There aren't a whole lot of women fronting bands in Anchorage at the moment, and even more rare is a woman singing the lead in one of the harder musical genres. But Stephanie Plate has done just that for the past 10 years as a founding member of Thera, which just returned from a tour to the UK with 36 Crazy Fists.
Plate grew up in Soldotna, where she sang in church and school choirs from a young age. Shortly after graduating from high school, she was playing acoustic music in coffee shops and at open mics when she decided to try out for a new band "because I was really terrible at playing guitar," she says. She got the gig, and among her new bandmates was her future husband, Ronnie Plate, whom she'd never met despite their living in the same town and attending Skyview High School together.
The band relocated to Anchorage soon after forming, where Plate studied at University of Alaska Anchorage (she graduated with a degree in civil engineering in 2009). Moving to a bigger city helped develop Thera's sound, which Plate describes as somewhere between hard rock and metal. Ten years later, the Plates are the only two original members left, and Dustin Murr (drums), Mason Venhaus (guitar, vocals) and Steven Cornfield (bass, synths) fill out the group.
Plate said being married to a bandmate hasn't been difficult, probably because she and her husband learned to work together on music before they started dating. "We've built our relationship around this hobby we have," she says.
The Plates recently moved back to Soldotna and commute to meet bandmates, who live in Anchorage and Eagle River. Distance didn't prevent Thera from putting together their latest EP, 2012's "From the North," which was produced and engineered in Atlanta by Matt Goldman (Underoath, Casting Crowns, The Chariot).
Plate says that while she rocks out on stage, she tends to be quiet and introverted in her daily life.
"It's a way to get out of my shell for a little bit," Plate says. "I really belt when I sing, and I can't do that when I'm not fronting a rock band."
1. What was the hardest thing for you to do as an musician?
Stephanie Plate: Compromising on musical ideas within the band. Once I get an idea of how a part should be it's really hard for me to let it go if the guys don't agree. We've had to implement the voting system in Thera.
2. Pine Christmas tree or plastic?
SP: Plastic. I'm not a fan of cleaning pine needles.
3. Who helped you the most when you were learning to be a musician?
SP: My dad taught me how to sing like I meant it when I was little, and I've been belting ever since.
4. What's your guilty pleasure song or artist?
SP: Nickelback... just kidding, those guys are the worst. I would probably have to say OneRepublic. I know it's total pop garbage -- I just can't help but love them.
5. Complete the following sentence: If I wasn't fronting a hard rock band I would be:
SP: So bored. I'd have to pick up a hobby... there's only so much TV and red wine a person can consume.