Something Wicked This Way Comes: The Ettes
Don’t let the name fool you. Though The Ettes have a cutesy title, Lindsay “Coco” Hames, Maria “Poni” Silver, and Jeremy “Jem” Cohen are a fierce garage punk-rock combo. They also don’t seem to know the meaning of the phrase “slow down”: In addition to touring perpetually for the last seven years, the trio also plays with rock super group The Parting Gifts, which counts musicians like Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys and Patrick Keeler of The Raconteurs among its ranks. On top of all that, Silver will soon launch her own clothing line. Maybe finally settling down in Nashville will allow The Ettes to get some much-needed R&R.
The Ettes’ fifth album, Wicked Will, is a culmination of frustration, hope and good old punk rock. We spoke to Coco Hames about side projects, being badass and the punk-rock revival revolution.
ILANA KAPLAN: So, where are you guys from originally?
COCO HAMES: Poni and Jem are both from New York. I’m from Florida, but the band started in LA. We started there. We kind of lived everywhere, all over the place wherever we could crash. We’ve been on a perpetual tour. We’ve been in Nashville for the past three years. I guess that’s where we’re stationing…so Nashville. We’re very nomadic.
KAPLAN: Why the diminuitive name “The Ettes?’
HAMES: Poni and I started the band, and we were two girls, and we were kind of really small. We just owned that suffix because people were using it to be cutesy, or “I’m in a girl band.” We were like, “Let’s just be The Ettes. Let’s leave it at that.”
KAPLAN: How did the band form?
HAMES: We were working in LA. We had moved from New York to LA the same week, but we didn’t know each other. We were working in retail. We just became friends. We started an air band with our own little gang. Poni just picked up the drums. I used to tour and do acoustic stuff when I was a teenager. I was a songwriter and a musician. We started playing, and we got rid of our apartment. We went on tour. That’s kind of where we’ve been ever since.
KAPLAN: How long have you guys been together?
HAMES: We moved in 2003. We started officially in 2004. We started touring and recording in 2005. So, somewhere between 2004 and 2005. Our first release was in 2005. It was a self-recorded release. That was the beginning of our nomadic ways. 2004 we started playing shows. 2005 was when our first record came out and we started touring.
KAPLAN: Do you have any side-projects? Poni has her fashion line coming out.
HAMES: Poni graduated from FIT in New York, and she actually graduated in costume design. Before I knew her, she used to work on Broadway making costumes for Broadway shows. She always made stage clothes and really interesting tee shirts for her friends. She hasn’t had enough time to dedicate herself to a full collection. We were like, “enough, you need to do one!” We made her do it. This is her first collection in ten years. It’s really great stuff! She’s already working on her next one. Hopefully that will become more available to everybody soon. We’re all in a band with Greg Cartwright, all together in a band called Parting Gifts. That is kind of a garage-rock super-group. Dan Auerbach from The Black Keys is in it. Patrick Keeler from The Raconteurs is in it. Anybody who was around was in it. We made a record. It came out last year. I have solo, country, songs. I’m the songwriter, so it would sound like that. We’ve been really, really busy. We’re very expressive people, so we just take different media and go with that. That’s what we do.
KAPLAN: I feel like there aren’t enough punk rock, garage girl bands. Do you feel like you guys have revived it or started your own revolution?
HAMES: I’ve been noticing some bands of girls that are kind of DIY. I’m like, “Oh, I guess we did not see that around when we started.” I’m not sure. In a way, it seems like it. This is our fifth album out. We’ve been around for a while. I don’t know. It seems like it. I like it. I’m glad! At the time, I didn’t know anybody else. I always felt that, not like where’s our next Courtney Love, but maybe something like that, like where’s the rock and roll? That’s how we’ve always been. Now that we live in Nashville and Nashville’s coming up, Nashville has these young bands and they kind of look up to us. It’s really like—we’re at the head of this thing now, and it’s crazy. It seems like there’s only ever room for one at a time in terms of being a strong, female, punk-rock, rock and roller who is outspoken, intelligent and talented. Well, if there’s room for one, then I’m ready for my close-up.
KAPLAN: Who do you cite as some of your influences?
HAMES: We all listened to different music growing up, but we all really love The Ramones and The Stooges. We love songs with a really strong beat. Everyone is really involved at the show. Everyone plays really intensely, so we really like that. Jem and I co-write most of the songs. We go by pop music. We like stripped-down folk and just kind of building from there. We like to play with those dynamics. In terms of records we put on, The Kinks and The Rolling Stones. I came from a country background, a lot of Patsy Cline and Buddy Holly and stuff like that. Somewhere, you put that all together and turn it up really loud and that’s what we sound like.
KAPLAN: What is Wicked Will about?
HAMES: There’s a lot of things I like in my songwriting—mainly this kind of frustration. I’m not a terribly good talker, so I’ve always felt better represented by my writing. And in relationships, romantic and otherwise, you’re placed in this world in this strange generation that we’re a part of where everything is insane and nothing is like what it was growing up. There’s so much that could be and a lot of hope and curiosity about that.
KAPLAN: What are some songs on the album that are close to your heart?
HAMES: I really like the slower ones. I like the album opener and closer: “Teeth” and “Worst There Is.” Those are really fun for me. Those are really straightforward songs I write, and to play them with the whole band is really cool and dynamic for me. They are very observational. There are a lot of political constructs that don’t really work anymore. You start to see people at different stages in their lives breaking the mold and going, “I don’t like this job and I don’t care if I’m supposed to do it.” Or, “I don’t like this relationship, and I don’t care if I’m supposed to be in it.” I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. People are starting to realize that life is short.
THE ETTES’ FIFTH ALBUM, WICKED WILL, COMES OUT TODAY. THEY WILL BE PLAYING THEIR ALBUM RELEASE SHOWS AT MERCURY LOUNGE AUGUST 2 AND AT THE KNITTING FACTORY AUGUST 3.