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Lola Black reflects on Weeknd, asshole rock, and smashing TVs

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Lola Black: Haunted by the ghosts of Gwen Stefani and Joan Jett. - JIM LOUVAU
  • Jim Louvau
  • Lola Black: Haunted by the ghosts of Gwen Stefani and Joan Jett.
Backstage at the Westword Music Awards, Lola Black’s bassist Chris Dellinger— who also happens to be the modelesque frontwoman’s husband — jokingly described the band’s music as “asshole rock.” That was back in 2010, when the Denver band’s first album Plastic Dashboard Jesus earned them the Best Punk Band Award. “We’re all a bunch of assholes,” said Dellinger, “and we like to rock out.”

All of which begs the question: Have either of those two things changed?

“No, that’s pretty accurate,” laughs Black. “We were actually describing our band the other day, and it’s turned into, ‘We’re just a bunch of like-minded lunatics trying to write good music and not kill each other.’”

The fact that the band has managed to accomplish both over the course of seven years is an impressive feat, especially when you consider the fact that they’ve flown largely under the music-industry radar, bashing out hard-rock originals in the studio, on regional tours and at Colorado Springs all-ages clubs like Sunshine Studios and the Black Sheep.

The latter venue will be the setting for this coming Saturday’s CD release show. Nothing’s Gonna Be Alright is a collection of thundering rhythms, grinding guitars and powerhouse vocals that suggest a more aggro version of Gwen Stefani. This time out, the band worked with producer Bob Marlette — whose past credits include Rob Zombie, Alice Cooper and Red Sun Rising. The result is an album that was clearly meant to be played loud — which is nothing new for the band — although a cover of The Weeknd’s “Starboy” does slow down the pace with an electronic beat, moody synthesizers and a vocal that sounds more Selena Gomez than Joan Jett.
“‘Starboy’ was kind of a last-minute decision,” says the singer, who regards it as the most unlikely track the band has ever recorded. “We knew that we wanted to do a cover, but we kind of went back and forth on what we wanted to do.” The solution was suggested by Ra frontman Sahaj Ticotin, who co-produced and features on the track. “I had already been listening to a lot of The Weeknd — I’m a fan of his lyrics and his style — and I also thought it would kind of show, ‘Hey, you know what? We’re not just a one-trick pony band here. We can switch it up.’”

And the cover ideas that fell by the wayside? “Our covers are always all over the place. Sometimes you want to go really heavy, it’ll be like, ‘Oh, I want us to do a Pantera cover.’ And then sometimes we’re like, ‘Well, let’s just do something completely different, like ‘Nights in White Satin.’”

While it’s highly unlikely that the band will be able to work up a version of the Moody Blues’ signature tune between now and Saturday, she doesn’t rule out doing it online. “My guitar player Taylor and I, we’ve talked about the two of us possibly just doing a couple oddball songs that people wouldn’t want us to do,” says Black with a laugh, “and putting them up on YouTube just for fun.”
Meanwhile, the band has posted videos for the singles “All In” and “Nothing’s Gonna Be Alright.” The former opens with them in Hollywood, being coached by a cigar-chomping, gold-chained record executive. “We have an image problem, it’s not working, all the black,” he says, pointing at the heavily tattooed frontwoman. “It’s like, there are more colors out there.” Soon, the band is lip-syncing its way through the song in a sequence of emo, indie-rock and crabcore costumery, all of which nonetheless finds the singer dressed in black. (Black says watching Joan Jett inspired her chronically monochromatic wardrobe.)

The video for the title track is a more dramatic affair that culminates in Black taking a baseball bat to a television set, which is a lot less cliched than the rock-video trope of smashing people’s heads open and digging their graves.

“Those old TVs, they don’t just smash apart like you would think that they do,” Black cautions. “I gave that thing a couple of really good whacks, but then the video’s producer got really worried because it was such an old TV and he was like, “There’s too much that could go wrong with you actually trying to smash the thing. I would feel bad if you hit this thing and it expels mercury and it got in your eye.’”

Now that the album and videos are done, the band has gone back to concentrating on live shows, which guarantee plenty of rock bombast along with echoes of the aforementioned No Doubt singer.

“Gwen Stefani was one of the first women singers that I actually looked up to,” says Black. “I thought she was like the absolute coolest, and I grew up singing along to her records. So I still have a lot of that influence in my voice, it’s still there. I think it will always be with me.”

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