Jennifer Herrema Of Royal Trux Interview
Even though Jennifer Herrema is an East Coast girl originally, if you looked up the definition of West Coast cool in a dictionary, you’d probably find her picture next to it. From the late 80s to the early noughties she was one half of scuzzy, fucked up, alt-rock power couple Royal Trux. Earlier this week, the band’s most exhilarating album, Accelerator, was reissued by Domino Records. We caught up with Jen to chat about the power of rock n roll and her enduring obsession with bananas. Hear the highlights from Accelerator by totally scrolling through above yo!
So Domino is about to reissue Accelerator, an album you made with Neil Hagerty fourteen years ago. Is it weird for you to suddenly have to answer loads of questions about a part of your life that was quite a while ago and was very different to today?
Jennifer Herrema: It’s not that weird actually. Trying to remember specifics does take you back to the past, and I try to stay in the present and look to the future. But in my day to day, I have the same philosophies, and I feel the same – there have been no monumental changes.
You started in Royal Trux when you were 16 – that’s pretty normal for today’s standards in squeaky clean manufactured pop, but it’s kind of young to be in a dirty, fucked up, rock n roll band. Looking back, how do you feel about it now?
Jennifer Herrema: I guess I didn’t feel that young at the time. I always considered myself mature and I was taller than most kids so I could get into clubs without ID. Looking back, when I moved out on my own when I was sixteen, I didn’t feel young, but then I remember that I’m not that old now. I’ve done and experienced so much that it’s like, I must be a hundred years old. It’s weird when I read about it, it’s like I’m a hundred and fucking fifty.
I’ve done and experienced so much that it’s like, I must be a hundred years old
I’ve been listening to Accelerator recently, and it struck me that even though it was made in the 90s, and it’s your interpretation of the 80s, it actually sounds quite timeless. Do you think that’s down to the pop sensibilities you were aiming for?
Jennifer Herrema: On the two albums prior to Accelerator, we were using 70s signifiers – like every songs was 4 minutes long and multitracked and there were layers and layers. But the 80s sensibilities were really simplified. None of these albums we made actually sounded like they came from the time that we were utilising the signifiers from. But the ones from the 80s are simple, catchy, and lend themselves to timelessness. I think it’s that directness that translates over generations better.
Jennifer Herrema: When I was a kid my mum used to smoke and she would keep her cigarettes in the freezer. One day I came upon them when I was looking for popsicles, and I was trying to figure out what to do with them when my Dad found me. My dad grew up as one of thirteen kids on a farm and they smoked banana leaves. I visited my grandparents and they showed me how, and I just thought bananas were cool. As for the song The Banana Question, it’s kind of open-ended, like what is this all about, what am I doing? The RTX song Black Bananas answered that a bit – it’s about my realisation that I have a penchant for castaway things, things that other people have deemed unusable or garbage. I tend to always find the beauty in them and utilise them, and that song explains that. It’s just a philosophy I have, so when we renamed RTX, we went for Black Bananas because those lyrics sum up my aesthetic. I guess they’re just a recurring thing.
And on the subject of Black Bananas, you guys released an album at the beginning of the year – how was the reaction to it?
Jennifer Herrema: It got a really great reaction – there were amazing reviews and we sold a lot of records. After we toured with Sleigh Bells and Kurt Vile and we did like 5 dates with the Kills. People were totally digging it, they recognised Black Bananas as being different, but still bringing elements of RTX.
What was it like touring with the Kills and Sleigh Bells?
Jennifer Herrema: Well, Alison Mosshart, she’s come a long way that’s for sure. I hadn’t seen the Kills in a really long time. They kind of have like the big show – it’s the same every single night, the same moves, the same everything. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s very pop. I can totally appreciate it, but when you see it five nights in the row it’s not that impressive. I mean it’s the same as Beyoncé – there’s nothing dangerous or rock n roll about them. It’s funny because they’re caught between two things, but they’ll continue in the pop world. You know, the people who like them are little kids, like Jack White fans. Sleigh Bells are definitely more raw. They haven’t been around as long so I think they’re not as comfortable doing the same thing. That was exciting every night, but I think that will probably morph.
The thing about rock n roll though, you just let the music move and carry you. You don’t have to think about it.
It must be easy to allow yourself to slip into that routine though?
Jennifer Herrema: That’s the thing about rock n roll though, you just let the music move and carry you. You don’t have to think about it because you’re just moved to do something different every night. But in a stage show with pop music, it’s the same every night. It’s a different aesthetic, a different world, but I’m still into it.
You did a song with Kurt Vile a while back; do you have any more collaborations on the horizon?
Jennifer Herrema: I just did background vocals for his new album actually. And I’ve done a song called The Stepkids for the new Avalanches album. Alexis from Hot Chip is remixing a song called TV Trouble by Black Bananas, and Neil and I are writing some songs for that band.
You’ve become a bit of a style icon – you’ve modelled for Calvin Klein and collaborated with Volcom to make jeans, amongst other things. Have music and fashion always been intertwined in your eyes?
Jennifer Herrema: It kind of just came to me when I was like 21 and people started asking me to model things because they liked my stuff. Then they asked me to do Calvin Klein – it’s like people come to me, I just do what I do and they hire me – they don’t try to change me. I did a campaign for H&M with Lizzie Jagger. But I wasn’t being morphed into what they needed – I was just being myself, so it’s easy.
On that note, can you ever have too many raccoon tails?
Jennifer Herrema: Never. In a dream world I would have a whole other house where I could keep all my furs. I don’t know what it is, I’ve always have had a penchant for fur. It’s girly, but I’m into it.
How often do you trim your fringe? As a fellow fringed girl, I’m genuinely intrigued as to when it becomes too long for even you…
Jennifer Herrema: I just did it the other day, but I’ll let it go past my nose, to where I can almost put it behind my ears. But when I need to do photo shoots or go on tour, I have to organise and trim it because I can’t see – it’s almost traumatic though. I just like keeping my eyes covered.
Finally, if you could have three dead artists to dinner, who would they e and what would you cook them?
Jennifer Herrema: I think Albert Camus, Dostoyevsky and Jean Genet. I’m not a very cook, so I’d probably take them to a restaurant – I think Italian.