Actress Juliette Lewis to Bring Her Retooled Rock Band to the Grog Shop

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Following an eight-year break from touring, actress Juliette Lewis reformed her rock group the Licks and just finished a sold out European tour. Now, she's set to kick off a 20-plus North American tour.

She’s just recorded the disco-influenced new single “Hello Hero” and has an EP due out in the coming weeks. We spoke to her via phone today as she was about to board a plane heading to Detroit, the first date of the tour. She plays tomorrow at 8:30 p.m. at the Grog Shop.

Talk about the current tour.
I decided so I don’t lose my mind in music to do tours that are two to three weeks. I have two weeks on and two weeks off. And then I start another two week tour. This one is East Coast mainly. We’ll end in Nashville. In September, I’m doing a West Coast run.

I think a few other bands do that too.
See, everyone has learned. Economically, it’s challenging. For me, it’s a labor of love. It’s always been. I’m an independent musician so we sell T-shirts and do what we can. For me, the most important thing is to make really delicious, awesome rock ’n’ roll. I’m so fucking proud of this band. The rhythm section is on fire. My bass player Juan Alderete is from Mars Volta, and I have a new drummer named Elmo Lovano, and John Michael Anderson can do everything. He does electronic stuff and he’s a spectacular guitar player. I’m really excited by the flavors in this band.

The band originally came together in 2003. Talk about how that incarnation came to be.
It all started when I was little and used to take piano and write songs. Later, it’s funny when I started a band, I wanted to make music that I get off on. The guitar solos are the ways I dig solos. You think if you dig it, other people will dig it too. I literally started calling friends I knew. I was looking for a guitar player and I met this guy Todd Morris through my sister who knew his brother. He was really good at writing contagious and fun and energetic riffs. I responded to that right away. I liken my early music to my high school band even though I was past high school age. It’s all energy based and really immediate. Once I performed live, I realized I wanted more haunting blues songs and more electronic weird sub frequencies or fuzzy bass. Those were things I wasn’t hearing in the Licks, so I had to go out and find them musically.

How did you wind up befriending Dave Grohl?
He played on our second record. We were touring in Europe and that’s what’s fun. You meet these other bands. We met the Killers and Kings of Leon and Muse. Foo Fighters were out and he watched our band. That’s what’s awesome about music. You become fans of people or they get to know you through these festivals Dave championed my band early on. He became a mentor of sorts. When our drummer left or I let him go, Dave was free. The thing with Dave is that he’s a busy man and it worked out timing wise. He always liked my band. That was awesome. That was amazing, actually.

What caused the band to break up in 2009?
Oh my God, it was all the regular band dynamics. I was never satisfied. I was a bit of a workhorse. Even if there were thousands of people showing up at festivals, I knew it all could be fleeting. I always wanted to make our set different. You repeat the same set a lot, but I wanted to add new flavors. Musically, I wanted things that that band doesn’t do. We were at our best, a muscular guitar rock band that’s pretty ferocious. I wanted more moody elements or dance-y elements. I had to find them by writing with Brad Shultz of Cage the Elephant or Isabella Summers from Florence and the Machine. I cultivated the sounds I was hearing in my head.

You released a solo album back in 2009. How different was it from doing an album with the Licks?
There you go. I had to do that record to come full circle. The new EP is ’60s garage rock influenced with electronic sounds and really affected drums and it has blues in it. Omar Rodriguez-Lopez from Mars Volta produced what I call my weird record. I wanted to break that normal verse chorus verse structure. I came full circle to appreciate the simplicity within what I was doing previously but with a fresher take on guitar. Brad Schultz plays everything on guitar. It’s almost psychedelic but really fresh sounding.

You still play songs from the solo album?
Yeah. It’s funny because this new set, I’m so proud of it. I have some Licks songs and some stuff off the solo album. We play “Hard Loving Women” and “Fantasy Bar” and new stuff. It’s a well-rounded set of the things I love in music, which are dance-y and celebratory with blues and super dangerous exciting rock n roll. There’s a bunch of all of it in the set.

Talk about the new track, “Hello Hero.” It has a funky vibe to it and even features some rapping. What inspired the song?
Yes, it has those fat beats and bass. People don’t know it but I’m influenced by disco. The bass in the song is so contagious. There’s these handclaps. That’s Isabella Summers and me creating this fun driving but dance-y song.

What have you been listening to lately?
I always love what Cage the Elephant comes out with. Always, always. They’re so fresh, but it’s soulful good rock ’n’ roll. I like Foals out of England. There’s this other band called the Kenneths out of the UK. It’s punky but super melodic. It’s like old school punk to me, not this new poppy shit. I like some electronic music. I’m a sucker for Skrillex and Diplo, anything they do. 

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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