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Thrash metal is pretty popular in Serbia, given the number of bands that Metal Archives shows when you search by country and look under genre. If you could filter the results out to all-female, you would very likely get only hit: JENNER. This trio, Aleksandra Stamenković (aka Alexandra Lioness) on vocals and guitar, Anja Mirković on bass and Selena Simić on drums, will release their new album “Prove Them Wrong” on January 24th via Fighter Records. JENNER’s second full-length record. We asked ALEXANDRA why it took her so long.

Interview: Henk van Nieuwenhoven

JENNER albumIt took you seven years to come up with a sequel to “To Live Is To Suffer” (2017) with just an EP in between, “The Test Of Time” (2020). A logical first question therefore would be: what have you done all these years?
Hello! Thank you for having me. I’ve been up to quite a lot since then, but I think it’s best to start from the beginning. Back in 2013, when my sister and I formed JENNER, I was 17 years old. Playing guitar and bass guitar was just a hobby, but music was my passion. I never imagined it would become such a significant part of my life. In 2015, I enrolled in the faculty of medicine. At that time, I couldn’t envision myself as a full-time musician, so my initial goal with the band was simply to record one album. We achieved that goal in 2017 with our debut album, “To Live Is To Suffer“. The incredible reaction from people and my own growing fondness for exploring the world of metal music led me to decide to continue. However, managing the band became challenging due to our numerous responsibilities – jobs, college and family commitments – leading to changes in our lineup. My sister, Marija, played drums, but her frequent absence due to pregnancy and maternity leaves meant Selena had to step in temporarily. Selena even recorded the drums for “To Live Is To Suffer” in 2016. Between 2017 and early 2018, we performed at gigs and festivals across Serbia and the region. Unfortunately, our singer decided to leave the band, and both the drummer and bassist went on maternity leave almost at the same time, eventually departing from the band.JENNER AleksandraLeft alone to decide the band’s fate, I had already finished songs for our EP, “The Test Of Time.” So, I took on the roles of recording guitar, bass and vocals myself, while my friend Nikola Simonović recorded the drums. You mentioned it was ‘just an EP’, but for someone not working as a professional musician, the recording and mixing process, whether for 3 or 10 songs, takes a considerable amount of time. I began recording in June 2019, and it was released on March 30th the following year. The year 2020 was overshadowed by the Covid-19 pandemic, and understandably, music took a backseat as we were all locked in. Consequently, I decided to put the band on standby and focus more on my medical studies while taking my guitar practice more seriously. I also began recording covers for YouTube and Instagram. I knew deep down that I would continue making my own music, with or without the band. Though I felt hopeless at times, my friends always encouraged me, assuring me that I’d find people who shared my passion. In 2021, I graduated from the Faculty of Medicine, started spending more time with Selena, met Anja and, well, the rest is history!

“Prove Them Wrong” is the first record in this line-up. The general idea of an all-female metal band is often that it leads to line-up changes and that’s exactly what happened to JENNER since its founding in 2013. But everything seems to be signed and sealed now for the past two years.
These are some things that are realistically inevitable. People have their priorities, the question is only who and to what extent wants and can dedicate themselves to the band. I believe that the current lineup is really strong. There is a strong chemistry between the three of us, as well as mutual respect. I see both of them as sisters and good friends. We learn from each other, help each other and grow together.

The metal music industry is still a male dominated world, so it must be difficult for an all-female thrash metal band to survive in this jungle. Perhaps there are some female tricks to overcome the hurdles in this impregnable green rainforest of testosterone that you would like to share.
There are both good and bad aspects of being in an all-female band, but personally, I try not to emphasize that we’re a female band because I believe sexism should be fought with the principle of equality, not by proving who’s better. There are always all sorts of comments, but I try not to pay attention to them. I do what I love, the best way I can. I play with women in the band because it’s easier for me to function and organize, but I always enjoy working with good bands regardless of whether they’re all male, all female, or mixed. And let’s not forget the fact that many men have helped me personally throughout my career, especially my boyfriend, dad and many friends.

JENNER AnjaIn between there was also a switch from Infernö Records to Fighter Records, who will release your upcoming album “Prove Them Wrong” on January 24th.
That’s right. Unfortunately, Infernö Records closed down shortly after we released the EP “The Test Of Time”. We had no choice but to look for another record label. We received several offers, but signing with Fighter Records from Spain suited us best. Apart from the new album, we also did a reissue of our first album ”To Live Is To Suffer”, which had already been sold out.

Fighter Records is a division of Xtreem Music, who also have other female fronted metal bands on their roster. Obviously, there was either no room for JENNER on Xtreem Music or they had a special reason to put you on Fighter Records.
I really don’t know anything about it. When Dave contacted us, he didn’t even mention signing with Xtreem Music. I suppose he has his own reasons.

Since there is a reasonable time span between the two albums, you had enough time to rethink whether you would do things different before you started to record “Prove Them Wrong”
To be honest, many of the riffs and ideas for the new album originated between 2014-2017 but remained undeveloped. Over time, I gained a lot of knowledge and experience in music, so I reworked, finished and improved some of those songs. For example, 90% of the music for the song “No Time For Prayer” was done back in 2016 and the initial riffs from songs like “Prove Them Wrong”, “Eye For An Eye” and “Down In The Pit” also date back to when I was writing songs for the first album, but they simply weren’t finished, so there wasn’t room for them. On the new album, I wanted to dive a bit more into classic heavy metal sound and not limit myself to just fast and aggressive tracks. So, on the new album, you can also hear some slower songs and ballads like “I Saw It All Clear”, “Down In The Pit” and “Born For Something More”. Additionally, the song for which we shot the video, “Never Say Die”, doesn’t have a guitar solo, it just didn’t fit right at the time, and I didn’t want to force it. Simply put, the new album doesn’t dictate that something has to be a certain way, and I love the result.

JENNER SelenaLet’s have a look at the album cover art. We see a skeleton dressed in black holding something that burns with a transparent triangle and smoke of fire in the background. That must be all symbolic, but please explain what it means and who made it.
A part of the album tells the story of someone feeling unhappy with their own life, deciding to follow their heart and live life their way, even if it doesn’t please others around them. They’re simply trying to get away from stereotypes, other people’s opinions and guilt. There is a female skeleton holding her burning heart in her hand. If she hadn’t listened to her heart, she would have been dead, unhappy, or crazy. And even if  she dies, her heart will still burn because she listened to it and left something behind to live forever – music. Basically, it’s a symbolic representation of my life. I have a medical degree, but after years of being unhappy with myself, I gained the courage to decide that I don’t want to be a doctor, I want to play guitar. And the triangle represents the three members in the band.

You started with the recordings for “Prove Them Wrong” in February 2023. Did it take you long to get everything done?
I think we finished everything in 6 months. We started on February 25th, recorded drums in a few days, but we had to wait a few weeks to start recording guitars. Anja recorded bass over three Sundays, essentially spanning three weeks. I had the hardest job, because I had to record many guitar tracks by myself and later the vocals. The good thing is that we recorded guitars and bass in my home studio and later re-amped them in the studio, which saved us a lot of time. Additionally, our producer worked with multiple bands simultaneously, so we had to wait a little longer than usual to get the final mix.

The album opens with “No Time For Prayer” that was also released as a lyric video. It has a Metallica “Enter Sandman” guitar intro (and outro) and your vocals sound like a cross between James Hetfield and Alice Cooper. They could be either unconscious influences or it just came out that way.
Haha, I was never told that I sound like Alice Cooper. I love them both but I wasn’t trying to copy anyone, that’s simply my voice. Can’t help it!JENNER trioNext in line is title track “Prove Them Wrong”, the first single off the album. Did you have any bands from the old school thrash era in mind when this one was written and recorded?
Of course. Half of the song was written in 2016. The funny thing is, the project was titled ‘Over‘ for a long time, because it truly reminded me of Overkill’s “Elimination”. But I guess I was the only one who felt the Overkill vibes there, haha. Some people told me that it reminds them of Suicidal Tendencies. Also, the middle part of the song and the solo have a King Diamond/Helloween vibe. However, I didn’t do it on purpose; it just came out that way.

Let’s not spoil all the fun and go to the next official video for “Never Say Die” that was released on December 28th. My first thought was that you had done a thrash cover version of the Black Sabbath song. But you have your own reason why you say “Never Say Die”. It is one of the fastest tracks on “Prove Them Wrong”.
There are many songs with the same title, like Black Sabbath, Europe, Wig Wam… It’s a common phrase to use. I remember when I wrote that song. In a way, it sounds like old JENNER, yet it contains some new elements. Although it sounds evil, this is actually the most optimistic song because it sends a message that everything is temporary. Even if we’re going through a tough time, it will pass – we just need to fight for what we truly believe in.

JENNER AlexThe lyrics for “Never Say Die” were written by Emil Ivošević. He also did the vocals on the title track of “The Test Of Time” EP and wrote the lyrics for it. That makes us curious: who is he and what was his share on “Prove Them Wrong”?
Emil is my boyfriend. He truly helps me a lot and provides selfless support in everything in life, especially with the band. I’m not particularly gifted in writing lyrics, while he’s the total opposite of me; he constantly writes. He published a collection of poems a few years ago, simply loves it, and has a knack for it. He manages to transform my thoughts and beliefs into verses. Also, he helps me when I’m out of ideas or when I hit a wall. He drives us to concerts, assists with setups, literally like the fourth member of the band. The two of us have a band called Sigma Epsilon where he sings and I play the guitar, and we also have some rock projects together.

“Prove Them Wrong” will be available in several versions. Fans can buy it digital on your Bandcamp page and order it on CD or 12” from your official online shop. But you also have a limited edition on cassette. Do you think there’s a new market for cassettes, just like vinyl had its resurgence in 2007?
Today, there are many collectors, which is amazing, but I don’t think significant quantities of cassettes can be sold. Our first pressing of the new album will be 250 vinyls and 50 cassettes. Times are changing, digital streaming platforms are more prevalent, but there are always those true fans who support the bands by buying merchandise and CDs directly from the band. For many of us, that is the main source of income that enables us to continue making music and improving the band. Unfortunately, through our Bandcamp, signed vinyl records can’t be ordered for worldwide shipping because currently, we’re unable to ship vinyls from Serbia, but they can be ordered through our publisher’s website.

JENNER PTWcassetteAlthough the hard work is done, there is no time to sit back and relax because all the promotional work and interviews are waiting.
Absolutely! From the moment we delivered the material to the publisher, I’ve been working on promotion every day. I’m brainstorming strategies, managing social media, shooting promo videos, creating teasers for music videos, planning concerts, writing newsletters, and lately, there have been quite a few interview requests. I do most of these things by myself, which takes up a lot of time, but it also relaxes me and makes me happy at the same time.

A new album is wonderful, but of course we all want to see JENNER back on the road again. When “Prove Them Wrong” is out on the streets, that would be a good time to refuel and start the engines. Or perhaps you can share a tour bus with Nervosa, who operate a lot in Europe.
JENNER was never able to go on tours. We are just regular people who have our jobs, schools, families, and tours somehow don’t fit into that life. Maybe one day, we’ll manage to organize ourselves, but for now, we stick to occasionally playing at regional gigs and festivals.