LOS ANGELES, January 16, 2014 — Perhaps you can say that Barb Wire Dolls are a Los Angeles-based punk band, but they are gone for such long stretches you would never know it. Originally from Crete, Barb Wire Dolls relocated to Los Angeles. The band’s sound is a bit of a throwback to the late 70s punk bands. Wells On Music first interviewed Barb Wire Dolls singer Isis last March regarding the foundations and inspirations of Barb Wire Dolls.
Kevin Wells: What bands made you want to start your own band?
Isis: The first band that blew me away was Led Zeppelin. I watched their concert film “Song Remains The Same” with our guitarist Pyn. I immediately, after watching it three times in a row, asked him if he wanted to start a band together. He turned me onto the punk bands that made me want to start a punk band, and not a classic style rock band.
I got into The Germs first, Black Flag, Sex Pistols, Clash, Buzzcocks, and the more I discovered, the more I got pulled in. The Ramones, Blondie, Dead Boys and the whole CBGB scene inspired me to get out there. Pyn had been around the punk scene since the first wave and he kept introducing more and more bands to me. When we played with Jello Biafra, I really got into Dead Kennedys.
Then I discovered a lot of the more girl oriented bands like The Bags, The Slits, and The Avengers and so on. I had the highest honor of singing with The Slits before Ari Up passed away. Our debut album SLIT was dedicated to her memory.
KW: How did Barb Wire Dolls form?
Isis: I was living in an artist commune on the island of Crete, Greece where Pyn is from originally and there were so many artists and musicians living there and it inspired me to get into music more. All of the five members of L.A. indie band Grouplove were there, as were members of Flogging Molly. It was very inspiring time for me to start a band.
We recorded our first demos there in the studio at the commune and once we were ready to play out live, we found out that no one would book us because we were “punk.” So we had to travel to the capital metropolis of Athens, where I am from, to play live. Even there, no one would book us because we were from the island of Crete and were unknown in the city.
So we found a bar that was empty on Sunday afternoons called Intrepid Fox and started the “Punk Rock Matinees” there. The shows were all ages and free and lots of other local punk bands that couldn’t get shows joined us and we created a real happening scene there. That is where we met our drummer Krash.
He was playing in a garage band and when we left for Los Angeles (after Rodney Bingenheimer, aka Rodney On The Roq, invited us to play a show with him and KROQ presenting), and our current bass player and drummer didn’t want to go. So Krash took our offer and joined us two weeks before our debut show at the Roxy Theatre. Rodney introduced us to America and it was a great night and a sell out crowd. Dreams do come true, I guess.
KW: What made you go without a bass player?
Isis: We tried having a bass player and it just didn’t fit with us once we started writing our new album and the new direction we naturally went into. The songs are straight ahead, simple, and raw. We stripped down our live show and recording to bring back a more “real” sound compared to what is on the radio stations today.
We are inspired by the first wave of Punk and that sound was more honest and clear-cut. No need for big production when you are just a loud live band that goes wild on stage. And Pyn plays through two full Marshall stacks and a huge bass stack, so the sound is unique and fills up the room like no other band I have ever heard.
KW: How did you get hooked up with Steve Albini?
Isis: Pyn had played in Los Angeles before our band in the late ‘80’s at a place called Madame Wongs and Nirvana had come to see his band play. They kept in contact through the years and Albini’s name always came up.
I don’t know who convinced who to record with Albini, but Pyn has been friends with lots of bands that have recorded with him. Pyn had recorded with him many times before and I guess it was a no-brainer for us since we only had two nights to record the album and no-one could get the sound we were looking for but him.
KW: Your full length, SLIT, is offered as a free download from your website. Why did you decide to give it away for free?
Isis: Why not? People come to the shows and already have downloaded the album for free, but they still buy the physical CD because it is more “real” to them. It has lyrics, liner notes and another vibe to a digital download. Our 12” vinyl is also now available only at shows like the CD and the merchandise we have. Everything is limited because we don’t know when and if we are going to re-order anything.
KW: Barb Wire Dolls will be playing every Wednesday in April at the Viper Room in Los Angeles in between various west coast gigs. Will you be doing more extensive touring?
Isis: We have already done three coast-to-coast tours in America with over 250 shows and it is only getting started. We have another 30 or so shows before we leave for Europe end of May. We are planning on returning to the USA in mid-2014 for another tour if all continues to go well.
KW: Are you excited to be playing with GBH?
Isis: We are charged! I love the pit and getting up close and personal with the audience, so I am looking forward to some wild pits for sure. Being also so inspired by the whole UK ‘77 punk scene, it is really exciting to be doing a full UK tour with many shows alongside GBH. Playing Rebellion Festival and some other big punk festivals in Europe will give me the chance to see a lot of the legends live in action.
KW: How did the split 7” single with OFF! come about?
Isis: We are based out of Dogtown, or Venice in L.A., and because we skate and surf, we have ended up meeting a lot of cool cats through the past two years. Word gets around and somehow we got asked to be a part of this split single with them. We are planning on doing more split singles with some other great punk bands too.
KW: It does not look like you have a record label. Is Barb Wire Dolls 100% DIY?
Isis: 100% DIY. We have no record company telling us what to do, no manager, booking agent, publicist or whatever. We book ourselves and work with some great punk promoters. The record industry is not what it was before and being DIY is the only way to go to build your own future. We turned down a lot of record deals because they had no clue what to do with us other than telling us to “write more commercial songs.” The new punk explosion is still underground, but it is starting to blow up worldwide, reaching more and more people every day.
KW: Is there anything else that you want your fans to know?
Isis: That the new punk revolution has planted new seeds with their rad support and nothing can stop us all now. The “Street Generation,” which is what we call our fans, is uniting and making the scene vital again. There is nothing like a good punk show with everyone going wild and feeling the loud music penetrate your body and soul.
Kevin J. Wells writes about Major League Baseball and punk rock music. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball