Saturday, September 24, 2011

MTV News Staff Report You Hear It First

By: Unknown
Date: June 25th, 2002

 Just as Kurt and Courtney did in the early '90s, a new couple bonded in musical matrimony is carrying the punk rock torch into the 21st century.
The Distillers, fronted by 22-year-old Australian Brody Armstrong — wife of Rancid guitarist Tim Armstrong — re-appropriate time-tested punk rock to vigorously expel the angst of modern-day problems such as broken homes, adhering to media-constructed image ideals and dealing with overly critical self-reflection.

On par with Brody's punk ethos, there's also a bit of riot grrrl lurking beneath the six-inch stalagmites that protrude from her scalp. On "Seneca Falls," off the band's second album, Sing Sing Death House, released in February, she belts, "Susan B. Anthony, forever haunting me/ Owned raped sold thrown, a woman was never her own/ They cried freedom rise up for me" as if she's intent on making these words her last before blowing out her voice completely.

Not since Courtney Love wanted to be the girl with the most cake has a woman so embraced her role as a sleazy punk femme fatale on par with the first woman to push the role to the extreme, the Plasmatics' Wendy O. Williams. With so many immediate comparisons and that ever-present "women who rock" tag hinged upon her every move, Armstrong might have buckled under such extraneous pressures, but she'll leave that to a chick without cojones.

"I don't feel vulnerable," Armstrong said of being subject to the criticism. "I don't really give a f--- about what people think. It's just whatever I'm feeling at the time."

The unabashed approach encompasses the band's attitude as well as their songs. Each member had a less-than-idyllic homelife that left him or her scarred but full of fodder for the group's musical eruptions.

"We all kinda come from the same place, you know," drummer Andy Outbreak said.
"I think [for] every writer, your life experiences impact your writing," Armstrong explained. "I mean, that's what it's all about, you know. That's always been an outlet for me and many other people."

Singer/ guitarist Armstrong sowed the seeds of the group in 1998 with co-worker Kim Chi, who became the band's original bassist. The pair hooked up with Detroit guitarist Rose and drummer Matt (no last names given). After Brody's wedding to Tim Armstrong, they recorded The Distillers, which was released by Hellcat Records - the Rancid guitarist's Epitaph-distributed imprint - in 2000. 

After the album's release, Kim departed (she's now playing alongside X's Exene Cervenka in the Original Sinners) and was replaced by surname-free Ryan. When Matt exited (he's now in the Original Sinners as well), drummer Outbreak filled the void. Though she appears on Sing Sing Death House, Rose also vacated her slot, leaving the band a power trio with considerable clout.

Having a member of Rancid in the Distillers' musical family has its perks, even beyond the obvious one that led to their signing. The punk veterans also serve as proof that a band can be successful without diverting from their punk ideals. "One thing that we've learned from Rancid," Brody said, "is how to keep your family functional. ... Basically do what you want to do and not take sh-- from anybody."

In their two-year recording career, the Distillers have already garnered praise from the punk rock community, as well as others who have long since graduated from the scene, such as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Having recently completed a European tour, the band has lined up a nine-date California tour with the Transplants, the moonlighting affair of Tim Armstrong, Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and singer Rob Aston, who will drop their debut album in October.

If the Distillers' ship seems to be taking off, Ryan isn't ready to become uprooted from his punk philosophy. "I don't really think 'Stardom, here we come,' " Ryan said. "I'm just happy that we can play music."