All Hail Hervana, the All-Grrrl Tribute to Nirvana

Here we are now: An interview with frontwoman, Skirt Cobain.

Aug 14 2015, 2:00pm

Sometimes you find yourself watching a YouTube video of a shovel falling on the ground that kind of, sort of, maybe sounds like the first three notes of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and you think to yourself: This is it. This is the bottom of the Nirvana nostalgia barrel. We’ve officially hit it.

Between the goddamn shovel video, the endless documentaries, the forthcoming Kurt Cobain solo album, creating a cultural moment every time a clip of Kurt picking dingleberries out of his butthole is “unearthed,” and generally treating Nirvana like the only band ever to exist, we have lost all rational perspective on this band’s music. Fortunately, Hervana will help remind us all what was great about them in the first place.

Hervana, a Nirvana tribute band, gets their puntastic name—as you might have guessed—on account of all the members being women. But unlike many all-female cover bands that aim to combat the latent misogyny of male-dominated rock scenes past, Hervana is more of a celebration of Nirvana’s music.

So as fellow Toronto cover act Sheezer (after Weezer, obvz) sadly calls it a day, are Hervana the 90s alterna-rock torchbearers we need right now? We talked to Hervana frontwoman Carly Beath (stage name: Skirt Cobain) to find out.

Noisey: How did Hervana get started?
Carly Beath:
Someone who I didn’t know at the time is very good at puns [on Twitter] and he likes to tweet random jokes. He tweeted that Toronto should have an all-girl Nirvana cover band called Hervana, and I think he was half-joking. But I saw that and was like, YES. That’s a good idea.

So you put together a whole band, learned the songs, played them live, all just to show this pun man.
[Laughs] Yeah. But also, we love Nirvana so it was like, this is a funny pun but these songs are fun to play. I learned to play guitar when I was younger playing Nirvana and Smashing Pumpkins songs.

What was the guy’s response?
Oh, he thinks it’s great. He thinks it’s hilarious.

And you have a stage name in the band.
Yes, I am Skirt Cobain. And we have Miss Novoselic, Pap Smear, and Dave Grrrl.

Do idiots ever get mad about the idea of an all-female Nirvana cover band?
Not so far, I don’t think. We were a bit worried because when you’re tackling something like Nirvana, that’s a big deal to a lot of people. But the response has been really good. Anyone who comes to our shows has a lot of fun and I think we win them over that way.

That’s good to hear. Nirvana’s one of those bands that, whether they intended to or not, they got co-opted and idolized by this very dude-heavy fanbase.
Yeah. Whenever I see Nirvana covers on YouTube or wherever, people comment and say “Kurt would hate this!” People love to say that, and, number one, how do you know that? But also, a lot of the things people say Kurt would hate, I think he might like. People trash talk Nirvana covers by women, but Kurt wanted more women in music. He’d probably think it was cool.

There are a lot of all-female cover bands like Vag Halen and Lez Zeppelin that aim to take back a lot of those bands’ lyrics that seem misogynist or objectifying of women. How do you think Nirvana’s lyrics and message hold up in that regard?
In that regard, it is a bit different, because there are so many cover bands who flip those lyrics on their head. But we’re more interested in celebrating Nirvana because they were really great allies. Sometimes that’s in the music, but I think it was more the way they used their platform—things they’d say in interviews and liner notes for their albums. So we don’t have the same reasoning [as those other cover bands], it’s more like, hey, remember these guys were awesome, and also, they were feminists and allies, and all that good stuff.

If you don’t mind me asking, how old are you all in the band?
We’re all in our thirties.

So you are of age to remember Nirvana. Why do you think, all these years later, we are all still obsessed with Nirvana culture?
Part of it was that they were a huge band in a short amount of time. And then Kurt passing away added to the mythology. We remember Nirvana from when they were a band, and some of the people at our shows do as well, but also, there’s a contingent of people who wouldn’t have been alive when Kurt died.

Do you remember hearing about Kurt’s death?
I do. I was ten or 11. I was watching TV with my dad and my sister and it came on the news. I remember they played the "Heart Shaped Box" video and I was just like, "woah."

You’re based in Toronto. Did you ever play with Sheezer?
We did not and we’re really sad about it. We got asked to play once with them but our bass player was away and we couldn’t do it. But we went to see their second to last show last week.

Do you think you can fill the void they left of Toronto’s all-female tributes to 90s alterna-rock nostalgia?
I don’t know, we’ll see! Sheezer was amazing.

What other bands would you like to see get an all-female tribute?
There are a lot of all-female cover bands for 70s and 80s hair metal/cock rock. But I’d like to see more cover bands for 90s alt-rock. Someone also mentioned to me Fugirlzi. I don’t have time to do that but someone should!

Dan Ozzi would like to start an all-male tribute to Hervana if anyone's down. Follow him on Twitter.