Interview Week: Jennifer Herrema and the continuing adventures of the Rad Times Xpress

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Jennifer Herrema warped your world with Royal Trux, Gap's golden model gal, RTX's front running front woman and has now changed the band's name to Black Bananas with the most triumphant Rad Times Xpress IV out now on Drag City. We caught up a few weeks back and talked up some classic Stones' discs, going forward while looking back but not going backward beginning with some talks of the tides.

What are some of the best surf spots around these days?

Right where I live, heh heh! Where I live is probably the hottest spot in the whole United States, it's called Surf City USA, ha. To tell you the honest truth, I haven't been in a long time, it's been 4 and a half months. I got a really bad ear infection too in both ears and it was resistant to the antibiotics and I've been getting shots and shit so I haven't dunked my head under water in like 4 and half months.

Switching to the music, you have been doing the lo-fi thing since the 80s and I was wondering your thoughts on lo-fi becoming so trend in recent years.

I have nothing against but you know the lo-fi thing [for Royal Trux] was the result of circumstance, it wasn't necessarily we decided and chose to make music with the least amount of instruments and the cheapest shit, you know. The circumstance that we were both like was kind of an organic thing I think the wilfulness of the lo-fi sound is in its own way post-modern, I'm not sure, but I definitely think if the song is good it doesn't matter like how lo-fi or hi-fi it is, it doesn't really matter. I think from where I am, but working a lot more is the garage end shit, there is more garage as opposed to with lo-fi where there's lots of space because you know, we didn't have a full band we were composing shit and then with me being all sobered up later I accumulated a bunch instruments and coming up with money and being able to record and yeah, I don't know, it's all good, it's all good, I'm sure there are plenty of people who's music is the result of their context and circumstances as well.

Most definitely. Like what you were saying about music having a post-modern quality to it, you come on the new album with full guns blazing, that present a bunch of styles from funk, hip-hop beats, the handclaps, but there is no favoring of one sound style over the other.

Yeah it's basically everything…the kitchen sink, it's kind of a lot you know, all the stuff that influenced me in the past, certain things came up in the past couple of years with buying and investing in Ableton then buying new gear and then listening to old stuff, like just going back you know, like I said it's context and circumstance and all that kind of create the sound of Black Bananas.

Yeah, well it's kind of like using things like Ableton to translate the mission statement you made on Western Xterminator with the “Black Bananas” track stating, “I'm your garbage collector, turn your trash into gold,” the element of taking the cornucopia of the junk shop record collector type of approach is interesting being heard put to the new technologies of Ableton where the layering of it is new territory for you.

Yeah, totally. I've never been a purist, I've always been inclusive, never exclusive I find everything that's new and I want to check it out I love progress and stuff like, I don't think you can put aside the past but I just watched this video from some fashion designer and she's like, 'I don't create things based on the past, all my stuff is completely original.' And I was like, that's bullshit, I was like, are you kidding me, like you didn't live your life and get influenced by all sorts of things, you just acknowledge things. Like other people with RTX, there were hair metal comparisons, for some that was like a big gasp, that was like, 'so awful, that so not cool,' but yeah, it's totally cool you just decided it's not but now you're listening to it in a new context and now it's okay. You know, just the exclusivity of peoples' taste and minds are just you know, whatever I feel like it opens people up to hear other people's sounds in a new context. They still might hate your stuff because they can't get over what they associate it with them but at the same time delivering them in possibly a new context and using them to make a jambalaya is exciting for me anyway.

Those people are just looking from their cavalier arm chair critiques in their observations of the evolutions from Royal Trux, to RTX, to Black Bananas and that 'WTF' factor as they're taken aback from your going from the garage, to the living room, to the basement and to the arena in the sense of sound.

Yeah, no, that's the thing. A lot of bands the intention is to create an image, to create a sound and hone it and continue to dish that sound out forever and ever and I find that really boring. The intention of everything that I have ever done is not to put myself in a particular spot, or niche or stick to any particular genre it's always been about keep moving, keep moving and I know that has never afforded any one, solid fan base because as soon as a group of people like one album, I'm already moving on and I know it's frustrating people but I'm still doing what I like where a lot of people are making records but they are making the same stuff in their records over and over again and that's not for me.

Looking through the back catalog, is there a banana motif or some sort of Warholian fixation of object iconography.

There was the “Banana Question,” I don't know I definitely have a little flirtation with bananas, ha ha, I don't know, I don't know why actually. And then bananas seem to be very popular right now too which is interesting because I have been looking through fashion magazines and shit like trying to design some stuff for next year and I keep seeing bananas everywhere and you see that's the thing; sometimes I feel like I am way, way ahead of the curb, like way ahead of it and sometimes if can sit still and not be like lazy I can be right on time. Ha ha, I feel like I'm right on time with this banana thing, but I've been rolling bananas for a long time and smokin' em.

Beautiful. I liked the cover that you and Kurt Vile did with “Before They Make Run” I know you did a prior rendition of Exile on Mainstreet a while back and I was wondering if there was a Stones album that you could remake or make a sequel to what would it be?

I think that the 2, wow, oh god, actually, that's hard. At one point when like when I was about 15 it would have been Stickty Fingers one hundred percent, but more and more I feel a real affinity to Some Girls right now, but I think like Sticky Fingers, Goats Head Soup and Some Girls…like, but I don't know, shit.

On Goats Head they get their stride I think.

Yeah, those are, I don't know, I don't know, I love the fact that they always embraced like the new shit when it came out whether it was disco or whatever and you can only do it as a group and Mick Jagger doing his solo efforts and things…

She's the Boss?

Oh my god, ha, his singing with Joss Stone is totally bumming me out.

Wasn't that on American Idol or something like that?

I don't know.

Then there is Iggy Pop doing “Wild Child” on American Idol.

I don't want to, I mean, I don't hate it but I just can't, I mean I have seen plenty of episodes here and there but…

It's almost worse than watching “Dancing in the Streets” with Bowie and Mick.

Oh my god…

Which in hindsight looks almost looks good in an awful parachute pants kind of way.

Yeah, yeah, hammer pants. Yeah, I can't even stand…I mean you know, I fucking love Aerosmith but I don't like to see Steven Tyler act like a douche bag, I mean I don't want to see him doing that, it's bumming me out.

Nobody does, breaking hips, falling off stages..<

I don't mind that, I don't like him being a judge on American Idol. It's like c'mon, I mean, I don't know, that's just me, man…for now.

With your new larger than life sound and with the name evolution is there any commentary on the flux of artists and musicians that have been inspired by you over the years?

I don't know that there is no real commentary on that. A lot of bands don't even talk to us, I have a lot of respect for bands that actually let you know like what they're influences are but a lot of bands certainly don't want to let you know about it that they're rippin' me off.

Then the cat's out of the bag. It's interesting on the new album because when you get to “My House” what's really striking because it has a classic sound of the RTX era. Was it an intentional place marker of some sort or self-analogous reference in terms of it sounding like something off of Western Xterminator?

You know I think more of the placement of the order and with this record in particular I think it is a body of work it's not like you know in the past where I made records where in my brain I'm like each song is this in its own singular universe and you can take it out of the concept of the album and it can exist on its own but with this it's very much an album, it's a large piece and each song can stand on its own but the intention was to have the kind of a dialogue where it's more like a movie where each scene takes you to another place. It's basically a lot of songs on the record started out planted with the roots we had planted with RTX where we got a strong sound going and then wanting to expand upon it but we didn't add to that song anymore because it didn’t need it. I'm not going to willfully continue to add new sounds to a partuclar song that stands really strong on its own. That song got a little more stripped down, a little bit more in your face than some of the others but that's what that song called for.

Going into the concept approach I didn't get that until a second close listen, songs like “Earthquake” sort of clued me into how a lot of things are working together. It's interesting when you read and listen to things on the press blast end you see things in terms of singles and when your focusing on this record as a whole it turns into a whole other series of narratives.

Yeah, totally, I know it's interesting I was talking to Jaimo [Welch] the other day, he said that he was at a thrift store and bought a VHS copy of Slap Shot and you know things like in that movie the music was really great it's a classic, it's got Paul Newman in it and there is an amazing soundtrack with Maxine Nightengale and da da da. But the particular crew that made the VHS they couldn't license the original soundtrack. This is a movie he's seen a bunch, I've seen a bunch, he bought the VHS and it flipped him out, I watched the movie and the soundtrack is entirely different, the movie is entirely different. It's about hockey, it's really good, it's funny as hell, they punch people out and shit.

I love that snuck in some dub riffs in between all the rock elements on “Killer Weed.”

Oh yes, that dub siren! Actually there is some different stuff but I kind of went a little overboard I had to stop doing it, I was putting it on everything like [imitates a dub siren]!

That's amazing.

Yeah, it's cool stuff, had to throw it in there.

How's that perfume collaboration going with Fuct?

It's happening and Emily and I are, you know, but I got so much on my plate right now it will probably be about a year. I mean everything as far as fashion and that kind of shit takes so long. We got some packaging design ideas already and she's got a website already and she's pretty cool in the design and the whole web thing is pretty awesome.

I remember the designs from back in the late 90s with the t-shirts and all. I was wondering with your work with Gap in the 90s to branding at Volcom; how much does image and couture influence the music and visa versa how much does the music influence the approach to fashion and design?

I think it's more different for me is that my style remains the same yet it's crossing the currents, so bascially when I design stuff, I design stuff for me like okay, so I'm going to wear these pair of jeans I want to wear them and make them like look like that, it's basically I know what I want to wear and it kind of goes back to being utilitarian at the same time I love fashion but I don't love the fashion world.

A definite rebel in the Vogue world.

Yeah, yeah, you know not everybody in fashion are idiots but I love just checking out designers and couture and a lot of it is super creative I just don't like a lot of the you know, the kind of attitude and bullshit that goes on in that world.

Will you be doing future work with Justin Lowe and Jonah Freeman like what you did at the MOCA?

Yeah, we were going to do some work with that curated by Mike D thing at the MOCA and we were going to do something for that but we leave tomorrow and the thing has ended and we were in the middle of performing and we ended up not doing that but, yeah I'm sure we'll do something again when we're done with the tour and stuff. I think eventually we're going to do a video [with Justin and Jonah] we got a few videos that are coming out soon. We have this super cool Victoria Secret model May Andersen she's also one of the directors of The Hole gallery in New York, we filmed a video for “Rad Times,” I styled her for the cover of Playboy and we filmed her completely naked frolicking in the swimming pool and it's the best “Rad Times” video ever, I'm not sure who will put it up, maybe Playboy will put it up and I know we can put it on Vimeo, but it is an awesome video of her.

So Rad Times Express, not just an album, not just “Rad Times” the song, but an attitude, an aesthetic and an ethic? Is that right?

Yeah, I would say so I mean it's just the extent that basically it grew out of Royal Trux when Royal Trux seperated and I talked to Neil early on to suggest about me using RTX and he was all for it then. But then it became confusing to people who were like, 'well, we thought RTX stood for Royal Trux,' so we were getting this deal and then it was like, 'Rad Times Express;' it doesn't stand for Royal Trux it stands for Rad Times Express. And over the years it became a common theme, it is a mantra in a way, heh, I don't know.

Just random curiosity, have you and Neil ever talked about a Royal Trux reunion?

We've definitely been offered big money to do those what do you call it, reunion things, album type things but yeah…

Coachella would shit themselves.

I mean that's just regressive, like I would do it, I would do it for a certain amount of money but the most I have been offered so far is $100 grand and that's a fuck ton of money but it's not worth going backwards you know and both of us agreed that we're not going to ruin it. But you know there might come a time in the future where it wouldn't be regressive, but right now I'm busy, he's busy, there's no reason to go backwards.