LG, the frontwoman of Nashville’s Thelma and the Sleaze, talks to PKM about being a ‘child of the Nineties’, influences, hecklers, and of course… rock n’ roll!
“So I was clippin’ coupons, masturbatin’, and watching Family Feud, when there was a knock on my trailer door. I quickly jumped behind my couch, in case it was my landlord….”
LG, the hilarious front woman of Thelma and the Sleaze, entertained the crowd at Brooklyn’s Divera Drive while simultaneously blowing people’s minds sonically. The Nashville group absolutely tore down the house. In a bikini top and gas station shorts that had a price tag hanging off them, LG shredded with her eyes closed, banging her head frequently while singing, “High Class Woman,” in a sultry purr.
The all-female rock n’ roll group has that electric energy and integrity that’s hard to find on the scene. The petite keyboard player, Coochie, adds to the vibe with her thick Basque hair moving everywhere as her fringe top shimmied. And the hard-hitting drummer, Snowflake, drove home every track. Like the love child of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, LG is an unstoppable force who steals the show while spitting tales of lust and romance. My friend, Anthony, who used to play in the Bellmar Dolls, turned to me with the same look of awe that I wore on my face and said, “If I was half as good on my guitar as that girl, I’d still be playing music.”
That pretty much sums them up. Beyond brilliant live show. LG chatted with me about her influences, hecklers, and of course… rock n’ roll.
LG: I live in Alabama. I can’t afford to live in Nashville anymore. It’s just too fucking expensive. It’s changed so much and not necessarily for the better. I mean better for people who like three-hundred-dollar custom jeans and stuff, ya know?
PKM: Haha! Yeah.
LG: And artisan butchers…
PKM: Seems like that’s happening everywhere. Artists get pushed out once wealthy investors realize the area is cool.
LG: I moved to the country so I would still be close to Nashville. I’m two hours outside of Nashville. I think a lot of people who live in Nashville thought ‘if I’m gonna pay this much to live in the city, I want to at least live in one that has museums and public transit’. A lot of people are moving to L.A. or Brooklyn.
PKM: NYC isn’t as cool as it used to be.
LG: Yeah, it was definitely cool the last time we went to New York but every time before that I’ve kinda been like….. alright…
PKM: Your show was so good in Brooklyn and one reason is because we were all just so excited to see a really good band. We are starved for good music. There are a few local fun bands, but usually we have to import them in.
LG: That’s kinda how Nashville is. We only play there every few months but when we do it’s just insane now. The market is so over-saturated with crappy, copycat bands that when we roll through we just blow heads off because we are a real band, ya know?
PKM: Yeah! What year did you start this band?
LG: Thelma and the Sleaze started in, I believe, 2010. Our first show was November 2010 and then we went through many line-up changes. We started getting more exposure and tour. That’s when we became an actual band. Before that, we were weekend warriors. It was like a hobby. Then me and the drummer thought, “This is what we want to do,” and we started hitting it. That was five years ago.
PKM: Your drummer is great. Someone told me that the band is really only two of you and then the other two are just guest stars.
LG: Well, the drummer from five years ago is in the band Boytoy now. We parted ways two years ago and I got a new drummer named Snowflake and she’s been in the band for two years now and she’s great. There have been moments where I had to get someone else to play, because something came up, but mostly she’s been really consistent. I would say the band right now is Snowflake, myself, and Coochie, the organ player.
PKM: Coochie or Keychie?
PKM: As in all of us ladies have one?
LG: Yeah. We switch out the bass player.
PKM: What did you want this band to sound like? Who were your influences?
LG: I was in a heavier band before, so I wanted to bring some of the elements of that in because I do think it’s important for women to come from an empowered and aggressive standpoint on stage. I got more into blues, so the first record and a lot of the second record are more blue sand heavy sludge. I love Seven Year Bitch, L7, Girls School, Koko Taylor, Memphis Minnie… so a lot of that stuff made it onto those records. By the third EP, I got into Thin Lizzy. I’m a child of the Nineties so there is always gonna be that quirky, heavy rhythm, but I always strive to evolve and challenge myself as a songwriter. It’s been really hard because I’ve been learning my instruments the whole time.
People want to box me in to this [in cheesy, DJ voice] “rock n’ roll, thrashy, punk,” and they use all these terrible descriptors but at the end of the day it’s just rock n’ roll. My favorite rock n’ roll players and writers, the voice is the same and the energy is the same but there is dynamic and there is diversity in their influences. Periods where they’re one way and periods where they are another. Like David Bowie, Lou Reed…and Phillip Lynott. As an artist, you have to be aware of what people want to hear but at the same time, you cannot compromise. I’m not trying to make it sound like anything else I’ve ever written and I’m not trying to make it sound like what’s out right now. Sometimes it comes out really heavy and sometimes it comes out really sensitive, it just depends. Lemmy from Motorhead wanted to sound like the Beatles. Ya know what I mean?
Official trailer for “Too Tough”:
LG: If it’s any indication to me that I’m actually an artist it’s that I have to put my personal stamp on things and I can’t really variate from my energy which is both a blessing and a curse in a lot of ways.
PKM: I wouldn’t be able to describe you guys by putting a label on you.
LG: It’s like the Stooges sound nothing like The Idiot. Iggy Pop has made so many strides and changes as an artist. It’s just rock n’ roll. It’s that umbrella of no fucks and energy that you create and you can project out like this intensity and this dynamic and that to me is rock n’ roll. When you start to commoditize and homogenize rock n’ roll…kind of why rock n’ roll is dead right now is because that is what it’s become. I don’t hear a lot of rock n’ roll bands anymore when I’m out playing and it’s bizarre. Bands think they are, but they’re not. Haha!
There are only so many variations on a theme. Are you gonna do T. Rex better than T. Rex? Some people are very, very set on perpetuating an image that’s already set in people’s minds and I don’t find that attractive.
PKM: Those faker bands dress up so much. What I like about you guys is that you wear two-dollar shorts from the gas station and a bikini top. You give zero fucks because you know it’s about what is coming out of you as opposed to a wardrobe.
LG: If we get $1,200 for a show and it’s sold out, you’ll get the gold suit. You get what you pay for. Too many artists don’t ask for money. The whole business is really fucked. I’ve played more than two thousand shows in my life. I know when I walk into a room what the energy is of the crowd. Are these people gonna give a fuck if I wear jean shorts, and a bikini top, and take my shoes off and use pizza to wipe the sweat off my face, abso- fuckin’ -lutely not? Actually, they’ll eat it up. With Meltasia, I thought, “This is great! This is a festival with no phone service and people can’t be so disconnected from the experience.” I was really excited to play that show. We are an arena rock band more than a little, bar band now. So when I get a big stage where I can stretch out, I really enjoy it. Sometimes I’m practically naked and sometimes I’ll wear a beautiful blouse and high-waisters. It’s all calculated.
PKM: Were you taught guitar or did you teach yourself?
LG: That’s very sweet of you to ask. No. I have an ala carte ability to learn. I’m not very studious or disciplined. I’ve learned as I’ve gone along. I started writing songs really young. I would just play guitar so I could write songs. Once we started Thelma and the Sleaze, I wanted to inject more muscle into the situation and be a full on shredder, so I got a proper weapon of choice. That SG…. once I got that guitar, I was like okay… that guitar learnt itself to muscle up. It’s all self-taught. If I hear something in an Iron Maiden song or an Ozzy song, I’ll totally take that part, ya know? Haha! I play for hours and hours and hours everyday.
PKM: You are so good..
LG: Thank you.
PKM: My friend and I were in awe of you at that Brooklyn show. Who would you love to play with?
LG: I would love to open for L7. Haven’t gotten that call yet, but I feel like it’s going to happen. Haha!!
PKM: I saw them recently and they have just as much energy as back in the day.
LG: I saw Babes In Toyland and I didn’t get asked to open for them in Nashville, which I saw as an oversight. Nobody really came to the show and that pissed me off. I thought, “If ya’ll put us on that show, we would have packed it.” The band on the bill didn’t remotely sound like Babes in Toyland. I would love to play more shows with Surfbort because they are the real deal and I was bummed that I didn’t get to see them at Meltasia. I love Shannon and the Clams too. These bands are the best rock n’ roll out there. When we opened for Eagles of Death Metal, I couldn’t even imagine that for myself. That tour was really huge and there were so many people. We also had opened for Charles Bradley.
PKM: Do you like the Eagles of Death Metal members?
LG: Yeah! They were wonderful and treated us very well. They were very protective over us. I think a lot of times Jesse puts his foot in his mouth and shouldn’t talk. Haha!!
He’s not un-genuine, he is the real deal. I know the kind of person he is and I know the values he has, but sometimes when he talks.. he’s on a lot of drugs, so he says a lot of fuckin’ dumb ass shit. I don’t think it’s any reflection of who he is as a person, I just think he does too many drugs.
PKM: I’m friends with Jorma, the drummer.
LG: He’s an absolute sweetheart. Really fuckin’ rad and Dave Catching is a great guy. He didn’t want credit for producing our last record because he didn’t like the way it ended up sounding but he did track it at his studio in Joshua Tree. Another person I would love to play with is PJ Harvey.
PKM: Oh yeah, I met Mick Harvey at her after party, but unfortunately she didn’t come out, because she likes to avoid photos and mobs of people. How old are you, if you don’t mind me asking. I ask because you love ‘90s music.
LG: I’m 33. The Nineties are when an artist could be an artist.
PKM: Yeah! When I was young I thought that decade sucked, but now I look back in awe of the albums that came out then.
LG: I’m nostalgic for that period of time because it wasn’t as easy to fake it. You developed by going into a studio with a really great producer and make really great music. Today, because there are so many bands, nobody asks for money. Bands don’t ask for what they’re worth, so we get treated like shit. Sometimes I have to beg for a $200 guarantee and it’s like, “Do you know who I am?” You know?
LG: People don’t know what I’ve accomplished because it’s just a drop in this huge ocean of content and nobody gives a shit, ya know? There are a lot of people now and it feels more like a photo shoot than a show.
PKM: A lot of your songs are about girls, dating, sex, relationships, mostly, I’d say.
PKM: I love that you are very outspoken onstage. Have you ever gotten any slack from an asshole who is homophobic or is your audience always cool?
LG: I’d say 99.9% of the time if I’m on stage, most people accept that when I get on stage, It’s my house. Ya know what I mean?
LG: That hasn’t been a real issue. I carry myself in a way that prevents people from fucking with me.
PKM: Yes! Ha ha!
LG: There have been times. Once in Lexington, Kentucky, where I was playing topless, which isn’t an excuse. I was playing and I went into the mosh pit, and this guy came up behind me and grabbed my tits and thrust his groin into my ass. At which point, I grabbed him and threw him and beat him with my guitar. Another time, we went into a bar in El Paso, TX, and as soon as we walked in, people barked at us as if we were dogs.
LG: I’d never had that experience before and the girls wanted us to leave and did too but I was like, “No, let’s adjust their expectations and their behaviors, real quick.” So we blew the roof off the place and all these motherfuckers wanted to suck our dicks afterwards. Like, “Oh my god, you guys are so great!” And we just threw our shit in the van and left.
LG: Another time, my friend was like, “LG, please play at my work.” I told her, “You work at a bro bar, I don’t want to play there.” She’s a really good friend of mine, but we just didn’t tell anybody we played there and this lady who owned the bar fired my friend for hiring us because I talked about water sports and masturbating. This is run-of-the-mill adult topics that adults should be able to hear without getting weird, ya know? Haha!
So I announced on Instagram that my friend was fired for having us at a bro bar. I didn’t name the bar, but this chick who is a friend of the owner started harassing us in the comments under pictures on our page. She said all this crazy shit like, “Ugly women can’t talk about masturbation,” and maybe if we had some dick, we wouldn’t be so… and I was like, “WHAT?!” We have two very separate dictionaries, because in my idea of feminism, this is not what it looks like. We can have a conversation and try to come to a common ground, but you are not going to harass my fans or attack me. I would be glad to sit down and try to understand your concept of feminism and you can try to understand mine. My friend has since gotten a better job and she’s not pissed at me. I did chant in the microphone that men are terrible, but that was because these two douchebags in the football jerseys kept heckling me. I said, “You think this is your time? You’re gonna make this whole show about you? Do you think all these people came to see you? I don’t think so. You can either sit here and enjoy the experience or you can be set the fuck outside by this very large doorman. It’s up to you.”
PKM: Well good for you for sticking up for yourself without slandering that bar. It’s cool when you can speak your mind without lowering yourself to their level.
LG: I think it’s important, especially in the current state of affairs, people don’t think they can talk to each other anymore and that’s very scary. It takes away from the human experience. I think the thing with Thelma and the Sleaze is… Ya know, a lot of bands that are queer, a lot of bands that are radical, bands that promote empowerment and diversity; they are scared to play in a sports bar in the Deep South. Throughout my band’s ten-year history, we have never felt scared to get onstage and talk about finger-banging and have armpit hair and be ourselves because I think it’s important to disrupt spaces. As well as engaging with people and almost trick them until they are saying, “I love this. I wanna be apart of this.” In order to do that, they have to know where we are coming from. If you get in a room with a bunch of people that think like you do, you aren’t gonna change any minds and that’s not what rock n’ roll is about. It shouldn’t be palatable.
We just got dropped off a show in Wisconsin because the venue was a Christian family place, and the guy who booked it didn’t know that. He said, “I’m sorry LG. I’ll just pay you.” And I responded back with, “You’re a chicken.” He was like, “What?!” I said, “You’re a fucking chicken dude because look, you know I’m not gonna compromise, but it’s important for people like that to see that there is a whole world outside of their bullshit selves and I’d be happy to take on the challenge.” It’s not about being obnoxious or overly explicit, it’s about being entertaining and about not being visible and drawing people in without aggression and exclusivity.
PKM: It’s not your job to convince them to see your side but to show them, “Yo, there is nothing to be scared of. I’m a cool person, too.” Hopefully, that guy who was barking at you, will treat the next band that rolls through better because he saw that he was wrong.
LG: I have no doubt in my mind that having done that, it will enable the next all-female band that walks through that door to not have to experience the barkers because they will think maybe these girls will be good too. It’s about respect, at the end of the day. If people don’t fuck with my money or personal space, I will be polite. I will always be myself, but respectful. Most people are excited that people are coming into these small towns to spend money. Money talks, honey, bullshit walks.
PKM: Yeah. Haha!
LG: I’m a firm believer in karma. What you put out in this world, you get back.
PKM: Do you have any pets?
LG: I have a Tennessee brown dog named Waffles.
PKM: Aww. What song would you have played at your funeral?
LG: When I die, I don’t want to be put in any boxes or coolers. I want to be taken directly from where I expired and taken into a boat and wrapped in cloth and gasoline and put into (preferably) the Mississippi River, but any large body of water. I want to be set on fire and I want there to be a motorcycle and gun salute and I want “Freebird,” to play like any other normal person would.
LG: My friends know that their job is to make sure that I don’t get put in any small boxes. I don’t like being boxed in. I’m a quarter Norwegian, so I wanna go out like that. My mom is Mormon, so she did all the genealogy. I’m also English, Native American, and French Canadian. So I’m a mutt, but the dominant is Norwegian.
PKM: I’m mainly Basque.
LG: Coochie is Basque. Whenever I wanna piss her off, I call her a Spaniard.
PKM: Ha! Tell me about your tour.
LG: We will be touring throughout California and Washington. It’s all on the Thelma and the Sleaze Instagram.
PKM: I’ll tell all my friends in L.A. because your live shows are fucking awesome!