The Donnas and (International) Noise Conspiracy plea for peace
By Jayson Whitehead
When the Plea for Peace/Take Action tour (benefiting the suicide-prevention National Hopeline Network, 1-800-SUICIDE) stops at the Joint on Oct. 2, there is bound to be some confusion. "It's funny now that we're talking about going to war with Iraq," says Torry Castellano, drummer for the Donnas. "Maybe some people will think it's about that." If that's the case, it may strike some as odd that the Donnas are at an anti-war rally (misconception or not).
Hailing from Palo Alto, Calif., the all-female collective plays a straightforward rock 'n' roll heavily reliant on monster riffs with lyrics that brandish a cheeky sexuality. Their upcoming album, "Spend the Night," contains songs like "Take It Off" (sample lyric: "I'm on my second drink but I've had a few before / I'm trying hard to think and I think I want you on the floor"), "You Wanna Get Me High" and "Take Me to the Backseat." This on the heels of their previous album that contained the single ൰ Boys in 40 Nights." "We're not really the most political band," Castellano admits.
The (International) Noise Conspiracy, on the other hand, would gladly accept that moniker. Referring to themselves as a "socialist" rock 'n' roll band, the INC match punk and garage rock with politically charged lyrics. The band's most recent album, "A New Morning, Changing Weather," contains songs like "New Empire Blues" with the verse: "Help me 'cause I can't understand, is this the progress that was planned? / Help me 'cause I just can see what is new with this economy / Labor camps, death zones seems like we've seen it before / Free trade restructuring plans like money could give a damn."
Conceptually modeled after radical '60s activists (think Abbie Hoffman with an electric guitar), the INC welcome those who may confuse the PFP/TA tour with a peace rally. "I'm not a pacifist, but there's a time and place for peace," says Inge Johansson, bassist for the band. As might be expected, Johansson is disgusted by President Bush's intentions to attack Iraq. "It's a f---ing shame that he's going to start a war against a country (whose) population is suffering so bad at the moment because of the embargo that the earlier George Bush started after the Gulf War," Johansson says. "It's terrible, terrible."
As the Donnas join this leg of the tour (featuring Jimmy Eat World, among others), they are preparing to release "Spend the Night," their first album for a major label (Atlantic). "With this one, the thing that we had more of was time," says Castellano, also known as Donna C. "All the things that we wanted to do on the last record we never really got to do because (in the past) we only had (a few) days to record. So I'm used to doing all of my drums in a day or two," she says. "But for this record I had more than a week to do drums, bass and some guitar, and I'm like, 'Wow, what's going on? What am I going to do for a whole week?' We just wanted to make sure that every song had extra exciting stuff." Like the time-honored cowbell apparently, which is prominent on many songs. "I love the cowbell," Castellano says. "Whoo!"
Although the INC don't have a new release to tour behind, they have the constant challenge of making sure their message reaches the audience. "You know I can't really make up my mind about how I want people to appreciate the music," Johansson says. "It's just up to whoever comes to see us. Music changed me so I still feel very passionate about playing."
While the members of the INC are from Sweden, Johansson's musical sensibilities were formed by a California '80s hardcore band. "The Dead Kennedys are my favorite band," he says. "If you have to ask me for one band, (they) influenced me the most." The Kennedys often matched fast, loud guitar with overt, even outrageous political verse. "That is what I hope this band can be to kids today that come see us," Johansson says. "To be what the Dead Kennedys were to me, or the Clash, Minor Threat. Those bands changed my life."
As the Donnas and the International Noise Conspiracy prepare to enter Sin City, the distinction between the two bands seems as glaring as the casino lights. With their odes to hedonism (or "shedonism," if you will), the Donnas seem tailor-made for Las Vegas. "I'm excited to play at the Hard Rock there. I think that's really cool," Castellano says. The last time the Donnas were in town, the four girls came to see two other bands perform. "I saw Poison and Ratt play," Donna C. reveals. "We flew there just to go to the show. It was fun."
It's doubtful that the INC were at the same show. In fact, with songs like "Capitalism Stole My Virginity," the band would seem at complete odds with Vegas. In reality, it's the opposite and, if anything, the INC seems to appreciate the city for its lack of pretense. "Vegas is such a weird place. It makes no sense," Johansson says. "Actually it makes more sense. The city is definitely honest. This city is all about making money. Other cities try to pull off something like, 'There's a lot of culture, or history.' But it's all about making money anyway," he says. "But Vegas is so out of the groove. It's a place that the mob built up to launder money and no one can do anything about it. There's something fascinating about the honesty of that city."
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