Take Five with The Mydolls
Contrary to what some people think, the punk revolution wasn’t just in London, New York, and LA but it was something that spread everywhere at the time, including Houston. One of those bands, The Mydolls (Dianna Ray, Trish Herrera, Linda Younger, and George Reyes), are reuniting to perform at Noise and Smoke this Saturday at Notsuoh and, lucky us, we got Dianna, Trish, and Linda to play five questions with us. They were all super nice but we must admit that we were starting to worry about them, a Houston band, being the first band to fail the ZZ Top quiz but thankfully Linda came in and saved the band from eternal disgrace. Way to go Linda!
1) How did y’all come to together and how did the Mydolls compare to your original vision?
TRISH: It was a happening. We happened upon each other. Meeting in a series of events.. Mainly Dianna and I met Linda through her then husband U-Ron and we started looking for a drummer. My cousin George joined us and wow, he and Dianna really connected and it was fun fun fun!
My vision of being in a band was to have fun, but also we wanted to see more girls on stage in Houston. There were a lonely handful, but now there are more women’s voices saying it too. In the 80s it was all about having a voice and yelling it, squeaking it, whatever, to get it out and loud.
DIANNA: I can’t say that I had a vision for what we should sound like. We probably had a better idea of what we didn’t want to sound like. Trish and I were best friends and we spent nearly every night at the Island watching bands. One night we were listing to a band that we must not have thought too highly of and we said, “We can do this.” We loved listening to music, but heck, why not write it and play it too?
LINDA: It was serendipity…divine providence. My vision for being in a band was to be able to express myself even though I had no formal training in music. My dad was such an inspiration. Ever since I was a little girl I listened to him play in his 16 piece swing band. He was the band leader and played alto sax. He taught me to appreciate music as an expression. Having Trish and Dianna as friends first and band members next was such an awesome experience. I guess being a woman gave us even more to sing about. I enjoyed writing and playing our own music, expressing our own feelings and frustrations and not playing cover songs.
2) You guys got a lot of international attention. Appearing on John Peel’s show, Wim Wenders’ Paris Texas, and now post-mortem French director Claire Denis (one of my favorite coincidentally) has you in her latest movie soundtrack. Can you elaborate on those experiences and on the value or irrelevance of that kind of recognition to your sense of success?
TRISH: John Peel LOVED Texas. He told us he had a Texas girlfriend who used to beat him up and he really dug her. Bands from all over the world had been standing in line outside the BBC for months trying to get to see him and he just asked up to be interviewed within 20 minutes.
And Wim, He is amazing. We just happened to hang out with Wim, when he was here in Houston showing some of his student films at he MFA I had no idea he was famous and he fell in love with our music. Claire was his assistant director and we fell in love with her and she in love with us. Years later we get to celebrate in her success. She is a hard worker and committed so completely to her creative work and her political view.
DIANNA: Our sound was probably more aligned with the music coming out of the U.K. and Europe because many of the bands we listened to were from there. I guess I’ve never really thought of us as successful using the standard model. I think we were successful in writing some really good songs, bonding as friends, entertaining others, being dedicated to working at the music and having an all around good time by not just watching from the mosh pit.
Getting on the John Peel show was a bit of a fluke of naiveté. All of the members of Mydolls were in London together on a holiday/self promotion trip. We showed up at BBC radio when he was on the air and told the receptionist that we wanted to be on the show. Us and dozens of other bands that were waiting, she was quick to point out. It was like a casting call in New York. She sent word to him that we were here from Texas and he said send one of ‘em up. He had apparently had a girlfriend from Texas at one time. So our getting on his show was not as much about our music as it was our geography. The password is: TEXAS
LINDA: Getting to meet and be interviewed by John Peel was serendipity..divine providence. We were so naive and that’s what was so refreshing to him in the interview. He was genuinely interested in the Houston scene. Months after that interview, people who heard it in Ireland..the Pendre’ Punks, came to Houston looking for us. I guess it’s then that I realized how many people were listening and how incredible it was to be able to meet and talk to John in person. It was almost as naive as us going to Rough Trade records to meet Pete Townsend…and missing him by minutes.
Meeting Wim Wenders, Claire Denis, Nastasha Kinsky, Harry Dean Stanton, Dean Stockwell and having our music in the soundtrack for one of the most incredible movies ever made..Paris, Texas…..that was serendipity and divine providence squared! Not to mention the spinoff opportunities recently realized with Claire’s new movie.
3) With bands such as Really Red, Legionnaires Disease, AK47, Culturecide, The Judys, D.R.I., The Hates, and the Party Owls to name a few – the late 70’s and early 80’s seemed to be a pretty vibrant scene. Can you elaborate on the people, music, culture, and scene in that era?
TRISH: We were like family recognizing each other with hair badges clothing and a tip of the hat and nod of the head brought us all together intrinsically. It’s like we all belonged and it was natural. We sought each other out at shows. We experimented with clothing, with instruments, with hair, with a look that defined the era
Not real different from other eras in the sense we had a uniform of sorts. However our uniform was like a deconstruction uniform.
For me being in fashion as a hair dresser the era broke down fashion as a whole. No more would I be pegged into doing Farah Fawcett/Jennifer Anniston hair, because it was in fashion.
People these days are not defined by what’s in style, but what looks good on them.
Every era has a punk.
Elvis was punk.
Janis Joplin was a punk.
Thomas Jefferson was punk.
It takes strength to be different and have a voice, but that is what makes us all so beautiful.
So what I’m trying to say is
All the bands were different, but the same in our “family” sense and most of us were intelligent with a message. The message may have been lodged deeply in our roar, but we were speaking out!
Grrlz speak out!!
DIANNA: The early punk scene was so much fun! It wasn’t self-conscious yet. I think the current political climate had a lot to do with it. In my opinion Reagan was the first Republican to really align his party to be the party of the wealthy. I feel like the real division in the classes in America had its genesis with his administration. And it also felt really repressing. Like having a strict father in the White House.
There were so many really good people in the scene. I think it’s kind of funny that your average American at that time would probably have frowned on punks, yet I know several people (all in their early 20’s) in the scene back then that were already taking care of ailing parents and contributing to them financially. Ooooooh, we’re so scary!
The D.I.Y. spirit of punk is one of the things I like best about it; self-taught, self-financed, self-distributed and self-promoted. Now, that is not to say we didn’t all work hard to help each other. Take C.I.A. records. Bob Webber did a lot of work with bands to be sure they made quality recordings (thank you Sugar Hill Studios) and worked together to get them out into record stores.
TRISH: We played in San Antonio and had heard of bands called Kung Fu bands, Marching Plague, Butthole Surfers were part of that San Antonio scene. When we got to SA Butthole Surfers were on the bill with us.. I thought “Hmm, what is this, river tubing band or what??” Then they were magnificent and we invited them to play with us in Houston at the Island and that was their first show in Houston and it was amazing!!!
LINDA: I can’t say it any better than Trish and Dianna….it was real and it was fun. Friendships established then stay strong today…years and miles separate us, yet when we run into each other at a Todd Rundgren or Laurie Anderson concert 30 years later, it’s like we never missed a beat and pick up right where we left off.
4) There was a story I heard about one of you guys getting hurt pretty badly (losing a tooth maybe?) because some punk kid saw you as new wave and not punk. Is that story true? If so what actually happened and what does that story say about some people’s ideas of what punk?
She is a little gal and went down hard. She lost her two front teeth and our punk “family” gave her a benefit to raise money for her teeth at the Island. Wally Shannon, Kevin Jackson and a few others and I formed the Mamas and the Dadas, a one night band.
I played drums in a tutu. It was crazy fun.
DIANNA: So I think that might be part urban legend. It was my birthday and we were at the Island watching, I think, the Big Boys. There was a mosh pit pulsing in front of the stage. I had be skanking around the edges of the mosh pit and then stepped back several feet to rest. All of the sudden I was face first on the floor thanks to a giant shove between the shoulder blades. I spit out my front teeth, went into the bathroom and discovered that I suddenly bore a striking resemblance to Gibby Hanes. Even Gibby thought so. I don’t recall anyone yelling anything at me, calling me names or having any particular agenda when they shoved me down. If you find the culprit, be sure to ask him/her why they did it. I’m curious too.
As Trish said in her answer, it lead to us forming a one night stand band, The Mamas and the Dadas and we, along with several other bands including Butts with Teeth, playing a benefit show. We raised enough money for my two crowns and dinner to boot.
TRISH: Awww shucks ..Two Teeth was urban legend.. ????
LINDA: Ah, yes…the infamous Two Teeth Benefit! I still have my one of a kind t-shirt!
5) How has getting back together to rehearse feel and how do you know that you are reuniting for the right reasons?
TRISH: It has been difficult remembering our songs. Rehearsal took a long time and since our drummer George lives in Austin it made it more difficult, but for the love of each other and our adoring audience we work hard. It is body memory, music the language with out words. Well except for lyrics. hahaha
Our show is going to be great fun.
DIANNA: There have been times during rehearsal where I feel like I’m 20 again and then there are times when I feel like my fingers refuse to follow the instructions my brain is sending them. It has been great to be able to play with George again. He makes me a better bass player; he is as fine a drummer as they come. Spending time with my mates has been really special. Our friend and my wife, Kathy Johnston, has been rehearsing with us and helping us out on several songs. So that has been a blast for me too.
I don’t know what “the” right reason to reunite is. We were asked, it seemed like a reasonable request, and so we said yes! I will say I am a bit surprised at all of the attention, but very flattered.
LINDA: It’s serendipity and divine providence….we are playing because we were meant to do it…to be there for each other for some pretty incredible experiences…to laugh and cry together as we grow old together…Old friends are like bookends..so true.
Our sound has changed, but we are the same. I do miss Phil Davis, our incredible sound man and dear friend. Also, my Hiwatt and Marshall amps are long gone….some of the special effects and layers are missing…. But it’s going to be really neat getting out there and playing again.
Bonus ZZ Top Quiz: What was the name of ZZ Top’s First Album?
I was kind freaked by ZZ Top’s beards and the fancy cars, but I liked Dusty’s jam like crazy.
DIANNA: A-Her-her-her. I have no idea…eponymous perhaps?
LINDA: ……ZZ Top’s First Album……what’s so hard about that?!
[WE HAVE A WINNER!!!!!!]
See the Mydolls Saturday November 15 at the 2008 Noise and Smoke Festival with featuring Teenage Kicks, B L A C K I E, Cop Warmth, The Takes, Patsy, Vincent Trails, El Desmadre, Balaclavas, Homopolice, & The Born Liars @ Notsuoh/Dean’s Credit Clothing
P.S. Trish wanted to add the following postscript to the Noise and Smoke organizers: “also just want to say thanks Rosa and Anna and Liz for being the strong voices that they are.. Power in gentleness.”
Links and credits:
Mydolls on Myspace (Link)
Paris Texas T-shirt design by Sound Exchange’s Kevin Bakos.
All photos uncredited from the band’s myspace.
ZZ Top’s First album 1971 London records.