By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
|Photos by Gregory Bojorquez|
High at the top of a vertiginous road in the pine-forested wilderness above Marin County sits a luxurious recording studio called the Site. It’s a place where musicians with serious backing from their labels can kick back in private cabins, where state-of-the-art recording equipment meets homey common rooms, where rock stars can relax in a hot tub with a spectacular view of the greenest of mountains. At the moment, its spacious listening room is filling rapidly with secondhand smoke. Brody Armstrong, the lead singer, guitarist and songwriter of the Distillers, settles into a couch toward the back of the room, a Parliament between her long fingers, her tattooed wrists resting on her knees. Everyone else — drummer Andy Granelli, bassist Ryan Sinn, newly recruited guitarist Tony Bevilacqua (the name means “drink water” in Italian) — lights up, too, and the room goes bizarrely quiet as they all take up positions on the floor to smoke and listen to the raw tracks of the band’s new record in progress, most of which consists of little more than drum tracks over placement-only vocals and minimal guitar and bass. Producer Gil Norton crouches on the floor next to Granelli, Sinn and Warner Bros. publicist Brian Bumbery. Armstrong has picked the songs herself; when an engineer comes in and protests one of her choices — “I’m told I’m not supposed to play that one yet,” he objects — she casually overrules him. “I definitely want her to hear that track,” she says. “Play it.”
A 24-year-old with fire in her throaty rasp and a fierce desire to defend aggrieved kids the world over, Armstrong is working consciously to carve a niche for herself in the world of rock music that no one has ever occupied before: She wants to be the lead guitarist, songwriter and front woman in her rock band, but she doesn’t want to be its star. When I ask her what she thinks she represents to her throngs of barely adolescent girl-fans, she deflects the question as if she’s never thought about it. “Holy shit!” she says. “They’re that young?” Pressed to define herself, Armstrong pleads shyness: “I spit on the whole fucking celebrity side of this business,” she says. “I hate people projecting on me, I hate people assuming shit about me. It’s embarrassing.” She never wanted to be Mick Jagger, she insists, just Keith Richards — a great guitarist in a great band.
But it probably doesn’t matter what Armstrong thinks about being a rock star; the train has left the station with Armstrong inescapably on board, and it’s not likely to turn around before September, when the Distillers wrap up their first Lollapalooza tour and head out to promote their newly minted record. Celebrity is a bitch mistress, and Armstrong will likely never get her way with it. She’s set on a course to be the world’s next rock-girl idol, the one junior high school girls dye their hair to match (get busy — it changes often), the one critics will be analyzing for evidence of young women’s political evolution, the one whose lyrics will be picked apart in an effort to understand kids today.
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