Providing A Pulse: Thelma And The Sleaze Keep Rock And Roll Alive

Providing A Pulse: Thelma And The Sleaze Keep Rock And Roll Alive
Detail from the album cover

Time and time again there are cries that real rock and roll is dead. For those who are worried about the state of the genre, look no further than Thelma and the Sleaze. Thelma and the Sleaze are the epitome of rock and roll; a mainline of adrenaline coming from an unconventional source. Thelma and the Sleaze will be performing at the Continental Club September 25 and promoting their latest release, Fuck, Marry, Kill.

Thelma and the Sleaze is based in Nashville and their leader, LG started the band after her previous group, the Trampskirts disbanded. LG has made it her mission to create authentic, all female, queer, southern rock. She has succeeded in creating a sound and aesthetic that will chew you up and spit you out and most importantly, feels real.

“Most of my toughness is a result of survival,” says LG. “My whole thing is authenticity. I play a form of music that’s been around for 60 years, I’m not going to do anything that crazy and new, but what I’m going to do is make my best version of whatever I'm trying to get close to.”

The band is obviously influenced by southern rock in their deep guitar riffs and heavy drums but they also manage to sprinkle in some ‘80s metal and even smoother artists like Prince. “I like to think of Lemmy from Motorhead, he thought his songs sounded like the Beatles. I think my songs sound like the Ronettes and they don’t.”

LG and her many band mates, past and present, have worked hard to create their signature sound. “I think of my music in such a way that even if I was playing a ZZ Top song, it wouldn’t sound that much like ZZ Top, it would sound like Thelma and the Sleaze playing a ZZ Top song and that’s something I’m more proud of than the song itself.”

Their new album raises the bar high and is a culmination of the band members refining their musical skills and sticking to their guns in the recording process. “It’s taken a long time to get to this point and that’s why I’ve been very hell bound on celebrating this album, more than I did my last record. If you’ve liked any version of this band, there’s something on this record for you.”

She describes the idea behind the naughty title of their new album as a reflection of her inspiration, “Songs about women that I fucked, songs about women I wanted to marry and songs about women that I wanted to kill.”

Every track drips with unadulterated, rock and roll and the message to be yourself at all costs and not worry about what others think.  The video for "Buyin' it" highlights the band's ability to set the stage on fire with their live performances and the band successfully carried their energy over in the studio.  Their Houston show will feature Amaia "Coochie Coochie" Aguirre on organ/keyboards and Shaylee "Snowflake" Walsh on drums, both featured in the video.

LG has rotated band members in the past ten years, but for this album she called back musicians who had previously played with her, offering them the chance to revisit songs from the past and provide the opportunity to do them justice in the studio. “This is a polyamorous band, we don’t get too attached to certain members. I love all the ladies I play with, I’ve got a very nice Rolodex and whoever can come down and do it, they are going to give you a good show.”

When LG was looking for someone to help her with making this album, she reached out the way most people do these days, through social media. She was approached by many people who were interested in her project but she found it difficult to find someone who shared her like mindedness and was in it for the right reasons. She describes excusing herself from a meeting with someone who wasn’t familiar with Iggy Pop’s classic “Dirt”.

It’s difficult to imagine the tough as nails LG ever backing down, but she admits that in the past she allowed others creative license in the studio and later regretted it. “I think that was the best thing about making this record, I finally surrounded myself with people who were in it for the right reasons.” She ultimately teamed up with Houston’s own independent record company, The What of Whom, run by Kim Hill Jr, who also represents local artists Adam Bricks and Dollie Barnes.

LG is fully aware that she and her band will never fit nicely into a corporate box, and that is okay with her. She embraces the labels placed on them as queer, female, and southern rock. Maintaining an all female band is an accomplishment for LG, along with spreading hard southern rock to audiences who may not be used to seeing queer artists, in turn blazing a trail for others like her.

“There are ways to be from the South and to be powerful and to be effective and to have that flavor mantra without being a bigot, racist, homophobic or ignorant. I think it’s important that we identify with that because most of the girls in my band have been from the south and I lived the majority of my life in the South.”

“There are ways to be from the south and to be powerful and to be effective and to have that flavor mantra without being a bigot, racist, homophobic or ignorant."

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Thelma and the Sleaze have been celebrated by other influential female southern rockers. Most recently Brittany Howard of the Alabama Shakes had them as an opening act for her D.C. shows.  "To be embraced by Brittany Howard, that's the highest honor you could get for a girl from Alabama."

Another aspect of LG’s persona is her sharp, dirty and rowdy humor; as evidenced by their album title and many videos online. She is often bikini clad, riding a motorcycle and making jokes that could make a trucker blush.

“I think it just comes from being a middle child of seven siblings, I always felt it was my obligation as the middle child to distract from the poverty and the sadness of our situation. I also found it as a defense mechanism for growing up with a lazy eye, unbrushed hair, shitty clothes, riding a bus and being the only white kid on my bus and always getting beaten up.”

In her true live free or die fashion she adds, “I want my story to be, here’s a girl who has worked really hard, written some good songs, stuck to her guns and never compromised.”

Thelma and the Sleaze will perform with Dollie Barnes and Sailor Poon September 25 at the Continental Club, 3700 Main, doors open at 8 p.m. $10
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Gladys Fuentes is a first generation Houstonian whose obsession with music began with being glued to KLDE oldies on the radio as a young girl. She is a freelance music writer for the Houston Press, contributing articles since early 2017.
Contact: Gladys Fuentes