Alicja Trout, the Interview!...A Lost Sound For a New Album!
'I'm your Negavtive' LP on Dirtnap Records
By: Rich Tupica
After a handful of 7-inch singles, Alicja Trout has finally released a full-length album with her latest rock-n-roll trio the River City Tanlines.
Ditching the dark new wave that was (her previous band) The Lost Sounds for catchy guitar hooks, Trout, along with her band mates T-Money and Bubba, deliver straight forward rock music that could easily go on a world tour with The Hives.
On the 'I’m Your Negative' LP, the River City Tanlines clean up the fuzz and lo-fi noise, pushing great songwriting to the front of the table, after all, these tunes have nothing to hide.
In this interview, Alicja tells the story of how the new album came to be, her jam session with a rock legend and a violent night at the Old Miami bar in Detroit that she and Jay Reatard will surely never forget.
How is Memphis music these days?
"I can't say it sounds so great as far as the younger bands, but there is one group of bands or people, under the name 'Memphis Orgies,' some of the bands are The Barbaras, The Boston Chinks, Kazalok, and more. They do all these weird side projects, very avante garde in a sort of idiot savant way, but bizarre and hilarious, you'd have to see them
to understand. People get fucked up and take off their clothes, or they have weird costumes, like dirty hotdogs, or tuxedos and drinking martinis, it's always these one-off bands.
I think Jack Oblivian's band The Brand New Love Affairs, with Adam, Harlan T. Bobo and Pail B. sounds incredibly tight right now, they headlined Saturday at Gonerfest. So yeah, Eric and Zach at Goner Records are doing a lot through the Goner name to get people excited about music in Memphis."
How old were you when you first started to write songs and play guitar.
"14 or 15 or 16 years-old, but it sucked."
What was your favorite rock-n-roll band back in your high school days?
"God, I don’t know, I wasn't particularly cool, I liked the Beastie Boys and REM I guess, classic rock and crap like that. I really can't remember liking rock-n-roll in High School. I was really into hair metal and nu-wave when I was in Junior High. In High School I think I tried to be cool and listen to Dead Kennedys and DRI and Sex Pistols and stuff, but I really liked Prince."
How was it playing with Arthur Lee? How did that opportunity come about?
"It's the most amazing thing, I only met him twice, once for a good long practice, the sound of his voice and harmonica and even his tambourine playing warmed my shattered heart. I'd just lost a friend to drugs when Greg Roberson (ex-drummer of the Reigning Sound) called me and asked me if I wanted to come over and play some music. I declined because I was dealing with a death, and it makes any small task hard, like carrying a guitar or something. So I asked him out of curiosity what the occasion was, and when he said he was asked to put together an 'Arthur Lee new Memphis Love', I was like, I’ll be right over. I know most the Love songs like the back of my hand."
What's some memorable moments of jamming with Arthur?
"Arthur said a lot of things that were really intense for me. I played bass on "Little Red Book," pretty easily, right off the top of my head, he told me I was a good bass player. I played guitar on '7 and 7 Is', I used to do that in The Clears a long time ago. Arthur said he's never played with a girl before, except in orchestras and such. Greg told him that we had the same birthday, March 7th, and Arthur said, 'you must be really fucked up then', and I knew what he meant and laughed and agreed. But the coolest part of the whole night was when he sang 'Signed DC.' This sounds weird, but I felt like my friend who had died was sending a message to me of how he felt before he died, and it was sad. But the song is so beautiful, and if sad can be beautiful then pain and suffering in our human life makes sense, and it makes sense that in the afterlife suffering is gone, because human pain is beauty, it was cathartic and comforting. Arthur sounded great and he was so handsome when I first met him, before the cancer started to make him too slender. He was a stylish rock-n-roll cowboy. He was very charming and a very good music leader. It's one thing to meet someone famous, it's another thing to meet someone that shaped your understanding of music. Love is the greatest thing in the world and there is only one Love, and only one leader of Love, Arthur Lee, and I shook his hand and played with him. WOW!"
You have a Master's Degree from the Memphis College of Art, do you think you will ever use this degree or is it music all the way?
"Huh, well, I’ve already used it, I did video graphics for six-years at an Arena, also taught kids art, for now its music. I want to do something different with second half of my life. But, I also want to be really good at one thing, so I feel obligated to stick to music."
Was there a particular band or bands in Memphis that inspired your to start you own band?
"No, I just was attracted to guitars and drums, just bands in general and MTV inspired me, then long ago it deserted me so I hate it for that. You Tube! There were however a lot of bands that steered me in this direction, just the old garage bands around here, all of them. Not so much the punk or metal bands, that was a very uncomfortable scene for a kid."
The Clears were one of your first bands, how long were you guys together for?
"Nine months to a year, enough to tour twice and make an album, get a song or two on a comp. It was a bout analog synths and four-track pop, home recordings and cheap Casios and guitars, funny words, love, gayness, outer space."
Contaminated Records, what is a brief history on how it all got started?
"It started with The Fitts, we were a three-girl band and we put out a record together before we imploded. Then I continued the label with The Ponys, and then doing The Feelers repress and Evil Army and such. I want to invest more effort into it now and phase out the mail order. I'll keep it punk rock-n-roll and post punk style, though I do love all kinds of music."
Tronic Graveyard Studio in Memphis is your personal studio, what record are you most proud of that was recorded there?
"I really like the new Feelers. I also like some of The Black Sunday recordings, and some of the Destruction Unit recordings. I've also gotten a lot of mileage out of the early River City Tanlines recordings, which were slopped out demos which happened to come out good for no reason."
Bang Your Head! with River City Tanlines!
What's the story behind the brutal fight that broke out at the Lost Sound's first Detroit gig?
"The Lost Sounds show in Detroit was at the Old Miami. I think it was with The Piranhas and The Guilty Pleasures, Matt Williams and Jered from The Ponys old band. Some guy Lacey stuck The Vibrators on the bill, they were boring live and they used our equipment. Then, in the end, the guy who'd last minute stuck them (Vibrators) on our bill without consulting us, stole all of our door money to give it to The Vibrators."
So how did the actual violence breakout?
"I was drunk and argued with the lady trying to pay us next to nothing. Then Lacey started a bar room brawl! He called me a hillbilly and I guess I walked off to get another band member who were all off doing their own thing, drugs, whatever, and then Lacey hit me in the back of the head with a giant bar-glass, I saw stars, so I grabbed a bottle off the bar and went to throw it at him. Just then the bartender had jumped out from behind the bar and caught my arm as I was about to throw the bottle, so it bounced like a plastic cup of his chest. Next thing I know, some coked-up mongoloid with a septum piercing rushes me like a bull and punched me in the mouth. I fell back, somehow on a couch, this time I blacked out temporarily for real ... "
Where did you wake up at?!
"I woke up backside down on the couch and started kicking like crazy. Mass confusion was going on. Jay (Reatard) was getting a serious beat down. Lacey had lost his glasses and I sort of saw my feet swatting in the air near his face. Next thing I know, the bartender picks me up, and the first thing my brain let me hear sounded something like being on a Whip-It...'Get outta' here! They're gonna’ kill you!'"
Did the cops show up at the bar?
"Cops came right after Lacey left the bar, walking like a sideways Quasimodo carrying a giant piece of concrete for protection. I was yelling at him about how lame it was to hit a girl. I described him to this cop as a 'black guy with bleach-blonde short hair,and a puff mullet.' Everyone was baffled by this, but I saw it, like a little blonde fro-mullet in the back."
So was there really a "puff fro-mullet"?
"Later we had a big laugh because it wasn't a puff fro-mullet at all...It was a goiter he had growing on the back of his head, where it meets his neck! And he had hair on it! I learned the word "goiter" and invented the style "puff-mullet"... Okay, then to add to the mess, The Guilty Pleasures where going to show us a place to crash, they were high on opium, and they left us, we had to drive all night through Canada with blood coming out our mouths and ears."
On a lighter note! 'I'm Your Negative' is the new River City Tanlines LP on Dirtnap Records. How do you feel it measures- up against your previous albums?
"It was recorded in Nashville by Tony Read, I'd met him at a dive bar there, he was the sound guy and told me about his home studio, Battle Tapes, and so we recorded there, he acted as recorder and producer. Tony encouraged me to keep the vocals clean , and I was determined to keep the guitar tones cleaner, not hide in gain and distortion, really try to play well."
So you're pleased with the results of the record then?
"I'm really happy with the results. I wanted something different, not hiding in lo-fi like the early recordings I'd done at home, and also not hiding in layers like The Lost Sounds recordings. We also wrote more songs then and there. It took four nights to record and write all the basic stuff, then three more nights to add all the finishing touches: extras, guitar solos, and mix it. It's pretty much un-mastered , Tony gave us really good final mixes. I've never made an album like this, pretty songs to ugly little fun blasts, to a trilogy. I felt very stressed by pressure, it would be my first 'real' album since the last Lost Sounds album. I'm happy with it, which says a lot because I'm hyper critical of myself."
T-Money and Bubba are your fellow River City Tanlines, how is it touring with them as opposed to your days on the road with the Lost Sounds?
"Touring with them is total pleasure, they are such good guys, they understand life on the road, how to pack a van, how to do a dummy check even when wasted, how to take it easy and party too, people love them, they charm everyone. They trust me to handle all the merch and show money and pay them in the end, no bookkeeping. It's the furthest thing from touring with Lost Sounds, that was constant stress I couldn't escape, the T and B are like touring with two brothers and everyone is looking out for each other. Extreme fatigue is about the only thing that ever leads to fights, and they are rare and short. Touring is very trying, tight spaces, alcohol, and wearing your body out, a lot of 'go really fast, and then hurry up and wait.' With them it's like a really fast paced vacation, and I can concentrate on playing the set well instead of if I’m going get spit on or yelled at or hit with a mike stand or if someone's going run off stage. In hindsight touring with The Lost Sounds flat out sucked! Torture!"
What's one thing Alicja wants to accomplish before she dies?
"Make a film or at least score several of them. Have a happy life and live comfortably and hopefully one day have assets to do more then just stuff for myself."
Alicja Trout web-hook-ups!
River City Tanlines on Myspace (Tour Dates!)
Contaminated Records Offical webpage
Contaminated Records on Myspace
Arthur Lee & Love Website
Brand New Love Affairs
The Old Miami -the notorious Detroit bar!
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