Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Distillers

Written and edited by: Angélica Albuquerque

  “We don't rest in peace, we just disappear.” – Taken from “City of Angels


     On April 8, 1997, Brody Dalle (Brody Armstrong at the time) moved from Melbourne to Los Angeles to stay with Tim Armstrong (her first husband), leaving behind her first band, Sourpuss, and then forming a new musical project which she take the name from a distillery in Melbourne: “I saw it one this distillery in Melbourne; I'm from Australia originally. I lived in Geelong when I was 16, which is this small, industrial beach town. It's an hour outside of Melbourne, so you had to catch the train and one day I went by this distillery. It was falling down and looked like it was haunted by some cypress trees-it said The Distillers on the top, like 1878. I through it was a great name for a band, so I always kept it.”

     The Distillers was born in late 1998 when Brody found drummer Matt Young and bassist Kim Fuellerman in the offices of Epitaph Records. As a power trio, the band released through Hellcat Records (owned by Tim Armstrong) in 1999 a self titled 7-inch vinyl with four tracks: “Old Scratch”, “Colossus USA”, “LA Girl” and “Blackheart”.

     But Brody seems to have felt a need for extra help on guitar, and two weeks before recording The Distillers' first full length, she found Rose Casper Mazzola through a friend.

      The album that marked the debut of the quartet and was named The Distillers (like the EP), took three weeks to be done and according to Brody, the process was anguishing because she have never had recorded a full-length before. The album was then released on April 25, 2000 via Hellcat Records and Epitaph (owned by Brett Gurewitz from Bad Religion). From this release, the band's lineup changed several times.

     Kim was the first to leave the Distillers to join Exene Cervenka (from the legendary punk band X) in her new band, Original Sinners. Her footsteps were followed by drummer Matt.
At the time, the Distillers was close to joining a tour with Rancid and AFI, so Brody immediately began to fill vacant posts.
the-distillers-biography-brody-dalle     She met the drummer Andy Granelli when the Distillers did some concerts with his former band, The Nerve Agents. So Brody called to see if he could help her during this tour and if he could also get a bass player, as Andy once told: “She called me and said, ‘There’s this Rancid tour that the Distillers are doing, and we’re leaving in two weeks. Can you do it? And can you find us a bass player?’ I thought, Yeah, I can do that, so I quit my job [he worked in San Francisco folding T-shirts at a snowboard clothing store]. And I found this bass player, Dante — I said, let’s just go on tour, let’s do it, we’ve got nothing else to do. And I just sort of stayed on, it always felt right.

However, Dante didn't work with the Distillers and went to other projects. Once again the band was looking for a member two weeks before recording the new album.
     It was then that Ryan Sinn appeared. He worked at a toy / comic books / CD's store in Fremont, called Axis Records and Comics and Andy knew him for years as a guitarist of black metal. Ryan recalled how he was recruited: “He asked me, ‘Can you play bass? And I said no. Then I went away and thought about it and decided to try. Now it feels more natural to me than playing guitar.

    Casper stayed until the finalization of the second album, Sing Sing Death House, but Brody couldn't tolerate anymore her lack of professionalism and then expelled Casper from the Distillers: “I kicked Rose out of my band for being a promiscuous, drug-addicted teenager I couldn't handle anymore. I abandoned my false daughter!

     Sing Sing Death House, whose title was inspired by the documentary “Inside the Sing Sing Death House” (about the maximum security prison Sing Sing Correctional Facility), was released on June 6, 2002 and its recording sessions were not so good: “We did it in a studio on Hollywood Boulevard in two weeks, and in those two weeks [one of the tech people] went on a crack binge, which took four days out of those two weeks we had to record. It was so rushed — it was like a song was written and practiced and recorded because we didn’t have any kind of time to go back and rethink it,” Andy stated.
     Andy also told that the record hasn't reached the capacities of the Distillers at the moment although it has gotten good reviews for the band, new fans and the opportunity to tour with No Doubt and Garbage in 2002/2003.
By the way, at the end of this tour and just before the band traveled to Japan, Brody decided to call Tony Bradley Bevilacqua (who has worked with the band as a salesman and later as a roadie) to be an official member of the Distillers: “It was totally instinctual. He’s a great fucking guitar player,Brody said.

     Also in 2003, Brody divorced, changed her surname from Armstrong to Dalle (in honor of her favorite actress, Beátrice Dalle, the movie star of “Betty Blue”) and the band signed with Sire Records, a major label owned by Warner Music Group.

     Coral Fang was released on October 14, 2003 but it didn’t reached the punks purists fans of The Distillers because it was an album very different from the other two. Andy explained the reason behind this change: “We kinda wanted to do something different, just not the same-old, same-old. Something that's more exciting, but at the same time, still who we are — still the Distillers. Don't expect your typical punk rock record from us. We've kind of shown we can do that, so let's explore more of the different styles of music that we're into.” And Brody told: “Our music has matured on this album… Though we haven’t, we’re still a punk band, we still play punk music, and we still hate you.”

     But the album, which was inspired by the moment of transition in which Brody's life went on, had a good reception in general and led the band to play on the stages of Lollapalooza Festival.
     However, much has happened after the release of Coral Fang and its successful touring. As was natural, the formation of Distillers suffered again. In early 2005, Andy Granelli left the band (without warn) to devote to Darker My Love, which hurt Brody so much: “Things were really fucked up at the end. And the way Andy left, I really felt like he stabbed me in the back, because he joined [another band] and never said anything. So that was painful.
     In the same year, Ryan Sinn also left the band to play with Angels & Airwaves (Tom DeLonge's band), which has further aggravated the crisis in the Distillers. According to Brody, the “blame” of the departures was because the record company was forcing out a new album and they all were feeling uncomfortable: “Creatively we had hit a wall and we were exhausted, we had been on tour for two years straight and we were a raw nerve… It was a really unhealthy time, and we all imploded.”
     Unfortunately, this crisis also affected the group's relationship as friends (they even have a tattoo in common: A black heart in the right hand), although nowadays Brody reconciled with Andy: “It was a strange time for the Distillers. We became really segregated and stopped hanging out with each other. It damaged our relationships. Plus, me being the front person of the band, getting most of the accolades and writing everything bothered a few people.

     With the Distillers shelved, Brody Dalle married Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked VulturesDesert Sessions, Eagles of Death Metal and former Kyuss) and during her pregnancy (Camille Homme) there were rumors that the band's fate had actually arrived at the end.

In March 2007, Brody announced her new project, Spinnerette (which includes Tony Bevilacqua). Along with this announcement, Dalle warned that The Distillers still existed but it wasn’t the same. However in some interviews given between 2008 and 2009, she said that the Distillers was over for real and that her focus was turned to the new project: “[Spinnerette] It's definitely what I want to be doing and is a bit more intricate than the Distillers were. I love the Distillers, but this is really just straight-ahead, easy, not much to think about - except my lyrics, I thought about my lyrics a lot. But the music was simple. And Spinnerette is definitely shooting in a different direction.
Brody also told she believes that the new band is more notable than the last one:I think it’s because of the dynamics. Distillers didn’t really have any dynamics, it was just a train wreck, you know, all the way through. Which is really exciting, too, but it’s difficult.”

     The current status of Distillers is still with an interrogation. But, on June 17th, 2011, Dalle confirmed the rumors that said that the Distillers had met last year in studio, without bassist Ryan Sinn though: “I know some of you want the distillers back... I tried, I really did... Andy, Tony and I recorded with Greg Ginn last October... And it just wasn't the same at that juncture”.

     However, she gave hope to those noble hearts that burn in pain since 2005, when the band has “disappeared”: “This doesn't mean it won't ever happen, just not right now.”

     Anyway, with the group alive or not, Brody certainly managed to register and achieve her real goal with the band: “I’d like to leave a legacy of honest music and that’s it, y’know? I just want it to translate that way and that I put my 100% in and that I didn’t fuckin climb on anyone’s back to get where I hopefully get and that I didn’t fuck anyone over, you know what I mean?


[2004-06-xx] Kerrang! Magazine Interview