Learn how the band covers everything from noisy, sonic assaults to dreamy, pysch-tinged surf-rock melodies with minimal gear and an overflow of punk-rock ’tude.

PG’s Chris Kies spent some time with Tarra Thiessen, Natalie Kirch (above right), and Chris Nunez of Sharkmuffin before their rambunctious set at Nashville’s Radio Cafe.

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Sharkmuffin frontwoman Tarra Thiessen says she likes the punk feel of writing fun guitar parts over Natalie Kirch’s stripped-down bass lines.
Photo by Jaime Schultz.

Heavy-hitting trio looks ready to swim with alt-rock’s big fish.

Sharkmuffin’s press posse describes the trio as “badass riot grrl.” And there’s no question that the sonic storm generated by Tarra Thiessen (guitar, lead vocals, theremin, keyboards), Natalie Kirch (bass, vocals), and Janet LaBelle (drums) slams through the speakers with enough punk intensity and sharpened hooks to draw favorable comparisons with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Hole, Bikini Kill, and the Breeders—trailblazing alt-rock bands with strong female leads.

But listen to the four songs on the band’s latest EP, 1097, and it doesn’t take long to hear that there’s more than bad-assitude behind Sharkmuffin’s crunching riffs, thundering drums, and punk-simple bass lines. The band’s kick-to-the-stones ferocity amplifies solid songwriting, while Thiessen’s noise-rock fretboard assaults are balanced by nuanced technique. Amidst the noise, there’s plenty of cleverly applied tones and expressive dynamics.

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This trio of badass women bashes out trashy rock that's equally inspired by Patti Smith, MC5, and Jack White.

Sharkmuffin is a hard-rocking, all-female power-trio hailing from Brooklyn —though you wouldn’t be the first to guess that this kind of decadently trashy rock ’n’ roll was born in the streets of Detroit. The distorted guitar that kickstarts “Quarter Machine” growls like it was forged from the fires of Jack White’s mind.

But the riffs here are also balanced with an old-school snarl that recalls moments of greatness from the MC5’s late, great Fred Smith. It’s not until guitarist/singer Tarra Thiessen takes the mic with a Patti Smith-esque swagger that we can hear some salient New York Groove. And then there’s that one-two punch of the rhythm section. Drummer Janet LaBelle pounds her kit with a ham-fisted, meat-and-potatoes style as Natalie Kirch reminds us that bass fuzz can be a beautiful thing.

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