Brenna Leath has an unusual technique for keeping her powerful, soulful voice in shape for fronting her hard rock band, The Hell No: She exercises daily with a jump rope.
“You jump rope continually for at least five minutes a day,” Leath explains. “It builds up your lung capacity and reinforces your vocal abilities.”
That ability is key for singing for hours over loud electric guitars and drums. The Hell No, a Raleigh-based group that formed three years ago, is known for its bluesy style of rock ’n’ roll with heavy metal influences and often dark, brooding melodies.
The band’s hard-to-characterize sound draws comparisons to musicians as diverse as The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Janis Joplin and Iron Maiden. “I feel like our fans are as diverse as our music is,” Leath said.
On Friday, The Hell No will release its new six-song CD, “Neither Beginning Nor End,” with a performance at The Pour House Music Hall in downtown Raleigh.
“I definitely think it’s a little harder (rock) than the first EP was,” Leath said. “We branched out into more complex songwriting.”
Having majored in English in college, Leath’s songwriting is often influenced by literature. The new release even has a song based on a short story by William Faulkner.
“Some of the songs I write are influenced by the primal, the gothic, the grotesque,” she said. “I love the metal trend of taking mythology and kind of expounding upon it. ... I believe that music and poetry are inextricably related.”
Other songs, however, stay in the more familiar territory of life, relationships and “the extended adolescence that our twenties seems to be turning into,” she said.
For now, The Hell No is a part-time project for Leath and her bandmates, many of whom juggle day jobs with songwriting and rehearsals. In addition to Leath, the current lineup features guitarist Adam Johnson, bass player Ash Lopez and drummer Dave McDonald.
The band plays mostly local shows, though they’re planning an East Coast tour in March. In the recording studio, The Hell No sticks to making shorter CDs to keep the process affordable and meet fans’ demand for new releases.
Leath said she wouldn’t mind making a living with the band, but that’s not the main objective. “I’ve had more than a few fans tell me our music has helped them get through hard times,” she said. “That’s probably more important than ‘making it.’”