“There's something special about the bond that you make with your bandmates, especially when you write about deep issues and serious topics,” she says.
Describing Ex-Regrets as a “COVID band,” Sturges says they came together in the early days of the pandemic, taking songs that she and guitarist Mikey “Frenchtoast” Branton had written together for previous projects but never recorded.
For Sturges, bringing this project to life is more than about getting old songs out to a new audience.
“Ex-Regrets is a coping mechanism, and it's a group therapy,” she says. “I'm a recovering cocaine addict that has struggled with mental health issues my entire life. The writing process for me is so cathartic. As lighthearted as some of the songs seem, the stories behind them aren't.”
The band releases its first EP Here Come the Waterworks on Sept. 25 and will celebrate with a release party at Caves Lounge in Arlington with opening support from Mutha-Falcon, Hen and the Cocks and The Two Watts. The EP features six songs filled with riot grrrl energy touching on topics ranging from addiction in “Sour Optologist” to menstruation in “Shark Week,” from losing a friend in “I Ate My Girlfriend” to standing up to a sexual predator in “Friday Night Fights.”
“I think with this project, I’m really focusing on amending the things that I've done in the past that I don't think worked as well and create an environment where everyone's working collaboratively,” Sturges says. “I think that's when you get the best music.”
As a longtime member of the Dallas punk scene, Sturges is also well-studied in the practice of performance as a therapeutic experience.
“It's the opportunity to express things that I need to get out,” she says. “Sharing that music with other people, to me, is a form of medicine. I think that everyone has a song or songs or albums or artists that they go to for every mood and occasion. It takes you back in time, right?”
When it comes to the performance of these songs, Sturges is not so concerned with audiences connecting to the words — after all, punk lyrics can sometimes come too fast to parse. Sturges is more interested in what the experience of the music does to the listener.
“I have the opportunity to watch someone in the audience connect with the song, even if it's for a different reason,” she says. “Ultimately it doesn't matter if what I writing about is what it evokes in them. If the songs are good to me, I think it's therapeutic to the other person.”
Sturges has played in a slew of punk bands around town over the years — Black Habits, monkeysphere, Garbage Fighters and Sex Regrets — but she believes the different backgrounds brought together for this project give Ex-Regrets a unique sound that, while punk at its core, is accessible to a larger audience.
“When people ask me what we sound like, I tell them that we sound like, you know, if Nirvana and The White Stripes had a threesome with NOFX and Fat Mike [of NOFX] somehow got pregnant and was denied an abortion in Texas, Ex-Regrets is that baby." – Jennifer Zooki Sturges
“I don't really want to pigeonhole myself,” Sturges says. “When people ask me what we sound like, I tell them that we sound like, you know, if Nirvana and The White Stripes had a threesome with NOFX and Fat Mike [of NOFX] somehow got pregnant and was denied an abortion in Texas, Ex-Regrets is that baby.”
Sturges laughs but comes back to the influences that compose such a creative description of the band.
“Mikey ‘Frenchtoast’ says has had a serious hard-on for Jack White,” she continues. “Ken Jones, who plays bass for this project, and I are old school, West Coast, Fat Wreck [Chords]-era ska-punk kids. And [drummer] John Rose’s taste is definitely that grunge-era, Nirvana-er stuff. So, I think you get a little bit of all of that.”
Creating a project with more accessible sound was entirely intentional. In some respect, Ex-Regrets is a product of getting older, but having a diverse field of music lets Sturges let go of old patterns.
“One of the things that Mikey, and I talked about was just that I think I'm at a place where I don't need to be writing in the niches that I've been attached to since I was a kid," she says. "In a way, I've actually gone back to before that time where I found some crap — like before I bought my first Fat Music for Fat People [Fat Wreck Chords] comp. I want to write music that appeals to a lot of different people, and I love playing our songs to people who I know don't have the same background of roots, and getting a good response from that.
"That alone is a big motivator for me to try to make sure that we keep a mass appeal.”