L'Assassins: "No attitude would be kind of boring, wouldn't it?"
It's been a busy spring for L'Assassins. The rising four-piece group recently dropped their first 7" and CD EP, played with legends Nikki Corvette and Ronnie Spector at the Girls Got Rythym festival, and are now playing the Jameson Main Outdoor Stage at the Memory Lanes Block Party.
As the band gets more and more exposure for their throwback sound, Gimme Noise talked with them about what got them into older music, the concept of "attitude," and some band history questions.
Of the four women (Tea Ann Simpson, Monet Wong, Ariel Dornbush, and Angela Clark), three have played in previous bands around the Cities including, to name just a few, XOXO Judy, the Shortcuts, and even a short stint with Brittani Senser. Simpson, the "rookie" of the group, has done guest vocal and karaoke work about town.
The group started in late 2010 and played their first show in April 2011, honing a sound and style before selecting a name. As they reached consensus on adding a punk-garage tinge, they chose the name. "L'Assassins is pretty much a made up word -- it's not grammatically correct in any language," notes guitarist Wong. "It's really just Assassins with the 'L' added on to feminize it and, at the same time, give a nod to the French garage rock that we also like."
Citing influences from the Cramps to Buddy Holly, Wanda Jackson, the Trashwomen, and locals the Hypsterz and Reckless Ones, the band draws heavily from '60s garage with elements of rockabilly and surf coming through as well.
"We take a lot of our style and sound cues from different periods, but I don't think we put ourselves in any definable box," says lead vocalist Simpson. As for her interest in older music, it was a part of her upbringing. "Even when I was getting into harder music as a teenager," she remembers, "I always loved the classic sounds." At 17 she took a road trip to see Janis Martin and Wanda Jackson at the Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender. "Janis Martin really stuck with me. She had so much sass on stage. I wanted to rock like her."
And that sass comes through in L'Assassins. Nearly every review of their records sees the word "attitude" crop up early and often. The band generally agrees with the description. "If you're going to play rock'n'roll, by definition that means you have to have attitude," Wong notes, but they also see this distinction as a reflection on gender. "I think the fact that we display an image of toughness on stage, we get this word attributed to us," Simpson says. "If we were a group of guys I don't think it would be a discussion." In short, it's not a planned part of their act, but a reflection of themselves and their music. After all, Wong points out, "To have no attitude would be kind of boring, wouldn't it?"
Among their recent highlights was being one of few local acts to perform at the Girls Got Rythym festival, an event with a similar thematic take on the attitude question. Besides playing alongside many of their influences, they joined the participating artists onstage during Nikki Corvette's set for a rendition of "Girls Like Us Were Born to Rock and Roll."
This weekend they will share a stage with some of their local favorites in Hypsterz and Los Straitjackets.
L'Assassins play the Memory Lanes Block Party at 7 p.m. on Sunday May 27, 2012.
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