Girls Girls Girls
On her 31st birthday, court stenographer Patricia Nilsen got a bass guitar. She had never touched an instrument in her life, but within 15 months, she would play her first show, and within just a few years, she would be part of a nationally-known Mötley Crüe tribute band, opening for acts like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Korn, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
I was a huge Mötley Crüe fan in my really formative years,” Nilsen says. “I wasn’t allowed to go to concerts [then], but I got an opportunity during their reunion tour in 2005. That was my first time seeing them and it was so amazing. I was very inspired after that concert.”
Nilsen looked online and came across Iron Maidens, an all-female Iron Maiden tribute band. Her wheels started turning. When she discovered there wasn’t an all-female Mötley Crüe tribute, she decided there should be and Girls Girls Girls began.
“I loved Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth and thought, ‘I’ll play bass,’” she says. “I never actually played [bass before]. I love Nikki Sixx, too. I always thought
the bassist was the coolest in the band.”
With that, Nilsen started learning the instrument and looking for the rest of her band. She put out ads on Craigslist and looked up local New York City area singers, drummers, and guitarists. She even used the same language as her idols did years back in a Los Angeles art paper looking for a “loud, rude, and aggressive guitar player.”
Once the first round of players were in place, including guitarist Denise Mercedes, things got more serious. Mercedes’ résumé includes The Stimulators, a thrash/hardcore New York City band that is still considered a prototype of the genre. They were the first American punk band to play in Ireland, building a substantial underground presence and Mercedes has jammed with people like Iggy Pop and Link Wray.
“She [Mercedes] taught me and the drummer [Kiki Kim] what we were getting into,” Nilsen says. “The drummer was a beginner and the singer wasn’t really a singer. But Denise liked us and our spirit.”
Between March 2006 and May 2007, the band was solid: Nilsen (aka Nikita Seis), Mercedes (aka Mercedes Mars), Kim (aka Tawny Lee), and Robin Goodwin (aka Vixen Neil).
“We had everything,” Nilsen says. “Asian drummer, tall blonde, brunette—every guy’s fantasy. It was all on stage in some form.”
Nilsen performed with the band from 2007 to 2009, but took a break when she had a baby. The band reunited in 2012. Right after that show, Nilsen had her second child (she played the show six months pregnant). But fans were demanding more.
“I found another girl to replace me on the bass,” Nilsen says, finding Lu Baez (Lucky Sixx) to fill her roll. “I decided to run the whole thing (the band), since I ran it when I was in it. I knew I couldn’t be getting in the van for weeks at a time with two toddlers.”
Nilsen continues to manage the band and she has helped land them gigs in places as far and wide as Alaska and Mexico. The group plays two or three shows a month, usually within an eight-hour drive of their New York City home base, where each has other responsibilities.
Nilsen is still a court stenographer. Kim works in corporate finance, Mercedes is a housewife who has done PR work, Goodwin is a bartender and hairdresser, and Baez is also a hairdresser. They all have found ways to juggle their very full lives.
“With respect to my ‘actual’ career, it has been stressful at times, since work is my number one priority, ” Kim says. “I can’t ever let my work product slip or leave my group hanging, even if that means working on a laptop or at a hotel business center over an entire weekend, except for when I’m on stage. Generally, we are weekend warriors, so I’ve managed to make it work with my job.”
“Right now, I am the most eclectic housewife from Queens you can ever imagine,” Mercedes says. “I worked in the fields of public relations and marketing, and have interests in animal issues, the paranormal, and designing my own stage clothes. My husband is a fantastic man, very cool and supportive of my dedication to play music and he knows how important it is to me. He has gotten sick of hearing me practice at times and fulfilling time-consuming group obligations, so we’ve learned how to balance our time together.”
The payback is worth the planning. Girls Girls Girls has played gigs like The Strippers and Hustlers Ball in Las Vegas and a festival in Colorado where they were side-stage entertainment for three days, playing alongside bands like Queensrÿche. This fall they are touring Mexico.
“It’s all really surreal,” Nilsen says. But part of their success is knowing the band they cover inside and out. “To get your set you have to concentrate on the hits. But I know the good deep cuts everybody else would love, too.” Each of them learns the songs on their own, then come back into the group. “Denise likes to add her own flair,” Nilsen explains.
Ultimately, the members are grateful they’ve been given the opportunities they have and realize, no matter how unlikely something may seem, anything is possible.
“If there is something one wants to accomplish in this life,” Mercedes says. “Just start doing it. The rest will follow.”
“It’s never, ever too late to pick up an instrument,” Kim adds. “I never even considered or dreamed of playing in a band before this, so it’s hard to believe what an important part of my life it has become, and also what the band has become. I have good ol’ Patty to thank for all of that. If you do start playing, if anyone ever comes up to you with the preposterous idea of starting a band together—do it! You never know what might happen.”