by Liza Mitchell
If you mixed the essence of Patti Smith with equal parts Joan Jett and Mila Kunis, the result would be Fit for Rivals’ lead singer Renee Phoenix. With her tiny frame and doe-like eyes peering out from behind her shaggy bangs, Phoenix appears almost delicate. That is until she opens her mouth to sing.
“I’m such a small girl and this big voice comes out. I’m definitely part of the minority. I think it is more empowering in a way,” she says of her female rock status. “It’s definitely a male-dominated realm and some guys coming in thinking less of me, like ‘she can’t sing or play guitar.’ It makes me work even harder.”
It’s that juxtaposition that keeps the fans coming back for more. Dudes want her. Girls want to be her. And it helps the music rocks.
Comments posted online echo the sentiment. “Is it weird that I want my voice to sound like that and I’m a guy?” commented one YouTube viewer. “I soooo love this band.” Phoenix laughs off the notion that she sounds like a guy or smokes three packs a day to cultivate her gravelly sound.
“I find it a compliment. I don’t even smoke,” she says. “It’s nothing that I try to do. It’s just how I sing. I think its pretty rad. I like it.”
Fit for Rivals will headline their first Jax show in over a year with Bleeding in Stereo, Pawn Takes King, A Brilliant Lie and Appalachian Death Trap on March 10 at Jack Rabbits. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.
Phoenix said she the band will be trying out new material for the first time at the show.
“Come have a hell of a good time,” she says. “It’s a big giant party and everyone’s invited.”
Phoenix cautions fans to get their early if they want to make sure they get in. People were turned away at the door before their last local show when the crowd outnumbered the venue’s capacity.
“All these people were lined up outside to see us,” she says. “We felt super bad.”
Fit for Rivals has recently played stages at the Vans Warped Tour and last year’s Welcome to Rockville with Seether, the Red Jumpsuit Apparatus and Godsmack without the support of a major label.
“We’ve been very lucky in that regard. We’ve had the support of other labels or people that are putting on these shows,” Phoenix says. “We also have a lot of support from other Jacksonville musicians and we try and give back as much as we can.”
Fit for Rivals relies heavily on self-promotion by handing out fliers and demo CDs at events like Art Walk.
The band also has a generous online presence that helps promote their music. The video for ‘Damage’ by Blackchalk Productions has yielded over 2.1 million views to date and their music is also available for download on ITunes.
“We talk to people, let them see our faces and know who we are,” Phoenix says. “Right now we are still unsigned but we are set to record our second album and figuring out the business end of things. We’re keeping busy. “