Brody Dalle has been a powerful voice in rock ‘n roll for nearly two decades. After breaking out with her fearless punk growl in The Distillers, the singer/songwriter and guitarist revealed a cool, modern sound in indie rock band Spinnerette. On April 29th, Brody makes her solo debut with Diploid Love, an alternative rock record that builds on all she’s achieved thus far.
BUST spoke with Brody about balancing rock ‘n roll with motherhood, having awesome female role models in the ‘90s, and why Shirley Manson is her big sister.
BUST: Congratulations on the new album! This is your first solo record-- how was the writing and recording process different with this record? Did anything surprise you about it? BRODY: I was surprised [that] I want to play everything, and I’ve never really felt that way before. I made the record in increments, we recorded for three weeks consecutively and then I kind of tinkered on it for about a year. It was mostly because my husband was recording his record and then he was on tour. So wherever I could grab time, I would take it. While I was making dinner, at three o’clock in the morning, or driving my daughter to school, doing it where I could get it. I was probably a bit of a whore for it.
The instrumentation on this record is so varied. You have these great piano-driven songs like “Carry On” and “I Don’t Need Your Love.” What led you in that direction?
B: “Carry On” started out as a harder song, and it just didn’t sound right so I stripped it down. I wanted piano on there because the drums are kind overbearing, it’s from a Yamaha keytar from the ‘80s. I wanted there to be space in some of the songs, just not always straight-ahead punk rock, I wanted some dynamic. That’s kind of why I think it’s necessary for songs like “I Don’t Need Your Love” and “Carry On” to be on my record. The dynamic, the shift is important. Piano is beautiful. There’s something about piano, it’s lovely to play, it’s lovely to listen to.
Since you last put out an album, you’ve become a mom for the second time. Are there any ways in which becoming a mother has made you a better musician, or in which being a musician has made you a better mom?
B: I don’t know if it’s made me better at one or the other. It’s made me appreciate both. They don’t necessarily play well together because one is a nighttime thing and one is a daytime thing. Making music is really kind of a selfish pursuit. It’s passionate and intense and it’s something you do by yourself or with a band or with somebody else, but it’s not kids. [Kids are] parks and beaches and ice cream all over your face and laughing and fun and tearing your hair out because you’re exhausted and it’s six o’clock in the morning. They’re so different. But I appreciate both. When I’m doing one, I miss the other. They made me feel like who I am. They make me feel complete.
You were recently on tour with Nine Inch Nails and Queens of the Stone Age. What was that like? B: It was awesome. It was amazing. My husband [Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age] and I were in Australia so I was home, and my family was there, my kids were there. It was exhausting, but it was amazing. I think we played a total of thirteen shows and kind of cut our teeth on that tour. It’s not like playing little club shows where it’s hot and intense and personal and aggressive. It was sometimes awkward and weird and stifling, but good to go through that, you know? And get through it and know that you can handle any situation. Because I’d kind of forgotten what it was like to go out on a big stage like that and play for a group of people who might not necessarily be interested in giving a fuck who you are or what you’re doing there. It’s kind of like a battle, you have to win them over. So you fucking put your big “fuck you” face on and just go for it.
What would you say is the biggest difference between Australia and the U.S., having lived in both places?
B: They’re similar in a lot of ways, but they are vastly different. I find there’s kind of like this weird language barrier, even though we speak English? (laughs) That probably sounds really weird. When I go home, being Australian, I find that Australians are so blunt and honest that sometimes it can come off in a rude way, whereas Americans are like overly nice. There’s always niceties, like, oh thank you, and I’m sorry, and all that kind of shit? And I find that really fascinating. I find when I go home to Australia that people are -- generally speaking -- more informed about what’s going on in the world. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a shit-ton of people here who are interested in what’s happening outside of America, but a lot of people live in a bubble here. But then again, just generalizing. And we have fucking twenty-four hour news stations, so they’re just pouring the most redundant, negative fucking crap and it’s kind of overwhelming. It makes me not want to turn the news on. I look to other sources, like PBS or BBC or alternative media on the Internet, which is sometimes kind of dangerous to read, too. I kind of go down a rabbit hole sometimes and wonder what is true and who’s telling the truth.
A few months back, you posted on Twitter some music videos from role models for girls in rock. What importance did these role models hold for you as an artist?
B: I was so lucky to grow up in the ‘90s. It was the revolution, it really was. There’s such a fucking plethora of amazing music to pick from, from Hole to Bikini Kill to L7 to Babes in Toyland to Elastica. There was Kim Gordon. There were so many women. It was just such an awesome time. I really hope that happens again. I think it’s been a good twenty years, so, usually things go in cycles. I’m hoping that maybe in the mainstream, female-driven rock ‘n roll or just rock ‘n roll in general kind of gets its place again. You know? It’s been dominated by dance music and I agree with Shirley Manson actually, she says it’s because of 9/11. And that’s absolutely where things kind of changed. We all got very PC and didn’t want to rock the boat and just wanted to hear meaningless fluff, I guess. I don’t know. I would think that people would run in the other direction.
You and Shirley Manson been collaborating recently. What has that been like? B: Well, I needed some girl gang vocals for “Meet The Foetus,” I didn’t want to just sing it by myself. So I asked Shirls and Emily from Warpaint to do it and they killed it, it was just so awesome and their voices are so beautiful. Shirley asked me to sing on her “Girls Talk Shit” song and I went in there so nervous because Butch Vig was there. I grew up listening to Nirvana and that’s the association I make. So he’s asking me to sing a fifth, and I’m like, I don’t know what that is! And she sang it for me and I was like, oh, I can do that. But I was so shy! I was so shy to sing in front of him. And then I just kind of unleashed, the shyness went away. I was like, “This is your moment to not be [shy], you better fucking bring it.” (laughs) I kind of screamed my head off and they were like “Yeah!”
But Shirley Manson is one of my favorite people. She’s one in… how many people are on this planet, one in seven billion? She’s so magical and special and cool and funny and she’s hysterical. She’s so fucking funny. She’s a really, really good person. She’s kind of a mentor for me. She was another woman in the ‘90s, you know. She’s like a big sister to me. I always wanted a big sister and I got one, and it’s her.
BUST is a feminist magazine, and we always ask in our interviews: are you a feminist? B: Absolutely. I know about your magazine. I read your magazine. Yes, I am absolutely a feminist.
What role has feminism played in your life?
B: Well, I grew up with-- my mom is a single mom. She grew up in a different era, and she kind of rebelled against that era. She’s kind of wild and opinionated and confrontational. Growing up with that, I think, was really good for me to see. So I’ve never been afraid of that in women, I never thought it was weird or odd or unacceptable. I never really even realized that I was a girl. I mean, I knew I was a girl, but I was never told that I couldn’t do something because of my vagina. The possibilities were endless. And you could tell someone to fuck off or have an opinion or go next door and knock on the door looking for me with your shirt off and your boobs out scaring the neighborhood. (laughs) I grew up with a really feminist, politically active mom and I’m really grateful for it. And the older I get, and having kids of my own, I just appreciate it and I’m grateful for it.
I’ve never thought of women as unequal. I know we still don’t get paid the same amount and there’s all kinds of injustices toward women, women don’t own their bodies in certain countries, they don’t have rights in certain countries, and I just can’t-- it fucking blows my mind. It blows my mind that there’s still that kind of demoralization going on. And then you look at what’s happening in Russia, I feel like they’re going backwards. Gay people? Are you fucking out of your mind?
But yes, I am 100% feminist. It’s not that I’m not man-ist. I’m pro-human, but women have fucking taken… they have really taken a pounding right from the beginning on all kinds of levels, spiritual, mental, physical. There’s been a lot of psychic damage. I’m absolutely pro-female, I feel really connected to women.
Do you have any advice for young women who might read this who’ve just started their first band, just picked up a guitar in their bedroom?
B: Yeah, master your instrument. There’s plenty of time for boyfriends and girlfriends and fucking... all that shit. If you’re passionate about something, master it. And it’s simple to start. It’s baby steps. Learning how to play an instrument takes dedication and making mistakes and discovering all kinds of stuff. If you just play along to your favorite records, which is what I did, you’ll get better and better and better.
*** Diploid Love will be released for digital download on April 29th and is available to pre-order on iTunes now.
This guest post is written by the lovely Liz Galvao