Life in the fast lane
In July, when the rockfest Warped Tour rolled into the sleepy Sacramento suburb of Marysville, Calif., the punks, rockers and emo kids from around the West were in for a few surprises.
The first: Billy Idol.
In a crowd that showed up to see such skate-punk bands as Strung Out and No Use for a Name, the weathered rocker from yesteryear, rocking in tight camouflage cargos and spiked, bleached hair, proved that he can still impress the younger crowd.
The second: Reno punkers Shockbox, specifically lead singer and wild blond bombshell, Leslie Bienvenue.
Decked out in a skimpy tutu, see-though net top and white platform tennis shoes, Bienvenue drew stares everywhere she went, from males and females alike. Whether on the gaudy, pink Shiragirl stage in the back of the venue where her band played earlier that morning or walking amidst the crowds, Bienvenue turned heads.
According to Bienvenue, that’s her style, not some attention-drawing gimmick.
“I am a very flamboyant dresser,” she says. “That’s just me.”
In existence for just a few months, the band was already making waves at the tour, which is prestigious among underground rock acts all over the country. At the Shiragirl stage, Bienvenue says Shockbox drew the most fans to the stage.
But, she says, the band’s spot on Warped was a great stroke of luck.
“In May, we were looking around on Myspace.com [an online blogging community] and saw that this band Shiragirl was looking for some other female-fronted bands to play with,” Bienvenue says. “Right then, we did a demo and sent it off. They were stoked, and we got the gig.”
Bienvenue is joined by Brian Swift on guitar, Jeff Carrete on bass and Christian Riersgard on drums. Swift, Riersgard and Carrete have been in other bands. For Bienvenue, this is her first.
“I have always been a very musical person,” she says. “I love playing both the piano and guitar, but this is my first experience in a band.”
Bienvenue also writes the lyrics and melodies. She says she gets inspiration from everything that surrounds her, from personal experience to her thoughts about a particular person.
“I really just write about everything I feel,” Bienvenue says. “Anger, frustrations, love, happiness and horniness are the strongest feelings I have, and it shows in the songs.”
Bienvenue says many fans make comparisons between Shockbox’s hard-hitting, ‘70s-style punk and the music of San Francisco icons Dead Kennedys.
While Bienvenue says the band doesn’t try to sound like anyone in particular, she’s is inspired by other 1970s and 1980s punk bands like The Avengers and The Sex Pistols.
So, how has Reno responded to a female-fronted punk band?
“We played a show at Fritz a few weeks ago, and some kid came up to me after the show and told me he was bummed when he heard a chick was the singer in the band,” she says. “After we played, all he could say was, ‘You guys fucking rocked.'”