All it took was permission.
Norman singer-songwriter-turned power rock outfit front woman Katie Williams needed to give it to herself and others. Happily, she found it within her own passionate musical personality and in the eager hands, hearts and minds of a handful of Norman music scene veterans.
Williams formed her band Sisteria as the lead vocalist with a high-decibel guitar band. The sextet has been working on a debut recording, and they’re performing out for the first time Saturday night at OKC’s Tower Theatre. Sisteria is opening the show with Helen Kelter Skelter and Rainbows are Free, making it an all-Norman bill.
“Sisteria is a full-blown, six-piece rock ‘n’ roll crew,” Williams said. “The sound is very large and I’m very excited about that. It’s like a wall of sound. The live experience is going to be pretty fantastic. We’re looking forward to our Tower Theatre show, and we’re just having a really f---- — good time.”
Williams is feeling an unmistakable power vibe in Sisteria’s practices. The personnel are Nathan Lofties on misc. instruments, drummer Steve Boaz, Richie Tarver on lead guitars, bassist Matthew Jewell and Matthew Knudson on keys.
“Nathan Lofties is just a total freak of nature,” Williams said. “He and Steve Boaz are the duo Magnificent Bird that they’ve had for years. Lofties’ process is just nuts. You’ll have to see it to believe it. He has all these pedals that he sings into and uses the guitar with a bow, it’s just kind of an irreplaceable element. It’s almost like having a violin and these ethereal backing vocals.”
As an early 30s-something woman, Williams views her rock band leader responsibilities as a lesson in direct communication.
“I am very fortunate to have this crew,” she said. “We’re professional and all older, so bandwidth for bulls- — is pretty small for everybody. Nobody would be doing this if they didn’t truly enjoy it. We’ve all got jobs, lives and kids, so it’s a thing where you have to make priorities. They’ve all said that they really enjoy being part of a whole instead of having to lead. I understand why.
“It’s a big responsibility to take on the direction of a project. You can either be overwhelmed by that and not so qualified, or you can step into it and see it as another opportunity to create something. I try to stay in the fun realm — what can you do with this, as opposed to what should we do with this. It’s staying in a creative space of, ‘look at this awesome thing that we all enjoy doing.’ Communication and assembling the right crew has been key.”
Williams’ early musical career was mostly as a solo singer-songwriter. She’s enjoying the change in dynamic.
“I like collaborating more than I ever thought I would,” she said. “I prefer it over the previous experience. I love being around these dudes. Their energy is so positive, creative and inspirational. They are high-functioning, talented mofos who keep me on my game. Watching their enjoyment doing this when they could be doing anything else is what brings me joy.”
The overarching lyrical themes in Sisteria’s original compositions are freedom, authenticity and honesty.
“I’m no longer interested in censoring myself,” Williams said. “I don’t know if that’s because it’s easier to do behind the genre of rock ‘n’ roll. It’s almost a prerequisite for it. But it feels so cathartic and real. I don’t know that I focus so much on the specific words as much as I do the overall message as I’m writing and performing it.”
Williams recently spent some time in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where she was steeped in a heavy metal rock scene.
“Coming back to Oklahoma, I saw a contrast,” she said. “I’d been surrounded by our red dirt singer-songwriter dive bar scene, which is beautiful. For this time in my life, with this sense of urgency, I’ve had some emotions I was never able to express through folk music. They needed to be expressed, and now I’m seeing as a collective that assertiveness, desperation and angst is very necessary. I like that we’re able to create that here, and it’s why the band members are so involved and enjoy it so much.”
Williams senses that Sisteria has a sound and feeling local audiences are seeking, and it’s one they’ll enjoy. Drummer Steve Boaz, who also operates Breathing Rhythm Studio, helped her make the transition from folk singer to heavy metal rock goddess.
“It’s one of those magic intersections that people come to at the same time in their lives,” she said. “He was needing something different, our tastes aligned and it was a magical experience.”
Williams views being an artist as a way of life. She had a recent exhibition of paintings at Stash, and is a cast member in award-winning Norman film “Oklahoma Mon Amour.”
“Sometimes I struggle with giving myself permission to do things that are creative, expressive or clever to me,” Williams said. “I’ve come to the conclusion you should just do what serves you.”