You might not have heard of crazy-influential garage rock duo Royal Trux, but safe to say your favourite bands (The Kills, Primal Scream) have. We talk to lead singer Jennifer Herrema about the band’s long-lasting influence.
14 years on, the band have reissued their masterpiece Accelerator, which still sounds exactly as frenetic, full-on and brutal as it did over a decade ago. Frontwoman Jennifer Herrema was pretty much the proto-female for every woman who’s ever picked up a guitar and rocked out, and we sit down with her for a Royal Trux re-do.
It’s been 14 years since Accelerator. How do you feel about what you guys have achieved?
You know, I was just thinking of how it doesn’t seem very long gone. That album in particular seems pretty timeless. But I love all of the records, you know.
You’re right, it sounds completely timeless. Because there are so many bands out there that are channelling that garage sound right now…
It’s funny because even major label bands are kind of capitulating to the lo-fi sound as an aesthetic choice as opposed to out necessity. Back in the day that’s what we did, we did the best with what it was.
Are there any bands out there right now that you think are kind of carrying on the flame?
There’s a lot of bands that have that soundbut they’re not working under the same circumstances. We were rolling like, broken amplifiers around on a skateboard to get them to the next place.
Do you think that erodes the kind of authenticity of the sound?
Yeah it does, but you know like it’s only in my head! I know so much stuff unfortunately, it taints things for me. But it doesn’t really erode the sound for kids that are just listening. If they like the sound, they like the sound and more power to it.
When you guys broke up, did you feel that it was the right time to end the band?
Royal Trux for all intents and purposes has always been whatever Neil and I say it is. So like Royal Trux never broke up, we just stopped performing. A long time back when I toured Japan, Neil didn’t fly, so I just took another dude called Paul who had dark hair and we pretended it was Neil. We used to talk about casting different members and getting someone to play me and Neil, and sending legions of Royal Trux to the West coast, to the East coast… You know, wherever. Royal Flux has always been whatever Neil and I say it is. It’s a conceptual idea.
You’ve also got an amazing style, and you’ve done a denim line for Volcom. Where does your approach to fashion come from?
I don’t have any real answer. I do remember when I was a little kid my mum sending me off to school in little dresses and just hating it. I had a friend who always wore jeans and we would just switch clothes. I’ve always kind of been a tomboy. I was never afforded some grand dressing room where I would put on my special stage clothes, so what I wear on a day-to-day basis is also what I wear on stage. I’ve never wanted to utilise sex to draw attention to the music or myself. I never wanted to be considered a girl in rock; I always wanted to be considered a rocker, period. I think, in a utilitarian way, being androgynous was my way of being part of something that’s bigger than sex, which is rock’n’roll and my band.
Did you ever find that despite that, people were still labelling you the sexy frontwoman?
There’s nothing wrong with people finding me sexy, it’s flattering. But it’s like somebody would find Steven Tyler or Jim Morrison sexy. If you can be sexy in a pair of tennis shoes and jeans, just being yourself, then you are a sexy motherfucker. But if you need all the other stuff, like special stage shoes and ways of carrying yourself and speaking, then you’re just a fucking poser.
We see what you mean, so if takes concerted effort, it’s no longer effortless?
Yeah. There’s nothing wrong with that either, that is just entertainment! But rock to me has always been very different from just entertainment. It’s a vibe, it’s a feeling, there’s sometimes chaos, danger… But with entertainment there is an expectation of people paying money. They expect to be entertained.
Is there any advice you’d have given to a younger you when you first started out?
Actually, people did give me advice, but you know I didn’t listen to them. You just got to do it your way.
Accelerator is out today on Domino Records. dragcity.com/artists/royal-trux
Words: Zing Tsjeng