Punk Chic: The Second Coming of Brody Dalle

Crushed between teenagers at Camden‘s Electric Ballroom, I was under no doubt that Spinnerette were far from another ubiquitous rock band.

Being 5”4, this was far from convenient, but the combination of straight-up rock and roll and stage presence from one of music’s coolest frontwomen soon put a stop to my bitching. In a world where Lily Allen has sold 260,0000 plus records, the raw, unapologetic voice of frontwoman Brody Dalle offered real panacea.

The name didn’t mean much to me at first. The surname, sure: a French actress who stunned audiences in Betty Blue and promptly went off the rails. Dalle wasn’t news to my sister, who enthused that “City of Angels” was her favourite song on the playlist at the sweaty basement rock club she frequents at uni. The song? One of The Distillers’ finest, and now their former lead singer is packing out venues with her new band Spinnerette.

A supergroup of sorts, Spinnerette have been around for two years and feature the talents of another Distiller, Tony Bevilacqua, along with Red Hot Chilli Peppers founder and Pearl Jam graduate Jack Irons, and Queens of The Stone Age’s Alain Johannes on bass. Disappointingly, this illustrious line-up doesn’t perform outside of the recording studio and so only Dalle and Bevilacqua were at the Electric Ballroom that night, accompanied by the touring version of the band.

Spinnerette’s self-titled debut was released in June and while unlikely to satisfy Distillers fans’ hunger for more spiky punk, there’s a slick, melodic feel that isn’t half bad. The record’s bold, guitar-led sound seems designed to be played at large venues, channelling some of Irons’ time with stadium rockers. Dalle’s vocals conquer and complement, in big, sleazy “A Prescription For Mankind”, in singalong “Distorting A Code” and the fuzzy refrain of “Rebellious Palpitations”.

Dalle has grown up since the split of the band that made her name in 2007. She’s hitched to QOTSA lead Josh Homme, with whom she has a daughter. Now, with the likely demise of her twentysomething rock and roll lifestyle and the influence of new working partners, Spinnerette is a new musical direction for Dalle.  

So what did the lady herself have to say about all this?

You’ve all got pretty healthy musical resumes. How is Spinnerette different from everything you’ve done before? Are there elements you’ve borrowed from past projects?

Its very different from everything I’ve ever done. I’ve used riffs that I’ve had for years, and there’s a lot of stuff left over from The Distillers like “All Babes Are Wolves”. But then a lot of things are pretty new…

“Distorting a Code” includes the lyric “the past entangles into everything I know”. Did you vent any of your frustrations from the Distillers split in the record?

No, I wasn’t really thinking about it. I’d pretty much grieved over it already as I’d never expected [the split] would happen. I never saw the Distillers ever breaking up so when it happened I was really shocked. But when I made the Spinnerette record, I was way over it and was actually happy that it had happened in hindsight.

Is it possible to be more commercial, more (arguably) accessible without selling out?

Of course. Just because its melodic and poppy, it doesn’t mean that everyone’s going to like it.

Whose idea was it to feature a wine bottle as an instrument in “Impaler”?

That was Alain: he’s a musical genius.

Any experiences surrounding the themes of the debut?

I can tell you a funny one. We recorded “Impaler” in a day and that night I was driving down through the Valley listening to it. Its about Vlad the Impaler. I came to a stop at a traffic light, looked over and there was a barbershop called Vlad’s.

Has the new album helped changed preconceptions about the kind of music you make?

I hope so. Probably. I don’t want any stigma attached. I think its going to get a lot weirder: I love Captain Beefheart so I don’t know, it could go in any direction.

Do you think Distillers was the girl in you and Spinnerette is now the woman?

Kinda, its mostly because of my actual age. [With Distillers] I was a snotty little kid. Nothing makes me feel more like a woman than having a kid.

You’re also reportedly an excellent chef. What would you cook for us at Liberation Frequency?

I think I’d cook you some Italian food, sound good?

Mmm, any specialities?

Lasagne, or we could have a weird clown party and I could make cupcakes. We’d have to dress up in red wigs and big shoes [laughs].

You also said you’d consider adding a few more people to the live band. Will there be anyone new in the foreseeable future?

I hope so, I think the more the merrier. I really want some people to sing as backup because there are some parts on the record that I don’t think I could sing all at once.

The Guardian described you and Josh Homme as the “Brad and Angelina of US rock”. How do you feel about that?

That’s so ridiculous, I don’t even know what to say to that.

That’s a strong cover image on the album. What did you want the cover to say about Spinnerette?

I drew a picture when I first started of what I wanted the cover to be like. It was silver and there was a corseted woman, an hourglass, which ties in with [the name] Spinnerette [Spinnerets are the silk-spinning organ within spiders used to make webs]. Spiders are man-eaters and so Spinnerette is uber-feminine. The hourglass is quintessentially female as well. Its all tied in there.

On the website, you state that you want the same kind of longevity that Dolly Parton has. Do you think Spinnerette will help you achieve that, or are there other projects waiting in the wings?

I don’t try to look too far into the future. There’s all kinds of things I want to do, but you never know what’s going to happen.

What bands or artists would you most like to collaborate with in the studio?

Well, I told Shirley Manson a while back that I would talk to her about doing a duet or something. I called her the other day, but she’s not really playing music anymore. It’s a fucking shame. Or Chrissie Hynde maybe?

You’re playing Reading and Leeds festivals in the UK this summer with as the band’s website notes, your friends the Arctic Monkeys.

They are? I know them from recording with Joshua, but I don’t have their numbers for godsake. We had a drink and said hello. They’re sweethearts.

Do you think that Myspace and illegal downloaders have changed the music business for the better or worse?

You know what’s funny, I was looking on my sister’s iPod the other day. She’s 21 and on tour with me, and there’s all this fucking Limewire shit. I said “I’m going to smack you!” and she‘s like, “I’m just stealing from the Rolling Stones. They don’t need any more money”. We as artists used to make a living doing what we do, and we can’t really do that anymore. We have to find other avenues. And that’s why you fucking find us in weird commercials. “Selling out” isn’t really relevant anymore. The passion of music, of really loving it and going out to support artists and getting excited about it, seems to have just fucking faded away. Its like music is fast food now. It’s a weird time.

Unfortunately record companies have responded so slowly, so arrogantly to it.

They have, they’re stupid. They’re foolish. They’ve fucked themselves and they’ve fucked us. I think some artists definitely missed the monster a little bit. [Record companies] want you to sign these 360 deals, then they own you. That needs to change.

Originally published on Liberation Frequency, July 2009.

Spinnerette

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