One minute she was Cindy Lou Who in Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The next thing you know, 18-year-old Taylor Momsen was fronting a hard-rock band called The Pretty Reckless.
The group's debut album, Light Me Up (2010), did some nice business, and definitely launched the young star as a fantastically unapologetic songwriter. For the past two years, Momsen has toured nonstop in promotion of the record, but still found enough time to release the EP Hit Me Like a Man earlier this year.
Hit Me Like a Man is three new songs of startling, sexual depth that will leave you gasping and bleeding. Whether or not it's an ode to exploration or a cry for salvation, we couldn't say. But we did ask Momsen.
The Pretty Reckless
With Marilyn Manson (see "Playbill"), Sunday, May 13, at House of Blues, 1204 Caroline, 888-402-5837 or www.hob.com/houston.
Chatter: First off, why throw two live versions on the EP? Is there something specific about the way you play "Make Me Wanna Die" and "Since You're Gone" now that you feel better represents the song's intentions, or do you just like hearing the audience sing along?
Taylor Momsen: Personally, I'd like to release every song live. I love the way they sound, and I love live records in general. Mostly on this EP we wanted to give people a taste of what exactly we've been doing for the last two years on the road.
C: Is "Hit Me Like a Man" a consensual song? It's hard to tell where the line between abuse and S&M is.
TM: Well, I think I'll let the listener interpret it however they want. The line is, "Hit me like a man, and love me like a woman," so I think that there's this balance of pain and pleasure. You can take that to whatever extent that you want to.
C: Especially because you follow it up with "Under the Water," which is a really disturbing song. You sing about waking up in chains, and it basically sounds like you're dreaming about suicide and lament having to wake up back in an abusive situation.
TM: You're the first person to say that. First to mention the song at all, actually...I don't really talk about the inspirations behind my songs, or how they apply to me. They're very personal, and I don't feel like I owe anybody an explanation.
After all, when I grew up listening to Page and Plant, I didn't really care what the songs meant to them. All I cared about was how they made me feel.
C: There's a real interesting juxtaposition between the bright adulation you get on the live tracks and the complete hopelessness of the studio songs. Is this autobiographical, meaning are you trying to show both sides of yourself: The rock star and the real girl?
TM: We really didn't think of it that way. We had three new songs and wanted to get them out. We wanted to give fans something that wasn't just a cover song thrown together on the road.
I write very honest songs, and by still doing that on tour, it keeps it exciting for us.
C: You talk about loving live albums and DVDs. Do you have a favorite?
TM: Oh, man, picking a favorite. I watch so many. I like anything with Zeppelin or Soundgarden, but my favorite is probably AC/DC: Live at Donington. I love the cuts back and forth from the band performing and just hanging out on the bus.
C: Even though you love doing things live so much, you're a really dedicated and prolific music-video artist. Do you get as much out of that experience?
TM: Yes, definitely. It's just the other side of the song, isn't it? I love making music videos. I've written the treatments for all five of mine.
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TM: Yep. I even got a directing credit on "My Medicine." In general, I don't like to have too solid a story or characters in the videos. I want to be able to keep the interpretations open, while sticking with the vibes and undertones of the song. "My Medicine" is probably the least like that, though. It's a party, you know? It is what it is.
C: Are you looking forward to touring with Manson? Are you a fan of his?
TM: Hell yes! Golden Age of Grotesque is a phenomenal album. I got to duet with him on "Dope Show" at the Golden Gods [awards show]. It's going to be a great month on the road with him, then right back into the studio for the new album.