Although they may look like rejects from the casting call for a sequel to The Craft, Nashville's The Black Belles are actually more original than their look suggests. The band was "discovered" by Jack White, but the four Belles see him more as mentor than Svengali.
Speaking from Laredo and in anticipation of tonight's show at LaGrange, bassist Ruby Rogers talked about The Black Belles' interesting relationship with White.
Where are you playing in Laredo? At this place called the Old #2. Looking at the walls, we can see photos of a lot of our Nashville friends.
How was your experience at SXSW? We all had a really great time. We were only there for three days. We played at a Third Man Records showcase. We played at a Panache showcase, that's our booking agent, and we played at a Rachel Ray party. It was a barbecue and we got to meet Rachel Ray and she had prepared some great recipes for the band.
The band is often described as "garage-goth." Do you like that term? We like that description. Some of the songs are poppy, so people have called us goth-pop. But we also have surf influences and we like metal as well. We have a lot of different influences and inspirations.
What's up with those big hats? They are really good for shading ourselves in the Texas sun. We've noticed that hats are becoming more in fashion the past few years. That's cool with us.
Do you wear them for every show? Yes, we wear them all of the time. It makes it easy to spot each other in crowds. We attract a lot of attention, as you might imagine.
It's been written quite a few times that the band was discovered by Jack White. How does something like that go down? It all ties to Third Man Records. They just celebrated their third anniversary. We all met through the label and we all got along. [Singer] Olivia [Jean] was from Detroit and she had made a demo. We thought it was really cool and decided to give the band thing a try.
Do you think there is too much attention put on Jack's influence on the band? One magazine actually called him the band's Svengali. I don't know how I am going to answer that. He is our producer and he's done a great job. We are trying new directors as far as videos go, but we will definitely keep him as our producer. We don't mind being tied to him in any way. We don't see it as a negative.
He has also written a song ["What Can I Do?"] for the band. That song Olivia had the idea for when she was back in Detroit. It ended up being used as Elvira's theme song [for Elvira's Movie Macabre]. Olivia wrote everything in that song. It's not like you can say Jack White created us. It's not like he's a puppeteer.
Have you been on Elvira's show? No, she's been friends with Jack for a long time. But we did get to meet her on Halloween night. That was a couple of years ago.
Was it an honor to meet her? Sure it was. We consider her our godmother. We are all fans of hers and fans of B movies in general. We like campy stuff. I think that shows in our music.
How did the band end up on the Stephen Colbert show? Stephen came to Third Man for that. He wanted a theme for a certain skit, just to make it funny. It was really great to see him get dressed up in all black.
The band is based in Nashville. Are you from there? No, I am originally from Mississippi and the drummer, Shelby Lynne, is from California. We all played in different bands before we met.
Mississippi's not known for its school system. How did you get out of there all educated? I think Mississippi would surprise people. There are some good universities there. My grandfather was an engineering professor at the University of Mississippi.
Is a song like "Honky Tonk Horror" really fun to play live? Yes, it's a blast to play live. Writing those kind of songs is fun. That's what it should be about, hanging out with your friends. It's about not being too serious, but still being professional.
What does the typical fan of The Black Belles look like? They all look different, but there is definitely a lot of black clothing. We had a five-year-old girl come to one of our shows in New York who was giving us the metal horns the whole time we were playing. We have an older crowd. Some of them tell us we are the best girl band since The Runaways. A lot of people have compared us to them.
The Black Belles perform with The 1969s and Sir Name & The Janes tonight, March 20, at LaGrange.
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