When Vanessa Fischer, lead singer from Lioness, has something to say, she says it loud — and possibly while wearing a beaded headpiece, a cape of wigs and a black leotard embedded with fringe and gold chains.
On stage her voice soars over the wall of dark, rumbling rhythm generated by drummer Jeff Scheven and bassist Ronnie Morris. Despite the stripped-down setup, the band’s live show is like a big, booming distorted dance party.
“I really like the new songs we’ve been writing,” says Fischer, seated at coffee shop Le Gourmand, not far from the studio where she spends her days working as a freelance costume designer. “The longer we’ve been together, the easier it is to come up with cohesive ideas. I feel like I’m at this weird, cohesive point in my life where I have things I need to say.”
Self-assuredness explains why Lioness has connected so well in a short time. All three members hail from two well-known Toronto rock bands that broke up following internal disagreements and meltdowns: Fischer was the singer for noise punks No Dynamics and Scheven and Morris made up the rhythm section of controller.controller.
“Musically I wanted more. I want as many people to hear me sing as possible,” Fischer says. “Sometimes people are happy with being in the scene and that’s cool, but I wanted to explore the world outside the city. As bands evolve everybody wants their idea to be bigger and it doesn’t always work and I think that’s the biggest reason why bands break up.”
Scheven and Fischer are also dating, but haven’t had a chance to make music together until now. Once they started Lioness the band moved quickly, performing at a handful of afterhours parties in the west end and recording and releasing a self-titled EP on indie label New Romanic Records last fall.
A few months ago they released the single “You’re My Heart,” which featured remixes by local production outfits Mansion and CCenturieSS. Fischer expects their sound will grow bigger than the three-piece formula when they return to the studio later this year to record a full-length. Lioness is still talking to producers and Fischer is excited to add new elements into the mix, such as saxophone.
“The album will be the evolution of the band,” she says. “Anything you do, I think you want to be better at it and everything you do, you figure out how to be better at it.”
Lioness’s appearance at Pride will also mark an evolution in Fischer’s stage persona. Since the band has mostly performed during winter, she hasn’t had a chance to debut her more revealing and out-there costume creations, some of which she designed for the “You’re My Heart” music video.
Directed by Scheven, the video is “about the idea that love, like a heart, can be transplanted when it disappears.” Its aesthetic is informed by art deco and German silent film and casts Fischer as eight characters, each requiring a unique outfit. She took inspiration from a range of classic movie heroines and villainesses, from Barbarella and Anita Pallenberg to Maleficent from Disney’s Sleeping Beauty and Metropolis’ Brigitte Helm.
The look? She’s not 100 percent sure but speculates it’ll be a Busby Berkley-inspired one-piece — a gold metallic top, black tone on tone, striped legs with giant black tulle sleeves might be appropriate.
“I’ve never been able to wear it because it’s been so cold and it doesn’t fit underneath a jacket,” she laughs. “Pride will be fun because it’s outdoors so I can dress up a bit more. And people will be more accepting of dressing up.”