When you first heard Janis Joplin's raspy vocals and unforgettable folk songs, when Gloria Gayner claimed "I Will Survive," when Tiffany took over the mall scene, Mariah squelched over the airwaves, Courtney Love wore baby doll dresses, red lipstick, played guitar and gave a big fuck you to the world, and Gwen Steffani took over the late '90s scene that was mostly male dominated.
Now there's a new female voice saturating the scene, one with a furious growl. She's talented, smart, and sexy all at the same time. The Distillers front woman, Brody Armstrong doesn't take shit from anyone. She plays just as hard as the boys in her band, she's not afraid to tell it like it is and get a little dirt under her nails. The Distillers have quickly gained attention in the music scene as their second album Sing Sing Death House has become a must have for new-day punk fans. With a Rancid meets Hole sound the band practically assaults the crowd with their in-your-face style and has 22-year-old Armstrong standing out in the spotlight.
While on a mini-tour with friends The Transplants, The Distillers sold-out the House of Blues Anaheim and opened their arms to a new group of fans. Even Epitaph Records creator, Brett Gurewitz was in the crowd.
Downtime pre-show permitted me to sit down with Brody and Andy from the band to talk about their newfound fame, the new record, the music scene and Brody vs. Courtney Love.
How'd you guys get your band name and what does it mean?
Brody: To distill something is to take the essence out of something. It's most related to beer, but I got it off this old, falling down distillery.
How long have you bet together?
Brody: Two or three years?
How did you guys hook up?
Brody: He [Andy] was in The Nerve Agents and The Distillers played an outdoor all ages show with The Nerve Agents, and then we found our bass player [Ryan].
Brody, were you in other bands before the Distillers?
Brody: A long time ago.
Being from a place like Melbourne, Australia, how is the music scene there?
Brody: It was great. There was a huge all-ages scene and I grew up on bands like The Beanies, you probably never heard of any of these, but the Hard On's and stuff like that.
What kind of music influenced you to be in this type of band?
Brody: Discharge, Black Flag, The Ramones, and Blondie.
Do you like doing interviews with the various medias?
Andy: It all depends on the person interviewing.
Like me, who forgot to put in fresh batteries on the tape recorder?
Andy: [Laughs] It all depends on personality and things that they ask...when they say, what's it like when you...I don't know, insert something stupid here. I'll shut up now.
How did you [Brody] end up hooking up with Tim Armstrong?
Brody: I met him in Australia before I ever even lived here. He's my husband and I moved here to be with him and I had been playing music since I was 13 and he was just starting Hellcat and he asked us to be on Hellcat. Of course we said yeah. What else were we going to do? Ask Fat Mike for a record deal? Or ask Dexter Holland? Of course we're going to go with Hellcat!
How would you describe your relationship with both of you being in bands and touring and so on?
Brody: It works fine because we both do the same thing. It makes more sense than anything. We both have a real understanding on how it all works so it's perfect.
What was it like for you to record your second album? What were your thoughts in the writing process?
Brody: When you make a record it's not premeditated we never thought of "how it's going to happen."
Andy: Well unless you have like a themed record.
Brody: Yeah like a rock opera or something. We don't think about that stuff. We have our songs, we go into the studio and record it and whatever comes, comes. It's like growing - you don't really know how it's going to turn out.
Well how does the writing process work within your band?
Brody: Andy writes all the songs.
Andy: It's true, lyrics too. Just kidding. No, Brody will write the songs and lyrics, then we'll kind of get together and structure it all.
Brody: I bring it in and we all work on it.
What kind of stuff do you focus on when you're writing?
Brody: Social issues, relationships, other people's stories.
What's it like being a female singer in band such as this? Obviously there aren't a lot of females out there doing what you do.
Brody: I think I'm more man than the two of them put together [Ryan and Andy]. It's no different than any other band I've ever been in besides the gender and they are like my brothers. Obviously our anatomy is different but the way we think is exactly the same. That never comes up; it's not a big issue for us.
How do you respond to critics that say you have a very "Courtney Love" sounding voice?
Brody: I can see how people could say that but honestly on this new record...I honestly don't go out of my way to sound like her. Their [Hole's] first record was huge for me, I was 13 and I had never heard anybody scream like that. I don't know, do you think Courtney could be in this band, play hardcore and do what I do? I don't think so. She doesn't even play her guitar. Much respect to her though because she has helped pave the way for a lot of women, she speaks her mind and that's awesome that she's kicked down all these doors. She's brutally honest and I appreciate her for that.
Could you see yourself paving the same sort of path? Being the inspiring female figure?
Brody: If I just keep doing what I'm doing it might just become an automatic response. But Courtney is crazy smart academically so I don't think I'd end up being as vocal about it. We'll see what happens. I don't know.
What do you think of the music scene today? What you hear on MTV and KROQ?
Andy: It's changing. It's obviously changing right now because what you hear on KROQ is us right now. Two or three weeks ago you didn't and out of fucking nowhere here we are on the radio every day, five times a day or whatever.
Do you feel that was a much-needed change?
Andy: It all started with The Strokes record because it came out and it was a revival of '60s garage rock. Then The Hives came and it's crazy because this is all within the last six months. Everyone stopped looking at metal bands, if you think about it, new metal to us is like what Poison was in the '80s. This over the top glam metal, untouchable, un-real idols. It's so over the top and huge the normal kid can't even fathom. It's like wow, those are rockstars and the cycle of that is just over and it needed to be done. It's not appealing. That image doesn't appeal to me...or a lot of other people.
Do you think this new trend in music is going to continue?
Andy: I think so because it's been so long with so much crap. Just like how Nirvana turned...wait, it was that one Behind the Music, it was Vince Neil that said, no. It was Michael Jackson! Michael Jackson had an album come out the same time as Nevermind and the Michael Jackson hit number one and then all those albums Jackson sold got returned. Michael is like a cartoon character. He's not even real; he's not even real to himself. He doesn't even have a real face! NSYNC is the same deal! The worst part about that is how they are blatant about how fake it was! They made a damn TV show about how they manufacture bands! And that O-Town still had a gold record! What the hell!!
Do you think that whole aspect of music is starting to fade? Like it's not appealing as this new sound is coming in and those artists in the pop-fake scene are starting to deteriorate?
Andy: Yeah because it's not stylish.
What do you see as the "next big thing?"
Andy: The new thing is going to be just incredible in general. Any band that really has something to say, like AFI. Just like Nirvana, they weren't popular at first but then comes Nevermind and they're the biggest fucking thing in the world.
How do you like going on tour and how do crowds that haven't seen you guys before respond at your shows?
Andy: I don't know? They seem to like it! It depends I'm sure some hate it.
How would you describe a Distillers live show?
Andy: I think we're just playing. It's not premeditated. Brody and I have been doing this for what, 14 years? That's just what happens. I've been doing this almost longer than I've been in school; it's been a better part of my life so it just kinda happens. Kinda like breathing.
How do you feel about having your song being played on the radio and being part of MTV2?
Andy: It's pretty cool and weird at the same time.
Brody: When you're number one on KROQ above System of a Down, New Found Glory and Linkin Park...that's weird.
Andy: Above bands that have sold millions upon millions of records. And then there is us with our 1,000 records and it's fucking weird! It doesn't make any sense!
I think it goes back to what we were saying about how everything is changing.
Andy: We like it though!
You mentioned AFI being one of the next big acts but they received a big backlash for being on the radio.
Brody: There's a fine line between ultimately giving yourself away and allowing other people to change your thinking. We're not doing this to please other people, it's great that other people like it, but really we do this for ourselves. We can listen to all that and we love our fans and we're trying to set up a fanzine and stuff for us, but ultimately the decisions are just being made. This is a career. Without being arrogant, understand that this is what we do. We never said we wouldn't be on MTV or on radio. We never preached any of that. It's unfortunate because we might lose fans.
Andy: Those that choose not to like our band because we are on the radio, then I don't understand why they liked us anyway. When Greenday came out everyone freaked out and couldn't believe they were on a major label, but the thing is, who the fuck cares? "Dookie" was like their best record but people called them sellouts. They just made their music more accessible. There was less shit out on the radio so you just kinda take the place of shit. Fine, say we never were on the radio and shit ruled the airwaves, everything would be shit, art and all that stuff becomes shit. Art, music and everything. The only things that can be popular are shit? If something is good, people should like it. People shouldn't like shit. Right?
uh, I suppose.
Andy: Well, I don't like shit.
What's your favorite thing about touring?
Andy: The food.
Brody: We just came back from Europe. It's awesome to go and do what you wanna do and play in these places with so much culture.
Where is your favorite place to play?
Brody: Definitely home.
Andy: It depends on who you're with. If you're with your friends then it's fun. If you're by yourself then it's not that cool. Especially if you're alone with bands that are kinda dicks to you anyways, then it sucks.
What kind of advice would you give to up and coming acts?
Brody: Keep doing what you want and don't take shit from anybody. Be wary that there are people out there that will take advantage of you, stay focused...damn I sound like a fucking coach! And practice, practice, practice!
Have you run into problems with business people trying to manipulate you or take advantage?
Brody: Yeah. We confront them and let them know we don't take that shit.
Andy: We try to avoid it.
href='http://www.modernfix.com' target='_blank'>Visit Modernfix.com