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
It’s true that our fascination with famous or semifamous indie-rock couples involves plenty of babe-based idol worship. While the couple factor may somehow benefit girls who are into the dude-centric nation of indie rock (it seems that the lady half is usually equally involved in the music), such coupledom also speaks to an awkward kind of male approval, or legitimacy by association. Typically, indie cred eludes most women, from collectors (girls are far less likely to be bigtime catalog-memorizing fans) to guitarists and producers. And the most celebrated women in the genre (Cat Power, Joanna Newsom) are usually a lot foxier, or at least overtly foxier, than their male peers.
As with the the hotness factor, the couple element can be a clever hook, but the process of creating and selling any kind of art — indie rock and otherwise — is notoriously tough, and tough on relationships. Hazard acknowledges the business negotiations as a process at which the Submarines are becoming increasingly adept. And they’d have to be, considering that their music has been scooped up for an emo moment in Grey’s Anatomy, and their breakup breakdown anthem, “Brighter Discontent,” was, weirdly (and perfectly), lip-synched by characters on an episode of Nip/Tuck. Still, Hazard says, “It’s hard, definitely hard. Luckily we are like-minded aesthetically and musically.” It doesn’t hurt, she adds, that “our manager is a really good friend. It helps to have a third party. Sometimes we call him ‘The Diplomat.’”
Asked about inevitable conflicts of opinion regarding the music itself, Dragonetti says, “When we’re in the studio working together, we can be critical of each other. We try to be sensitive about it, but I think it’s healthy checks and balances. It’s hard, you know? I can’t speak for Blake, but you try to not be defensive about things and trust that the criticism is valuable.”
Hazard says it helps to be prepared: “Sometimes I feel like I sort of solidify my ideas more before I come in [to work with John] so I can stand up and fight for them more than I would if we didn’t have the dynamic we do.”
Adds Dragonetti: “I think we both have really different strengths. I have my head in the speakers all the time, working in the studio. Blake is, I think, more of a songwriter and a singer. I wish I could sing like her, but I can’t. I don’t try to. If [competitiveness] is there, it’s subtle and it’s not really an open kind of competitiveness.”
That noise aside, playing in an indie-rock band is still a crucial adventure for a lot of people with creative tendencies and hearts on their sleeves. Having that adventure with your partner is essentially great. Blake Hazard names travel as her favorite aspect. “Getting to tour together and going to sort of romantic places or even really horrid, sketchy, awful places and having a good partner to help you deal with it is really nice. You definitely go through so many ups and downs together — touring in particular — where it’s really nice to have someone who’s on that roller coaster with you, who understands why you might be feeling the things you’re feeling.”
“At the same time, it’s difficult sometimes,” Dragonetti adds, “and it’s tiring and you don’t have your personal space, but it’s really incredible. We’ve both experienced [situations] where you’re coming off [touring] on your own and you’ve got someone back home, like a girlfriend or boyfriend, and that can get pretty tense and weird. We just feel really fucking lucky.”
The Submarines perform downtown on Sat., Oct. 4, at the L.A. Weekly Detour Festival.