The Clorox Girls have come to once again wreak havoc in Europe. This time the guys from Portland brought their new record “J`aime les filles” with them. What you can expect is 70`s style punk with rock`n`roll influences a la Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry. Be prepared! In the interview singer and guitarist Justin Maurer talks about their original band name, why there are so many French influences on the album and why selling kebabs can be a lucrative job.
How are you and where are you at the moment?
Hi There! Justin here. I`m doing well, a little tired and a little discombobulated (confused and on different timezones). It`s eight hours later here. We arrived Europe from the States yesterday. We are in Groningen, Netherlands at our friend Robert`s flat. He booked most of our European tour, and is nice enough to let us relax at his place for a few days before we leave on this massive European tour! It will be our fourth tour over here.
The band was formed only in 2003 so there are maybe not so many people, especially in Europe, who have heard about you. So could you introduce yourselves shortly. What for example are each member`s worst and best character traits?
Hahaaa. Like I said before, this is our fourth European tour, so I would hope that some people know about us over here! haha We`ve also released seven European singles (7″ Vinyl Records). Two singles in Austria, two in the Netherlands, and three in Spain. hahaaa I believe the Austrian and Dutch 7 inches are for sale in Germany. Anyhooo… back to your question, Justin Maurer, me, I play guitar, sing, and write most of the songs. My best character trait is communication skills, I`m good at talking my way out of trouble. My worst character trait is my big mouth! I get into lots of trouble because of it! haha Richie Cardenas plays drums and sometimes tambourines. His best character trait is that he is very sociable, has a lot of fun and likes to party. His worst character trait is that he has a lot of trouble sitting still, he can`t be peaceful while doing nothing. Dennis Lyxen from Umea, Sweden is playing bass for the first week of our tour. We`ve been friends with him very briefly, so we will see what his best and worst character traits are! Daniel Sayer our permanent bassist will be joining us in Vienna, Austria. His best character trait is his attention to detail and his practical decision making. His worst character trait is when he is so practical that he becomes more like a disciplinarian…but I guess every band needs their accountant and father! hahaa
How did you end up being a member of the Clorox Girls? What`s your musical background?
My family on my father`s side of the family (Latvian and German immigrants to America) are all musicians. My grandfather was in a barbershop quartet in the 1940`s. My dad played in an punk band in Los Angeles in the late 1970`s and early 80`s called the Defenders. I started playing drums and guitar at 11 years old. My first band was when I was 12 years old. I`ve been touring since I was 13, 14 years old playing in lots of bands. So I learned quite a bit these past 10 years of touring. I`m 24 years old now. We started Clorox Girls when I was 19 years old, so I`ve gone a long way from playing drums and guitar with my sister in the garage on Bainbridge Island, Washington (near Seattle), to touring around the world about ten years later. We were fortunate enough to tour across Canada, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina last year… so I can`t wait to see what the future will bring!
How would you describe your sound in general?
It sounds like if Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison were in late 70`s LA punk bands writing one to two minute songs.
How do you write your songs? Is there one main songwriter or is everyone involved?
I write almost all of the songs. Daniel, our bassist, he helps me when I`m stuck or finishing a song… he is the… “content editor,” we try and keep the best parts possible. This is our life now. We don`t have apartments, jobs or girlfriends at home. So it`s very important for us to have the best songs possible. Music is the last thing we have left.
Some big names in the music business like Sonic Youth`s Thurston Moore have given you kudos, is their opinion important for you and what about collaborations?
Thurston Moore wrote a nice review for our first record in Arthur Magazine. It`s always great to read positive feedback, I`d love to hear more constructive criticism from reviewers… most music journalists aren`t very honest. So yes and no, their opinion is important on one hand, and on the other hand, the reviews have to be read with a grain of salt. We try not and take reviews too seriously. We collaborated with Conor St. Kiley of Holy Ghost Revival on the last record, also with Douglas Burns from The Observers and Red Dons. We`d love to collaborate with the Vicious out of Umea, Sweden or the Power Chords out of San Diego, California. Both great bands! Dennis Lyxen who is filling in on bass for our first week of tour is probably the most “famous” person we have played with! hahaa
Then, of course, your band name! How did you come up with it? Is the company giving you any money or do you have to pay them? Would you allow the company to use one of your songs for a commercial?? If yes, which one?
It`s from Red Cross. (Later “Redd Kross”) Their first 12″ EP on Posh Boy Records outta Los Angeles in 1980. “Clorox Girls, hair so white, Clorox Girls they`re outta sight.” Ron Reyes from Black Flag played drums on that recording and Greg Hetson, later of Circle Jerks and Bad Religion fame, also played on that along with the McDonald brothers, Jeff and Steve. Our first drummer Clay Silva and I were really into that record when we started the band, really amazing one minute songs. Total surf punk…”Annette`s Got The Hits”, “Cover Band”, “Clorox Girls”, “I Hate My School.” All great songs! Total classics. The Clorox company has not given us any money. We asked them for licensing once and they said “No.” After talking to a lawyer, he said that Clorox can`t sue us because our music can`t be confused with their product. A song to use for their commercial… maybe “Flowers of Evil” hahaa
„J`aime les filles“ is already your third full-length album in a quite short time. Do you have such a high working morale?
Yes. Music is our first priority right now, so we have to keep moving!
Compared to your first album, what has changed? How did you evolve as a band?
There`s been lots of lineup changes, lots of people coming and going. The sound has definitely matured quite a bit. A lot more 1960`s influence and a lot less emphasis on being “punk.” We just try and make music that we like. Make a record that we would want to listen to. The third album is my favorite so far, or maybe tied with the first one! We have sacrificed a lot for this band, so we have changed mostly as people… always growing…lots of growing pains. We joke that every day of touring takes a week off of our life spans. hahaa
In the USA and the UK the album was already released in April. How`s the feedback so far? I couldn`t find any release dates for Germany or the rest of Europe, do you know if and when it is released over here?
The feedback has been mostly positive so far. It`s being distributed by Cargo & Green Hell in Germany. There was a delay in the vinyl, so copies are just arriving now as we speak! The new album should be in stores starting next week.
You covered the 70s song “Le Banana Split” on the album why did you choose this song?
Because it is one of the best pop songs ever written.
So there are quite a few French references on the album, don`t Americans hate the French?
No, actually on the contrary a lot of Americans (or at least educated Americans) respect French art, film, literature, and sometimes music! We love Les Calamites, Jaques DuTronc, Lio, Starshooter, Warum Joe, and lots more French music, especially from the 60`s and late 70`s. J`adore Lio.
On your myspace page is written about your sound “A band you`re not sure you like until a review in some mag decides for you”. So how would you convince me to write a good review for the album?
Ahh..ok the new album is post modern, apocalyptic, and sensual. More important to German culture then table soccer… as delightful as Bavarian beer. More fun than a romp in a St. Pauli whorehouse. Delicious… like your first famished bite into a perfectly cooked Bratwurst.
You also tour extensively worldwide. Do you enjoy it? What was your favourite place so far and what was the worst?
Yes, we enjoy touring quite a bit, otherwise we wouldn`t do it! It`s always great to taste different foods, meet new people, visit new cities. The worst experiences we have had touring are in middle America, Poland, and Argentina. The best has been everywhere else especially Brazil, Western Europe, and Canada.
How is the crowd reacting at your gigs?
Sometimes cute girls dance up front near the stage. The guys in the crowd are usually like rabid dogs frothing at the mouth. Usually we are covered in sweat, beer, and sometimes blood at the end of the night. I hope we don`t catch any diseases.
What`s your ambition with the band? What would you do to have a number 1 album?
We want to keep touring and recording. Hopefully someday we can earn a living by doing this. So far we are living on a 5 dollar per day. That`s like 3 Euros a day. So you could say that we earn about 90 Euros a month per band member. I think we would make more working in a Turkish Kebab stand, no? We don`t want to compromise anything to have a number one album, but that said, we are open to suggestions!
And finally, what are your future plans?
After this 7-8 week European tour, we tour Europe again in August/September with our other band Red Dons. Then at the end of October we tour the US and maybe Canada. November/December we are planning on touring Japan. And in January, Brazil! Yea!
Author: Kathleen Gransalke, photos: Clorox Girls