Saturday 11th September 2010
The Bodega, Nottingham
How is the tour going so far?
Z Berg: It’s been really fun so far, we’ve played the Reading and Leeds festival and some warm up shows in London and this is probably our fifth show now and they’ve all been really fun.
So what would you say has been you biggest highlight so far?
Tennessee: I don’t know I think…
Z Berg: Glasgow?
Tennessee: Well we’ve been headlining these shows which is nice because people are there to see us because we’ve opened for a lot of shows in the past and you kind of feel like you’re playing for other peoples fans, but when girls come up and are wearing little outfits going “Oh my god I love you guys”…
Laena: Yeah and some people are like “We don’t usually like girl bands but you guys actually play really good music”.
Tennessee: It’s really nice to hear that.
Laena: Everyone seems so surprised.
Z Berg: We had these extremely cute girls at one of our shows that we tried to sneak in.
Tennessee: They were 16.
Z Berg: And got promptly kicked out, but we tried.
Laena: But they weren’t too smooth about it, they were like “Oh my god this is so surreal”.
Tennessee: Yeah and our tour manager was like “This is all on CCTV!”
Have you had any challenging moments at all?
Z Berg: Last night under the heat lamps, we played under the hottest lights I think I’ve ever felt in my life.
Annie: I couldn’t even open my eyes; honestly it was so hot I felt like I was starring in to the sun.
Tennessee: You said you felt like an iguana.
Z Berg: I did, and all I could think whilst I was playing the show was that I’m an iguana in a tank under a hot lamp. People were like really far away and there was a large barrier between the stage and the people so I was like “am I an iguana?” It was getting really trippy in my head!
Tennessee: And you stopped playing at one point.
Z Berg: I know I completely forgot that I was playing a song and I was suddenly like “OK, I’m here and I’m not an iguana”.
So your album, Mark Ronson helped you produce it. What was that like for you guys and how did it help you with the album?
Z Berg: It was amazing. We worked with Mark and he works on a lot of the stuff he does with Thomas Brenneck and Homer Steinweiss from a band called the Dap Kings and they have this studio that looks exactly like the motown studio so it’s really legit and we did everything live on to tape and one mic on the drums and there’s mostly rough mixes and just a take.
Tennessee: You really have to get it right or go home there aren’t any other options.
Z Berg: We had a really short time to do it too so it was the most intense and anxiety ridden period of my entire life, but it was also the most creative and inspiring time ever.
The instruments that you all play intrigue me, but in particular Laena you play the 60’s vintage silver tone bass.
Z Berg: It’s her baby.
Laena: It’s my baby.
Z Berg: She birthed it.
Laena: Well I actually got it when I was 17 with my dad from a used gear shop for $250. I’m a violinist so I walked in and it had like the scroll on the top and the F holes and I was like “there she is” and then I was like “Oh but it’s not going to sound good” but I plugged it in and it was just beautiful. I’ve had that bass for years and I’ve played in different bands with it and it’s never tonally fit quite right and they were like “why don’t you just play a fender or something” but when I showed up with this band and played them my bass I was like “OK, this is what it’s for”.
You said she, has she got a name?
Leana: No, she’s too good to be named.
Z Berg: It is a guy thing to name your stuff, I don’t name anything; I can’t remember people’s names so if I started naming my possessions I would start avoiding them because I’d be like “I don’t even remember my guitars name anymore”.
Leana: Well it’s like a part of me and you don’t name your arm.
Z Berg: I’d start introducing myself to my guitar and be like “But we’ve already met”.
You first formed in 2001 when you were 15 and you’ve got some music industry connections like Geffen records historically. Has it made it tougher for you because the whole pressure is on you to be a really good band straight away?
Z Berg: Well the thing is that my dad worked at Geffen 15 years ago so it didn’t help because nobody knew who he was.
Tennessee: It kind of really over shadowed what we were doing because our parents had nothing to do with it. We started the band when we were really young and it gave people the only explanation that people could really have.
Z Berg: Like driving us to gigs, letting us out on school nights. I kind of yelled at Tennessee’s mom once and she didn’t like me for a while.
Tennessee: Yeah it was like “It doesn’t matter that it’s a Tuesday night, we have a show and we have to go”.
Tennessee, you played the black haired drummer in Clash of the Demonhead in Scott Pilgrim VS The World. How did all that come about?
Z Berg: It’s the first time she’s been asked that one.
Tennessee: Well there aren’t a lot of girls that know how to play the drums so that kind of narrows it down. I actually auditioned for the main girl drummer, Kim the girl with the orange hair in Sex Bob-Bomb and I’m really bad at acting so I obviously didn’t get that part. I met a few other people and when they were casting the rest of the bands they said to me that I would have to wear a black wig and have all these fake tattoos but you don’t say anything if you want to be in it. I was actually in Toronto for about 3 weeks whilst they filmed that scene because they had to teach everyone else to play the instruments because they wanted real musicians, so I helped the other girl play the drums. It was a really cool thing to kind of be a fly on the wall for, and I really liked it, isn’t it funny?
The video for fair game was directed by Gia Coppola, was that really daunting or was it laid back?
Z Berg: Gia we’ve known since we started the band and it’s just been fun everything that we’ve been doing. Our other 2 videos were created with a young girl called Maximilla that I’ve known for so long but not as long as Gia but it’s just been great to be working with young and independent, strong, young women.
Tennessee: The photographer who took the photos for our album cover is a girl.
Laena: And the girl who made the dresses is my best friend from high school. The way the music industry is now it’s not like they’re throwing huge amounts of money at you so you really have to be resourceful.
You say you’ve been working with a lot of young people, do you ever get tired that people say you’re not old enough to get a drink. Does that hinder you in any way or kind of help to your advantage?
Z Berg: I don’t think we’re getting that anymore.
Tennessee: We’re all older now than we use to be.
Z Berg: When we started the band we were so young and it was for so long, but now it’s good that it doesn’t require a prefix.
But they’re still talking about that you know, we read interviews and reviews and they say you’re so young.
Z Berg: It’s when they don’t say that anymore we’re having problems.
Tennessee: Then we’ll start lying about our ages.
Z Berg: Yeah I’m still 16.
Tennessee: 17 again.
What is it about the 60’s in particular that you guys like?
Z Berg: Well all the music that we grew up listening to came from the 60’s and I think it was a really good birth place/time of rock n’ roll and it was an exciting time and an exciting era in general, and I think that we are trying to bring back the good aspects that we like from that time. The rawness of how things were recorded, also the fun and artistic nature of how fashion was.
Tennessee: How fantastic it all was and how new it was.
Z Berg: Also nobody cared in general.
Tennessee: All the attention to detail with the make-up and hair combined with the fantastic music.
Laena: I feel that aesthetically the way people looked themselves and dressed themselves was probably because they wanted to, not because society wanted them to, and it was the birth of feminism.
Tennessee: But it was so much fun, all very youthful and innocent.
What’s the best bit of advice you’ve ever been given?
Z Berg: Has anyone ever given us any advice?
Laena: What about, erm, what’s his name?
Tennessee: Oh yeah we just played with The Strokes in Australia and the singer Julian had his sunglasses on and went *points both fingers to me* “Keep on rocking” and we were kind of like “really?!”
Z Berg: His face immediately fell and he was like “I didn’t just say that?” and then he walked out of the room.
Laena: I think the best advice I’ve ever been given is only do it if you love it not for any other reason.
Tennessee: Yeah and just keep on doing it.
Z Berg: Don’t play music unless you have to, and we have to!
I’m not sure if this counts as the best advice but Tennessee met Mary Weiss who is the singer of The Shangri-Las and one of our favourite girl groups of all time and we saw her after a show and she walked up and she was like “Hi I’m a really big fan and I’m in a girl band” and then Mary Weiss just sort of looked at us and flicked her eyes and said “But it ain’t easy!”
Do you find there’s a lot of pressure on you as an all girl band with marketing being pushy trying to get you to do this and that, and do you have to fight back.
Tennessee: It’s just really hard because it’s almost like we’re doing something impossible.
Laena: It’s almost like everyone wants to find an excuse as to why we’re able to do what we can do.
Tennessee: It’s like this shouldn’t be able to happen because it happens so rarely.
Laena: It’s also like people want to assume or come up with a good reason why we’re doing this, and people will put all these comments about how we’ve got stylist and hairdressers, but we’re just like “No, actually we just did that in the bathroom”. People really want to believe that it’s some contrived thing by the record industry but really we’re just a band and musicians and we just want to play and have a good time.
Z Berg: And we want more girls to play.
Tennessee: It’s lonely for us out there. I also think that sometimes girls are acting like boys or being tomboys and are feeling like the only way they are going to be accepted is if they wear jeans or look like boys, but we’re like “No, you can be girls and do this and wear dresses”.
Z Berg: It works to our disadvantage because I’ve walked on stage in a little white mini dress and seem people’s faces like “what” and I’m like “No”.
Laena: I think that’s the whole thing, we walk on stage in these little dresses and people are like “Oh great” but then we play and they’re like OK you know what you guys are good.
Tennessee: I think it’s easier for us now that we’re older, I think if you’re really young and doing that.
Z Berg: When we were all under 18 I think people were a bit like “No, no this is not OK”
I have a quote from the press and I think it was you who said it *looks at Z Berg*. The quote is “There’s barely any good music journalism”.
Z Berg: I think that was probably me. I think the fact that we’ve had so many articles written about us I often despair at the fact that people don’t take their jobs more seriously because I think that real journalism and criticism has a real place in society and I think it’s a wonderful thing and I think the hardest thing in the entire world to do is write about music, not write about people’s families or write about what they look like. It’s been said that talking about music is like dancing about architecture and it is, it’s a noble profession if you chose to enter in to it.
Tennessee: People never actually talk about the music they talk about everything else.
Z Berg: When you read someone like Greil Marcus who is a real music journalist.
Tennesse: Or Jon Savage.
Z Berg: People who really figured out the language of talking about music, it’s so incredibly beautiful and valuable for society and I wish that more people who call themselves music journalist would actually take their job seriously and do that.