Do Not Fill Up At The Generic Music Buffet: Vains of Jenna Break it Down
November 2, 2007. Jacki Stone (drummer) met me by the back door of Roseland Ballroom and Nicki Kin (lead guitar) escorted me to the Vains of Jenna dressing room where Lizzy DeVine (vocals, guitar) and JP White (bass) huddled in their respective sweatshirt and leopard print coat, cursing the chill weather.
Vains of Jenna was formed when in a town of Falkenberg, Sweden two rival bands fell apart, bringing their most dedicated members together. The year was 2005. The band was eventually called Vains of Jenna. Dictionaries began arriving in response to the spelling choice, but they were discarded with sly remarks. VoJ, whose influences are Mötley Crüe, Guns N’ Roses, the Rolling Stones, and Aerosmith truly began their career when they played Crufest in Hollywood, in 2005. There, Stevie Rachelle, owner of Metal Sludge and former singer of Tuff, noticed them and quickly became their manager. A week later they were recording in a studio with Gilby Clarke (former guitarist of Guns N Roses). In 2006 they met Bam Margera who signed them to his label, Filthy Note, and they’ve been touring the U.S. ever since supporting their album Lit Up/Let Down.
Back at Roseland, JP and Lizzy are both rubbing their eyes and yawning. Although obviously tired, they are affable guys and after shaking my hand and introducing themselves settle down into their chairs. Torn between the desire to smoke and the intense dislike of the cold weather conditions outside, they eventually lay the cigarette dilemma aside and we launched into our interview.
(JP White and Lizzy DeVine making faces for your amusement)
Meandering Entertainer: So, how did you guys spend your Halloween?
Lizzy DeVine: Played a show in Philly…
JP White: Philly. Yeah.
LD: Philadelphia. So, we didn’t party much.
JW: (Laughs) Not at all. Yeah, it was a party night but we didn’t do much.
LD: Yeah, felt like every other night.
JW: But every night is Halloween night when we play with GWAR.
ME: That’s true. You’re not exactly lacking for costumes or anything. [laughter and smirks] So being here now, in comparison to two years ago, your careers have sort of skyrocketed. What do you attribute your success to?
LD: We’ve been pretty lucky. We’re not that successful yet, but we’ve been lucky. Have been doing a lot of tours with a lot of bands we never thought we would do it with. We played with Poison and Ratt, and now with GWAR. It’s crazy. Just have to be in the right place in the right time, have a little bit of luck and be ready to sacrifice and take chances in life and not sit around waiting for stuff.
ME: I read an interview somewhere where one of you said that you sold all your shit, dumped your girlfriends and just got going.
ME. Was that you [JW] by any chance?
JW: No, it was everyone. Everyone had dumped girlfriends in Sweden.
LD: I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time.
JW: Lizzy sold his apartment, and we sold all our cars and just left everything at home, ready to do this.
LD: we didn’t know if it was going to work or not but so far we’re surviving and having a lot of fun, so it was all worth it. It would have been worth it even if he hadn’t gotten this far.
ME: It would have been a mighty adventure one way or the other.
LD: Yeah, that’s the way we see it. So far, so good.
ME: So you’ve played all kinds of venues: hole-in-the-wall and amphitheaters. How do you feel about that? Which is your favorite?
(Lizzy DeVine on stage)
JW: I like everywhere, it’s cool. I like the small club shows. The crowd gets very close to you and that’s cool. And of course the amphitheaters, the sound, and you know the sight of the whole thing. It’s amazing.
LD: Doesn’t really matter how big a venue we play is as long as there are some people that will like it. Can’t please everyone, but if there are a few people that like it, that’s all we’re looking for. But playing amphitheaters… that’s a dream come true. We never thought we would get to do that.
ME: Not when you sold all your shit and just got on the plane?
LD: [laughs] No, no.
JP: Didn’t know that then…
LD: Sometimes a smaller club can be a lot more fun than an amphitheater. It depends on the crowd, depends on the day… As long as we get to play, that’s all that matters.
ME: that’s really cool. But in small places, the crowd is all over you. But at a large place, everyone is sitting down in a seat, how much energy can you get up?
LD: It’s hard and it’s the same everyone because we’re not that famous quite yet, so we always have a new crowd to try to impress every day. So that’s the challenge, and that’s what makes it so fun.
ME: How’s the crowd that’s coming with GWAR and Cradle of Filth?
LD: It all depends on where we’re at.
JW: Some places they fucking love you and are like, holy shit and some are just, you know… it’s different, totally different every time
LD: But somehow, we always seem to like, convince a few people.
JP: And that’s what matters
LD: And we’ve <I> always</I> been on weird tours. Like we’ve toured with Ministry of Metal, a big biker crowd and now GWAR has a weird crowd too…
(Super action shot of JP White)
ME: I bet.
LD: But it’s more fun, because people always try to label us like a glam 80’s band, which we’re not. And people that see us they probably say, “Ah, it’s a lame, White Snake wanna-be band,” but we’re totally different. We just have that look perhaps. But we’re a Rock n Roll band and if we can entertain biker guys and GWAR fans aline, then that’s fucking more fun than impressing some 80’s Rock guy who think we’re an 80’s band.
ME: In which case he’s just gonna say that you’re not living up to his 80’s expectations.
LD: Exactly, and that’s the way it is. It’s better not to label anyone and not go in with any expectations at all. That’s how I act when I stand in front of the crowd: Don’t have any expectations at all, just go with it.
(Jacki Stone on drums)
ME: So you guys have been to shows all over. You’ve been to Sweden, around Europe?
LD: We’ve not done that many shows around Europe at all.
JW: Fifteen shows…
LD: Fifteen shows in Europe and like 300 in the States.
JP: So we have not really done shows in Sweden. Maybe ten gigs in Sweden. We did five shows in the rest of Europe, mostly in the UK.
ME: Definitely preferred in the United States it looks like?
LD: Yeah, we gotta chance to come over here, so we took it. So many people dream about coming over here and they don’t get a chance to do it. They sit around and wait. We got a chance and it worked out. We are going to try to stay as long as we can because one tour won’t do it. You have to get out there over and over again.
ME: Yeah, you guys have been touring for like over two years now, more or less non-stop.
(Nicki Kin rocking out)
LD: Yeah, at least the last year has been non- stop and now we’re getting a little tired. But still, that’s the way to do it.
JW: Yeah, you go out there and you show yourself.
LD: You can’t expect to get anything out of just doing one tour that lasts a few weeks, like some people think.
ME: I think you guys are getting great exposure, especially because you are touring with such versatile bands.
LD: Yeah, that’s what we like about it too.
ME: Honestly, I didn’t know who you guys were at first, but when I saw that you were on this tour, I decided to check you out. And I really liked you, although the only music I really heard was what you had on your MySpace, which isn’t a lot.
JW: Yeah, in fact, those are the first songs we ever wrote as a band and that’s on our CD [Lit Up/Let Down].
LD: So that’s what we’re going to do now, after this tour: record a new album.
ME: That’s what I heard.
LD: Yeah, and it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
JW: We’re getting kind of tired of playing the same songs for the whole year.
LD: We kind got thrown into it and didn’t expect to get this far with those songs, which we didn’t take very seriously at all [general merriment]. We just had fun! We just did them in our rehearsals, we rocked out and it worked out, for some reason.
ME: Maybe it worked out because you guys stuck with it. But now you’re excited about new material.
Both: Oh yeah
ME: Are excited about taking a break to write the new material?
JP: Oh Yeah.
(Lizzy DeVine, rippling with muscle)
LD: We’ve been writing a lot, but still, it’s gonna be nice to do something different. When you get into that loop when you do things the same every day, like touring, you need something different in life all the time otherwise you get bored by it. Not really bored, but you get into a routine and that’s not as fun. So, a new album: fuck yeah! And then we’ll see how many tours we will do. Probably a lot.
JP: Hopefully a lot.
ME: Seeing as how one album got you two years, what’s two albums gonna do? And as far as this new album, where are you going to record it?
LD: In L.A. That’s the plan. Probably where we recorded our last song, “Enemy in me.” We have a producer, Brent Woods, he’s cool as hell, he knows what we’re about. So he’s the one we will probably work with, and the studio will probably be the same. It will probably sound better than our first album, because we recorded that one on our own.
JP: Yeah, in a week!
LD: In a week!
JP: We thought we were throwing together demos!
LD: Yeah, we did it in a week because we didn’t plan to release it at all we just wanted songs to show people and release online. We met Bam [Margera] and he liked it and put it out.
JW: It’s really just a demo CD.
LD: Yeah it is, but a demo CD that has been released through the label.
ME: And how is the label thing going? Is there still a search on or are you sticking with Filthy Note, with Bam?
LD: It all depends on who… our contract was for a year, just to launch the band. If they want to continue working with us, that’s fucking great. If they don’t want to do it, we’ll find something else. If we don’t find something else, then we’ll do it on our own!
ME: Just like the first one.
LD: Yeah, because we found out that’s the best way to do it. If you want something done, gotta do it yourself. Don’t sit around waiting for something to happen. We’re not planning to wait around for years for a big big label or for the label we have now to put in money to put it out. We’ll just sell more stuff and put it out ourselves.
ME: Though you’ve been doing this for some time, do you still get out on the floor after a show?
LD: Yeah, we try to do it. We try to go out and talk to people all the time! Because so many bands just go backstage and sit there, and it’s like, what’s the point?
JW: We hang around for at least 10 minutes, just say Hi to the fans. You know, all that.
LD: Yeah, and you get so much more out of that too. Because I remember when I was younger. I try to talk to the bands and they just ignored you and you sometimes start to hate them afterwards.
ME: Yeah, to be rejected like that by someone you look up to…
LD: Yeah! You can be so fucking let down by that! And I don’t want to be, we don’t wanna be that band, that’s not what it’s about. We’re not rock stars, we just want a chance to be up there and if it wasn’t for the people out in the crowd, we couldn’t be up there.
ME: So what kinda fans do you guys get?
JW: All different types. Big bikers guys. Fourteen-year-old girls screaming and crying in the crowd.
LD: Yeah, it’s so different. Anything from kids to old people. And it’s like, some people kill for the young MTV crowd, they sell their souls. I don’t care who listens to us, as long as someone does it. Like I said earlier, you can’t please everyone and it’s best not to plan on it. We just want people to have fun with us.
ME: Let me ask you guys, did you just wake up?
LD: Yeah, we did just wake up.
JP: yeah, is it obvious? [laughs] Yeah, we’ve been partying. Not even partying, it’s just the tour. Doesn’t matter how much you sleep, you’re still tired.
LD: especially at the end of a tour. You know there are only a few days left. Somehow your body gets just KHHhhh.
ME: Your body gives up before the rest of you.
LD: Exactly, I’m so sick I’ve hardly been able to sing this past week. But gotta do it anyways. It’s what I love to do even though I will sound a little… like crap…
ME: Different voice, but the same energy behind it?
ME: What do you do for your voice? Herbal tea with honey?
LD: Tea and honey, yeah, even though I HATE it, but you gotta do it, gotta try to keep it up. The cold weather isn’t helping either. It’s why we left Sweden, but it found us here too. Can’t get away.
ME: So is there anybody back in Sweden? Do you guys keep in touch?
JW: Oh yea, we have our families back there we talk to them. A lot of bands that we know that we talk to.
LD: even though they haven’t bothered to write or talk about us at all, but now we’re going to be in some TV thing.
JW: Yeah, a TV show.
ME: In Sweden?
LD: Yeah. So now, FINALLY, they’re opening up…
JW: They’re finally opening up their eyes. Oh! They’re doing something!
LD: Because we’ve done so much more than most Swedish bands, but no one seems to care because we’re not on a big label, we’re not on a Swedish label, and we don’t have anyone whom we can pay to do it. That’s how the industry works these days. If you have the money, you get the publicity and you get whatever you want. And that’s fucked up. That’s why I hate mainstream radio and mainstream media and all that shit. Because they only go for the people who don’t really need it, who already have the success.
ME: And that’s how you end up with the same exact sound everywhere.
LD: Exactly, and that’s how people get brainwashed and buy into it…
ME: And seek out bands that sound EXACTLY like the bands that they already like and that’s exactly how everyone ends up sounding generic, and it’s a vicious cycle.
LD: And that’s why a perfect world would be just people using their own brains to pick what they like. Go to shows even when they don’t know the bands that are playing and search online to find something that’s out of the ordinary. But too many people get brainwashed. Fuck ‘em all.
JW: It’s the same shit all over.
ME: So, let me ask you a question you get all the time. Vains of Jenna. It’s an arbitrary name. Did people stop sending you dictionaries yet?
LD: Some days they still come. And some people make comments that “you misspelled it” Yeah, we know, we heard it from the beginning.
JW: But it sticks out, so that’s good
LD: It’s a name that people either don’t understand, like, what? Or it’s a good subject to talk about, because it is confusing.
JW: It doesn’t really mean anything. It’s just a name.
ME: Tell me a little about your new album, how different is it going to be?
LD: It’s probably going to be a lot different.
JW: Still Rock n Roll.
LD: I don’t want people to know what they’re getting. We don’t want to be stuck in one genre of music. It’s Rock n Roll. And that’s a big genre and you can do whatever you want. We want the next album to be a little more serious and to come more from the heart, not just try to be like cool rock stars. And probably, a lot of our fans are going to hate it and a lot of new people are probably going to love it. We’re only doing it for ourselves and what we believe in. There is no point to write something that would sell because that’s not what we’re about.
ME: How is it touring with GWAR and Cradle of Filth?
LD: It’s a lot of fun. The guys in the bands are fucking awesome. Their crowds are hard sometimes. But it’s no different from playing with any other bands.
JW: We hang with the GWAR guys a lot. They’re cool people.
LD: What’s good about this tour is that nobody thinks that they’re big rock stars. That’s the one thing I hate the most, when people think they’re bigger and better than everybody else. No one is bigger and better and if they think they are I’ll beat their ass… kick them to the ground… No! But we’ve been lucky. Everyone we toured with has been cool. We’ve not run into any bands that were total assholes.
ME: Last words?
JW: Be sure to check out new rock bands. We have a lot of friends on our MySpace page who are rock bands you can check out. We can’t do this on our own. There need to be more cool bands out there.
LD: Just go online and do your own search. Don’t listen to the bands we listen to. Listen to anything and help them out and promote the shit out of them, bands you like, and turn down Nickelback and shit like that.
Mere hours after our interview VoJ got on stage and played a great, albeit short, set. The crowd was considerable and reacted with screaming and moshing until VoJ were chased off stage by one of the GWAR guys wielding a huge styrofoam axe.
~all uncredited pics by EatTheLemons
Vains of Jenna are soon returning to L.A. to play what looks to be the last show of their tour before holing up in the studio to produce a new album. For more information, check out their home page and their MySpace.