When you see Brooklyn-based dark pop act Eva and Her Virgins perform, you’re instantly transfixed by Emily Powers — the goldilocks corset-clad front woman with the big old voice. Originally from the Ozarks of Arkansas, and then the projects of Florida, Powers moved to New York City at age eighteen in search of fame and fortune as a singer. In the ultimate tale of New York kismet, she met bandmate and collaborator Jabbath after posting flyers up in Times Square. “I made a date to meet him on 21st and 7th and he didn’t know where that was and I was like ‘This guy is an idiot.’ But he walked in and I knew immediately that he was the guy. It was Jabbath.” Powers recalled, “My heart stopped when I first met him and we were together every single day for the next two years.” After recruiting Emily’s sister to be their bass player, Her Virgins started burning a swath through New York City’s downtown venues with their lively performances, powerful lyrics and so-called “dark pop”. After our conversation I knew that performer, songwriter and singer are but a few of the aspects that make Emily Powers the powerhouse that she is. Eva and Her Virgins recently released their first album “Dark Pop” and look forward to world domination. Interview with Emily Powers after the jump. — Robert Garcia
Where are you from originally?
I’m originally from Arkansas
Tell me about your earliest memory involving music.
Well, my mom played bass in a band and my dad was a drummer. My uncle was also a musician — a brilliant musician — who, like many, sadly got lost along the way. I was always surrounded by music because of my family, and as a kid I would sing alone in my room and listen to Casey Kasem’s Top 100. I would lay in bed at night wishing that I could be a singer. Then one day when I was about fourteen, my mom took me to karaoke and I got up and sang. Everyone was like: wait, she’s a singer.
Did your mom ever sing to you?
My mom and I were just talking about this actually. When we used to live in Arkansas we lived in the middle of nowhere. The nearest house was like a mile away. When it would get dark my sister and I would get scared cause we were in the middle of the woods. There were wild animals all around. To keep us calm my mom would sing the Cat Stevens song “Moonshadow.”
Are there other early inspirations you can talk about?
Yeah. When we moved to Florida we lived in the projects. I got really into hip hop and to this day I still love hip hop. My mom and my dad were also in a heavy metal band. My mom would listen to Pantera and Rage Against the Machine, and I would hang out with them when they would rehearse. I remember one time my mom and my dad were fighting with the neighbors because they were playing music so loud. So my mom took these huge speakers, put them in the window facing them, and blasted Rage Against the Machine.
Is your mom still actively a musician?
Well, my mom had a nervous breakdown and went to the nut house. She came out and never really played music again. I mean, I’m not ashamed. I’d rather have an interesting family. She wrote a book and now she’s going back to school.
Tell me about how you moved from Arkansas to Florida and from Florida to here.
In Arkansas we were really poor. We lived in the middle of the Ozarks and had no money. My dad eventually found a job in Florida, so we moved there. I went to grade school and high school there, but I always planned to move to New York when I turned eighteen. So I moved when I was eighteen, and I’ve been here in New York ever since.
When did you first realize that you wanted to be a singer professionally?
I have a paper I wrote when I was eight about wanting to be a singer when I grew up. I always knew. But the first time I sang karaoke in front of people I knew that I could actually do it too — that I didn’t just have the desire. I knew I could entertain people.
What was it about that experience? Was it the feedback?
I hate to say it, I don’t want to sound vain or anything, but my mom was bawling when I first sang out. I sang “Hero” by Mariah Carey and everyone gave me really great feedback.
How did Eva and her Virgins come to be?
When I first moved here I was staying in this room by myself and got a job at a little cafe right away. Then I needed to take steps in music and acting — acting is another passion of mine. I went to school for it. But I wanted to hone in on one thing because if you do too many things you don’t do anything. So I decided to record a demo, and this kid I worked with at the cafe worked in music. Three songs were $1500 and it took my almost a year to pay off. I got that out of the way then started interviewing musicians. I put an ad up on Craiglist and started going to peoples’ houses to do interviews. Later I found out that that’s a big no no — you don’t go to someone’s house who you just met on Craigslist. Coming from Florida I was very naïve. I didn’t think about those things.
You don’t think about the Craigslist killer.
Yeah, so anyways, I interviewed so many musician. Most of them were really wishy washy. I thought I would find the guy and then he would flake out on me. So I decided that I was sick of Craiglist and put flyers up all over New York with my info saying what I was looking for. My sister came to visit and helped me put flyers up all over the city and Brooklyn. I got the craziest calls I remember. We put one flyer up in Times Square and this one guy wrote me on Myspace about it. So I made a date to meet him on 21st and 7th and he didn’t know where that was and I was like “This guy is an idiot.” But he walked in and I knew immediately that he was the guy. It was Jabbath. My heart stopped when I first met him and we were together every single day for the next two years. He wanted to work with me and I wanted to work with him. We had this bass player that was just a kid and we had a drummer who was crazy — really wealthy, reckless and crazy. I remember one day Jabbath and I were watching a Breeders video — and the Breeders were sisters — and he looked at me and said “What if your sister Holly learns how to play bass.” Brilliant idea. At the time she wanted to manage us, but we sat her down and told her that we wanted her to play bass. She learned it and that’s how we formed Our Virgins. Recently we got a new drummer, so now it’s four including myself.
So what’s in the works for Eva and Her Virgins?
It’s hard to say what’s in the works, but I can tell you what our ideal goal is. My ideal goal is to play in front of thousands and thousands of people. Jabbath’s ultimate goal is to make good music. I would say that I want to stay true to saying something that means something. Sticking to that, and going as far as humanly possible.
I know your group has been defined as “electro glam.” Do you think that’s an appropriate term?
Yeah, I like it. I prefer dark pop though — that’s something that we created. To me, we’re dark pop. We’re pop but we have this very dark underlying energy.
Where did “dark pop” come from?
Jabbath came up with it. It’s also the name of our first album.
As a group, what inspires all of you to make this “dark pop?”
Somewhere in my head I have this really dark space. I write really dark stuff, and it’s weird cause I’m always happy. I write a lot of poetry and everything is always so dark. Jabbath comes from a dark place too. The first song we ever worked on was called “Disrespect” –it’s about being molested. There’s a line, “You disrespect me/and I love you for that.” It’s very twisted, you know. “Hammer” is a song we all worked on and there’s a line “Stealing people’s pennies/when you’re all alone.” I think we feed off each other very well. Certain dark things happened to me at a certain age and I sing about them because I want people to relate. I feel that people want to hear something they can relate to.
How would you define your personal style? If you can define it.
Well, it’s kind of the same as with my life. I just go with it. I’m more into style than fashion. I like things that are cleverly trashy. Clean but grunge.
Where do you get your style inspiration from?
I feel like it comes from me. For a show I did recently I wore a corset, tights and underwear. The corset is traditional Victorian and the ripped tights are a mix and match. Clean and dirty at the same time.
So would you say grungy with feminine overtones?
Yeah, that’s exactly it. I would say “pretty grunge.”