Brody Dalle Talks Music, Drugs And Shirley Manson
The former Distillers frontwoman is back with a new album...
It’s been five years since The Distillers’ former frontwoman, Brody Dalle, last released a record, an eon in entertainment years, in which time we’ve had natural disasters in Japan, political uprisings in Syria and twerking taking over the world. Now Dalle is back with a new album - Diploid Love - a new sound and a new outlook, which she attributes to “Kinda just growing up, y’know?”
“I think I spent most of my 20s just kinda, pretty miserable or just in extremes,” she says when MTV UK sits down with her after a long day of press. “Like, really low lows and really high highs. Life happens, people die, people are born, and I think the end of anyone’s twenties and into your early thirties are pretty intense times, y’know. You just get to that age and things start turning over and I came through it.”
That much is evident from her first single off Diploid Love, entitled Meet The Foetus/Oh The Joy, which one reviewer described as “The most joyous punk-rock refrain you're ever likely to hear”. In fact the entire album - on which she experimented with horns for the first time - has an unmistakably lighter tone than previous efforts. Did it feel like a rebirth? “I guess, yeah or just evolving, like we’re supposed to do, you hope,” she says wryly.
Meanwhile the music video for Meet The Foetus features an anime baby escaping from a pregnant, Brody-esque figure only to witness riots and nuclear disasters. “I guess when I wrote that song, Meet the Feotus, I saw that video instantly,” Dalle reveals. “I already had seen all that stuff and some of that stuff hadn’t actually happened, so like Syria hadn’t happened yet and Fukushima hadn’t happened yet, I think. But yeah, I pretty much saw that video when I wrote the song, and then I had to wait two years because my son was born.”
Dalle has credited her first pregnancy (with eldest daughter Camille, now 8) with helping her stay sober after battling a crystal meth addiction. Was there any fear she couldn’t reproduce her early success without drugs? “I was actually sober when I started The Distillers,” she explains. “I wrote those first three records pretty much sober, although on Coral Fang I wasn’t, I was starting to get into drugs again.”
“I don’t think… I don’t need drugs to write songs, I just write songs,” she says simply. “If anything, the songs that I have written whilst being on drugs aren’t really that good, ‘cause I feel you’re covering up your intent emotionally. As far as the way you feel at the time, I feel I kind of have an endless well of stuff to draw from.”
She’s also said previously she feels she has more to say now than she did when she was younger but she won’t be drawn on today’s young performers, replying shrewdly: “I don’t really have anything to say about Miley Cyrus,” when asked about the twerking star.
“I feel like people are gonna express themselves in all kinds of shapes and forms and weird, wacky ways, it’s not really any of my business,” Dalle says. “People have things to say when they’re young, they have things to say when they’re old, their view points are different and they’re changing so I’m not really, I don’t really ever judge. I think we should just enjoy it all.”
She’s more forthcoming on the topic of Garbage frontwoman Shirley Manson, who guests on Meet The Foetus and whose upbeat vibe permeates the rest of the album. Dalle recently returned the favour on Manson’s Record Store Day single, Girls Talk. Is there any chance of a joint tour? “A tour with Shirley? That sounds awesome. I know they’re making another record, so I hope so - I would love that!”
Less likely, however, is a Distillers tour. The band split in 2006 before Dalle went on to form a new band, Spinnerette, but fans are still holding out for a Distillers reunion. “Reunions are generally terrible, aren’t they, don’t you think?” she says. “Most reunions they’re just awful, embarrassing. The one reunion I really liked was the Pixies, when Kim [Deal] was in the band. I saw that and it was just incredible to hear those songs, so I understand, y’know. I don’t want to say never, ‘cause in a couple of months I might be like, ‘Yes, let’s do this!’ Right now I’m putting my record out and we’ll see what happens.”
The last time she put a record out, of course, the music scene was an entirely different place and, particularly in the last few years, guitar-based pop and rock has been edged out by EDM. Dalle is relaxed about whether or not rock can make a comeback. “There’s always time to make a comeback,” she says. “There’s always time for rock and roll. I like dance too so I just feel like it can all exist, right? But it’s definitely awesome when rock and roll is dominating the charts.”
Did she catch Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner's opinion-dividing speech at the BRIT Awards, in which he declared “Rock n roll will never die!”? She flashes a rare smile, saying: “I don’t get it, I don’t understand what the big deal was. I heard there was a kerfuffle about what he said and then I read what he said and - is it just me? - There’s nothing wrong with what he said!"
"More people need to say what he said, I reckon," the typically outspoken Dalle adds emphatically, as the interview draws to a close. "I’m proud of you Alex Turner, wherever you are.”