On her first album since the Distillers broke up in 2005, singer Brody Dalle returns with a new band, Spinnerette, and a new sound that's less straight-ahead punk than bruising, eccentric rock. Set for release this spring, Ghetto Love is also her first musical project since giving birth to a daughter. The album's overarching theme is difficult relationships, beginning with the gloomy, explosive "Cupid."
She cut the record at Pink Duck, the Burbank, Calif., studio Dalle built with her husband, Queens of the Stone Age's Josh Homme, and is joined by multi-instrumentalist Alain Johannes, drummer Jack Irons and former Distillers guitarist Tony Bevilacqua. Early results were revealed in January on a four-song EP (available here), including the title track's collision of melody and wild, frazzled guitar. "I couldn't imagine making a Distillers record right now. It's so far away," says Dalle, whose new recordings show the vocal influences of Blondie and Cibo Matto, with less rasp and more melody. "I'm more into the musicality of something now. I love writing songs ... I'm honing in and making it my craft and discovering new things."
One of those new things is a club remix of her "Sex Bomb" by DJ Adam Freeland. "It's really exciting and fascinating because it's totally not part of my world," says Dalle, who will soon hit the road with a touring lineup of Spinnerette. "I don't know if I want to be topless in Ibiza, but we can kind of get there musically." Rolling Stone caught up with Dalle to discuss the breakup of the Distillers, the formation of Spinnerette and life as a parent.
What ended the Distillers?
We all just grew out of it. We had gotten into some really unhealthy habits on the road that we brought home and kind of isolated us from each other. There was a lot of infighting and generally unhappiness. Except for Tony. He's the one I felt the worst for, because he had just joined the band. He had been our roadie for six years, and we said, "Come play guitar!" and that was it.
Did you ever feel trapped in the Distillers sound?
I did feel like that was the end of the road. I felt like it was an era that was over, something in a time-capsule you find in the backyard. I want to make music that is really modern and progressive that you can't pin down. The experience of growing up in the Distillers was incredible, and I would never take it back. But it just didn't fit right now.
How did your new band come together?
It came together as we went along. I got pregnant in May of 2005. It wasn't planned but it was totally what we both wanted, so that put everything on hold. I had a long time to think about what I wanted to do. When I was pregnant, I felt so far removed from being a musician. The guitar could have been a lamp as far as I was concerned.
Even though you were surrounded by it?
I was really in the observing mode. A lot of things were changing, in the industry especially. Then my daughter was born nine months later and I just felt this overwhelming urge to just spew. It's like being a sponge -- you've got to wring it out. I wanted a writing partner so bad, someone I could bounce ideas off. Josh was like, "Why don't you ask Al if he can record some of your demos?" That's how it started. Immediately, we bonded. "Ghetto Love" is one of the first songs we ever did. When you do something like that in three hours, you're like, "Yeah, I think we're on to something now."
Your "Ghetto Love" video was done with Liam Lynch, who directed Tenacious D and the Pick of Destiny.
I've known him since the tour we did with No Doubt [in 2002]. He interviewed me and asked: "What's the weirdest dream you've ever had?" And the night before I'd had that dream: I was on a beach and Saddam Hussein was there, and for some reason I was totally in love with him. And I was looking in his eyes as the sun was going down, and my cats were swimming in the ocean, and there was a train pulling up on the sand. That was the dream and that was how we bonded.
You came out of an Australian music scene, became part of the Epitaph scene, and now you spend quality time among the SoCal desert players of Queens of the Stone Age. What are the benefits of being part of a musical community?
I watch my husband closely when he does business. I like the way that he models his business. I try to stay away from getting together with any of those people and making music for fear of being totally ostracized or have the thing backfire on me and thrown in my face. I'm a songwriter. That's what I do. For anyone to say that so-and-so wrote my music is disgusting.
Does that really happen?
Of course, and why wouldn't it happen in the reverse? I mean, the last Queens record sounded pretty punked up. There's a couple of songs that sound like Discharge, and I was like, "Yeah, that's right." So we naturally influence each other.
It's not like you're doing duets on each other's albums, though you did sing backup with Josh's Desert Sessions band at Coachella a few years back.
Josh asked me to do that. I was a little bit hesitant. He also asked me to do an actual Desert Sessions record, and I wouldn't do it until the Spinnerette record comes out. I want to get established again before I do anything like that. Josh is like, "Who fucking cares what people think, because we know what is what." But I don't need that kind of press. I hate the fucking peanut gallery. I have a song called "The Good of Going Wrong" that I wrote. Josh has been trying to steal it off me for ages now. I'm pretty impressed with myself.
What is "Cupid" about?
Love is so complicated — I know that's so cliche to say. It's a really painful process. It's about wanting to give up and wanting to kill love so you don't have to feel anymore. It's killing Cupid. You're not going to aim that arrow at me anymore, it's over.
Does having a little girl now change your perspective?
It's changed my perspective on pretty much everything. We used to live such a selfish life. We'd roll out of bed at three in the afternoon and just did whatever we wanted. That lifestyle is really conducive to writing and playing and being deep in music, but the other things that go along with it are really unattractive to me now. It makes you think, "What was I doing with my life?" Now I just realize how important time is, and I don't want to waste it. I want to get the most out of it as I can, and give my daughter the best life that I can.
Has it changed the kind of music you want to do at all?
Not particularly. I would love to be in a Discharge-style band. It's not exactly what I want to do right now. It has more to do with my voice. I have two vocal nodes on my voice. When I was in the Distillers, it's what characterized my voice. But I'm getting a little bit older now, so I've got to be really careful. It doesn't hold as well as it did when I was 23. I could scream for two hours a night, smoke a pack of cigarettes and drink a bottle of vodka, and my voice would be absolutely peachy the next day. And because I haven't been touring or doing that every day, I have to work my voice into it. It's kind of virgin right now.