Ultimate Interviews

Ultimate Interviews

Wednesday, January 1, 2014


A Rock and Roll Fairy Tale.

What do you get when you take four talented, beautiful women, who have a love of Led Zeppelin's music and put them together in a band? - Zepparella. Not your average fairy-tale. 

Thanks to two of the members meeting over a decade ago in another tribute band, Zepparella has grown to what it is today. Going through some personnel changes, members releasing solo projects, these ladies have no problem when it comes to belting out the classics that all Zeppelin fans long to hear.  Hitting the road and delivering amazing performances, Zepparella knows what it takes to perform the songs many have fallen in love with during Led Zeppelin's career. They do it their way, with style, precision, passion and respect for the music and what it means to so many people.

I've previously had the honor to interview guitarist, Gretchen Menn. You can find her interview 

It's equally an honor to bring to you all this interview, with all four ladies who make up Zepparella. They discuss their favorite tracks to play, their solo projects, their love of Led Zeppelin and much more. 

Without further ado, I give to you Zepparella!

Photo by: Mark Manion

Angeline Saris - Bass    Noelle Doughty - Vocals    Clementine - Drums    Gretchen Menn - Guitar

LZUFP~ When was Zepparella formed, with whom, and currently who are the members? Do you still keep in touch with any past members?

Gretchen:  Zepparella was Clementine's brainchild.  She and I met in AC/DShe about 11 years ago, and we got to a point where we were realizing that we had different musical goals from the rest of our bandmates. The other girls in AC/DShe had turned down a tour for the band to open for Reverend Horton Heat, and Clem and I were in agony about it. On the way to a gig together, we were venting our sadness at having to miss what we saw as an amazing musical opportunity. Clem mentioned that she had always dreamed of starting a Led Zeppelin tribute, and I said I'd love it if she might consider me for it, if she ever decided to make it happen. A few days later, she gave me a list of 15 songs to learn, and told me our first gig was in eight weeks.
Zepparella has had a number of lineup changes, but the most long-term lineup was with Anna Kristina on vocal and Nila on bass. They were eventually ready for a change about three years ago, and the parting was totally amicable. Clem and I weren't ready to stop, though, and we were thrilled to get our current lineup solidified with Noelle Doughty on vocal and Angeline Saris on bass.

Clementine:  Zepparella was formed about nine years ago by me and Gretchen Menn (guitar). Most of the past members are good friends!

LZUFP~ Do you remember your very first Zepparella show? What was the reaction like and what was it about that performance that made you all want to continue playing Zeppelin songs?

Gretchen: The first show was terrifying for me--it was at The Red Devil Lounge in San Francisco, and because I was living in San Diego at the time, we had only had three rehearsals right before the first show, and only eight weeks to learn fifteen Led Zeppelin tunes...'Heartbreaker', 'The Lemon Song', and 'Since I've Been Loving You' were part of our very first setlist. We got a great reaction, despite being light years away from where we currently are. We have always been fortunate to have the sweetest, most supportive audiences. 

Photos by: Matthew McSheehy & Mark Manion

Clementine: You know, I have no memory of our first show! But I'm sure it was rocky but exhilarating   

LZUFP~ What are some of your favorite tracks to play during a Zepparella show and why? Do you ever get requests from the audience to do certain tracks and have you done them?
Gretchen: I tend to favor new additions to the set, which would mean 'How Many More Times' and 'The Wanton Song' are especially fun at the moment. Other enduring favorites are 'Dazed and Confused', 'Kashmir', 'Immigrant Song'. We always get requests--there are SO many great Led Zeppelin songs. We register the songs that get a lot of requests, and bring them up when we discuss new material to add to our set.

Angeline: Favorites to play: 'The Ocean', 'In My Time of Dying', and 'Kashmir'. 

Clementine: My favorites are 'Dazed and Confused' and 'In My Time of Dying', mostly because everyone in the band gets spotlighted in those songs. We get lots of requests for lots of songs, and if we don't play them it means we're thinking about playing them! But some songs just take a lot longer than others.  
Photo by: Sterling Munksgard

Noelle:  We recently added 'How Many More Times' to the set, which has always been one of my favorite Zep tunes. It has a little bit of it all and is so exciting to play and feel. We do get requests--lots of them and we really choose the set list with integrity to the band, the show, and the fans.

LZUFP~ Zeppelin fans usually have certain songs that are sacred and don't want to see "tribute bands" or any artist in general playing them. Are there any songs that you all consider sacred, and would not play during a Zepparella show? 

Photo by: Mark Manion

Gretchen: We realize that Zepparella treads on sacred ground, and aim to with the reverence of disciples. I think people generally see that, and therefore forgive any potential transgression. We decided to leave 'Stairway to Heaven' off limits.

Noelle:  There are many Zep songs that are considered 'holy' or 'sacred'. I find these songs to be the most requested. Zepparella pays tribute to one of the greatest rock bands ever that performed for twelve years, so many fans never had the opportunity to see Led Zep back in the day, and they want to see all of it. Those who had the true Zep experience want to have it again. We are very fortunate to have a wide range of fans--the common thread is this music, which is sacred to all of us. One song  you will not find in the set is 'Stairway', a beautiful epic song that has had a life of its own and doesn't need to be replicated.

LZUFP~ Noelle and Gretchen met backstage at a Robert Plant concert. Were you fortunate to meet Mr. Plant himself, and if so what was that like? Have any members individually or collectively met either Jimmy or John?

Photo by: Sterling Munksgard
Gretchen: I have met Robert Plant twice, and the first time was hilariously regrettable. I had absolutely nothing to say to him. What am I going to say to Robert Plant?!  "Um...Hi...Robert Plant. Um...I play in a Led Zeppelin tribute band...(damn, why did I say that?!) ...Anyway...Excuse me while I go totally regret trying to speak to you." That was about as smooth as I was. Fortunately, Noelle is good friends with him, so I got to meet him again recently. He was awesome and charming--it was amazing getting to hear him tell Clementine stories about Bonzo. I've never met Jimmy or John Paul Jones.

Noelle:  Robert Plant is a musical musing, an innovator, an inspiring singer, and a dear friend. My connection to this music has many layers. Through the years I have experienced these songs brought from the Mississippi Delta to the misty mountains to Marrakech. Robert Plant is constantly reinventing himself and his songs. His current band the Sensational Spaceshifters does a version of 'Whole Lotta Love', which is a tapestry of these influences -incorporating West African rhythms and the Delta Blues as a seamless stunning rendition.  My meeting Robert long ago and faraway was a fortuitous event which is what we also call the meeting of Gretchen and myself backstage at his show a couple years back. When I first  joined Zepparella, Gretchen would tell the story at our meeting and give thanks to him for delivering me to the band. I too am very thankful. I have met Jimmy Page and John Paul Jones as well and saw many amazing shows over the years. Now I have the honor of sharing this music and the stage with three incredibly talented women. It's a blessing!

LZUFP~ I think what sets Zepparella aside from other tribute bands, is that each member has their 'OWN' career. You all seem to carry on side projects, do you find it easy to put Zep on a break, go out and do other things, then come back together? Do you all keep in touch when not playing together in Zepparella?

Photo by: Mark Manion
Noelle: There is a consistency with us as a group and our connection to the music. It's easy to put on that hat because I feel like I never really take it off. It's always fun and inspiring to come back together after a break and fill each other in on all the other projects. We have a collective sense of  humor that ties us together pretty strongly no matter how long we see one another.
Photo by: Mark Manion

Angeline: Yes, I find it easy to make the switch between various projects. I think that is just part of being a full-time gigging musician...you always have to be ready for whatever comes down the pipe. Although, it is always a treat to get together with the girls and play Zeppelin!

Gretchen: Zepparella is absolutely the most comfortable and low-maintenance band in which I've ever played, especially considering how busy we are with gigs. We get together once in a while to rehearse new material, but are all pretty diligent about doing our homework beforehand, so it goes quickly. We sometimes have breaks of a few weeks when we are busy with our other projects, but it always feels easy and fun to get back together. We do sometimes hang out outside of gigs, but tend to see a lot of each other in any given month. That is why it has been so important to me to have bandmates whom I genuinely like as individuals--we simply spend way too much time together for me not to adore them!

LZUFP~ What is your favorite Led Zeppelin moment that you could share with us?

Photo by: Mark Manion
Gretchen:  I don't think I could ever pick a favorite...When I first heard 'When the Levee Breaks', was a big one--that was in the bedroom of my best friend in high school, and it was the song that made me fall in love with Led Zeppelin. But I still get chills from Zeppelin, and still uncover new aspects of the music that delight me.

Clementine: Mine involves being on the floor of a van hurtling through darkness to a festival in the middle of nowhere with fun people with me, listening to 'Immigrant Song' at top volume.

LZUFP~  What was it about Zeppelin that made you want to be in a tribute band? What was the first Zep song you learned?

Gretchen: Led Zeppelin has immense musical spectrum and is a guitarist's amusement park--I get to play some of the greatest rock riffs of all time, learn Jimmy's solos as note for note as I can hear them, work out arrangements for covering multiple recorded guitar tracks (like using double stops to play both lines of harmonized parts), play slide in a number of songs, abuse a Les Paul with a bow...and I still have the Theremin and acoustic set to tackle when we decide it's time for those! Zeppelin's emotional spectrum is expansive as well, which gives a huge variety in any given night. The first Zep song I ever learned was actually one we rarely do--'D'yer Mak'er.'

Clementine: I love that we can get inside of some of the songs and improvise. It means that even though I'm playing within the structure of someone else's parts, I get to continually explore who I am as a musician. I think 'The Ocean' was the first one.
Photo by: Mark Manion

Noelle:  Seeing Angeline, Gretchen and Clementine bring what they do to this music made me want to be part of it. There was never a thought of being in a Zep cover band before them--although it is my absolute favorite music. My first experience singing Led Zep was when I was fifteen, at my high school Battle of the Bands--'Communication Breakdown'!!!!

Angeline: The music of Zeppelin reminds me of my youth. We used to drive around in my best friend's car and blast 'Ramble On', 'Kashmir', 'Stairway'...Those were special times and Zeppelin helped to make them feel that way. Plus, the music of Zeppelin is raw and powerful and the musicianship of each member was amazing. You can't really beat that!

LZUFP~ To many it would be a dream come true to play in front of Jimmy, Robert and John. If the group had that opportunity what would be the one song you would want to play that you think would showcase your talent, and pay honor to them the most?

Photo by: Mark Manion

Gretchen: 'Dazed and Confused' is the first that comes to mind--our version has elements of improvisation (critical to honoring the spirit of Led Zeppelin, in my opinion), but within the context of the song we have studied deeply and learned thoroughly.

Clementine: 'In My Time of Dying'.

Noelle: It's likely that each of us have a different answer because during a set we all have our moments at different times, different songs. 'Kashmir' stands out for me as one that could be a common denominator.

Angeline: 'The Lemon Song'

LZUFP~ If you could describe Zepparella in one sentence what would it be?

Gretchen: Valkyries honoring the music and spirit of Led Zeppelin.

Clementine: Amazing people playing timeless music to wonderful audiences.


LZUFP~ In a business that's predominately male driven, what piece of advice can you give to girls/women who may be thinking of getting into the music business, but fearful of not being looked at seriously because of the stereotype that only men can rock?

Gretchen: I think most of the advice I could give is equally applicable for guys and girls. Stereotypes can become limitations if we believe them and let them form our view of ourselves. My best advice on that topic is this: Don't be the stereotype you wish didn't exist. Set your goals and work hard in furtherance of them. If you want to be taken seriously, take what you do seriously and strive for excellence. Don't waste time or energy worrying about what bigots of any sort think. You're not creating for them. Don't play or write music with a chip on your shoulder or with anything to prove--the result will be music that is ridden with ego and insecurities. Remember there are inherent obstacles for everyone. Determine the best strategies for dealing with areas that are most challenging while also identifying and taking advantage of your natural talents.

Artists should aim to be forward-thinking, hard-working, and fearless. Get into music not because you believe it will be easy, because it is what you love and what you want to do. As a business, music can be difficult, uncertain, and not lucrative, even at the highest level of talent and dedication. Yet as an art and a creative path, it can be endlessly rewarding. Always be learning and growing; always look for new challenges; always keep your ears open. Be good to yourself and those around you. Enlist mentors and teachers who inspire you and help you reach your goals. Above all, always keep focused on what drives you to play and create music. 

Photo by: Will Bucquoy

Angeline: First off, I think it's important for girls/women to get inspired by those who have already been rocking for years. Look at Carol Kaye (bass), Jennifer Batten (guitar), or Cindy Blackman (drums). Or most recent additions to the scene like Tal Wilkenfeld, Rhonda Smith, Esperanza Spalding, or Ida Funkhouser (Ida Kristine Nielsen). They are all amazing. 

Much like any career, if you want to be taken seriously, then take pride in what you do. That means acting professional, putting in the time it takes to really know know your instrument, committing to a regular and consistent practice routine, showing up on time, being prepared and having a good attitude. Once you have those things in place, the respect will follow. Most importantly, remember to have fun!


Zepparella is continuously touring and perfecting their act, all while remembering to have fun. Recently they ventured north of the US border to Vancouver. Personally, I hope they continue to tour in Canada and come my way, as I would love to attend one of their shows. While each member has their own career and interests that take them in different, yet equally as good directions, when they regroup to play the Zeppelin classics, it's clear these four become one on stage and deliver an amazing show and leaving audiences entertained and wanting more.  They do so with love, passion, intensity and a great amount of respect for the music and the individuals who made up Led Zeppelin. Be sure to check out their official website for tour dates, media and much more.

I think it's safe to say this is one fairy tale that can have a 'happily ever after' ending.


Extra special thanks to Gretchen, Noelle, Clementine and Angeline for being so wonderful and accommodating.

Thank you to all photographers credited for photos.
Will Bucuoy: Official Facebook
Mark Manion: Official Website
Sterling Munksgard: SterlingMunksgardPhotography-Facebook
Matthew McSheehy: Official Website


Top find out more about Zepparella, including tour dates, media and full biographies:
Official Website

Follow Zepparella on:

Official Twitter
Official Facebook Page

Individual Members:
Clementine on Facebook
Official Clementine Website

Gretchen on Facebook
Official Gretchen Menn Website
Gretchen on Twitter

Noelle on Facebook
Noelle on Twitter

Angeline on Facebook
Official Angeline Website
Angeline on Twitter

Booking Agency
Leafy Green Booking Agency


Follow Led Zeppelin~Ultimate Fan Page:
LZUFP on Facebook
LZUFP on Twitter
LZUFP on Tumblr


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