Miss Derringer is a band with a story, a woman named for a gun who lives on the outskirts of the law, each song revealing another layer of heartache and conflict. On Winter Hill, LA-based group's latest disc, released today, Miss Derringer is caught in the midst of the Boston Irish mob wars of the 1960s, her voice taking the form of '60s girl groups with a faint hint of vintage country.
Formed around the core of husband and wife team Mogan Slade and Liz McGrath (herself a noted artist) and friend Sylvain de Muizon, Miss Derringer infuses its music with a refreshingly theatrical sensibility. For the past month, they have taken the show on the road, playing alongside somber Texas rockers Girl in a Coma. The tour hits Alex's Bar in Long Beach on July 17 and the Knitting Factory on July 18.
We caught up with Slade and McGrath by phone as they were on the road in the Pacific Northwest.
Miss Derringer "Black Tears"
What attracts you to the outlaw image?
MS: Our whole thing is that Miss Derringer is this character that is always in trouble, always on the wrong side of the law. I think it makes a compelling story, or interesting for people to listen to. We were trying to make the story inside the outlaw to be believe or about important things but with an interesting melodrama.
LM: I feel like I shouldn't be attracted to the outlaw, but I feel that just through American culture, we've always been kind of attracted to the outlaw, like Bonnie & Clyde, public enemy number one, bad boy rockers. I think it's natural as an American to be attracted to outlaws.
Do you ever feel like an outlaw?
MS: Sometimes. When we're all dressed up and wearing eyeliner and eating in a restaurant in the middle of Boise and everyone is giving us dirty looks, then we sometimes feel like outlaws, but most of the time we don't.
LM: I did, when I was growing up I was an outlaw. I think that now, just seeing how people get affected by your actions makes me try to make sure that my actions aren't offensive to anybody. I definitely wouldn't litter. I feel like I'm the opposite of an outlaw these days. If something isn't fair, if the law isn't fair, then I would totally break it.
A few years ago you toured with IAMX, which was interesting because your music is drastically different, but you both have bands that center around a character and a story. How did you get involved with each other?
MS: Our manager and their manager go way back and they thought it would probably be a good match-up. At first, we hadn't heard of them. We checked them out on MySpace, thought it could be cool. They're pretty electronic, but we'll see. As we played with them, it was really cool. Like you said, even though the music is pretty different, they go together pretty well because they're both pretty theatrical and their fans seemed to like it, which was awesome for us. They're also great to play with because they're really, really good. The first show we played with them, it was like, oh, man, we have to step up our game.
I hope we'll play with them again. We've been trying to work out a thing, to tour Europe with them, but so far, we haven't been able to make the dates work out.
LM: I love IAMX. I love Chris Corner's voice. He's my favorite male singer. Right now, we're on tour with Girl in a Coma and [Nina Diaz] is my favorite female singer.
With Chris Corner, we were fortunate enough to hear him do the unplugged set, playing acoustic, and I don't know how it's humanly possibly to hold a note as long as he does. Just when you think you've heard this amazing vocal chord come out of his mouth for two minutes, it keeps going. How does he do that?
Liz, do you see your work with Miss Derringer as being part of your overall work, including your visual art, or are they two separate things?
LM: I think that they were completely separate, except that I had been working to make some of the outfits and stuff. I'm hoping in the next year to have more time to integrate some of my artwork into t-shirts and stickers, and then I've always wanted to make stage props and stuff like that. I just haven't had time to do any of that because it's been kind of hectic with the art schedule and the music schedule.
I've noticed Miss Derringer fan art on the web. What do you think of it and how do you see the fans as being part of the project?
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LM: I think it's awesome. I'm excited when anyone emails me any of their art. I enjoy looking at art, whether their skill level is zero or a million. It doesn't really matter to me, it's the actions behind it that make it really inspirational to me.
Morgan has this idea kind of like the Ghost Army [Miss Derringer's fan group], where we wanted to do a comic book series featuring Miss Derringer versus the vampires or zombies or something and ask guest artists or fan artists to put something together.
I have an art show in November [at Billy Shire Fine Arts in Culver City] and then after that I'm taking a year off to focus on all these projects that we've always wanted to do.
Download "Black Tears" for free by following this link.