Wonder Women: Angeline Saris – Part 2

Angeline Saris

“What continues to evolve is my sense of self as a player. The thing you can’t be taught is the musical instinct you get from time on stage. There is a trust you build in yourself when you have put time into a craft consistently for years upon years. I feel that more than ever at this point in my career, and I think it translates to how I show up in a band setting.”

In this month’s installment of Wonder Women: Stories From the Women Who Play Bass, I conclude my two-part interview with Angeline Saris. (Check out part 1).

Saris held down the low end for the all-female Led Zeppelin tribute band Zepparella for seven years, and she just completed a six-week fall 2022 tour with Celebrating David Bowie. This all-star tribute to David Bowie featured an A-list cast of musicians, including Rock’n’Roll Hall Of Famer Todd Rundgren, Adrian Belew (Bowie, NIN, King Crimson, Frank Zappa, Talking Heads), guitarist Scrote, Spacehog’s Royston Langdon, Fishbone’s Angelo Moore, solo artist Jeffrey Gaines, saxophone great Ron Dziubla (Jon Batiste, Joe Bonamassa), and drummer Travis McNabb (Sugarland, Better Than Ezra). No stranger to honoring the playing of music icons, Saris was the perfect fit to take on such celebrated bass lines.

“Bowie had so many different bass players, which has shaped my approach in a really big way. Trevor Bolder, George Murray, Herbie Flowers, Willie Weeks, Barry Campbell, Carmine Rojas, Tim Lefebvre, and Gail Ann Dorsey are just a few of the names that come to mind. Obviously, each player has a different style and approach that helped to shape the music and serve Bowie’s artistic vision. The bass plays a huge role in Bowie’s music which definitely shapes my approach to these songs. I even like to push that envelope a bit whenever it feels like the right musical choice.”

As an educator, Saris is a skillful instructor who is generous in passing her wealth of knowledge and experience on to her eager students. On top of recording four instructional DVDs for Hal Leonard, she has been a featured instructor at the Warwick Bass Camp and the National Guitar Workshop. She is currently writing an educational book of her own. When she’s not juggling her various projects or touring the globe, she offers private lessons for students, who get to learn from her directly.

What drew you to the music industry?

I feel like music chooses you. You can ignore the calling until a piece of you dies, or you can answer the call, fall in love, and embark on the adventure. Even though I played music all through middle and high school, the story really began for me with an epiphany. I was going to UC Berkeley for my undergrad and I had just come home from a class in the Rhetoric of Counterculture, where we studied Ginsberg and Leary. I was playing my bass in my bedroom, and it was a typical cloudy day in Berkeley. The sun broke through the clouds, shone in on me, and I had this thought, “I’m not supposed to be a lawyer. I’m supposed to be a musician.” It was a powerful and very scary moment because I was a strong pre-law student but just an OK bass player at the time. I promptly ignored the epiphany and finished my undergrad, but I was never the same after that. I would collect music school pamphlets and daydream about going to music school.

About three years later, I went to an open house at Musicians Institute just “for fun.” I was totally blown away that people could spend their days studying the basslines of Jaco or JPJ. At the end of the day, they had a drawing to win a free year’s tuition. I was on the edge of my chair, just praying to have my name drawn. They rattled off someone else’s name, and my heart nearly broke. I remember driving back to my place, and it was at that moment I knew I couldn’t deny the epiphany anymore. I had to pursue music, or I would never truly be happy. It was my path.

What’s your favorite part about this line of work? Your least favorite part? Why?

When I am growing, I am most happy. That could mean practicing and building my chops, or it could mean taking on a new project that pushes me.

I also love performing. I think music is one of the most powerful and unique ways humans can connect with one another. It’s that connection and the music that comes from it that I live for. When everyone on stage is totally in sync and the music takes on a life of its own, you just feel like you’re floating. The cherry on top is when you look out, and the audience is right there with you. There’s really nothing in the world like that feeling. I wish everyone could experience that at least once.

My least favorite part is dealing with the occasional overblown ego or sour personality that comes along. People can be mean or jealous or just downright unhappy and take it out on you. I’m still learning how to navigate those situations and let those comments go. I think you have to have a certain level of sensitivity to be a good musician, but you also have to grow a thick skin to deal with some of the BS. Striking that balance can be hard.

What would you want to change about the music industry?

I would want corporations to get out of the way of the creative process and let artists be artists. I hate this cookie-cutter thing that has taken over. It’s like they find a formula and then try and squish people into it. Everyone starts to sound the same after a while. I want art to be weird and authentic. That keeps it fresh. Money should be an incidental byproduct of good art (or even bad art sometimes), but it should never dictate the creative process.

What’s an average day like for you?

An average day includes caffeine, fresh green juice, exercising, and a solid practice session in the shed. A great writing session for my original music, a show, or a recording session is the cherry on top if that happens. Time with family and friends also feeds me – I get weird if I go too long just geeking out by myself.

You know bassists are all about the gear. And I’m definitely a gear nerd. So I have to ask…any recent game-changing acquisitions to your toolkit?

Well, I’m embarrassed to say I had never had a power conditioner in all my years of touring and playing. I finally added the Furman AC215 to my touring rig this year. It’s small and has two inputs, one for my bass amp and one for my pedal board, which is perfect for me. It keeps my stage setup clean and allows my Fender Super Bassman Pro to shine in all its glory.

I also had to get creative with routing when I was putting my pedalboard together for the Celebrating David Bowie tour. On “Afraid of Americans,” I had to switch directly between a fuzz tone and an envelope filter. There was no time to turn off the envelope and turn on the fuzz or vice versa – it had to be immediate. I founded a company called Saturnworks and had them custom-make an A/B/Y pedal so that I could create a loop within my pedalboard to switch between the two effects seamlessly. It was a great workaround to what could have been a total headache.

What advice would you have for someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?

Stay focused on the music and on your practice. Everything else is a distraction.
There are ups and downs like you can’t imagine. Your love for the music must be the constant thread that sustains you through it all. Be ready for anything.

Important cause or issue that you support?

Gender equality and women’s empowerment across the globe. I am in the midst of starting a new project called the GROW Initiative (Global Reach of Women). I will be releasing eight singles over the next two years. Each one will raise money for a different non-profit foundation focused on empowering women through education, community, or by providing resources so that women can thrive. Music is a beautiful thing in itself, but I have always wanted to find a way to use this platform to create bigger change in the world. You’ll be able to read more about it and donate through my website in late February.

Tell us about your new project…

One of my goals for 2023 is to release more original music, and I’m very excited to announce I’m kicking off the year right with a new single! It’s called Come Undone and it combines my love for funk, dance, and pop music – of course, all driven by the bass. Think of a cross between Larry Graham, Patrice Rushen, and Dua Lipa.

I came up with this bassline while I was practicing my double-thumbing technique. I wrote lyrics and a melody, and when we went into the studio and tracked drums, keys, and vocals, I was a little surprised to see what was taking shape. In all honesty, I did not intend to write a pop song at all. I thought it would be more of a jazzy-funky thing like my previous work with Angelex. Instead of fighting it or trying to change it, I just decided to go with it. I think a song will tell you what it wants to be. Plus, part of my promise to myself this year is to allow the opportunity to explore what my own creative voice is – without judgment. This year is dedicated to that, and so far, I’m having a blast!

The release goes live on Spotify, Amazon, and all the usual places on February 17th! You can also pre-order the single on iTunes starting January 31st (search Angeline Saris and Come Undone).

As a solo artist, getting the word out can take some work, so I would be eternally grateful to those reading this interview if you took a moment and followed me on Spotify. That way, you’ll be all set to check it out when it’s released!

I am giving No Treble readers an exclusive sneak preview of the track, so check out the video below!

Any final thoughts?

To all bands and their merch booths: Stop selling men’s shirts as “unisex” shirts at shows! Get real shirts that fit women! Rant over.

And thank you for the interview!

Find Saris online: website, Instagram, Facebook, Youtube, and Bandcamp.

Check out part 1 of our interview with Saris).

Brittany Frompovich is a highly regarded educator, clinician, blogger, and bassist who currently resides in the Washington DC/NOVA region. For more content from Brittany, check out her blog, her YouTube channel, and her Bandcamp site. She also offers handmade unisex music-themed jewelry through her Etsy store. Get a Wonder Woman Tee!

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  1. Frank Osmers

    Love it! Ready for more.