[Editor's note: Weekly scribe Jeff Weiss's column, “Bizarre Ride,” appears on West Coast Sound every Wednesday. His archives are available here.]
During their 15-year musical estrangement, Nina Gordon and Louise Post frequently shared the same dream: They'd perform onstage together just like in the mid-'90s, when Veruca Salt became alternative-nation nobility with hit single “Seether.” Except in these REM reveries, The Beatles replaced their other bandmates.
“It'd be, like, “Holy shit, I'm onstage. Wait É there's Louise to the left of me. And there's John Lennon,” Gordon says, laughing. She's in North Hollywood, where the grunge rockers' original members are rehearsing for their first shows since 1997. (Many have sold out, including a June 27 date at the Roxy.)
“I was having the same convoluted dreams,” Post says. “I'd be at a festival playing with Nina, [Lennon] and Paul McCartney, but I didn't know the lyrics. It was like a Risky Business panicking before the final dream, but I was so happy to play with her again.”
The fact that they're sitting at the same table (alongside bassist Steve Lack and drummer Jim Shapiro), much less writing a new album, is practically as miraculous as Lennon's would-be resurrection. The band dissolved amidst severe acrimony, which intensified when Post continued on under the Veruca Salt name.
“We call it the Veruca Starship era,” Post jokes.
Post's and Gordon's white tees, chokers and plaid skirts of buzz-bin days have been substituted for modern couture Ñ army jackets, stripes, bohemian jewelry. Separately relocating to L.A. more than a decade ago, both look more “coolest mom ever” than slacker ennui. The riot grrrls who named their band after the brattiest Roald Dahl character are now in their mid-40s, married and parents to elementary schoolers.
Detente started in the mid-2000s. After several years without communication, Gordon and Post began trading emails and occasional phone conversations – mostly about their children.
“I stopped making music and started making babies,” Gordon says. “But when I saw Mazzy Star reuniting for Coachella after 15 years apart, I wrote to Louise and said 'Shouldn't we do that?'?”
“We apologized for old wounds,” Post says. “I'd kept the band name and it was a persistent injury that I never felt right about. Its weight caused me to collapse physically, personally and spiritually. Their shoes couldn't be filled.”
The rapprochement arrives 20 years after breakthrough American Thighs transformed them from Chicago indie rockers to MTV darlings. The inciting force was “Seether,” which entered national radio rotation after a KROQ DJ began playing a 7-inch originally targeted only for England.
A subsequent 1994 South by Southwest show sparked a bidding war. Labels put them up in the Chateau Marmont. Jimmy Iovine offered to take them shopping. Geffen Records won out, due to its track record for nurturing once-indie talent such as Sonic Youth and Nirvana.
American Thighs eventually went gold. Tours followed with PJ Harvey and Hole. But sophomore LP 8 Arms to Hold You (1997) didn't match the commercial success of their debut. Produced by Bob Rock (Metallica), the polished sound spurred resentment within austere factions of Chicago's indie scene. Shortly thereafter, the band split.
Besides “Veruca Starship,” Post briefly teamed with Courtney Love for Bastard, a punk project that never got past the demo stage. Gordon released several solo albums. Shapiro fronted Ultraswiss. Lack moved to Oceanside and worked for a surfboard manufacturer. None expected Veruca Salt to re-form, but all showed little hesitation when the idea was broached.
“Most comeback records are admittedly terrible, but we think we may be the exception to the rule,” Post says. Indeed, The Museum of Broken Relationships, a 10-inch recorded for this year's Record Store Day, distills the band in its '90s vintage.
“We broke up because of personal reasons, not because we were done creatively,” Post adds. “We're finally picking up where we left off.”Don't forget to check our constantly-updated Los Angeles Concert Calendar.