Initially disappointed upon hearing that the Dropkick Murphys/Mighty Mighty Bosstones show in Portland, ME had been moved from the local minor league baseball field to the far less summer-y local hockey arena, my father and I (Kevin Finn) decided to head in early, take advantage of the GA seating and get our old bones in some seats as close to the stage as possible. Smart move on out part, as it meant we got there in time to get an up close view of the firestorm of a set by Civet, a California foursome that conjures up images of a streetpunk Runaways.
The band's third record (and first on Hellcat), Hell Hath No Fury, dropped on September 9th and frontwoman Ms. Liza Graves was kind enough to answer some questions for me.
Can you talk a little bit about how the band formed?
I started Civet just as I was coming out of high school. I saw this huge void in the punk music scene and I attempted to fill it. There were barely any tough female bands I wanted to listen to. I set out to change that, and I was also way into throwing/playing backyards!
How did you guys get hooked up with Hellcat? Hellcat had their eye on us for a while. We had been putting in some time on Disaster Records and building up our fan base. When Disaster started to go under and we found ourselves homeless, Hellcat offered us a spot. They said we were "ready". I was like "Hey! We've always been ready!" But I know what they meant. We were just so young before!
Tell me a little bit about what it was like touring with Dropkick Murphys and The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, two of the many, many reasons I'm proud to be from Boston. That tour was my introduction to you, and I figure it was the same for lots of others. In Portland, in particular, I was very impressed with how well the crowd took to you. DKM crowds have a bit of a reputation for not exactly treating support bands with open arms. Throw in that certain segments of the crowd probably dismissed you immediately just for being girls, and it seemed to me like a daunting task. But you totally just went for it, which was awesome. Were you generally well-received at the other stops, and was the experience at all overwhelming? Had you guys had much previous experience playing for crowds that large?
You know it‚??s funny, but Ken Casey said the same thing about his fans being tough! He said he was surprised that not once on the tour did we get the "let‚??s go Murphys" chant. They are an amazing band and their fans were very respectful of us. We will definitely hit the road with them again in the future! hese were by far the biggest crowds we've played for (baseball stadiums for sure!) I'd just like to say that I'm no longer afraid of anything. Thank you Dropkick!
What is the most rewarding and what is the most difficult thing about being on the road?
Being on the road is amazing. Just getting to meet all our fans and play for people every night is so rewarding. I'd say the most difficult thing about being on the road is for sure the van problems we have. I have really bad luck with cars!
It seems like Civet has a lot of momentum going. I saw that you were #3 or something like that for CD sales on Interpunk over the past few weeks. To what do you attribute that to, and how do you plan on keeping it going?
Fuck yeah! We were actually # 2 for a minute…ha ha….It‚??s so great to see something you've put a lot of hard work into do well. I attribute our momentum to all our awesome fans, our time on the road and our awesome label. That said, I also don't believe that with the kind of band we are in that success is fleeting. It‚??s something you build; it doesn't come crashing down like some "overnight success" band would. The punk rock world has some loyal fans; we‚??re proud to be a part of this scene!
I love the song 'I Drank the Wine' that is on your MySpace page and was a little disappointed that it didn't end up on the new record. Do you guys have plans on using that somewhere in the future, or did I miss it coming out on something else?
What you missed was that it‚??s not ours! I wish! It's an amazing Murder City Devils song and we do play it live, but it hasn't been released. I'm sure it will end up on a rarities record one of these days along with our Electric Frankenstein cover, ha ha.
As for the new album, Hell Hath No Fury, I think it is fantastic. It's been in heavy rotation since I got it a couple of weeks ago. One thing I really like is that even with some of the kiss-off songs, there's a sense of conflictedness (probably not a real word) or vulnerability that works its way in. I think this makes the songs more complex and human. "Pay Up" is a really good example of this to me.
For sure! I mean relationships and life itself are constantly filled with conflicting emotions, and this is captured on the new record, er, and in my life in general, ha. As far as relationships go it‚??s always been one of those "can't live with ‚??em, can't live without ‚??em things" for me. When I write, it‚??s always from the heart, so I'm sure a little bit of that comes through!
I was reading an interview you did after Massacre came out where you said that the majority of the songwriting was yours. Looking through the credits on the new one, it looks like that might have changed a bit, with three songs credited to Jacqui and two to Suzi. Was there a conscious effort to bring their voices in or was it more of a natural progression of having been together for a few years now?
Actually, not so much of a conscious effort. I've always done a ton of writing in this band, but I'm pretty democratic with everything else in general. The difference between this and Massacre is that I didn't have such an awesome lineup. I had some people in the band that lacked real songwriting skills so it was a lot of putting stuff together myself. I am very, very proud of what me and my ladies have done with this record; everybody more than carries their own weight!
Despite 'Bad Luck' not being one of your songs, I feel it has some of the more impassioned vocals on the record. Is it harder to get into a song that has someone else's words than it is with one of your own?
It used to be. I feel I've grown a lot in the past few years! I work on other people‚??s stuff all the time now, and I try to bring a whole lot of me to all projects I'm in on. "Bad Luck" to me was very Motorhead, so I went for it like Lemmy!
What are your favorite songs on the album and why? For what it's worth, I'm partial to 'Pay Up' and 'Gin and Tonic.'
Hands down 'Hell Hath No Fury' and 'Son of a Bitch.' Both of these gems were some of the last tracks to go on the album. I feel they showcase my songwriting the best and really do a good job of airing out some of my dirty laundry. I love the cringe factor I probably give my ex‚??s.
In the press materials that Austin from your label was kind enough to send me, you mention that 'Son of a Bitch' hints at the direction the next record will take. Can you expand on that? Incidentally, I actually took my 66-year-old father to the Portland show with me, and that was his favorite from your set. So if you do go more in that direction, you would apparently be pleasing the sought after retired male New Englander demographic.
Hell yeah! That's the plan! I'm always shocked at how broad our fan base is. There's a little bit of something for everyone when you come to see Civet, ha ha. 'S.O.B.' was the last song to go on the record; hell it wasn't even really written when we demo'd it for our producer. In my statement I wasn't really saying we were gonna go a surfy punk direction next time around; I was just saying that we have the potential to throw curve balls on the next record.
The press materials also play up your looks a little bit, and it seems that you have put some energy into cultivating an image (I hope that doesn't come off sounding like a criticism. The Clash, Rancid, Social D and many, many other great bands also did this.) Is it at all difficult to balance wanting to exude sex appeal with making sure people's focus stays on the music?
No, it‚??s not difficult at all. We definitely have a look that is our own, but at the same time we command respect by playing well and backing our shit up with some serious balls. I think people go to concerts to see a "show". It‚??s a whole package; it‚??s not you in your pj‚??s jamming for your buddies. We are ourselves, real and rock n roll.
Hell Hath No Fury seems catchier to me than the previous two records, with some of the hooks immediately sticking in my head and others sneakily working their way in after a few listens. Is this a result of natural songwriting growth over the years, or was this something you set out to do? On the other hand, it also sounds tougher than your other records. The production sound on here is huge.
Oh yes, the production is huge! We didn't set out to make any particular type of record. We were at the point in our writing where everything was definitely louder and fiercer, but, ironically, it is our "catchiest" record to date. Go figure!
Tim Armstrong has a writing credit for 'All I Want.' Can you talk a little about how that song made it to you and what, if any, tinkering you had to do with it? I imagine it would have to be quite a thrill getting to work with him. I believe I read that it was supposed to be for a pop singer, which is interesting because I was listening to Tim's solo record the other day, thinking how easily this song could have fit on there.
We were a bit hesitant at first because it was supposed to be for a pop tart, and we're kinda diehard about writing our own stuff. The song didn't fit us right away, but Tim was cool enough to suggest a co-write between me and him for it. It was perfect, and he's someone who is just amazing to collaborate with, a real fucking genius!
'Brooklyn' is one that I find interesting. At first, I was thinking, "oh great, another song about touring", but what's different is that both of the song's characters are in the same situation. For a band that tours so much, do you find it difficult to keep relationships going? And I don't mean just romantic ones.
Relationships definitely take a hit when you are on the road, but what it comes down to is doing what you love and supporting the people you love. All of the girls in the band have seriously dated guys in bands, so it definitely goes both ways. I wrote this song about my boyfriend doing a Murphy‚??s Law tour to Japan. You can be on the road, but it‚??s the people in your life that make coming home feel as good as touring. The people in our life are all very tolerant of our rock n roll ways!
'1989' strikes me as being thematically a little different than the rest of the album. Can you let us in a little bit on the inspiration behind the song? The lyric "Over the lines that divided my country" caught my ear because it's maybe the only point where the world at large, so to speak, seeps its way in.
I think I'm totally guilty of being caught up in my own stuff and not really talking about the world at large. The song is about my and Suzi's dad that passed away a few years ago. In 1989, we were in the Bay area, and a lot of my family memories center around this time. The particular line you mentioned refers to Germany, which is where I was born because my father was stationed in the military. Get it?
Is there anything else you guys would like to add?
People who know me know I love punknews.org!
Thanks so much for your time. I know you guys are super busy. Please come play Boston really soon.