Applied Rock & Roll
A rock-star mom like Courtney Love may have the luxury of a live-in nanny and first-class hotels when she goes on tour, but when the two young mothers in the up-and-coming band the Applicators roll down the highway in a small van, it's a long way from Montessori.
Fortunately, the four-girl band has come across some mentors, although not among their rockin'-mama predecessors. Greg Hetson, former guitarist for Bad Religion and Circle Jerks, and Chris Smith of Sixteen Deluxe are showing the Applicators the way.
"We're continuously learning from Greg," explains lead vocalist Sabrina from behind her bleached-blond fringe coif. "He has great pioneer punk rock stories about living out of an El Camino on the road and the intricacies of songwriting. He has helped Erica when she gets stuck somewhere while writing. And we go out drinking with him a lot."
But it's the delicate mix of punk life with family life on which Hetson and Smith have perhaps offered their most important help and guidance. "Greg offered to baby-sit for me the other day," says guitarist Erica, who has a five-year-old daughter named Ivy. "Their whole lives have been around punk rock," explains Sabrina, mother of a just-turned-one-year-old. "We see what it's like to be in a band and still try to have a family and a life on the side."
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It was the Applicators' sound—a supercharged, unabashed, kick-ass cross section of the Runaways, X-Ray Specs, the Ramones and the Buzzcocks—that caught the attention of Hetson and Smith. But it was their mutual dedication to the music that cemented the relationship. "Greg's still rocking out and having fun, yet he's older than us, which shows us we don't have to give up that part of our lives," says Sabrina. "So many people say, 'Oh, yeah, I went through my punk rock phase.' I hate that. Greg is a perfect example of not having to give up the lifestyle with age."
Sabrina is still getting used to leaving her one-year-old behind when life on the road calls, and that has been happening more often since the release of the Applicators' debut CD, What's Your Excuse?, on Cornerstone RAS. "The longest I've left so far is 10 days, but we're about to leave for 20 days," Sabrina says. "That will be a challenge." She sentimentally packs her baby's blanket—along with her creepers; plaid, bondage pants; and spiked belts —while on the road.
"It's easier for me to leave because Ivy is older," says Erica. "She's in school most of the day, and as long as she has her friends, she's fine. She stays at her dad's house, where she has so much fun. She thinks it's cool that her mommy is in a band and going to California. She gives me 'Ivy Power.'"
Meanwhile, the band rocks on, singing songs about the usual stuff—foiled cat abductions, overzealous P.C. kids, girls who smell like them, and, oh, puke and blood.
"For me, it's easy because I don't have any kids," says pixie-like power drummer Stephanie. "It's only hard financially." The women pay their bills waiting tables, which frees up their schedules for touring.
"We're a very hard-working band," says Sabrina. "We do everything ourselves: e-mailing people, calling them back, mailing stuff out, designing and making posters, buttons, T-shirts, and trademarking."
"We love talking people into coming to see us play," says Kristina, the Jane Wiedlinesque bass player. No one is safe from their persuasive ways, from guys on bicycles not fast enough to escape their flier-pushing clutches to record-store merchants. "We're all boy-crazy. That's our favorite thing to do when we're in a new city: chase boys down and talk them into going to our shows."
The Applicators keep packing diaper bags; pushing desserts; and finding time to play shows with bands like Bad Religion, Fear, the Eyeliners and Teen Idols. While they've fulfilled some of their dream gigs in just two short years, they have other stars in their eyes: "Joan Jett, Murder City Devils, Blondie, Rancid, the Makers . . . One Man Army, Swinging Utters, Snoop Doggy Dogg, No Doubt . . . or, no, wait . . . NOFX."
They know it's never too late to change their order. They're as fickle as anyone else.
The Applicators play with the Ziggens and Throwrag at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Fri., 7:30 p.m. $7. All ages; at Linda's Doll Hut, 107 S. Adams St., Anaheim, (714) 533-1286. Sat., 9 p.m. $6. 21+; and at the Blue Caf, 210 The Promenade, Long Beach, (562) 983-7111 or (562) 984-8349. Mon., 9 p.m. $5. 21+.
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