“Being sober hurts so bad, being drunk is fun. Being hung over can be painful; being sober can be painful too. Crammed in a van with 5 other guys can be painful. Being treated like the Evil Stepmother”
As opening introductions go, that statement by Serrina Sims pretty much sums up what it must be like touring with and opening for ‘Them Crooked Vultures’.
Moving from one location to another, having to drink and party with the likes of Troy Van Leeuwen, Josh Homme and Dave Grohl on a daily basis must be gruelling work any time of the day or night. Or as Norm would say “Living The Dream, LTD unlimited baby”.
Sweethead is the brainchild of Queens of the Stone Age Troy Van Leeuwen on Guitar, alongside members of Mark Lanegan band; Eddi Nappi on Bass and Norm Block on Drums. Rounding them out is Rock and Rolls latest pin up temptress; Serrina Sims.
So far the tours been really, really good – We started in Europe, did three dates in Germany before moving across to England. Blackpool the night before was strange, the kids are out there at 4:00 and they descend on you shouting and screaming. But then in the gig they just clap quickly and they stop! So we’re like, OK? They’re just doing it for us cause we’re the opening band. But it was a little like that for the vultures too. It’s kind of like they’re timid or something. Blackpool was crazy to look at. We pulled up into a blood red sunset and there appeared to be a mini Eifel Tower. The town seemed to have a weird energy – definitely a place I’d like to spend some time.
There’s a very stylish and sophisticated image to the band. From the album artwork to the clothes you wear. Who decides on the artistic direction?
Since getting the break from Queens It’s been rush, rush, rush to try and get all the art direction sorted. The album picture was taken by me and tweaked by Serena. We literally had one weekend to shoot it. For the cover we had this idea to ‘brand’ Serrina’s chest so we just mixed up Chocolate Frosting and Troy drew it on. Then after the album came out Norm goes “This is like the Doors cover”. We didn’t realise that the cover resembled Jim Morrison. I don’t think I really look like Jim, I’ve got different hair colour for a start and I don’t think Jim wore bright red lipstick. You know what I’m pretty sure he didn’t.
Following on from Queens of the Stone Age and Mark Lanegan Band, how does Sweethead compare?
Well… Those bands don’t have a girl. Josh? I don’t think Josh wears make up. Neither does Mark Lanegan… (Serrina) He doesn’t? I was sure he did, I thought I could detect a little. How’s it different? Gosh it’s different because it’s different people – That’s the worst answer! What Troy brings to Queens he brings to Sweethead. Then you mitigate it with Norm’s influences and then Eddi’s influences and mine. (Troy) That’s the idea of doing these musical adventures or projects just to see how the chemistry works with different people. That’s really what out debut record is. Capturing the chemistry of a live Rock and Roll Band.
So what feeling were you trying to portray with the album? I’ve interpreted it as an album that you play before going out to put you in the mood. And play again when you get back in to bring you back down.
Yeah, oh that’s good. I hate saying this but living in Los Angeles, there is the going out and the remorse and emptiness you get from it. Troy lives a pretty big life so a lot of the record is based around that – it gives you a lot of material. I like stuff that you can listen to before you go out, that’s important to me: But then you need the Soul… So hopefully a song like ‘The Last Evening’. That’s about feeling a little soulless after going out to a very shallow party.
There’s a lot been written stating that you have very much an L.A. sound, but you seem to repute that?
Well, because there’s not really an L.A. sound. There’s one music scene – Silver Lake. It’s kind of Indy, I don’t want to say Dodgy but Art Rock. We’re certainly not a part of that, so we’re not really a part of the scene. Maybe it’s the sound of the city or something – It could really be anywhere. From my reckoning it just seems like an easy tag to attach. LA Band = LA sound. I think it is. But then we didn’t help it by shooting our video for ‘The Great Disruptors’ on Hollywood Boulevard. We basically just shot us going to our friend’s bar and having drinks. What can be easier than that? It was funny; people were getting into fights around us. We were going to jump on cars and all that… But it started getting crazy. It got a little nutty so we just stayed in the bar instead. Was there an arrests? No, but there were these guys just walking around the street brawling. It was crazy! There’s a little capture of it in the video but it goes by really quick and you can see some kind of scuffle. (Serrina) You know what’s so wrong with me when they show my reaction shot? And I’m just laughing… Like I’m not supposed to laugh but I’m just ‘HaHaHaHa’. I laugh when Grandma’s fall down and stuff. I’m just a bad person.
How do you view the band as project? Is it a long-term adventure?
I’ll speak for you Troy, for some reason I’m feeling talkative. Bands have rhythms, cycles, down and up. When you’re recording and when you’re touring. This just happened to be a long break for us to launch this. But Troy will go back to Queens in the summer. Then we’ll start recording again but our record doesn’t come out until March in the States – It’s crazy! We’ll record a whole new record during the first part of the year. Then Troy has to go back to Queens. In the space between the record coming out and touring with Queens we’ll come back to this so we can keep this rhythm going. Troy’s gonna be tired…
Serrina, whilst you’re in the mood for talking tell me about your background? It’s not difficult to learn about Troy, Eddi’s and Norm’s backgrounds. But you? You seem to be somewhat of an enigma.
I was just waiting, stalling. I wanted to work with people that I thought were great musicians. Of course those people are otherwise engaged so I was just waiting for centuries. I was lucky enough to have friends like Queens of the Stone Age. I got to go on the road with them and see what it’s like, and learn the ropes because I’ve had to. From playing my first shows on my first tour right away. I’m so grateful to this whole camp of great musicians who’ve given me the opportunity to learn from them. (Troy) “We mentioned earlier that we do our own photography and mostly that’s Serrina’s expertise. She’s got more of an art background than anything”. (Serrina) “I was doing computer art for hire and photography and always wanted to do this – Boring answer”. I was going to say I was like a gypsy, Topless dancer and stuff but sadly no”. So in reality you’re just a computer geek? Yep. So sad… Don’t worry about any of that, we’ll just edit out the boring part before this gets published. “Ok please, Can we just stick with the Topless dancer part instead?”
You mentioned Queens just then and I have to ask. What’s happening with Desert Sessions?
As far as I know there hasn’t been anything done yet. At the moment Josh is really busy. In between producing Arctic Monkeys and doing the Vultures, building a studio. He wants to do one soon, it’s just when. If it happens there’ll be a day notice and it’ll take a week and then it’s over. That’s what’s so magical. It’s totally spontaneous.
How did the tour with Snow Patrol come about?
Oh Gosh, through many drunken nights of hanging out with them guys. There were these ridiculous conversations with Gary Lightbody – Like, who would win in a fight between a Grizzly Bear and a Silver Back? They are just really, really super sweet cool people. We gave Nathan Connolly a copy of our record and they loved it. I just mentioned to them. Well, if you guys ever need an opening band. They just happened to it “Come on the road!” It was the same with the Vultures. Josh called us up and asked “do you want to do this?”
So what’s it been like touring with the Vultures?
They are so funny, so smart. Grohl’s amassed a crew of excellent people around him, and they love him. It’s like a giant family. Everybody’s really good at what they do; they’re helping us as much as they can. I couldn’t ask for a better team. It‘s wonderful and its almost over – Its terrible… We’ve got four dates to go finishing up on the 18th then heading back home.
Final question then: If you could be asked any one question in the world, what would that question be?
Serrina being the coy, shy, bashful person she is simply wants to be asked. “Why is she so fabulous?” The answer. “She doesn’t know”. Troy on the other hand wants to talk about cooking. My new thing is getting into making curries, learn what different curries are and experiment with different spices. (Serrina) The dangerous man of Rock and Roll is into making curries. I bet the dangerous man rock of rock and roll makes really hot and spicy curries? “Yeah, but there’s lots of cocaine in it though”. (Cue, much laughter) So the perfect start to a perfect night out then? “You can come round. We’ll listen to the album make a super spicy curry and it’ll get you high as fuck! And then we go out”.
Interview by Lee Hathaway
Photography by Bianca Barrett