Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Women Who Rock Wednesday: Liza and Suzi of Civet!!!

Welcome to Women Who Rock Wednesday! As usual, I have a prize from last week to give out, a signed copy of MISS MATCH by Wendy Toliver. That lucky winner is.... sweetmelissa818 from blogger. Please send your address to stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com to claim your prize!

Today I have an extremely special interview to share and as usual there will be a kick-ass prize, a signed CD by my current favorite band on the planet, CIVET!

I know you have been listening to me talk these ladies up for almost a year now, but it's for good reason. I haven't gotten this excited about a band since I was like thirteen and first discovering bands like Nirvana, Hole, and Rancid in the early 90s. I've been listening to their album HELL HATH NO FURY pretty much non-stop since it came out in September. I ran a little WWRW feature on them back then, but wasn't able to do an interview because the ladies were quite busy. But in addition to being the most kick-ass women in rock, the ladies of CIVET, Liza and Suzi in particular, are total sweethearts. They invited me to their gig in Chicago in December and sat down afterward to do an exclusive Women Who Rock Wednesday interview.

So why did it take me so f*&^ing long to share it with you since I know you were dying to have it. Well, two reasons. One because I was just swamped and it took me forever to transcribe it, but mainly because I wanted to post it now, to psych you up for CIVET's tour with the DROPKICK MURPHYS which kicks off on Friday! You should visit CIVET's myspace now to find out if they are hitting a city near you because this is a tour not to be missed. CIVET is amazing live. For me, that is the true test of a band. I can't honestly declare them one of my all-time favorites if they don't blow me away in concert. I was in an all-girl mosh pit at CIVET's last Chicago show. That hasn't happened since.... um, probably never, but maybe some riot grrrl show I went to back in the early 90s at the Fireside Bowl. But seriously it was one of the best shows I've been to in a long long long time. The pictures that you'll see throughout this interview are from the Chicago show. But now I'll shut up and let Liza and Suzi do the talking. Don't forget to leave a comment after you read the interview. That's how you'll be entered to win a signed HELL HATH NO FURY cd.

(L to R: Suzi, me, Liza)

Can you tell me how Civet formed? And you guys are sisters, how did that play into it?

Liza: Yeah, we’re sisters. We started the band like 6 or 7 years ago. Suzi wasn’t initially in the band, but it was always my dream to bring her in to the band. I was always like, ‘Oh, I want to play music with my sister.’ It just took a little while for her to not be so young and be ready to come and jam.

Suzi: Pretty much when I turned 15. She was like, “Yeah, it’s time for you to pick up the guitar and be my back up.” And I thought, “Hmm sounds better than going to school. Now I have an excuse to get home schooled and play rock shows.

Liza: It was pretty funny because for about a year, she’d come and play like one or two songs at a show just to break her in and get the feel of things.

Suzi: It was scary. It was horrible.

Liza: The pictures are so cute. You look so young.

Suzi: I really was very young.

So who were some of your early influences? I’ve heard you say that part of the reason you did this was because there weren’t necessarily women out there doing what you wanted to do.

Liza: I didn’t really feel like there were any girl bands out there that I could really look up to.

Were there any women at all who influenced you?

Liza: Well, I really loved the Runaways. It just felt like, yeah there were girl bands, but they weren’t all tough, you know what I mean? I really wanted a tough girl band.

Suzi: Yeah pretty much you got to choose from like the Runaways who were around so long ago that it wasn’t even like we could go see them. And then like Courtney Love was really cool, but she was a little intense. We like wanted to find the medium. That was like comfortable, but still really tough.

What about guy bands, who were some of your influences?

Liza: When I first started I was listening to a lot of classic rock, like The Stones, The Beatles.

Suzi: That’s the kind of stuff we grew up on.

Liza: I think I listen to a lot more punk rock now that I did when I was starting the band. Even though if you listen to the music it probably sounds like it’s the opposite, like more punk rock in the beginning. But we love like Motorhead, the Misfits, stuff like that.

Suzi: We like dark, intense kind of stuff. Where when you are listening to the record you can feel the sweat they put into it. You’ve gotta get emotion out of it. That’s what we go for.

Do you guys have any crazy stories from the early days?

Liza: I don’t think anything was ever embarrassing, but I think a lot of the reason that a lot of girl bands don’t make it is because when they start they almost invite criticism because they are really shy and don’t present themselves as tough so they kind of invite the catcalls and the bad reviews. I think it’s a matter of being comfortable with yourself. I don’t think you can blame that on society. A lot of girl bands when they start, including myself, like I didn’t feel very comfortable with what I was doing in the first year and that invites negative shit.

So do you have a way to deal with it now?

Liza: No I just really don’t care now.

Suzi: We’re just over it!

Liza: We’re so far beyond being comfortable with who we are and what we do. We just feel like really powerful women. We feel like these bad-ass females who people look up to and we fuel our own fire and I can’t even imagine anyone saying anything.

Suzi: It’s a joke. They end up being the ones who look stupid. And everyone around them knows that. We’ve gotten to the point where that kind of stuff doesn’t matter, we’re so far past it.

When did you pick up guitar?

Liza: I actually started playing guitar when I started the band. So the first couple of years were like learning years. I was like 15 or 16.

And you’re self-taught?

Liza: Yeah, for sure. I never took lessons or anything like that and then I tried to teach Suzi…

Suzi: When I was 14, she was like, “Play this!” I was like, “Okay, it doesn’t really sound that good, but it feels good.

Liza: It comes together. I think if you have a passion for something, you don’t need lessons, you can teach yourself. You know what sounds right and what doesn’t sound right. No need to go to school.

What are some of your favorite songs on the new record, either to play live or songs that are really close to your heart?

Suzi: I would say one of my very favorites to play is 1989.

Liza: Yeah that’s one of my favorites, too.

Suzi: That’s totally up there in the top three. Probably number two. I don’t know what number one is, but I’m sure there is one… 1989 is a really great song that Liza wrote about our family and our dad and things that happened.

Liza: It’s weird because when we play the song we really kind of all get (S and L in unison) the chills. It’s one of those songs where you play it and you’re like, man, this song really feels good right now. And then Alibis is a great song.

Suzi: Yeah, there’s a lot of aggression in that one. It’s a good one to play at shows.

Liza: And then I also I love to listen to All I Want.

Suzi: That is such a fun song.

Liza: We don’t play that live right now. We’re going to start for our next tour. But it was a co-write, so it wasn’t initially ours, so it’s kind of hard.

Suzi: We’re like, we don’t really know you!

Liza: We played in the studio and it sounded fabulous, but after that we just didn’t add it into live rotation fast enough and we need a refresher course.

That’s a great song. It’s a co-write with Tim Armstrong, can you talk about how that came about?

Liza: Yeah. I think Tim felt kind of weird about just giving us the song to do on the record because there’s so much speculation about the Distillers albums not being written by the Distillers. So Tim was like, I have this song it was written for…

Suzi: Fefe Dobson, some Candian pop singer, which she recorded it…

Liza: She recorded it, but it didn’t make her album.

Suzi: Yeah and Tim was like, “I really love this song, can you guys maybe tweak it, make more your own. I think it would be a really good collaboration.”

Liza: So we took it into the studio—or to our practice space, I should say—and we changed the chords. And Tim and I worked on the lyrics together. So it was like we were able to make it our own, working with him on it.

Suzi: But you can still definitely hear his influence in it.

Liza: Yeah, you totally can. Like the guitar riffs, even though we played everything, the guitar stuff is signature Tim Armstrong.

(Stephanie enthusiastically interjects how much she loves the lyrics and they remind her of her friendship with her best friend.)

Liza: I think originally the lyrics were very like “All I want is my man to stand by my side”

Suzi: And we’re all, “Oh hell no!”

Liza: Yeah, it totally didn’t fit with us. And Tim was like, “Well, you know if you guys want to write it about being best girl friends. We can rewrite it.” And I said, “Okay, let’s rewrite it.” So it worked out a lot better.

Suzi: I’m really happy with that song. It’s like a little present, like here’s my gift to you, thanks for being on the label.

Liza: Tim was very cool about it.

You guys are very tattooed, I’m tattooed, I love tattoo stories, you got a favorite tattoo story that you want to tell me about?

Liza and Suzi ponder for a minute.

Suzi: Well, we just got tour tattoos.

Liza: We just got tour tattoos.

Suzi: We all got matching diamonds. (Suzi shows hers off on the back of her arm.) Mine’s still healing. My skin is slow. We all got diamonds tattooed on us for this tour, kind of like…

Liza: Maybe we’ll make some money this year.

Suzi: We’re heading that direction so we thought we’d symbolize it.

That’s awesome, where’d you guys get them done?

Suzi: It’s called HandMade Tattoos in Virginia. He’s a good friend of Danni, our drummer. His name is Will and they just took us in on our day off.

Liza: And all the band wanted tattoos and they were like let’s just do it.

Suzi: It was a nice little present and we had a nice day off, hanging out, getting tattooed.

Do you have any advice to women who want to get into rock or how to survive high school or your teen years as a punk girl?

Suzi: Did you say survive high school?

Liza: We both bailed. We got our diplomas but not good times. I think it’s all a matter of becoming comfortable with yourself and finding something to believe in.

Suzi: Yeah, finding something to believe in that makes you feel really good and really secure in who you are and that reflects who you are and makes you happy and just running with it. Putting your all into it. 100 percent.

Liza: If you’ve got something you believe in and you’re working hard for, you’re not going to give a fuck what anybody thinks about you.

Suzi: You kind of make your own rules about life because you are doing something you love. Your telling the universe this is who I am, this is what I want, and good things are going to happen because of it. And it’s not about going to school or doing things a certain way, it’s about following your heart, making yourself happy first.

Liza: Totally.

These are my questions that I always ask. What was your first album and your first concert?

Liza: My first concert was actually Joan Jett. I can remember seeing her at a fair and I was just sitting on the fence. We didn’t actually have tickets so I was peeking over the fence watching her. It was very inspiring. I must have been six or seven. I was really young. And then my first album that I can remember, I had a New Kids tape. (Liza laughs.) I’d totally go see them on their reunion. It’s good stuff, you listen to different stuff when you’re a kid. I can also remember my parents playing a lot of Tom Petty when I was younger. That sticks out a lot.

Suzi: I’m 19 so I grew up when the Spice Girls were huge and they—I will not fucking lie about this—they are a huge influence on me. They were the coolest girl group of all time. They just rocked. They took over the whole entire world and it doesn’t matter if they looked really fucked up…

Liza: But it was all about girl power.

Suzi: It was! And being like 11 that was cool to me. I was like, “Yeah, girl power!” I really believed it and I was all about the Spice Girls, okay? And Liza took me to go see Hanson.

Liza: I did. That was one of her first concerts.

Suzi: And she wouldn’t let me pee until they played Mmm Bop, which was of course the last song because that was their big song. So I’m practically crying and having a horrible time. And then they played Mmm Bop.

Liza: It was good. And we also saw the Spice Girls when they did their reunion tour.

Suzi: And I cried during that, too.

Liza: It was great. There’s something to be said about a band like that that moves that many people. I mean, yeah there’s marketing involved but people want to believe in something.

Suzi: And that’s what inspires you. It’s up there and you can’t look away. Cheesy as all hell, but whatever. Anyway, the Spice Girls, that’s when I grew up. It’s not to say that I don’t love rock ‘n’ roll. I mean, Social Distortion and The Ramones and The Clash and The Beatles and all that, huge influence on me, but when I was a little girl, that’s what was big. I’m proud to say.

What’s been your biggest rock star moment so far?

Suzi: We have to pick one? (Both Liza and Suzi laugh.) All of them.

Liza: How ‘bout when we chased down Tommy Lee. Oh wait..

Suzi: That was horrible. That wasn’t a rock star moment. That was us chasing after a rock star.

(We all laugh.)

Liza: I think when we were on the Dropkick Murphys tour recently and we had the amount… their catering.. and we played these big stadiums, like baseball stadiums on the East Coast and we showed up for the first show and no one told us we were playing stadiums. We were like, “Okay.. There’s like 10,000 people out there!”

Suzi: And people loaded our stuff onstage for us.

Liza: Yeah, it was pretty overwhelming. And we got everything we asked for on our rider. It was great. It was a good time. They really took care of us. We were getting paid like way too much. (She laughs.) It’s really hard to come down from a tour of that size and do the real stuff.

Suzi: And be grounded when you come home.

Do you guys like touring?

Liza: Oh yeah. Suzi and I love it.

Suzi: We don’t like coming home.

Liza: This is just too much fun.

Suzi: I could just stay out here.

What’s your favorite thing about it?

Suzi: The not being home part.

Liza: It’s almost like you’re on vacation. You just roll in every day, you load your stuff and you play. You do what you love. There’s no pressure. You’re around the people you wanna be around. You get a set schedule. I don’t have one of those when I’m at home, so it feels really good to me.

Suzi: You get a set amount of money to do whatever you want with everyday.

Liza: Sometimes they feed you, sometimes they don’t.

Suzi: Sometimes you get lost.

Liza: It’s great. It’s a good time.

A big thank you once again to Liza and Suzi for doing the interview! Go buy your Civet/Dropkicks tour tickets, get ready to see them on Warped Tour this summer and leave a comment to be entered to win a signed HELL HATH NO FURY cd. As usual, I will chose the winner via random number generator and announce them next week when I have Lynn Turkington of Angel Potions here, telling us about her skincare/beauty line and of course another oppurtunity to win great, free stuff!


Paradox said...

Enter me please!

paradoxrevealed (at) aim (dot) com

Liviania said...

Awesome interview, as always.

I'm the same age as Suzi so I can definitely remember the Spice Girl's craze. No wonder I wasn't cool in elementary . . . my parents had already corrupted my musical taste.

And the DM aren't coming back through where I live this year. I will be in town for one of the Warped Tour shows, but it's a couple of days before I leave the country - not sure I wanna do that. Yargh. This is why I don't plan stuff.

Erika Powell said...

YAY for new bands. And I go to Warped Tour every year. This is really exciting.

Natalie Hatch said...

I think it's great that these girls are out there. It seems soo much harder for female rock bands to get airplay than males these days.
Great interview, glad you had a good time at their gig.

sweetmelissa818 said...

My first concert was Arlo Guthrie! I was around for the Spice Girls craze, but a concert of theirs was never very high on my list.

Anonymous said...

I am old, so hated all that stuff. But if it helps inspire strong minded, talented ladies like these, then i can see it had its benefits!

Thanks for sharing this band with us Stephanie!

thebluerose said...

I loved the interview. Both of them are so strong...The fact that they are sisters seem...strange. I would think that they would finght all the time, but it's like they are the type of twins who agree with just about everything.

I would like to enter.

ttt1612 AT yahoo DOT com

Marie said...

ooo! enter me!
thank *goodness* there is a new punk rock band out there, it's about time!
i miss HOLE and The Distillers!
Thank goodness!

The Emperor said...

Goddamn, all of you chicks are so effing hot