Music » Music Stories & Interviews

House on fire



The Ettes
with the Dead Weather
7 p.m. Monday, April 26
House of Blues,
all ages

For about a year, Lindsay "Coco" Hames and her two bandmates in the Ettes lived together in a Nashville, Tenn., house. Although the group saw the place infrequently because of their jammed tour itinerary, Hames remembers it as "a bizarre, alcoholic camp."

When the trio made it home for a break in the spring of last year, they decided to take it easy. According to Hames, the Ettes' typical days involved sleeping into the afternoon, waking to lounge around in a robe or pajamas, boozing up, and watching hours of Lost. On other nights, they would head to a nearby dive to "play darts and get drunk." The problem with all of this leisure was they were supposed to be writing an album. With producer Greg Cartwright scheduled to stop by Music City to record the garage rock group's third LP, Hames and Co. realized that they had little time to prep. "We went, ‘Shit!'"

They had no alternative: Cartwright was only free for a short window of time, as was the studio they booked, so they decided to take a stab at it. The day before Cartwright arrived all Hames had were a few "piss-poor demos," ultimately forcing the Ettes to both write and record their latest work in five days.

"I don't know what the hell we were thinking," says vocalist-guitarist Hames, who admits that her procrastination might have held things up. The emerging Do You Want Power shows the act shuffling between two styles of song: garage-rock jams driven by amplified, bold instruments, and stripped, country-fied tunes dominated by Hames' puckish, adolescent vocals. The former type works far stronger than the latter, as Maria "Poni" Silver's drums deserve a chance to kick and splash, and it's good to hear Hames and bassist Jeremy "Jem" Cohen guzzle melodies through gently rippling feedback. Toss in hand claps and tambourine shakes and a party's on. Power doesn't sound like it was birthed and completed in under a week, but it couldn't have taken longer than that, either.

Although this isn't the first time the Ettes have turned out material quickly (their longest recording period was 15 days, but that was because they had to split sessions on the road), this experience was particularly intense. Each of those five days included around 14 hours of work. "It was exhausting," recalls Hames. "I don't know if I would recommend it, but it seems to be the way we work."

She justifies the last minute madness by contrasting her band with past touring partners. "The Kings of Leon are in these big fancy studios working on their next album, taking that time and nitpicking it. Granted, they have enormous financial success and Grammys, but it's uncomfortable for me. I like working fast and hard."

In her defense, garage rock is an instinctual, raw form that doesn't need ornate songwriting to succeed — just hooks and some energy — so the approach suits the Ettes. Hames offers an impromptu mantra: "If you're a good songwriter, when the thing is done, it's probably good as it is."

Since the September release of Power, the Ettes added guitarist Johnny "Shoulders" Cauffiel, and they are currently plotting a follow-up that will feature cameos from the Raconteurs and the Black Keys' Dan Auerbach. Cartwright is back for the ride, too.

Truth be told, the band is likely to go through a creative scramble again. Still, Hames adds with a little laugh, "We're going to have it a little bit better put together before those five days happen."

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