Butcher Babies have built their career on defying expectations. A typical rock fan would be more likely to visualize Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey on their boyfriends' shoulders at a metal show, not holding down center stage. Likewise, Shepherd's Mormon parents probably didn't anticipate that their daughter would one day be fronting a metal band topless except for some strategically placed electrical tape.
"It's always been a double-edged sword for us," says Detroit-bred brunette Harvey. "It's opened a lot of doors to us that might have been closed to an all-male band, but there was also a stigma attached to it. People thought we were a gimmick because we were female-fronted."
Harvey moved to Los Angeles for music, but also did some acting and spent time as an entertainment reporter on the Playboy Channel. Shepherd was a radio disc jockey in Salt Lake City before moving to Los Angeles and winding up on Playboy's Sirius channel, among other gigs. They met each other in a punk cover band and decided to make original music together. They called themselves Butcher Babies, a reference to the debut single by their shared inspiration, the Plasmatics' Wendy O. Williams.
"We're basically her little protégés," says Shepherd. "From the original attire — which we haven't worn in years— to the whole attitude of the band, everything is inspired by Wendy O. And I don't understand how it couldn't be, because being she's pretty much the first female in heavy metal, paving the way for us."
To accompany the band's eponymous 2012 EP, Harvey penned a comic book that she and Shepherd handed out to breathless fanboys at San Diego's Comic Con International. After signing to extreme metal label Century Media (Lacuna Coil, Iced Earth, Deicide), they went on to release last year's full-length debut, Goliath, which ranges from the hard-charging Motörhead pulse of "Grim Sleeper" to the breakdown-laden conventional metal balladry of "The Mirror Never Lies." There's also a glam-core ode to dissolute L.A. lifestyles, "Magnolia Blvd.," which suggests Thrill Kill Kult gone a little Pantera.
Late last month, the quintet released their five-song Uncovered EP, featuring covers of Suicidal Tendencies, Stormtroopers of Death (S.O.D.), ZZ Top, and Napoleon XIV. Oh, and also the Osmond Brothers. Growing up in Provo, Utah, a 7-year-old Shepherd fell hard for the Osmonds' song "Crazy Horses."
"That opening riff was the heaviest thing I had ever heard," she says. "I would play it loud and proud through the house. It would get me in trouble by my neighbors when I was babysitting my siblings."
Shepherd ultimately broke with the Church of Latter Day Saints because "you weren't allowed to face your demons. You had to hide and suppress them. And if you did face them, you were shunned." Similarly, the biracial Harvey has been driven to search for her own identity. It's something they share with guitarist Henry Flury, bassist Jason Klein and drummer Chris Warner, who've all been there since the beginning.
"All of us learned in different ways to gravitate to the people we wanted to be, rather than the people we were taught to be," says Shepherd. "I'm definitely a completely different person than I was raised to be. Carla is as well. It's about facing those issues you had as a child and facing them in a positive way."