In late 2016 Stephanie Jo Murck, the lead singer of Sass, finally found her own voice—literally and figuratively.
A self-taught guitarist, Murck has played in local bands Cherry Cola and Tony Peachka, and the experience of singing lead vocals on a few tracks for the latter stirred up her confidence a bit. She told a few friends she’d been writing her own music; to her surprise, three of them—Joey Hays, Alex McCormick, and Willem Vander Ark—immediately volunteered to play her music. Each of these musicians has made a contribution to Sass’s sweet but prickly indie-pop sound, but it’s Murck’s songwriting that sets the band apart.
Early last month, Sass released Wet Paint, a collection of four songs in which Murck’s clear, sharp voice ducks and weaves as it navigates the struggles of life. It’s an album wracked with self-doubt but also infused with optimism, and Murck’s life was the raw material from which she drew her lyrics. Her goal now is to be even more vocal about her personal experience, in the hope that this will help her be even more honest in her songwriting.
“I talk from my point of view a lot because if I’ve gained any strength or wisdom from my negative experiences, I can use that to help someone heal faster,” Murck says. “During a recent show at the Hexagon, I talked about how I was sexually abused as a child, because I want to write about it someday. For now, admitting that it happened, saying it out loud, and not being afraid helps other people be less afraid. Then it won’t be so hidden.”
And Sass has been a way for Murck to become even more involved with the music community that so much of her world revolves around. “Music is the most important thing to me,” she says. “I didn’t go to college, but I’ve invested so much in this. I teach guitar, and I work at a music venue and record store. I feel I can connect people and make a difference in the world. It’s hard to know how to do that, but music can communicate ideas to so many people.”