If you've been wondering where Brody Dalle has been for the past few years, the short (albeit somewhat surprising) answer is that she's been at home. The former Distillers singer and guitarist released her last full-length – a self-titled album by her other band, Spinnerette – in 2009, and has been fairly quiet since, save for a few a cameos on projects by Boots Electric and Queens of the Stone Age (her husband is frontman Josh Homme).
But those years haven't exactly been downtime, and next Tuesday Dalle releases Diploid Love, the record to prove it. "I probably first starting thinking about it in 2010," she tells Rolling Stone on the phone from her house near L.A. "I started writing it, and I was raising my daughter Camille, and then I got pregnant with my son Ryder and had to kind of stop. You become a milk machine. You're just breastfeeding or changing diapers or attending to the needs of little humans."
Though she relished her self-described "domesticated life," Dalle says she's anxious to drop her first solo record. "I've been sitting on this record for about a year, desperately waiting for it to come out, and now the date is drawing closer and it seems like it's taking forever," she says with a laugh. Still, she admits that it wasn't until recording got underway that she realized she had been working on a solo album the whole time. "It was only when I was in the studio that [producer] Alain [Johannes] was like, 'What are you going to call this? What is this?'" she says. "But I play 80 percent of the music on it, from drum machines to synth to bass to wood sticks. I play all of it. So I told him, 'I guess I'm just going to call it me.'"
Fortunately, after the long build-up, Diploid Love is fantastic. It's a cohesive, adventurous collection of tracks that retains the sharp, rock & roll edges that Dalle honed on the Distillers' 2003 opus, Coral Fang, but adds everything from sparse, haunting torch songs to hooky power ballads with bursts of surprising instrumentation.
One track, "Underworld," begins as straightforward, punk-driven rock but dissolves into sultry mariachi in a way that somehow makes complete sense. "Horns can turn out to be a really good thing or a really bad thing, depending on how you use them," she explains. "I've been kind of waiting for a moment to experiment with horns, so I composed 'Underworld' with a horn section in the middle. To me, it sounded kind of Russian, because it's a weird scale, but the only people I know who play horns are the Mariachi El Bronx, who came in and infused the song with this gorgeous Mexican feeling."
Dalle also pushes her signature smoky growl to new limits, exploring the full range of her register to vastly different effects. "When you sing a certain style for so long, you hit a wall," she says. "It's like eating the same meal every day. 'I'm gonna have a hamburger for breakfast, lunch and dinner.' It sounds great at first, and then you kind of want something different. I just desired to sing a little differently."
The record's second single, "Parties for Prostitutes" – a dizzying, organ-propelled jam – provides one of the best examples of this range. "That was a scratch vocal," Dalle says of the track. "I sang it off the cuff, just to lay it down, and it was so good that I couldn't recreate it! So that's what we used. We just started rehearing it the other day and it's my new favorite song to play."
Though she's rearing to tour behind Diploid Love, she admits that having a family back home will make this go-round harder than ever. "It's a really delicate balance," she sighs. "I was lucky enough to go on tour [in Australia] with my husband, and we brought our children. It was incredible, we had the best time, but I'm about to go on tour for three weeks in the UK and Europe and I'm dreading it. I'm dreading being away from them." While she promotes her new album, it'll be Homme's turn to stay at home and watch the kids.
The album's first single and stand-out track, "Meet the Foetus/Oh the Joy" – which Dalle describes as "two songs in one" and features vocals by fellow bad-ass female rockers Shirley Manson of Garbage and Emily Kokal of Warpaint – outlines the conflicting emotions that come with having a family. "It's about the anxiety of bringing children into the world and where we're headed," Dalle explains. "It's about protecting my children and it's about them standing up for themselves and for what they believe in. It's about the joy of being a mom. It's about the love I have for my kids." She pauses and then laughs. "It's all very mushy."