If you were on the New Jersey and New York club scene back in the day you should no doubt remember the band LITTLE SISTER. The talented Janet Rains fronted the band, which she formed in 1988, after a stint with local NJ act VIRGIN SURGEON.
The band quickly went on to play with a diverse number of acts including LEATHERWOLF, SARAYA, WHITE LION, TT QUICK, ROUGHHOUSE and DANGER DANGER all the while trying for that elusive major label record deal. But female-fronted hard rock bands were a hard thing to sell at the time. Janet says she actually had a guy at Atco Records who loved her songs and really liked the band look straight at her and say ‘Look. Girls just don’t cut it in rock’.
The band recorded several demos during their time together. One such song, “Way of the World” made it into regular rotation on WSOU radio in NJ and is a song that is still lyrically current these days. Janet says of the track “it is about how we’re destroying the earth and if we want to survive, and have the earth survive, we need to change our ways”. The song was recorded at the old RCA Studio in New York City and featured a host local talent at the time helping out. Members of the bands TNA, TOUR DE FORCE and RU READY all lent a helping hand on background vocals. Even Frank Bello from ANTHRAX was supposed to be on the song, says Janet, but he got lost on the way to the studio!
LITTLE SISTER also went on to showcase in Los Angeles, CA at the Foundations Forum Music Convention. They were one of 18 unsigned bands from across America to get picked for it. Janet tells a great story about that experience… “They had one event where a panel of the who's who in the biz critiqued your song after playing it overhead in this convention hall filled with about 1,000 people. They introduced us, had us stand up before the song, and I did notice Gary Cherone of EXTREME kind of did a double take when we were sitting back down. So they played our song "Fight to win". We got the loudest applause and some standing ovation actually. And the first thing from the celebrity panel was Gary Cherone asking, “Was that a girl singing?” And my band made me stand up again... briefly. And he said, “Man. you've got some set of BALLS!” And the whole convention center went nuts with applause. Back then, I sounded like a dude. Many people who heard us on WSOU first before seeing us would come to shows and say, “I thought you were a guy!”
The band ultimately broke up in May of 1992 as Janetsays, “It was time to let it go. Too many member changes and it felt like it lost its momentum”. Not long after the band broke up Janet’s Dad passed away in Las Vegas and it lead to an amazing journey for her out west. She says she needed that to grow spiritually and just deal with the grieving. It was while she was out there that she got to see longtime friend Ray Gillen (BADLANDS) for the last time. She had no idea he was sick and would pass away the following year. It was Gillen who was one of the first people to tell Janet she could sing back when she was in her teens.
Janet still has contact with some of the other former members of the band. She’s still in touch with bassist Steve “Witch” Witschell and guitarist Jeff “Steele” Zugale. Jeff is in LA now and the last time she saw him was when she was in LA on tour with KINGS X when she was engaged to guitarist TY TABOR about five years ago.
Janet has done a lot since the days of LITTLE SISTER. She’s gone onto play with Liz Phair’s band on the “LILITH FAIR” tour where she shared the stage with acts like Sheryl Crow and Sarah McLachlan and also appeared on TV shows with Phair like the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” and “Rosie O’Donnell”. She’s also done some jingle work and even worked as a background actor in TV and film, appearing in shows such as “Sex & the City”, “Law & Order” and “Ugly Betty” and films such as “Hitch” and “The Devil Wears Prada” among others. Currently she co-fronts a New Wave band named M80 (www.myspace.com/m80band) and plays around the North East.
Janet simply says “hey, I’ve led and interesting life… what can I say?”
So, here’s to a great local NJ band from back in the day that I think should have made it. At least I can say I “Still Believe”. Do you?
If you want to see what else Janet is up to these days you can visit her at www.myspace.com/M80Redhead
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