A love of music continues to propel the violent women, who perform 9/11 at the Jacobs Pavilion in Nautica
As Violent Femmes continues to tour regularly and record some 40-year career, singer Gordon Gano says the folk-rock group has been slow to catch its breath during the recent shutdown of the music industry.
“I think [staying off the road for several months] will have the effect of refreshing and invigorating us, ”Gano said in a recent telephone interview. Violent Femmes and Flogging Molly perform with Me First and the Gimme Gimmes and THICK at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday September 11 at the Jacobs Pavilion in Nautica. “We certainly weren’t exhausted at all. But I think it will bring extra liveliness to every song and all of our games together. I know for myself that I continued with the music. We have listened to music and played music throughout this past year and a half. Getting together all together to play these songs was well rested. I really feel a certain intensity going out and doing that.
Gano says the pairing with Flogging Molly, who will be headlining the show, makes a good double.
“I think it will make a good show,” Gano says. “I would expect that if we were the right hand, I would have a lot of confidence in our right hand, and I’m sure they have a lot of confidence in their left hand, so we’re going to be good.”
For Violent Femmes, the tour will mark the 30th anniversary of the group’s fifth album, Why do birds sing? The album’s deluxe two-CD and digital formats will include newly remastered audio, previously unreleased material (including alternate takes and previews) and a full 1991 concert (captured at the Boathouse in Norfolk, VA) . The CD edition also features new album art from songwriter and journalist Jeff Slate, who spoke in depth with founding members Gano and Brian Ritchie about the making of the album. a alternative mix of “American music” finds Gano effectively chirping through the ramshackle air that is neither folk nor punk.
“Most of the songs that we have continued to play over the years, although there may have been a few that fell apart,” Gano said when asked to revisit the album, which also includes a unique rendition of Boy George’s aria “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me?” “It was interesting and nice to hear him again. To me it seems like it’s those birthdays, it already implies a kind of nostalgia, but because we kept playing these songs for all these years, I don’t have that kind of relationship. It’s not like a time capsule and it brings me back there. Most of these songs are the ones that we’ve played a thousand times before or whatever, so I have an ongoing relationship with these songs.
While Violent Femmes had established itself as a force to be reckoned with at the time Birds came out, the band initially struggled to get out of their hometown of Milwaukee.
“I was the youngest of the group,” Gano says when asked about the group’s beginnings. “[Bassist] Brian Ritchie and Victor DeLorenzo, our original drummer, were older than me. They had played in many other groups. I hadn’t done any of that. Our band couldn’t play anywhere for a very long time. We weren’t really connected even though they knew the people. We were just rejected all the time for the first few months. The first place we started playing was not in a punk rock club or a rock venue but a jazz place called Jazz Gallery. It was the tour stop for all jazz artists just before or right after Chicago. All the jazz greats would play in this club.
Gano admits that the group’s unconventional approach made categorization difficult. But with the success of the group’s self-titled debut album, released in 1983 and producing the folk-punk anthem “Blister in the Sun”, Violent Femmes became a cult sensation.
“Early before we released any music, we played all the songs from the first album and our second album, which is more country folk and jazz,” says Gano. “The reason we struggled to fit in was that we modified the playing with acoustic instruments and unusual instrumentation. It has already unsettled people. This was before anything was called “unplugged” and before incorporating a lot of traditional instruments into more rock and pop music. For the most part, this has not been done. It would hit people like something that wasn’t fair. And what I almost always forget is that I was a minor.
Forty years later, Violent Femmes continues to be motivated to record and tour in part because Gano now considers it a special honor.
“Well, the music as a whole wouldn’t need any other motivation for me,” Gano says of his persistence. “The music is also amazing and great. What would be it that I wouldn’t do it just for myself in my bedroom – and so many people do it and it’s good – but what makes me come out is when I was younger, there was a car ride, and I really wanted people to hear it. It was believing it was going to be something for someone. Now, it is an incredible honor and an incredible thing to have this joy of the response from other people. That’s it. It’s just an honor to be a part of it.