Founder of female band Lez Zeppelin Steph Paynes says her childhood fantasy of being a rock star was "not exactly what I'm doing". She saw herself in a glittery suit on stage playing a guitar, rather than leaping about the stage in leather pants belting out Led Zeppelin hits.
The former journalist says her music collection was eclectic. "Of course I love Led Zeppelin, but it wasn’t my primary focus, I came back to them a little later, that’s when I was struck by it. I was very into jazz when I was a teen."
She taught herself to play guitar initially, and was more into singer songwriter and folk music to start. "Then I heard jazz. I dove into playing bee bop jazz, and played in swing bands in high school. Then along came psychadelic, grunge, then British blues."
It might seem a far cry from performing UK rockers Led Zeppelin's hits Stairway to Heaven, Communication Breakdown, Whole Lotta Love, Rock and Roll, but Paynes says it was something she thought would work.
"I didn’t know them [other band members]. It was hard to find a bunch of female musicians for something that hadn't been done. Of all the people in New York City, nobody I knew had all the elements. The singer had to have a four octave range and be sexy, plus have that fire to be able to sing like that. I put it out there by word of mouth, but there was a bit of magic involved."
There have been several lineups, but Paynes says although every one of them has been great, the lineup now is the best it's ever been. Drummer Leesa Harrington Squyres has been with the band for 10 years and, alongside Paynes on guitar, bass and keyboard player Joan Chew and vocalist Marlaine Angelides.
"We still haven’t gotten it completely because it gets deeper and deeper. When I started the band, it was six months before I agreed to take a gig. I felt very responsible. I knew people were gonna doubt we could do it."
The New Yorker admits it’s a difficult lifestyle with consequences. "You get caught up in a touring bubble and it takes a while to recover. Not a lot of women can do it, and have a family. I have two sons, and it was really hard they were very small. I had to make the choice, I was nursing a two-year-old on the road. That’s rock and roll, it takes no prisoners."
Lez Zeppelin, has received accolades such as "electrifying", "remarkable", and from Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page - extraordinary sensuality and an energy and passion that highlighted their superb musicianship".
"It is a feeling of satisfaction that what you are doing, is not just about playing the notes. It makes many people happy. It's about applying yourself in a certain way, surrendering yourself to it. It's been wonderful to go out there as four women, nobody expects us to be able to do that. It’s beyond the enjoyment of playing, in ways I didn’t expect. It's kind of stunning."
One of the best concert moments Paynes says, was playing Madison Square Garden. "Another was Bonnaroo [Music and Arts Festival Manchester Tennessee] where 20,000 people went absolutely nuts; and Hellfest [France] when we were on the main stage, it was just crazy, wonderful, seeing a crowd of 40,000 like that.
"We've had so many amazing shows, even the intimate shows when you are really up close. I don’t know how we get so lucky."
The girls are really excited to come to Australia for the first time. Let's give them a welcome they can add to their memorable moments.