Just because they sing about S&M, film videos in graveyards, channel the dark vibe of their heroes in Joy Division and write songs with titles like "Someone Must Get Hurt," don't assume the Los Angeles duo She Wants Revenge are a pair of gloom merchants.
"We're really not such dark and creepy people," said singer Justin Warfield of the music on the band's self-titled debut, which comes out January 31. "We just knew there was a gap: People were not making dark music that's great on the dance floor but is also complex and musically direct. We didn't want to do traditional love songs."
Which might help explain the lyrics to the band's next single, "Tear You Apart," an ode to obsession in which Warfield urgently groans the lines, "I want to hold you close ... As I whisper in your ear/ I want to f---ing tear you apart." It's no "We Belong Together," but Warfield says that kind of love song has been done to death.
Warfield and partner DJ Adam 12 (born Adam Bravin) just wrapped a video for the song directed by actor and friend Joaquin Phoenix, which the singer cryptically described as a short film about "being different and disenfranchised and finding others like yourself in that situation."
The album is a long time in the making for Warfield and Bravin, who first met in 1987 at a house party in the San Fernando Valley, where a 14-year-old Warfield was flexing with his skateboarding crew and a 16-year-old Bravin was spinning records. "At the time, the most important records to me were Purple Rain, LL Cool J's Radio and the Smiths' The Queen Is Dead, but I was also totally a B-boy with an obsession with hip-hop," said Warfield, 32.
"Adam was playing this slowed down, dark, ghetto electronica. I asked him what it was and he said 'Eazy-E's "Boyz-N-the Hood" ' [essentially the first N.W.A. single] and I ran and got a piece of paper and wrote it down."
That chance meeting sparked a friendship that turned into a musical collaboration more than 15 years later, after Warfield had released two hip-hop albums in the early '90s and returned from a stint in England, during which he collaborated with the Chemical Brothers, Placebo and Cornershop and was the frontman for the breakbeat group Bomb the Bass. Meanwhile, Bravin has become an in-demand remixer and DJ on the Los Angeles scene, producing tracks for artists such as trip-hop-ish singer Esthero.
The pair reunited three years ago at the urging of a friend who thought their parallel interests in rap, jazz, new wave and electronica were a perfect match. The first night they got together, the duo wrote a song and, by the time Geffen Records signed them two years later, they had already recorded 20 tracks in Bravin's cramped home studio, six of which made the final album. The inevitable Sisters of Mercy and Joy Division comparisons began cropping up, mainly due to the morose synth lines, Warfield's deep voice and the twisted lyrics about haunting encounters with seductive women.
"Both Adam and I grew up on lots of music, from soul to R&B, hip-hop, funk and disco, but in the same way the baby boomers revered rock as their own music, for our generation it was hip-hop and new wave because it was the first music that was solely ours," said Warfield. The Joy Division influence is so entrenched that Warfield said the pair didn't even realize, until someone pointed it out later, that the titles "Out of Control" and "Tear You Apart" are strikingly close to JD's "She's Lost Control" and "Love Will Tear Us Apart."
"Even though people hear the Joy Division thing, we wanted to make an album that felt to us as powerful and beautiful and honest as certain seminal albums from our lives," he said, citing the Cure's Disintegration as an example.
With the record set for release and a cameo on the upcoming music-centric CBS series "Love Monkey" in the can, Warfield said he's excited to hit the road and find fellow non-goth goths who aren't afraid to dance.
She Wants Revenge tour dates, according to the band's publicist:
- 1/18 - Cabazon, CA @ Casino Morongo
- 1/20 - Los Angeles, CA @ El Rey Theatre
- 1/21 - Santa Ana, CA @ Galaxy Theatre
- 1/28 - San Diego, CA @ Epicenter
- 2/1 - Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
- 2/3 - Kansas City, MO @ Record Bar
- 2/5 - Indianapolis, IN @ Melody Inn
- 2/6 - Columbus, OH @ Little Brother's
- 2/7 - Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
- 2/9 - Toronto, ON @ Lee's Palace
- 2/10 - Montreal, QE @ Petit Campus
- 2/11 - New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
- 2/13 - Hoboken, NJ @ Maxwell's
- 2/14 - Cambridge, MA @ Middle East - Downstairs
- 2/16 - Philadelphia, PA @ The Khyber
- 2/17 - Baltimore, MD @ Sonar
- 2/18 - Washington, DC @ Black Cat
- 2/19 - Carrboro, NC @ Cat's Cradle
- 2/21 - Atlanta, GA @ The EARL
- 2/23 - Fort Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
- 2/24 - St. Petersburg, FL @ State Theatre
- 2/25 - Orlando, FL @ The Social
- 2/26 - Tallahassee, FL @ Beta Bar
- 2/28 - Nashville, TN @ Exit / In
- 3/1 - New Orleans, LA@ The Parish at House of Blues
- 3/2 - Houston, TX @ Walter's On Washington
- 3/3 - Dallas, TX @ Gypsy Tea Room / Ballroom
- 3/4 - Austin, TX @ Emo's
- 3/6 - Tucson, AZ @ Plush
- 3/7 - Phoenix, AZ @ Martini Ranch
- 3/8 - Las Vegas, NV @ TBA
- 3/9 - Los Angeles, CA @ Music Box at Henry Fonda Theatre
- 3/10 - San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall
- 3/11 - Portland, OR @ Berbati's Pan
- 3/12 - Seattle, WA @ Neumo's
- 3/13 - Vancouver, BC @ Richard's On Richards