Baby Animals are three guys fronted by a tough-and-tender, guitar-wielding, rock-wailing woman. The Australian band's music ranges from gritty rock to graceful ballads, all with a compelling blend of edgy bravado and revealing vulnerability. OK, now get those thoughts of the Pretenders out of your head.
"Chrissie Hynde . . . or Pat Benatar," says Suze DeMarchi, patiently naming the names invariably raised in articles on Baby Animals, who will open for Van Halen's Southern California dates Friday through next Sunday.
"I think it's just human nature for people to compare you to someone that's familiar, but I don't really think it's accurate," she says. "I think those comparisons are just a little bit too easy for me. Just because I'm a woman and I've got dark hair and I play guitar. I don't think it's really accurate."
Actually, DeMarchi, 28, listened mainly to male-fronted rock bands when she was growing up in Perth, Australia's isolated western outpost. "The English rock thing was a big influence--the early-'70s English rock thing like Led Zeppelin, Free, Deep Purple," she says. "I also used to love listening to Edith Piaf, and Patsy Cline also had a wonderful voice."
DeMarchi and the band--Dave Leslie, Eddie Parise and Frank Celenza--are starting to build their own identity. Their debut album, "Baby Animals," has sold half a million worldwide since its release last July. The video for "Painless" became an MTV staple, and the quartet has landed opening slots on heavyweight tours with Bryan Adams and now Van Halen.
With the higher profile, DeMarchi figures to join the ranks of rock's more visible women, but she doesn't welcome the mantle of feminist role model.
"I don't feel a responsibility to anyone to do anything," she said. "Not at all. I don't profess to have any political statements or anything to make. People should realize I'm just making music that I enjoy.
"As far as the 'women in rock' thing, I just think it's boring. I don't feel I'm treated any differently. Some things that people would regard as sexist behavior from men, I actually don't think it's so. I think women just overrate this whole thing."