Thelma and the Sleaze Ain't Here to Play Nice
Photos courtesy of Thelma and the Sleaze
What sort of video might an all-woman band which travels in a church van playing songs titled "Cum" and "Motor Tits" conceive? What images would be captured to visualize songs described by one of the band members as "Eddie Money woke up in the South on a pile of Judas Priest cassettes," from albums with names like These Boots Won't Lick Themselves?
If any of this sounds intriguing - and, seriously, why would it not? - then you'll want to take a gander at "Maria," the latest video from Nashville's Thelma and the Sleaze. The band is making its way through Texas for SXSW gigs and hits Rudyard's tonight. The Bad Drugs and Giant Kitty open a night that is going to be chock-full of femme badassery.
"We played in Houston for the first time this past November at the Alley Kat," says Chase, the band's drummer. "There was so much love there, everyone was so kind and chill and didn't roll their eyes when we prodded them about seeing Bey around town. Houston is really up there in our list of favorite cities, and that's derived completely from our first impression. All of us can't wait to come back. Shout-out to our girl Mlee."
Things are very first-name-basis with the band, according to Chase, who introduces her fellow members as if between songs at a show. There's GiGi on guitar and LG, who sings and also plays guitar and originated a gnarly hook for the song, "Maria." Baby Angel is the band's full-time bassist, Chase says, "but is unable to tour this time around. Our dearest, sexiest friend, Jade, flew down from NYC to play with us for SXSW."
Now, about the video: you'll find more crack in it than at the local police department's evidence room. And, by crack, I mean bare bottoms. Combine that with lots of hip-thrusting and a banana penis - scratch that, bananas don't have penises - a banana being used in a phallic manner, the video is rated NSFW.
The song itself has a lo-fi, bluesy groove to it. LG's pleas to "stay the night," recalls the Ronettes. A thoroughly modern, woman-first version, of course.
"(The video) was LG's brainchild, her directorial debut," says Chase. "She found a VHS camcorder at Goodwill and texted GiGi and I at 3 a.m. telling us to come over and make our video. When we got to her house the next day, she had a bunch of props and we all just did our thing for an hour."
That footage was edited by Seth Graves, Chase says, with explicit directions from LG to include some "Brady Bunch squares" shots. She jokingly calls the final product the band's "nexus to our first full-length, Dolly Parton-exploitation film, The Best Big Ass Whorehouse in Tennessee."
Much of the band's work seems to be an overt ownership of its female sexuality, very early-Liz Phair in that way, but with way grungier guitars and more punk-rock bravado. I asked Chase if that overt ownership was just an extension of the band members' personalities or a message about empowerment that they consciously play up as an all-woman band.
"Sometimes," she answers, "we have to consciously play ourselves down."
Unless you're just awful with puns, it's evident that the band's moniker is a play on the '90s feminist-revenge movie, Thelma and Louise.
"Baby Angel and LG used to play in a band called the Trampskirts," Chase explains. "Baby Angel came out of the venue to smoke and saw a pair of legs hanging out of the Trampskirts van. She had a phone charger with her and wrapped the cord between her two hands like she was going to choke the thief out. That was her reaction. Not to yell for help, but to strangle someone with a phone cord."
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"The 'thief' was obviously LG, sifting through shit in the van," she continues. "They joked about it being a Thelma and Louise sisterhood moment and Baby Angel said that if Trampskirts ever fizzled they should start a band called Thelma and the Sleaze.
The story doesn't end there, though.
"A week later, the singer dropped off and LG stepped up and finished the tour singing all of her parts. They got back to Nashville and started Thelma and the Sleaze," Chase says. "That final Thelma and Louise scene, when they hold hands while they drive their car off a cliff - that's the most accurate way to describe our rapport as a band."
Chase says the band recently caught the attention of a very unexpected fan.
"A couple weeks ago we were asked to perform as a backing band on the ABC drama Nashville. It's produced and directed by Callie Khouri, who wrote Thelma and Louise. We fucking met her!" she exclaims. "She walked right up to us and said, 'So, we finally meet.' I'm sweating thinking about it! I think that episode airs on April 8; we'll post about it on our Facebook for sure.
"We're opening for Christina Aguilera," Chase laughs. "I hope Callie doesn't get mad that we've been divulging that."
Chase says they're happy to share their video antics, but to not mistakenly blur the lines between video and reality, creepers. Do that and you risk ending up like the fellow on the cover of their live record, Greatest Hits.
"The artwork for that live record was a photo taken by Ann Sydney Taylor at another one of our shows on that forever tour, after some guy groped LG's body while she was playing," Chase recounts. "She beat him down right there with her guitar."
Thelma and the Sleaze rock Rudyard's tonight with the Bad Drugs and Giant Kitty. Doors open at 9 p.m.
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