To coincide with Queens of the Stone Age’s epic co-headline tour around Australia with Nine Inch Nails, Troy Van Leeuwen’s other band, Sweethead, came along to make their live debut. Mere hours before their sell out show at Ding Dong Lounge, singer Serrina Sims sat down with Wes Fahey for a quick chat about touring with Queens, ever changing lineups and silly band names.

Welcome to Melbourne!

Thank you very much I’ve been here for like an hour and I’m very tired but it’s very beautiful, I’m liking it. We had a 9am lobby call but we had to all wake up at 8am after getting back from the venue at 2am. It’s a lot but it’s worth it, I’m just demented right now [laughs]

Fair enough that could make for a fun interview, Have you been enjoying Australia?

I have yes, it reminds me a lot of California which is where I’m from. We have the beaches – yours are more beautiful, you have water thats gorgeous turquoise, Sydney was beautiful – we got to go to Taronga Zoo, we got sort of a private tour and feel up koalas and quokkas and the animals are cute here too. The weather’s fantastic, people are nice the food is great. No complaints at all.

Well you’ve come at the right time it’s supposed to be Autumn but it doesn’t seem to have started yet.

No not at all, I was thinking ‘Really this is Fall? Seems like Summer to me.’

You’re obviously friends with everyone in the Queens ‘entourage’, is it a fun experience being on tour with those guys?

Absolutely, they’re all uniquely interesting characters and there’d be no other way to do it. I’ve spent three weeks in a row with them. Oh wait even more I forgot I opened for them in Europe and the UK. Spending weeks on the road with somebody, they better be interesting and these guys are, Josh is a crack up he’s super intelligent and witty, everyone’s got their own little spice to add so I am never bored.

And is this the first time touring with Nine Inch Nails?

Well actually it’s not, Troy [Van Leeuwen] was in A Perfect Circle before he was in Queens of the Stone Age and so they toured with Nine Inch Nails so I was hanging out with them a few years back. Trent’s very nice and his wife Mariqueen is very sweet, Robin and everyone, Alessandro we just had dinner the other night and it’s just like a big circus.

A big happy family really…

Yes it is very much so. Once you’re in the business as long as Queens and Nine Inch Nails have been you form a camaraderie and Trent and Josh are really close.

So this is Sweethead’s first trip out to our shores, has the crowd been receptive?

Oh yeah, I mean we’ve only done one show so far in Sydney and it was great. You look out at all the faces and first of all most people here are attractive so that’s a plus there’s nothing worse than looking out to an ugly audience [laughs] I’m just kidding. You guys have exceptional genes here so that’s nice. I was warned that Sydney might be a little bit like LA in terms of their response, you know maybe a little cool, but I really have felt that people have been so warm. Even when Troy, Dean and Mikey have been doing after hours DJ gigs in Adelaide and in Sydney we get to meet more people when we go out to those things and everyone’s really nice and enthusiastic and it’s just been awesome.

So Sweethead is primarily yourself, Troy and two others, are they still in the band?

Well basically Troy and I figured out that its our band, we started it, so to make it easy the type of musicians we work with, they work with other bands.We been playing a lot with Jonathan Hischke who’s from Broken Bells and The Shins and he does a lot of stuff so we try to keep it so Troy and I are the nucleus. In the past we’ve played with Eddie Nappi who was in Mark Lanegan’s band and Norm Block still plays with us as a drummer, he was also in Mark Lanegan’s band, but now Jon Theodore who’s playing in QOTSA is our drummer for our Australian shows and Eden Galindo who was in Boots Electric with Jesse Hughes he’s with us now and there’s Clint Walsh who was in Gnarls Barkley. We kind of just like to keep a cast of characters around that we can pull from when its time to play shows.

It means if you change the line up the shows can end up with a different sound.

It does! It’s exciting! Jon Theodore is so busy, I mean tonight he’s doing double duty playing the Queens show, and then we’re racing afterwards to go to the Ding Dong Lounge which Melbourne was kind enough to sell out for us. Jon, we only had one rehearsal with in Sydney and he’s such an amazing drummer and he adds a new flavour which is exciting for me.

Now back in 2009 when the debut for Sweethead was released, from our perspective in Australia things seemed to go quiet after that was there a reason for that?

Yeah, it was a couple of reasons. One was we were recording an album and we toured for like 2 years on that album so in 2011 it was time to start to start making a new album and Troy was off with Queens and we had a window of time to make the new Sweethead album. Troy and I had just bought brand new motorcycles and when we were recording we took a break to go eat dinner and I ended up being injured badly on my motorcycle. A guy went on the wrong side of the road, he was texting, so here’s the advisory statement – don’t text – so he went on the wrong side of the road and hit me and I was pretty banged up for 6 months and I lost my window of opportunity to work with Troy. He had to go record the Queens record, the last record, so I just had to wait for him to get through the first part of touring and now we’re starting up again and we’re going to be putting out an EP at the end of the month through Liberator Music over here.

The music video for Reverse Exorcism looks amazing, what was it like shooting it?

It was very quick, Troy had to leave the next day so we literally had one day to do it. Our friend owns this bar in downtown LA called Monty and he said you can use it. It was about 6 hours of pounding Maker’s Mark [laughs] so we could all just be ridiculous and it was the most fun experience. Kii Arens, who directed it, also did the last Queens video, Vampyre [of Time and Memory], so I I liked his style and asked him to do this and he graciously stepped in and I think he knocked it out of the park. Jesse Hughes, from Eagles of Death Metal, is my co-star in it and he was a crack-up, I could barely keep a straight face with him cos he is such a character. He was really cool to work with. He’s hyper intelligent and he just did this perfectly, he kind of has this other character he calls Father Badass and we just used that character for this.

You used to be a music photographer, how did you find the transition for the pit to the stage?

Well I found myself being jealous, photographing and judging them and saying ‘like come on, you’re boring me’ and I was thinking about how you could make a show interesting and that’s what I aspire to do. I’m still sort of new to the game and it’s something that actually seemed natural to me. It’s a creative thing doing photography and I always wrote music and I felt like it would be the right thing to do to make that transition I’ve always loved music so it was easier than you’d imagine.

And do you think about your performance from a photographers perspective?

I do except that it kind of goes out the window once I get on stage [laughs] I’m just like ‘rock’n roll!’ and I don’t care anymore, I make the craziest faces…but it’s just me getting into the moment.

Now my last question is to do with the name ‘Sweethead’. Troy was quoted as saying ‘band names are getting sillier and sillier. Do you agree with him in that regard?

Well there are some terrible names out there and a lot have been used up. For us it was, ‘I love David Bowie, let’s pick a title so I can have that homage.’ Of course I know the implications of a name like Sweethead but I kind of ignored it and now I’m dealing with the aftermath because, let’s put it this way: sometimes people don’t understand that it’s a band [laughs]. But yeah, band names are silly but a great band can overcome any terrible name.

Well I’ve got a few great Melbourne bands with pretty silly names I’d love to get your opinion on:

Oh no, here we go.

Batpiss

Batpiss? Interesting, that’s all I’ll say. I like bats! I’m not sure about the piss part… [laughs] It intrigued me to go check it out so good on them.

Mangelwurzel

Yeah, no. I can’t imagine telling someone ‘I’m going to go see whatever you just said tonight’ Hopefully they’re excellent and I’ll eat my words.

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard

See I’d go see them just because of that name, that one made me smile so it’s successful I suppose. They were just sitting around having a laugh with that one weren’t they.

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