Sitting in a Silver Lake restaurant, watching the members of Glam Skanks pool their funds in order to purchase some key lime pie, it’s difficult to reconcile their endearingly awkward interactions with the smash of glitter, makeup and fishnets that engulfs the foursome when they're on stage.
Live, this band is a force of boot-stomping, sexually charged nature. The four members — vocalist Ali Cat, guitarist Veronica Volume, bassist Millie Chan and drummer Jaxine Sparkles (the sole dude) - are all in their early 20s, and yet somehow their musical education took a left turn early on into 1970s glam-rock territory. Listen to their debut album, this year's Glitter City, and you'll hear shades of Queen, Alice Cooper and David Bowie, sure. But more pointedly, and slightly confusingly, The Sweet, Suzi Quatro, T. Rex and even the Bay City Rollers.
So how did these young musicians catch onto that stuff? While older family members were clearly an influence, for Cat, the wild and whacky aesthetic was the initial attraction.
“I really loved the way they looked, and fashion was huge for me,” she says. “I loved the music as well. My dad liked more of the '80s stuff, but he liked all types of rock & roll. I think it’s the sexiest music — it’s so simple, but so vibey. When I walk into a room, I want T. Rex to be playing.”
The band formed just a couple of years ago when Cat and Volume posted remarkably similar ads on Craigslist looking for musicians. They each replied to the other due to a shared affection for the aforementioned artists. There were false starts, but the addition of Chan and Sparkles has seen everything fall into place, including the band name.
“If you don’t like the name, then you’re probably not gonna like the music,” says Chan, quite correctly. “But we don’t care. We’ll play at a dive bar to 15 people like we’re at an arena in front of 10,000.”
They do, too. While the budget doesn’t allow for the 12 glitter-firing cannons that they dream of, they’ll instead throw handfuls of the stuff over unsuspecting barflies, which is amusing both to observe and unwittingly participate in. They may, however, see crowds start to grow a little thanks to the fact that they were recently included — four times, no less — on the soundtrack to Kevin Smith’s new movie Yoga Hosers.
“My dad is good friends with Johnny Depp, and Johnny’s daughter and Kevin’s daughter have been best friends since they were little kids,” Volume says, explaining how the connection came about. “He put the two of them in the movie Tusk, which is the first part of his True North trilogy. Then he decided to do this other movie with them, Yoga Hosers. Kevin had gone to my dad’s studio with the girls to record a couple of songs, and when my dad showed them our stuff, he said that he needed a band to record some extra songs and asked if we wanted to do it. He talked to us for a little bit, hung out with us, and wanted us to be a part of it.”
The soundtrack features one original song, “Miss Androgynous,” plus three covers by the girls, including “The Hockey Song” and “Oh Canada,” the latter recorded with the film's stars, Lily-Rose Depp and Harley Quinn Smith. As much fun as the band had recording the covers, Sparkles doesn’t think they’ll be entering the regular set anytime soon.
“We played them for the premiere, but besides that I don’t think we’re planning to do them again,” he says. “Maybe later, but I don’t know. I mean, a lot of people hated the movie anyway.”
Sparkles is an interesting guy; while he is the only male in the band, he wears as much if not more makeup than the ladies, having a blast bending gender roles in classic New York Dolls fashion. While he says that things can get weird with concert attendees, he has also been on the receiving end of some flattering advances.
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“We played a charity event with Alice Cooper and Johnny Depp,” he says. “Turns out, Depp initially thought I was a girl. He said to me, 'Actually it was turning me on. I think I’ll have to take you home and marry you.’ My fiancée was cool with it.”
Depp's reaction is less surprising than you might think; the Glam Skanks’ performance is brimming with overtly sexual energy — though as with Quatro or Joan Jett, there’s the nagging feeling that they could kick your ass, too. Cat says that it’s all very natural.
“Of course, I’m going to move my hips,” she says. “There’s no way I’ll get up there, stand and be awkward. I want a reaction. If the audience is just standing there, then I’m going to be more over-the-top. Let’s do it together.”
The Glam Skanks play the Maui Sugar Mill Saloon with Go Betty Go and The Hellflowers on Friday, Sept. 30. More info.