The defining line between good and crap rock & roll has more to do with attitude and appearance than it does great hooks and catchy choruses. Almost anyone can write a decent tune, but not everybody possesses the proper swagger to rock in a non-ironic, non-Jack Black kind of way. All-female band Civet know this.
The tattooed Long Beach-based quartet—singer/guitarist Liza Graves, her sister guitarist/singer Suzi Homewrecker, bassist Jacqui Valentine and drummer Danni Jo—don't just dress like rock stars; they live the life. For example, take my first attempt at interviewing Graves. Our call was scheduled for a Saturday, but I had to cancel. I spoke briefly to the 23-year-old singer that day about moving our conversation to Sunday at noon, a time when regular folk are functioning like, well, regular folk. But not Graves. She laughed and told me she gets up at 2 p.m. "I can wake up earlier," Graves says, "but I try not to wake up before that."
As if getting up in the middle of the afternoon isn't rock enough, Graves and her cohorts aren't afraid to speak their minds, especially when it comes to their physical appearance. Civet embrace what their mamas gave them and strive for a complete show, both sonically and visually. The winning combination of attractive women playing legitimate rock music has been dubbed "femme fatale punk rock" by the band. "We coined that phrase because we're about the music and the image," Graves says. "We're good-looking girls who play punk, and we're not afraid to say that."
Some female musicians choose to stay away from the "girl band" categorization by focusing strictly on the music, while others feel a sense of empowerment and community by rocking their double-X chromosomes proudly on their sleeves. Graves believes denying her femininity not only hurts her group, but other girl bands, and says her reasoning comes from the female-centric discs getting heavy rotation on her personal stereo. "I'm really into hard girl rock. You gotta be really tough for me. I like Corey Parks (Nashville Pussy, Die Hunns), Sahara Hotnights, the Distillers, Bikini Kill and the Runaways. I like girls with a little more balls."
Civet are in the midst of posting demos of new songs on their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/civet) in order to give fans a peek at what could make it onto their next album, which they begin recording in August. Songs such as "Gin and Tonic" and "Pay Up" find Civet incorporating back-up harmonies to blend with Graves' distinctive raspy howl found on 2005's Massacre, which was recorded with a different rhythm section and released on Duane Peters' Disaster Records. "It's totally time for a new album," Graves says. "We started off really raw as a band. Now we stepped it up to another level."
The as-yet-unrecorded disc could be issued on a large Los Angeles punk label, but until the ink is dry, Graves prefers not to say much about the deal—which is probably the most cautious behavior you'll ever see from this frenetic front woman.
CIVET PERFORM AT THE BLUE CAFÉ, 210 THE PROMENADE, LONG BEACH, (562) 983-7111; WWW.THEBLUECAFE.COM . SUN., 9 P.M. $5. 21+.
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