When I was really young and growing up in St Louis in the seventies, the older kids in my
neighbourhood were doing a lot of drugs and
listening to the bands of the time - Led Zeppelin, Pink ~loyd, David Bowie, the Doors, the Beatles
these were my rock 'n' roll roots. I was in love with Davy Jones and The Monkees was my
favourite show. I called up the radio station and won a two-album set, which I imagine is worth a lot
of money now ... or maybe not.
I played it to death, and even though all their songs were written by Neil Diamond, just loved their
pop songs. Recently my brother said, 'Louise, I real ise why you liked Davy Jones so much - he
looks like he's ten. When you were little it made perfect sense that you~would love him.'
The first rock record I had was the Beatles' Abbey Road, which my older brother Ken gave to me
when i was about eight. We'd just been given a stereo, which we positioned in the sun next to the
window, and l listened to Abbey Road constantly. At one point the record was warped, I was
hysterically upset and was convinced my
brother had switched his record with mine. I didn't understand that the sun could warp vinyl and I
felt really foolish when I real ised that and l had been blaming him for the demise of my favourite
I used to save up to buy my own records. And at Christmas in my family, there's always been a lot
of record exchanging. We're a big, musically oriented family and we take our rock very seriously.
That pretty much goes for the rest of St Louis - classic rock is taken very seriously. It's the axis on
which the city spins.
We played in St Louis recently in this bar cal led Mississippi Nights - where I used to go a lot and
see my boyfriend's band - and it was really a thrill to play there. I knew that we had something when
these kids gave us their seal of approval - it was a serious triumph. I grew up going to a lot of
concerts and everything
up to this point in my life seems to have led to being in a band.
Istarted going to shows when. I was 11. My first was Jackson Browne, which I went to with my
mom and her boyfriend - my parents got divorced when I was eight - at a huge outdoor pavilion. I
was so excited. Actually, I think my sister took me with her friends to an outdoor festival when l
was eight. I remember her shoving me
into these straight-legged blue jeans and I was really upset because I wanted to wear bell-bottoms,
but as far as she was concerned, bell- bottoms were out - she wanted to show up with her little
sister in straight legs. I was upset, but she was really concerned about my
fashion so I had to comply. The next day I went out and bought two Jackson Browne records.
'Here Comes Those Tears Again' became my anthem. I'm sure it helped that he looked a little like
Davy Jones, but older. I also listened to the Mamas and the Papas and Fleetwood Mac's Rumours
like crazy and worshipped the photos of Michelle Phillips and Stevie Nicks.
The summer before sixth grade, I went to see the Cars. It was when feathered hair was in, Farrah
Fawcett-style. I had a huge crush on this guy, who was actually a younger brother of my sister's
boyfriend at the time, and he didn't notice me or my feathered hair the whole night, but the Cars
were awesome. Later, I went to see REO Speedwagon, Charlie Daniels Band
and Styx, and these classic rock bands. My best friend, Emilie Lucas, and I got tennis shoes just
like Tommy Shaw, who was the other singer in Styx. He had these light brown Nikes and we
wanted to dress just like him. We were into arena rock, and we would bring our lighters religiously.
That was a dark time in my family. We had moved and I had switched schools. When I met [milie
and her family, I basically moved in. We were hanging out with her older brothers and their friends,
collecting 45s and playing foosball [sic] in her basement. Emilie and I would act out duets like
'Paradise by the Dashboard Lights', 'Don't Go Breaking My Heart' and songs
from Grease in her bedroom. I remember her brother too was in a band that played covers like
'Born To Be Wild'. They were only in the eighth grade - about 14 - but they seemed so old and we
idolised them. The summer after sixth grade, one of Emilie's older brothers killed himself after a
Marshall Tucker concert. It changed everything and everyone. I think that was
when I started associating people's sadness with rock 'n' roll.
I think I always fantasised about being on stage, but l don't think I ever thought about picking up a
guitar and writing and playing out. I started singing in choirs and musicals when I was in grade
school. I played a little guitar when I was really young; my mother had a guitar and we used to sing
at family parties before my parents got divorced. We did a few duets
and sang harmonies together - it was a really nice thing that we shared. My parents met in a choir so
it follows that music figures heavily in our upbringing. My dad and I have always sung together. We
used to sing and dance around our living room. I would walk on his feet.
Then I started playing the piano when I was seven and I loved it. I used to sleepwalk a lot around
the time when my parents were getting divorced and I took to sleepwalking down the street in my
underwear. Nightwatchmen would find me and send me home; it was horrifying. I also used to
sleepwalk down to the piano and bang on it. My parents would come down
and wake me up, although they never knew whether they should wake me up and scare me, or just
guide me back to bed.
At high school I was in a bunch of musicals. I loved singing and dancing and the spirit of musicals, as
sappy and silly as they are. Then I got into an R&B band with my brother Eric when I was 16, 17,
and I was singing Vanity 6 and Go-Gos covers. A guy from an R&B cover band came to one of
our practices, liked my voice and asked if I would audition for his band,
who had been together for six years. So I ended up spending a year in this excellent, funk cover
band who were doing really well in St Louis. We played at proms, at college dances and at bars,
when they would let me in.
Here's a nice little anecdote. When we were younger and my parents were still together, we
belonged to this exclusive country club in the suburbs of St Louis. I remember roast beef dinners
and having a lovely, very privileged, comfortable life. Anyway, there was a real intolerance of
anything other than white Angl~Saxons at this country club, and when a cousin
of ours, who was three, took along a three-year-old black friend of his, they made the kid leave.
My family withdrew membership. About ten years later, when I was in this R&B band, we were
asked to play at the country club. I was the only white person in the band. it felt really good to
return there with that band and be paid to play.
As I was in a band, I didn't want to go to college; my mom was begging me to at least consider
some courses, but I was really involved in the band and we were going to get a major deal. At the
time it seemed huge and unfathomable and exciting - I was caught up in it all. But the band
somehow sensed that I would end up going to college so they took me less seriously
and it also happened that I wasn't being very well received at black clubs. They got a singer for
those nights, and I ended up feeling really gross, like I was just used for the white shows. I got the
lead in Hello, Dolly at my
high school and, eventually, the band thing petered out. Since then, they've signed to Capitol and
one of them is touring now with Bootsy Collins. Around that time, my brother Eric had been
listening to early Cure, Tears For Fears and Velvet Underground records and my tastes took a
dramatic turn. I still love Velvet Underground; each record is a collection of gems.
I went to college in New York Ci~ at Barnard where I joined this a cappella singing
group, which was excellent. I guess it was my version of a sorority without all the formalities and
bullshit. I met a lot of cool women. We toured around a little and sang all the time. I majored in
English, but because my boyfriend of the time was living in St Louis, I wasn't fully
embracing New York or college. He was in a band that was doing really well in St Louis, and I
think we both envied each other, 'cause he was throwing over college for his career in music and 1
felt I was missing out on something crucial by going to college. As time went on, the relationship fell
apart. Meanwhile my musical tastes were evolving.
Right at the end of college, I got into this poetry class that I loved; that's when I began to learn how
to exorcise pain through writing. I won these two prizes at the end of the year, which for me was a
huge compliment and my biggest honour in college. I wasn't a great student and I spent more time
on poetry than geology, for example, so~it was like I had accomplished something significant.
I was dubbed by one of my teachers a 'love poet'. in a grade report, he wrote: 'Maybe when Louise
works out some of her issues concerning her relationships, she may have to change into a different
kind of poet or she may have to draw from some other source, because right now, her poetry
focuses mainly on love.'
The poem that won the prize was called '110th Street Station.' It was written from the perspective
of a man on the street who is committing a violent verbal assault on a woman in New York City.
That is partly why I left. Being constantly harassed walking down the street hearing guys saying: 'I
wanna suck your pussy', is a really distressing part of living in New York.
That city can be intensely inhospitable to women. In spite of all of that, I love it there. In a way, it's
the place where I feel most independent, confident and powerful and, I guess, autonomous, whereas
in Chicago it's a different way of life altogether - I'm much more linked with people.
I left New York when I finished Barnard and went back to St Louis, partly because I needed to
remember that there was a world outside New York where foliage prevailed and you could actually
smell clean air. My relationship dragged on interminably over the course of the next year and then I
moved to Chicago with a bunch of bags and found a place.
I had one friend there who was in a theatre company, and I thought that I was either going to, join a
band or act. I felt inclined to do both. I auditioned for the theatre company and ended up being
involved in really aggressive, challenging, improvisational commedia dell'arte theatre. I felt like I
could do it, but I was terrified. I performed in
Dano Fo's Accidental Death of an Anarchist but I had some political differences with the people
who were running the company. The company chose plays which had very few roles for women
and I wanted to do my own thing, to express myself in my own words and be in control as much as
It made more sense to me to write songs. A good friend of mine was talking me through my
decisions. ~ guess I was having a personal crisis, not knowing what I was going to do. i'd been
playing acoustic guitar for about three years and I'd started to record on a four-track around the
time that I was in the theatre company, but I wasn't taking it really seriously.
I guess in the back of my mind I knew maybe this was what I wanted to do some day, because I
would dream songs, wake up and record them sort of half awake. I'd be so excited about them that
I'd play them over and over again just to absorb the sound of my voice, the sound of my guitar, and,
in a way, to make sure it was really me.
I had started playing guitar when I was at college in New York. My sophomore year, a friend of
mine down the hall lent me her acoustic. We were living in this old welfare hotel really far off-
campus, a strange place to live: really dark and depressing. It was an odd dynamic to have young,
financially comfortable women living next to these elderly people who had been
living for ever in tiny fixed-rent rooms; it was unsettling and pretty eye-opening. At that time, I spent
a lot of time sleeping 'cause I was really down - a friend later told me I was sleeping the whole year
- but when I wasn't in bed or at class, I was playing guitar. Strangely, I was also obsessed with
aerobics, so I was going to aerobics three hours a day and then
I would come home and play guitar. Playing made perfect sense to me, and the following summer i
got an acoustic. From there, I played acoustic for the next three years.
When a friend gave me their discarded Les Paul copy - an Electra - I got a small Fender amp and I
was so happy. Right when I started playing electric guitar, the Smashing Pumpkins' album Gish
came out. I didn't know them; I didn't really know anything about the Chicago music scene - I just
went to plays all the time because all my friends were in theatre.
I was so freaked out by Gish that I had to turn it off after the fourth song. It was too close to home.
It was something that I imagined myself doing, but I didn't know how I was going to get there. I
didn't necessarily want to play their music but I was so daunted by them. I've had other, similar
experiences. Like after hearing the first side of PJ Harvey's
first album Dry, I was so overwhelmed I had to turn it off. Now I love the record, but it's in its
place. I understand what it is and I'm no longer threatened by it. I now know what kind of rnusic I
want to make and it's different from hoth of those bands, but at the time I was just starting to play
electric guitar and it was too overwhelming.
Pretty soon after I got my lectra, I met Nina. I had a few songs ready and she had some too, and
we hooked up. I guess we really spoke to each other, our music made sense to each other; I felt I
could have written her songs, and vice versa. it was such a relief to meet her, renewing to say the
least. I like to think that there was some magic
involved - a dear friend of Nina's introduced us so it was just really lucky. We started playing
together, our voices matched each other and the whole thing made sense.
Things have happened so fast to the band, and in some ways I expected
this. I was so proud of our music, and my friendship with Nina feels so
magical to me that I could only imagine something really special coming
outof it. But there's also a certain amount of disillusionment that goes along
with it, as it becomes one's work.
Now I understand that being in the studio is gruelling, and going on the
road is not that great. You start to give big chunks of yourself away every
night and then you find yourself at three in the morning lying in some weird
hotel room, half empty. It's really fun and I love to travel, but it is fucking
I miss my cats and I get a little teary when I leave them. I also realize that we're in a great position
because we're playing clubs where people don't really know about us - so we just get to surprise
them and hopefully blow them away.
I imagine that with an album coming out, the loss of anonymity must be hard. I don't know if that will
happen to us, we could remain comfortably anonymous - or maybe uncomfortably anony mous! It's
just a real adjustment, and in some ways I feel prepared to make whatever adjustments are
necessary because this is the most meaningful way
I can imagine living my life and I feel so lucky to be able to do it and potentially support myself
doing it. In other ways, I feel incredibly naive.
I felt paralysed for a while. When we were in the studio recordmg the album, I couldn't write
anything new until we were done with those songs. We have so many ideas and we want to go in
different directions. I want to keep experiences flowing, and not be tripped up by the business end
of things. There's just so much to think about and so much to learn.
The whole thing about record labels, the technicalities and the transition to treating your music as a
business. It's really distracting to me; I just want to write songs and play shows and travel. lf I can
do that, I imagine I'd have reached the point where I'd love to be.
We've been dubbod 'post-feminists' in a number of articles written about our band. My theory
about this is as follows:
If we are 'post- feminists', we are perceived to be less threatening, as feminism can then be
considered a thing of the past, which is absurd. The tendency for people to place women in a box
and store them where they are safely out of the spotlight is all too tempting - it's universal. I hope the
term 'post-feminism' will become obsolete when people start recognising that there is. nothing 'post'
It is an ongoing struggle for acknowledgement of our equality with men, which is not conveniently
going to come to a screeching halt when a certain catchphrase comes into fashion.
As far as my songs go, I don't try to be political. I usually write about whatever's on my mind -
whatever comes out when I hit a chord and I realise what I'm thinking about, what's bothering me or
what's making me happy. The craft part comes in when I try to make it into a cohesive, coherent
song. But it starts with whatever I'm thinking and feeling.
Nina said something recently which really struck me - that being alone writing songs was when she
felt the most at one with herself, the most connected to herself. That's how I feel too in writing
music; that it's the most intimate time I have with myself. Things just spill out, whether it's a cool
guitar part or groove or just a beautiful chord.
Often I shock myself with what I say because I'm not realising that something's really bugging me
and it just pops out and I go: 'Shit, I have to deal with that...'
A lot of my wanting to do this book is the fact that it includes Kim Gordon, Courtney Love... Those
are some of my role models. They have forged new terrain; really paved the way for us in a lot of
I respect them immeasurably and I'm honoured to be in their company in a book. I certainly don't
want to publicly dismiss or reject or criticise other female artists, unless I am personally offended by
I have a definitive answer to the 'do the press try to pit women against each other' question. That
would be 'Yes'. We really hadn't discussed it or reflected upon it absolutely until talking for this
I had an experience last night where I realised that I felt manipulated, and that already people have
been asking me far too much what I think of all the other female bands around. Like who the fuck
cares what I think of them?
Everyone wants a cat-fight and I'm just not going to play that game. I'm determined.
Women need to be more tolerant of each another. Recently, upon returning to Chicago after being
out on the road for three weeks, I discovered some mean graffiti about my band in a bathroom stall
in the club where we were playing that night.
It really hurt that in the place designated for and sacred to women, a woman was moved to take a
pen out of her purse and slam my band in print.
I have to learn not to care, but it still sucks.
People have really rigid, strict and inflexible ideas of what feminism should be. I'm learning,
I'm having to figure out how I want to express myself and I guess the bottom line is that I want to
express myself as naturally as possible
and I want to be allowed to find my way. I'm not necessarily coming to the rock world with a
feminist agenda that I want to dole out to people, and yet I do have a lot of really strong opinions
and ideas which I want to let grow and develop as I do.
I want that to be both inherent in my music and separate from my music. They are inextricably
linked, but I don't want to feel as if I have to be a feminist spokesperson before I'm an artist.
That's something that l think a lot of women in rock bands now are running into - feeling like they
are being put on a pedestal or that they are being put into a situation where they are being looked to
as role models. I know that because I've been
personally disappointed by some women whose music I've really liked but who, politically, won't
take a stance. There's a certain way of categorising people, specifically women, in order to
understand who they are. This whole issue is so frustrating to me,
and we're in such a vulnerable place right now; I think we've been approaching everything with fear
of how we're going to be perceived. I've found myself talking a lot about feminism in interviews. We
haven't been interviewed a lot, but just in the few we've had,
I've felt: 'I was so conveniently pegged just now.' And, as a feminist, I can be as ridiculed by people
who are feminists as people who are not. It's just frightening to come out politically, to know that
one is going to be bashed and then set aside..
I do think I'd be equally attacked for being passive as for being opinionated. Society really looks to
rock idols; at this point, people don't really read much any more, certainly in America, and rock has
taken much more of a poetic place in people's lives.
It's important to see women playing music, and rock music specifically. . . I don't really know a lot
about the bands that are in the Riot Grrrl movement, I'm not really familiar with the basis of it, I
don't live in Olympia or Seattle and it kind of bypassed me.
Yet I do understand that the feeling of just picking up a guitar and making noise is a really powerful
one and why should it be relegated to men? Why should men have a monopoly on loud music?
Women playing guitars should be just another... bold step for womankind.