who will release and promote this material: Infernö Records again?
Infernö Records unfortunately no longer exists. Our longtime friend Fabien Pinneteau had to close the company, because of the whole situation. So I still don’t know who the new publisher will be.
Many people liken your music to Nervosa’s or Burning Witches’. Which of these bands do you prefer personally?
I like both bands but I don’t want to compare them. We all have different styles, and we all rock, but people put us in same basket just because we’re women. Wrong!
Were you the sole songwriter of the band until now or did you co-work with the others? How will it work out in the new line-up?
First of all, I don’t write lyrics, I just make music. I’m simply not gifted for that, I just need help. For the album most lyrics are written by Marija and her husband Ivan and 2 lyrics are written by our producer Luka Matković, and for the EP both lyrics are written by my boyfriend Emil Ivošević (vocalist of Sigma Epsilon). Music is 95% mine, and those 5% are from people close to me from whom I mostly seek advice and opinions. I hope to compose together with Anja and Selena in the future, and I think that will bring new freshness to the band.
You will play a concert in Novi Sad on the 26th of November. Did I see well that your last gig happened four years ago?
(I’m answering this after concert!) In fact, Jenner’s last concert was at the Rock in Niš festival in Niš (Serbia) in June 2018. I later performed a few more times with Sigma Epsilon and Hellcats. On the 26th of November we performed for the first time in a new line-up in Novi Sad and it was great. We are very satisfied! We only had 3 weeks to get ready and we succeeded. Of course, there is always room for improvement, but it is important to move on. For me, this was my first performance as a singer and I was very nervous, but it was a new and beautiful experience. I have even greater motivation to practice and progress!
Do you see any chance to play gigs abroad, for example in Hungary in the close future?
Why not? We were supposed to perform in the Czech Republic in 2020, so we wanted to combine two concerts, one would be in Hungary, but those plans failed due to the pandemic.
By the way, Hungary: you cooperated with Burning Sun fanzine and record company in several projects. How did you find each other and what did this co-working contain?
Zoltan Papi, who runs Burning Sun Records and fanzine, did an interview with Marija a few years ago. He has been supporting and following Jenner all these years, and so we once started talking about tapes and he suggested we do tapes with our first demos. It seemed like a great idea to me and it turned out to be great, because all 50 cassettes were sold out in pre-sale.
Finally, some general questions. Did you really name your band after the inventor of the smallpox vaccine, dr. Edward Jenner? Why? Is it related to your medical studies somehow? 😉
Yes, it is true. I was in my second year of high school and I was studying microbiology. When I read his last name, I immediately drew the logo and decided to call the band like that. I didn’t know about the famous Kardashian/Jenner family then, if I did, I would certainly call the band differently. 🙂
Since when have you played on the guitar and which was your first band?
I started playing when I was 13. I started as a bassist, and my sister always wanted to play drums. She formed our first glam metal band Cat O ’Nine Tailz (she still cries for that band 🙂 ), and I started playing guitar after two years and formed Jenner which was supposed to have a slightly harder sound. In 2018, I joined the band Sigma Epsilon, and in the meantime I was a guest on the bands Superhammer, War-Head and Hellcats.
Which bands, musicians had the biggest effect on you?
There are a lot of bands that I love, but let’s say Megadeth, Judas Priest, Rock Goddess, Mötley Crüe…
Which bands, guitarists are your biggest idols inside the Speed/Thrash genre?
Dave Mustaine (Megadeth), Alex Skolnick (Testament), Anthrax…
How intense is the Serbian metal scene, focused on Belgrade? Which are the most popular subgenres (Death, Post Metal, Thrash etc.)? How enthusiastic/wild are the Serbian metal fans?
I really don’t know how to answer this… Times change, people change. There are few active metal bands, and lot of new punk bands I don’t even know. People are usually supportive, but now everything is fucked up because of pandemic.
What is Jenner’s position on the Serbian Speed/Thrash scene?
We exist for 8 years now, and most metal fans know about us, and support us, but there are new punk kids who don’t. I guess it’s because of our break from 2018. Sometimes I feel that we have bigger support from outside of Serbia. I actually don’t care what people say, I do what I love and no one can stop me.
In your opinion, is it a benefit or a disadvantage to be an all-female band in the masculine world of metal?
It’s a benefit because you easily get the audience’s attention, and a disadvantage because people often neglect women’s music and playing abilities.
Do you have any message to the Hungarian Jenner and Speed/Thrash metal fans?
Stay heavy, stay healthy, and I hope we’ll see you in the future!