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Interview: Female President uses heartfelt grit and simplistic riffs to create a sound all their own

An energized modern rock trio inspired by the early roots of rock n roll

From their forthcoming EP “Our Year To Grieve”, Female President tells the story of a woman’s journey who has had enough in the song “Sacred Voyage”. A sonic departure from Bring Back The Ghosts and Nine Nineteen; cello and violin are feathered into the song to convey the mood of somber beauty and tragic endings. The woman in the lyrics is a bright light who can’t find her spark or joy for living . Sacred Voyage is dedicated to family members lost during the pandemic, and for all those who suffer silently with mental illness and depression.

An energized modern rock trio inspired by the early roots of rock n roll; Female President uses heartfelt grit and simplistic riffs to create a sound all their own. A family of musicians whose individual styles build dynamics and groove to a fever pitch.

Dréa Atkins (of Farewell Albatross), Johnny Moss (of DSR), and Jasper Cunningham (of Vacant Lights) formed the band during the summer of 2020. Female President will be releasing their complete EP in 2022. The EP is dedicated to the loss of many family and community members over the last year, including Dréa's father.

An American family trio inspired by early roots of rock n roll; simplistic riffs that groove and dynamics that build to a fever pitch. Started during the pandemic as a way to cope with canceled tours and shuttered venues, Female President writes songs with an honest grit and emotional vibe that you can groove to and rock out. Combining their unique styles of playing and genuine love of music, Female President is an energized modern rock band with a sound all its own.

We talked with the band about their musical influences, recording process, among other curiosities. Check out the interview:


Where did you get the idea for the band name, you plan it or come out just like that? -We started our band during a pandemic. As the US argued over how to approach the Corona Virus after “lockdown”, Johnny and I decided to escape to the mountains for a couple of days to clear our heads. We discussed that we thought maybe a female president could have handled it better. Then like a lightbulb, Johnny suggested our new band name be Female President. FE is the symbol on the periodic table for iron, and we still think a woman should be given the chance to prove her mettle in the biggest office in the country.

Why did you want to play this music genre? -We don’t really stick to one genre; just the umbrella of Rock N’ Roll. Our songs are based on emotion and mood and can wind from classic metal to a pop ballad or a country-fried blues song. We just believe in being authentic and letting the story and the mood create the melody and the tempo. It’s about serving the song first, and it’s quite liberating.

Female President is a family band. When did you start to play together? -We didn’t officially start practicing together as a band until late 2020, or early 2021. I had been writing songs on acoustic guitar, I was always the primary vocalist in bands, and playing them for Johnny and Jasper. Then Johnny started messing around with bass and found he had a natural affinity for the instrument. He has been strictly a lead vocalist in bands for twenty years. He started writing bass lines as melodies and we started jamming and collaborating with him to flesh out the full songs. Initially, we thought we would come out swinging as an energetic punk band or a heavy doom band. Then my father’s dementia became acute and life just stopped. Everything became about being present for every moment we could for my dad and mom. As I watched my father grow weaker, more and more music came out of me on the acoustic guitar and we decided to write an EP about the experience of so much loss from 2020 up until my father’s passing.

Each band member's favorite band/composer? -We can’t possibly narrow it to just one for each of us. Maybe our top three? We’ll do our best. Jasper: Slipknot, Nirvana, Paramore Johnny: Giacomo Puccini, Blind Willie Johnson, Amebix Dréa: Nina Simone, PJ Harvey, The Pixies.

Who or what inspires you to write songs? -For me, I largely write from emotion and try to attach it to a story in order to create the full song.I often hear the lyrics and melody in my head at once, it’s like a download from my brain. Johnny is more of a poet who is often inspired by his travels or a beautiful landscape, and the words flow. We both love to use the bass specifically for melodies and Jasper has such a unique blend of genres in his drumming that we pull him into a mood to help finish out the composition. As positive as our approach is to write the music, none of us can ignore the current state of affairs so having a political name allows us greater freedom to be more truthful with our lyrics.

Whom would you like to feature with? Like your dream collab? -Jasper would formally like to request Olivia Rodrigo, and that would be awesome. Truly, it’s the authentic musicians who put their hearts on their sleeves. There is no genre that doesn’t have some awesome bands in it but we definitely resonate with the authenticity of White Buffalo, Jelly Roll, Lucina Williams, PJ Harvey, and Dave Grohl.

Have any of you ever suffered from stage fright? Any tips for beginners on how to beat that? -I think we all do to a certain extent. You just learn different tricks to deal with it. At the end of the day, if you can connect with the audience it doesn’t matter if you make a mistake. You’re there to make people let go and feel something. Perfection is a myth so take a few deep breaths, meditate, stretch, run in circles, practice scales, whatever you can to center yourself. It’s that whole saying that people will rarely remember what you said but will always remember how you made them feel.

What bands inspired you the most? -Our influences are a wild mix of our favorite artists and then whole time periods in rock music history. I grew up in a very musical house hearing everything from Big Band to Funk and Punk Rock. You can’t convince me that Motown wasn’t the biggest gift to popular music or that any Earth Wind and Fire song isn’t pure genius. Likewise, Janis Joplin, Chrissie Hynde, Ann Wilson, David Bowie, Freddie Mercury, and Courtney Love took hold of my vocal cords and didn’t let go. Johnny has an obnoxiously large collection of Spotify playlists with over 50,000 songs. The man hasn’t met a genre yet that he doesn’t embrace in some fashion and that helps to keep us from being stale or a one-trick pony. Jasper grew up with School of Rock as an influence, and going through that program exposed him to the true classics of rock and let him explore modern influential bands like The Killers and Foo Fighters. Our collective musical brain is a giant Rock N’ Roll cocktail.

The track "Sacred Voyage" demonstrates a deep commitment on the part of the trio. How was the writing and recording process for this single? -We are storytellers as much as we are musicians. The song came to me as an emotional way to cope with a family member's suicide. I just wanted her spirit to be at peace, for our familiy to be able to give her the funeral and elegy she would never really get to receive. It may have been a selfish act for me to need that level of closure but we were committed to creating a piece of music that demonstrated the tension between pain and relief, sorrow and beauty, and ultimately about letting go. When I was writing it in my head I always heard cello but never thought we could find a cellist who would work with us in time for the project. It all came together so well; the wonderful cellist Alex Bang, and our colleague Geoff White were able to provide electrifying violin, and our sound engineer Rob Tavaglione would not let us settle for less in the mix. We wrapped it up with an amazing videographer and it became a truly satisfying project that had definite moments of hair-pulling frustration but was worth it. We are most happy that her family loves the song as a fitting tribute. Who did the cover art for "Sacred Voyage"? -Johnny dabbles in graphic design and drawing. We think he has a great eye and talent for visual art. He creates most of our promo art. He also has designed our EP cover for “Our Year To Grieve”.

The band has a record coming in a few weeks, right? Can you talk about the band's next release? -Yes we are filled with anticipation to share the six songs as a whole with our listeners. When we release “Our Year To Grieve” at the end of July, there will be two tracks that haven’t been released before and they will flow in the order we’d like to suggest they be enjoyed. The entirety of the EP was inspired by the loss of friends, family, and the live music industry at large over the course of 2020-2021. We wanted to create a time capsule that helped us move through grief, and look back at it through the lens of tragic beauty and purposeful healing. We hope it will be well received.


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