yo, so many craptacular bands get helluv attention, and its enough to drive a rhinestone cowboy back to a dried up arroyo. And so, its really special when good friends, who make good music, finally have their violet-letter-day, their day in the sequins, their roll in the hay with birds of prey…
Behold, ex-philadelphian, proud portlanding, PURPLE RHINESTONE EAGLE
(as interviewed by the Days of Lore)
It was a few years ago while doing an article on Portland’s New Bloods that I stumbled upon Purple Rhinestone Eagle. The name was enough. And the music … sort of this doom-y Sabbath-meets-Love love-fest led by a lanky guitarist who channeled Hendrix and Blackmore provided the final blow. I was also intrigued by this tight-knit community of musicians made up of women who celebrated diversity and sexual freedom with the DIY spirit of punk rock in a city that, while liberal, is still 95 percent white.
Purple Rhinestone Eagle—guitarist/vocalist Andrea Genevieve, bassist Morgan Ray Denning and drummer Ashley Spungin—released its latest EP Amorum Tali in March on Eolian Records. It’s a psychedelic blast from another time and place, where black-light posters come to life. Where riffs rule (and rattle your ribcage). Where black leather and tie-dye go together and peace and love frolic on gloomy days.
It’s looking to be a busy year for the three-piece. PRE will hit the road for six weeks, but not before playing a fist-full of Portland shows, including an afternoon performance at the PDX Pop Now! fest on July 26. Then it’s back in the studio to record a full-length follow-up to Amorum Tali. I’ll just let them explain. The ladies of Purple Rhinestone Eagle took some time to talk to TDoL about music as a tool for social change, MJ vs. Prince, and giving their audiences “loin vibrations.”
TDoL: Purple Rhinestone Eagle is active in many causes for queer and women’s rights. What are your thoughts on rock ‘n’ roll as an avenue for bringing awareness?
Andrea: I feel that music can be a very good tool for social change. It doesn’t take place of the hard work that is done by activists/organizers, but music can be a great motivator. Also, it’s a great way to release all sorts of feelings and emotions. People really need that. It’s essential to feeling human.
Morgan: Also, sometimes it feels like causes can become exclusive or create divisions … music is a great connector. It brings people together to focus on the positive aspects of movements and people, rather than focusing on all the negative things that happen in the world.
You put out a zine as well …
Andrea: Well, we’re slowly working on a zine. It was mainly Ashley’s idea but we’re all going to write and contribute to it. It’s going to be an “etiquette” zine for how to respectfully approach/compliment female musicians. A lot of “compliments” we (and other female musician friends) receive actually don’t feel like compliments. For example comments like, “Wow, I didn’t expect that” or “That was great. You play like a dude,” feel really shitty because it makes you realize how many preconceived notions people have about you because you’re a lady.
Morgan: People just need to think a little bit before speaking sometimes, and we hope this zine will help with that, along with giving music-making ladies a place to share and vent about their experiences.
Ashley: We all got it pretty bad on tour, but I think I got it the most. I mean people started throwing things at me. “Hey i think you are a good drummer! Now I’m going to throw this empty beer can at you!” What? I wanted to make a PowerPoint presentation and show it after we play while we break down. The zine is a little more reasonable.
You started out in Philadelphia. What brought you to Portland?
Andrea: We went on tour with New Bloods a couple of springs ago. We were all having a tough time in Philly and we wanted a little mental health vacation. Also Portland is a great place for music so we decided to go for it and move 3,000 miles from everything we knew. Pretty romantic, I must say.
Morgan: Portland has been good to us … the scene here is incredibly friendly and supportive. We all decided playing music was one of the best things in all of our lives, so why not get serious about it? Here we can do that.
Tell me about the recording process for Amorum Tali.
Andrea: We recorded Amorum Tali in a full analog studio. The first recording we did in Portland was digital and although it sounded great, we really feel that for our sound we need to record the old-fashioned way—on tape. We recorded for about three and a half days and then mixed for about three days. It was a tedious process that turned out beautifully. We’re really excited to get in the studio again this fall. We’ve got all of these crazy ideas for this time around.
Where does the title come from?
Andrea: The title means “Talons of Love” in Latin. The “Talons of Love” concept is something that has been with us since the inception of this band. It’s kind of an inside joke that also holds great significance to us, if that makes any sense.
Aside from the more obscure music you listen to, what’s something you like that might surprise people?
Andrea: Yeah lots of weird, obscure music. But uh, I do enjoy a little Erasure from time to time. I guess that might be surprising. And despite what Ashley might say, I’m not into Journey.
Morgan: I’m actually kind of a pop punk freak … something I get picked on for, but I feel no shame …
Ashley: Late-’60s era Grateful Dead. People, give it a chance!
Andrea, what/who made you pick up a guitar?
Andrea: It wasn’t any one person that made me decide to take up the guitar although I do have some big heroes/sheroes. I just had this really strong desire to learn how to play it. I was about 15 when I started. It’s such a finicky instrument but so alluring! I’m still in the process of figuring out all its beautiful subtleties. Total life long student and super proud of it.
What influences your live performances?
Andrea: I love the way the MC5 handled the stage, James Brown, etc. Rock ‘n’ roll is this sex-love-apocalypse explosion. I love anyone who can channel that raw energy.
Morgan: I love Freddie Mercury and Iggy … they both just owned it. Our song “Loin Vibrations” is actually about the relationship between those on stage and those in the crowd … it is extremely sexual, whether you’re literally feeling the low end rumbling in your loins, or feeling the energy passing between the people involved … capturing some of that is our goal.
Ashley: Animal from the Muppets … and Ginger Baker.
And if you had to choose between …
Page or Blackmore?
Andrea: Oddly, I’d have to say Page.
Ashley: Same. I just can’t get behind Deep Purple. Rainbow on the other hand …
Zeppelin or Sabbath?
Andrea: The Edgar Winter Group. Just kidding, Sabbath for sure.
Morgan: No question: Sabbath.
Ashley: Sabbath. Every. Day.
Bonham or Moon?
Andrea: Bonham. But Moon is my homie, too.
Ashley: I could go on about this one but I will just answer. Bonzo!
MJ or Prince?
Andrea: Prince. What a god.
Morgan: Prince … what a tiny, amazing man!
Ashley: MJ … I’m still grieving.
You have a long tour ahead. What’s life on the road like?
Andrea: We’re the type of band that likes good food and yoga on the beach. Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy partying it up and staying up late, but we like to stay pretty healthy, too. And we take really long to do anything (like getting up in the morning, deciding what snacks to pick out … ). All of our roadies attain the great patience of wise monks by the end of tour.
Ashley: Touring is like a quest to bring forth the music to the people. Each day we venture to a new location and with us we bring rock ‘n’ roll sorcery. It’s nonstop jokes, weird snacks (which, yes, sometimes take me a while to pick out), meeting great people, and getting inspired by the places we see. It’s very far out.
if you have a chance to catch them on this tour, fo sho check them out, and support the new EP while yr at it.
“The Eagle is Upon You, There’s No Time to Run”,
(the best part is when the shower door opens and morgan is just totally staring the puppet down. ROFLMAO!!!)