Vains of Jenna
One listen to Vains of Jenna and you may be transported back to a time when The Sunset Strip ruled the music scene – Gazarris, The Rainbow, Whisky-A-Go-Go all running full force and a whole sleazy subculture living within it. Their style identifies with a time when music not only had a sound but had an image and an attitude that defined it. Vains of Jenna have been compared to the likes of Guns n Roses, Aerosmith and Hanoi Rocks. What might come as a surprise to you is that no one in Vains of Jenna has even hit thirty years old yet, so where the hell did they come from?
This quartet, straight from Sweden, is ready to rock your faces off – even if you don’t like it. After all says lead singer Lizzy DeVine, “that’s why I have middle fingers”. The band (Lizzy DeVine on vocals and guitar, JP White on bass, Nicki Kin on lead guitar and Jacki Stone on drums) landed in the US a few years ago for what they thought would be one dream gig at Cruefest and then a return trip home but a few strokes of good luck got them noticed by both Stevie Rachelle and Bam Margera. Shortly after, Margera opened his own record label just to sign them. Now that’s some sort of first impression!
With their debut album Lit Up/Let Down under their belts they’ve been road warriors touring all over the United States tearing up any stage that will have them, forcing people to notice them and eating up every minute of it. They must have done something right because they just landed the gig of their lifetime opening for Ratt and Poison on the big stage all summer long. This band is a great reminder that rock n’ roll is here to stay.
The band sat down with us after their recent show in Mansfield, MA to give us the lowdown on how all this happened and what they want you to know about them…
Interviewed by: Mary Ouellette | July 2007
For people who may not be very familiar with the band, can you give us a little background, didn’t the band come together from members of rival bands in Sweden?
Lizzy: Yes, Nicki and Jacki were in a band, JP and I started another band, he left after two months and moved to Norway. I hated those two (Nicki and Jacki) because their band was so much better than mine and they were younger than me.
Nicki: And we hated him too.
Lizzy: It was so annoying seeing them play every night. People left after they played and I only had like a few people left when I got on stage so it kind of sucked.
So basically forming this band was strategy on your part.
Lizzy: Yeah! My band wasn’t doing what I wanted to do. So I wanted to start a band and he (JP) wanted to start a new band when he moved back. So we got together and didn’t have a drummer so we took his younger brother with us.
JP: We stole these two (Jacki and Nicki)
Lizzy: Yeah we stole them out of the better band.
To make a supergroup right?
Nicki: Yeah Vains of Jenna is a supergroup.
Lizzy: There were some hard feelings in the beginning from some people in the other bands but I guess now they’re over it.
JP: They have other bands now too, so it’s cool.
When you came over to play Cruefest a few years ago in L.A., was that your first time in the States? What kind of experience was that for you and what were your expectations?
Lizzy: We had never been here before. It felt kind of weird because the first show we ever got offered was that one. We were excited that we were going there to play and all of our favorite bands have played there before. I can’t even describe the feelings we had.
Nicki: We thought it was so fucking cool just to be on the Sunset Strip.
Lizzy: I would have been happy doing just that and then we could have done something else but then we got so many other cool things going on. Now that seems like just one thing..but back then it was fucking great.
Jacki: Just another fucking gig!
Stevie Rachelle usually credited with discovering you, what’s the story behind that?
Lizzy: We were pretty lucky that time..Nicki: We played at 4 o’clock in the afternoon at Cruefest and he was playing with his old band that night. He was dropping off his merch in the afternoon while we were playing so he saw us and he liked the band.
Lizzy: If he wouldn’t have dropped his merch off at that exact time we really wouldn’t be here right now.
I’ve heard the band called glam and I don’t think that fits your sound at all..
Lizzy: Thank you!
Nicki: Thank you very much!
JP: At least one knows!
So does it bother you when you hear that?
Lizzy: I don’t care if it’s a good thing. If they call us glam in a good way I don’t mind. But if it’s something like “Oh this fucking glam band..”
JP: People can call us whatever they want..
Lizzy: I’m the only one who gets glam tattooed on them. People should have seen me back when I was fifteen, then I was glam as fuck.
That’s the thing, everyone wants to give a band a label. Someone could hear you described as glam and not check you out because of that, you guys are like rock.
Nicki: For us it’s just rock and roll, we do whatever we want, we write songs however we want, I wouldn’t call it glam.
So if you had to describe your sound you would just say rock..
Nicki: Rock n roll
Lizzy: Yeah rock n roll, because it’s such a wide genre and our new song is quite different from what we do now.
So let’s talk about Lit Up/Let Down – for the majority of it you produced it yourself, correct? It’s pretty raw sounding which I think is perfect for you… How important was that for you, to maintain the raw in your face vibe? Are you worried that a more polished production is going to detract from that?
Nicki: Yeah it’s a really raw sound, we recorded it in like one week.
Lizzy: Five days.
Nicki: Yeah five days.
Lizzy: We didn’t have any plans for it, it wasn’t suppose to be an album. We just recorded some songs to show people how we sounded. And then, Bam liked what he heard so we put it out. Then we needed some extra songs because there were only like six songs so we recorded two songs in LA when we were there, and we added two acoustic tracks from a show in Italy.
Nicki: The album is like hearing us playing live.
So that’s what I’m wondering, when you get ready to release another album, are you worried about the production being too polished?
Nicki: We’re not going to let that happen.
Lizzy: We found the right guy to work with now. We’re working with a guy named Brent Woods.
JP: He’s a great dude.
So were you fans of his band?
All: Yes! We loved Wildside.
Lizzy: We recorded one new song and it’s called Enemy in Me and it’s going to be out this fall. It sounds so fucking great.
So you’re just going to tease us like that? Can’t you throw it into the set or something?
Nicki: We’re going to start playing it soon.
Lizzy: We haven’t rehearsed it. We’ve been working on the song for a year back and forth. We went into the studio and finished it up there but we haven’t really rehearsed it after. We’ve got to try it out during some club shows.
JP: We played it once.
Lizzy: We played it once, at a club show.
JP: A club in Detroit.
Lizzy: Later on on this tour we’re going to add it to the set.
Sure after we see you! So you already mentioned the addition of the two acoustic Noone’s Gonna Do it For You and Set it off to the end of the album, what made you decide to add them?
JP: We wanted them on the album to show people that we could do that too, acoustic.
Nicki: We wanted to show another side of us, playing acoustic.
Lizzy: Our plan from the beginning was not to just have this album out, we wanted more people to open up their eyes and maybe a big label some day will find out about us and sign us. That was the plan with Bam as well from the beginning. He wanted to start a label to get our name out there so someone else could pick us up. That’s still the plan.
Lizzy and JP live
So let’s talk about this summer tour with Poison and Ratt, it’s gotta be a dream come true?
Lizzy: Oh yeah!
You’ve gone from playing clubs across the country to sharing the big stage with the likes of Poison and Ratt, what have you taken away from them as far as live performance since you’ve been on the road with them? I know it’s only been a few weeks…
Lizzy: I don’t know. The only thing about this tour is it’s a little bit more toned down from our side because this is a family thing. I can’t be as wild as I usually am.
You have to tone it down?
Lizzy: Well out of respect for the crowd if there’s like younger kids sitting out there they don’t want to hear me say FUCK every other word.
They’re at a rock concert, what do they expect?
Lizzy: Still, Poison is a little nicer than us.
Nicki: We’re use to being in the small club where we can be a little more wild.
Lizzy: But if people like what they see here they will love what they see on a club tour.
So have you been hanging out with the other bands?
Lizzy: Yeah we meet them every day.
Nicki: They are really cool guys.
Have they commented on your set?
Lizzy: They seem to like what they hear so that’s pretty cool.
And how did you actually land on the tour? I’ve heard conflicting stories..
JP: A couple of the guys in Poison came out to one of or L.A. shows.
Jacki: Rikki and Bobby came out to the Knitting Factory and they liked what they saw.
Lizzy: I’ve heard rumors that we paid like seventy five thousand dollars to be on this tour.
Nicki: We did not do that.
Lizzy: If we had that amount of money we’d have gone on our own big tour. LA Guns almost got this tour as well, before us.
I think it was the perfect move to bring you guys out because you’re a new band versus what these other bands did so long ago, you’re keeping it alive..
Nicki: People need new rock and roll, a new generation of rock and roll.
Lizzy: Everyone can’t love us, there’s probably people out there who hate us.
Well you don’t want everyone to love you anyway.
Lizzy: No they probably hate us, hate our guts but that’s why I have my middle fingers. Better to be hated than not to be talked about at all.
Was it hard adapting to such a bigger stage or did it come naturally?
Lizzy: Well that’s always what we wanted to do, at smaller clubs it’s always so tight, I want to run around more.
Jacki: It’s a little weird in the daylight too.
JP: I couldn’t see shit today.
Nicki: Yeah the sunlight was right in our eyes.
Jacki: I had my shades on the first song and then I took them off and then the fucking sun came down. I couldn’t see shit.
Lizzy: I try to open up my eyes as much as I can but it hurt. Nah it’s fun.
Nicki: We love playing these big stages. It’s fucking great.
Lizzy: I always had a dream to get a record deal, when we got that my next dream was to play big shows like this and I thought that would be impossible because no one does that these days. Now we’re doing that. The new goal is to sell like a million albums.
Yeah sounds like you need to keep creating these goals..
Lizzy: But everything happened so much faster than we expected.
You kind of already touched on this with the sun being in your eyes but I always kind of wonder when you play a big stage like that, what do you focus on? Are you looking at specific people in the crowd or does it all become a big blur?
JP: It depends if you have the sunlight in your eyes!
Nicki: I always have eye contact with people out there, even if it’s big shows.
Lizzy: I like looking at the people who don’t seem to be into it.
Stare them down a little?
Lizzy: Yeah, piss them off a bit.
Jacki: The best thing about these shows is the people that are sitting down when you start but by the last song they’re standing up.
Lizzy: Yeah that’s always a great feeling.
What are your favorite VOJ songs to play live?
Lizzy: I always like Hard to be Vain.
Nicki: I use to say Noone’s Gonna Do It For You but now I would say Hard to be Vain.
Lizzy: I love playing Refugee these days.
Yeah so what made you decide to choose to cover Refugee?
Lizzy: Because Tom Petty is fucking cool. We love Tom Petty, people always expect a band like us to play something else.
Nicki: The song really fits us.
Lizzy: Nicki came to me and said he wanted to play Refugee and I had been thinking the same thing. It’s such a great song.
Nicki: When I heard the song I thought this could be a Vains song because its so like us but we play it harder.
Jacki: People seem to like it so it’s cool.
You guys not only sound like a rock band but you look like one too. It seems like rock bands in general sort of gave up on having any sort of image, do you make an effort to look this way or is this just sort of who you are?
Lizzy: I always thought that bands that look like your neighbors should never play live. There’s no point. Who wants to see boring bands stand there doing nothing. I grew up with Poison and Aerosmith and the Rolling Stones, bands that really know how to entertain.
Nicki: I don’t think too much about it, we look like this and we always dress like this.
Lizzy: I bet I would even look cool in a hip hop outfit.
I think you should give that look a try..
Lizzy: I think this suits me better.
A lot of people are calling Vains of Jenna the hope for the future of rock. Do you feel any kind of pressure when you hear that?
Lizzy: I think it’s pretty cool but i don’t think so myself. I think we’re a part of it. There are so many other good bands out there. You can’t change the way of the world alone, you need like a lot of other bands too.
Nicki: I think the rock scene is getting better and better right now, more young bands are turning towards rock and look cool again.
Lizzy: A lot more people could do what we’re doing.
Jacki: Hopefully we can inspire people to start a rock band.
JP: That’s what’s cool about these shows too, theres a lot of young kids looking up to Poison and Ratt and then they see us on stage and they say “Oh I want to start a band too.” Then they do the rock and roll thing.
A lot of the bands that you seem to be inspired by musically seem to be way before your time being that you’re all in your early 20s…how did you become exposed to that core group of bands…sort of the 80s era Sunset Strip bands.
Lizzy: My parents got me into Aerosmith and The Rolling Stones.
Nicki: Same here.
Lizzy: Then I saw bands like Motley Crue and GnR in magazines when I was like four or five.
I was going to say, you must have been pretty young..
Lizzy: When I was nine I started my first band.
Nicki: We all started to listen to rock and roll when we were really young, like five years old, because our parents always listened to it. I guess we have to thank them.
Lizzy: I had tight pants, I had long hair and I walked around without a shirt, so I pretty much stayed the same. There was an era when I liked to dance as well. That was weird. Only for a year.
Did you dance in your rocker outfit?
Lizzy: Yeah I did! I was fucking great at it but I never do that anymore.
So we know you were all into music at a young age, did you ever have any formal training or did you just sort of pick up instruments and think that’s it?
Lizzy: Just picked it up. I started playing drums but I sucked. Then I started singing and I sucked but I thought I was going to prove everyone wrong so I kept on singing.
JP: Me and Jacki started our first band when we were nine years old.
Jacki: He played bass and I played guitar and sang.
JP: We were all into Nirvana and he wanted to be Kurt Cobain. I was Krist the bass player.
Jacki: Then we borrowed my uncle’s drum kit and I started playing drums.
So do you ever think about switching it up now?
Lizzy: He’s a good drummer(JP) He’s not such a good guitar player (Jacki). I could play something else like..(Jacki plays an invisible..clarinet?)
What was that, was that a clarinet?
Jacki: Something like that.
JP: Lizzy started out as a drummer and Jackie started out as a singer and I started out as a bass player.
Lizzy: I want people to know that you don’t need to be the most talented guy to succeed. We’re not the most talented guys in the world.
Nicki: You don’t have to live like a refugee.
Lizzy: You need to take chances and dont be afraid of anything.
So that’s the recipe for success?
Lizzy: That’s what we did. There’s plenty of guys out there who are better singers than me but there’s no one who takes the chances. No one can compete with what I’m doing.
Vains of Jenna & Kat Von D – Photo Credit: Chris Cuffaro
What’s with the pose? (Lizzy is shirtless with both arms over his head) Are you airing out?
Lizzy: Yes, airing out.
Okay just checking. So, I’m not going to ask too many questions about Bam, but he doesn’t ever seem to be serious about anything, yet, he’s responsible for signing you as well as producing your first video, were you ever worried about putting your careers in his hands?
Lizzy: No because we signed a good contract.
Nicki: No, he’s a really cool guy and he knows what he’s doing.
Lizzy: He’s not as he seems.
Jacki: The goal of the deal is they want us to find another one.
Nicki: They want to promote us and get our name out.
Lizzy: That’s why we signed it so fast, the contract, because it was fucking great.
Nicki: And if we had said no we’d be back in Sweden doing our old jobs and that would suck.
Speaking of Sweden, have there been any cultural challenges adapting to life here?
Lizzy: Nah it’s the same shit.
Nicki: The food doesn’t taste much here.
Lizzy: Nah but Sweden is almost like it is here.
What about the music fans, any difference?
Lizzy: People seem more jealous in Sweden. If they like one band they can’t like another band that is similar.
So it’s more competitive..
Nicki: Yeah, the fans over here are great. All the people into music are really cool here.
Lizzy: There’s always stubborn people that will only like one thing, and it seems like Sweden is more like that. But there are some fucking cool people there as well.
So do you think there’s any resentment that you guys just formed a band and bailed to the US to try to make it?
Lizzy: Some people are probably pissed off about that but I don’t care I’m having more fun than the people complaining about it.
Jacki: It’s better to make it in the US than to make it in Sweden because all the Swedish bands go like to Itally and the UK and Germany to tour. We’re here in the US touring and they cant come over here.
Lizzy: But when we’re done here we can go over there.
Do you ever get sick of people asking you if your band name was derived from Jenna Jameson because I know that it’s not..
JP: We get that all the time.
Nicki: Never heard that before..ever..
Lizzy: It’s not about Jenna Jameson.
I know it’s not but do you get sick of people asking that?
All: No they can ask as much as they want.
Jacki: JP came up with the name one night when he was drunk.
Lizzy: And Jenna Jameson likes the name. I met her one night in an elevator without even knowing it was her in Vegas. She was like “nice name, that’s hot.”
And you didn’t know it was her?
Lizzy: No, my girlfriend told me afterwards. I was like, oh, that was her. She wasn’t that good looking. Not my type.JP: Yeah well you have a different type.
Nicki: She’s my type. I saw her, she was fucking good looking.
Okay, fun question – describe each other in one word-
Jacki: In one word? Fart.
If you’re fart then JP has to be burp..
Jacki: Okay, he’s burp..
Lizzy: I can describe myself – stubborn.
That’s it, you can’t describe anyone else?
Lizzy: No, I don’t really know them. I’ve got my own tour bus.
Nicki: It’s hard to describe.
It is? You guys are together other all the time?
Jacki: Yeah we are the same person.
Lizzy: Those two (JP and Jacki) are like cartoons. And Nicki is the goofy one and I’m the serious one.
So do you ever get sick of each other?
Lizzy: Me and Nicki hate each other once in awhile but we get over it.
Nicki: And then we Loooove each other. Me and Lizzy get in fights sometimes and argue.
Lizzy: It’s the lead singer/guitar player thing. Every band has it.
Jacki: I just don’t listen, I go away, I don’t care.
Nicki: So far we’ve just been able to get over it really fast.
Lizzy: They’re my best friends.
Nicki: Yeah we’re all best friends, we live together, we’re a family.
Aww this is a real Hallmark moment…
Jacki: Me and Nicki have been best friends since we were nine and JP is my brother and Lizzy was my driver instructor so we’ve all known each other forever.
Lizzy was your what?
Lizzy: I use to be a driving instructor.
Nicki: He was mine as well.
JP: He taught them to drive.
You have a new song Enemy in Me that’s going to be on a Viva La Bands Compilation CD? Can you tell us about that? Is it a brand new song and was produced by Brent Woods?
Lizzy: It’s more melodic, it’s a little heavier, it’s more pissed off. It’s Vains of Jenna but a million times better.
Nicki: It sounds a little different than our other songs.
JP: I think we worked more on everything in the song. It’s got great lyrics, it’s a more mature Vains of Jenna.
Nicki: We started writing the song last summer so we’ve been working back and forth with it.
Lizzy: The lyrics were written on a subway train back and forth for two days.
So when you write a new song, is everyone in the band involved?
JP: Yes. Usually it starts when Lizzy and Nicki come up with a riff but then we all work on the verse in the studio.
Nicki: We arrange the song all together. If someone writes a song and we think its the right song, we arrange it together.
Lizzy: The point of working with a producer this time was to get someone to help us out and arrange it better but it didn’t end up that way because we had done it so good from the beginning so we just had to add some minor touches to it.
So do you think you’ll be working with Brent Woods again?
Nicki: We want to, he’s a fucking great producer.
Lizzy: Right now I can say that I wouldn’t want to work with anyone else.
JP: He knows what we are about.
Lizzy: And he hasn’t done anything bigger before either. I would never want to work with someone that’s already done something big, because they’ve had their fun. We want to work with someone who’s hungry like we are.
Any parting words to your people?
Nicki: Keep on rockin..
Lizzy: Keep on rockin in the free world. No, I don’t know. Don’t listen to your parents if they don’t like good music. That’s my final word.
*All other photos used courtesty of the official Vains of Jenna website and Myspace.