Sunday, October 02, 2011

Web Exclusive: A conversation with Spinnerette's Brody Dalle

By: Brian Shultz
Date: December 17th, 2008

Brody Dalle: Libertine. Mom. "Art-focused." Bears a tattoo that says, "Fuck off." These are probably familiar traits to diehard fans of Dalle's former punk-rock ensemble, the Distillers, who broke up in 2006. But they seem to take greater precedent these days for Dalle, whose newest endeavor, SPINNERETTE, are finally getting off the ground. The band recently released their debut EP, Ghetto Love, via digital means, and have plans to unleash the self-titled full-length early next year. Though the touring lineup will be drastically different from the recording one--which includes ex-members of Queens Of The Stone Age, Eleven, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam, as well as former Distillers guitarist Tony Bevilacqua--Dalle seems confident with her newest assemblage. Brian Shultz recently talked with her about this, what changed about her from the Distillers to Spinnerette and the brief falling out with Warner Bros. imprint Sire Records.

You've been pretty quiet in the last few years, but you've been contributing to bands outside of Spinnerette--like Eagles Of Death Metal and Queens Of The Stone Age. What else have you been up to?
Well, singing background vocals on [QOTSA's] Lullabies To Paralyze wasn't really taking up too much of my time. I've been raising my daughter, and for the last two years writing and recording for [the Spinnerette] record... And making guest appearances I guess [Laughs.].

Were you avoiding talking to media publications or was it just that you were so busy with your new family?
I wasn't intentionally doing anything. I've just been very deep in life and there wasn't really any reason for me to be talking about anything, because I have nothing to show or offer until now. That's generally the way it goes with press.

You've mentioned wanting to do a more "art-focused" project and have more creative control in this than the Distillers.
Well, I feel like with the Distillers we went under the punk-rock moniker and it's not that I don't love punk rock, because I do. Some of my favorite records are punk-rock records; It fucking says "Fuck off" on my arm. I still feel like a libertine. That hasn't gone away. But what has gone away is the fact that I used to censor myself or edit myself because I was too concerned with "the kids," as they say. Stuff I listen to nowadays is more art-focused, more experimental and more out there. Things like Ratatat, and a friend of ours, [U.K. electronica DJ] Adam Freeland did a remix of "Sex Bomb" [from the upcoming full-length] which I'm totally in love with. With Spinnerette, I stopped censoring myself or editing myself and...whatever it was, even if I felt a little embarrassed because it was too poppy or, for whatever reason, it felt good to just let it go and dig really deep.

What else have you been listening to?
One of my favorite bands of all time are Hunters & Collectors. They're an Australian band that have been around for fucking 25 or 30 years. I was raised with their music, which was really kind of industrial and experimental in the '80s. I wanted to go back to that, and my earliest memories of music. Just spreading my wings, I guess.

Oh, and Pailhead. There's another example. Also, Roky Erickson; one of my favorite records is his Gremlins Have Pictures. He wasn't pretending to be anything. He really was crazy, and that's beautiful, because it's poetry. I listen to everything from [my] childhood--from Neneh Cherry to Hunters & Collectors, Tom Petty, Tom Waits. Not anything specific. Just a really broad range of stuff that feels good to listen to.

When did you start to feel like you were losing some control with the Distillers?
I had creative control in the Distillers until we signed to a major record label and they were expecting things from us that had more to do with [artwork] that we were releasing. We had to make two covers. It didn't mean we couldn't release the cover that we wanted to--it just didn't end up in Walmart or fucking Target or whatever. But it was more of a personal censorship. I mean, of course they wanted me to [write] pop hits, or pop-punk or whatever. But I never really accepted that, nor would I ever indulge that. Coral Fang was an organic thing. [But] I'm talking more about censoring myself as far as creative control myself. I [was] controlling myself, and that had to go. This internal Jekyll and Hyde--[Laughs.]--to put out a song or write a song and let it just happen.

Your press release says that the upcoming album is inspired by the birth of your daughter and death of your father, and explores "redemption, salvation, and religious themes." Is the EP a snapshot of that?
Yeah. Just to satiate, because it's such a struggle figuring out how to put my record out in these times. It's taken so long for something to come along and now it'll be released at the end of February [or] early March. In the meantime, we are just putting out this little taster. It's three songs off the record and a B-side called "Bury My Heart," an interlude. Something to give [as] a Christmas present, to start the ball rolling, because it has been so long.

What was the catalyst that caused you to leave Warner Bros. imprint Sire Records?
It just wasn't a relationship that worked for either party anymore. It was distressing at [the] time, but when I look back at it now, it's not as bad as I thought it was. It's just that humans fundamentally need security. We also need to be able to see a clear path to where we're going. Sometimes a giant rock falls in your path and it takes a month to figure out how to climb over it, and that was that. It was a defunct relationship.

I think those labels are trying to figure out how to fucking save their asses. And artists are trying to figure out how they're gonna get their music out there without signing their life away--360 deals, which [are] just insanity.

So it just wasn't working anymore. And they let me walk away with my record, which I was so grateful for, because they could've totally fucked me. I had enough of a cordial relationship where it ended okay.

Were there specific disagreements you can recall?
I think the quote was, "[Spinnerette are] not enough of a departure from the Distillers"...which is, in my opinion, ridiculous. [Laughs.]

A lot of labels would actually like if something wasn't that much of a departure from a previous band because they already know how to market it.
Exactly. Honestly, I think they're just struggling to figure out how to sell music these days, and I don't directly fit into some sort of box anymore. So I think you're right--it was too much for them. They don't have the time to do that right now. They need to be putting out their...not that Katy Perry's on that label, but they need something that's definite. [Immediate] success; a one-hit wonder; something that's gonna pop immediately. I want a career like Dolly Parton. I want to be playing for a long time.

How have the past few years filtered into the songwriting?
It’s funny, because sometimes I write a song and I have no idea what it’s about until afterward. It’ll take a couple months after it resonates. Sometimes the writing is prophetic. Like, you prophesize things. I want to be able to write more subconscious stuff–letting it out and then realizing after the fact that it might mean something.

The lineup that recorded Ghetto Love – bassist Alain Johannes, guitarist Tony Bevilacqua and drummer Jack Irons – that lineup won’t be touring, right?
No. I decided this time because it was so heartbreaking for me to go through so many lineup changes in my band, trying to find people that fit that I [made it a temporary thing for others]. And that would mean people could come and go as they please and they were happy. I wrote most of my record with Alain. I took my songs to him and he [worked with] them, and then Jack–obviously the connection there is because of Alain. Tony is one of my best friends in the whole world, and he’s always gonna be my guitar player. We made the record together that way and for all these reasons couldn’t tour. We had lives. So we had to go out and find people [to tour] and that was kind of a struggle. It took a long time. It took months and months and months, actually. We have a whole entire different lineup. It didn’t work out, so I found some real well-rounded people. I think the older you get, the less you’re willing to put up with someone else’s shit. Nor would you expect anyone else to put up with yours, so finding people who are great players and great people was scathingly hard. Because a lot of the time you find these incredible artists who are genius at whatever they do, but all this baggage comes with them, and I just don’t have the time to [deal with] that anymore.
I found really great people. One of them is [bassist] Nicole Fiorentino. She was in a band called Radio Vago, who actually played years and years ago with the Distillers. She is so sweet. So sweet. Really great. [Guitarist] [Bryan] Tulao. And Dave Hidalgo Jr., who was in Suicidal Tendencies and is also in the Drips with Tony, and Joby [J. Ford] and Matt [Caughthran] from the Bronx. I talked to Joby last night; he’s a sweetheart. I love those boys. So it’s a big group of people.

So you didn’t really have to look too far outside your network of friends?
I mean, in a roundabout way it’s funny how fate intervenes. Or things that are meant to be because things happen for a reason. It came together in the end.

Was the difficulty in finding a touring lineup part of the reason you took so long to properly unveil things?
Absolutely. Of course. In between trying to figure out how to put out the music and then finding people to play live and be a part of this, and then remastering multiple times has taken a year-and-a-half. I think. It’s been a year…it was a year in October, but we were still recording. So yeah. It’s been a year. But the thing is, I’m still writing, so we might release an EP as well as a full album. We’re still recording with Alain.

What are some of the challenges you’ve come across being independent for the first time in a decade or so?
Finding the money to get the music out there; to get the promotion. I mean, that’s really what you need, is promotion. But these days with the internet, it’s not so necessary. If something’s good, it will travel far. So it’s not necessary to have big dollars behind you anymore. It’s just about having big ideas–and good ideas.
Right now we’re with Rush’s label [Anthem Records]. Their manager started a label because no one would sign them, [whether] can you believe [it] or not. They just made $35 million last year or something crazy like that. Just from touring. [ Rush's two consecutive Snakes & Arrows tours, spanning June 2007 to July 2008, reportedly accrued a total of $39.3 million. - Ed. Note] That’s ironically where we’ve ended up–an independent label getting distribution deals.

I definitely hear a bit of Queens Of The Stone Age on the EP. Would you say that’s more you being influenced by them or just Alain’s presence?
I have a hard time seeing it. But I think the level of playing–the professionalism as far as the playing goes, because I can’t play like that. Alain, my co-writer and [a] really good friend, is at that level. He’s ridiculous. His talent is monumental. His playing is out of this world. So I think that probably is what you’re hearing–the level of professionalism that you don’t hear in the Distillers, because none of us can play like that. So I can understand that you can hear that, and that’s what it means. That’s what it is.

I’m sure you wouldn’t call the Distillers unprofessional to any extent, but was that part of the band’s character?
Yeah, I mean, we were young kids–20, 21, 23–when it kind of took off… [It was] a totally different thing. We kind of grew up together. Binge drinking doesn’t really hold the same appeal to me anymore.
[Laughs]. But back then…