Jennifer Herrema doesn’t seem like the type to get flustered over something like her ride, but this morning the seemingly unflappable queen of scuzz rock, a ferocious former Calvin Klein model and driving force behind the legendary Royal Trux, is pissed about a minivan. “People are trying to say that five of us and gear and luggage and merch can fit into this minivan,” she says in her California drawl. “They’re saying, ‘We did it with Will Oldham and it worked,’ but I don’t know…”
It’s hard to imagine something the size of a minivan containing Herrema and her band, Black Bananas. Beyond her outsized persona (and, to gush just a bit, talent), the group’s hitting the road — playing some dates with Sleigh Bells — to support Rad Times Xpress IV, its first record. Kinda.
You see, the band — Herrema, Brian Mckinley, Kurt Midness, Jaimo Welch, and Nadav Eisenman — previously played together in the post Royal Trux project RTX, but for this album, which features expanded sounds that touch on everything from fuzzed-out rock to go-go, a new name seemed necessary. “We always had a problem with the RTX name,” Herrema says. “We would play shows and it would be listed as Royal Trux and it would just be bad. So we wanted to take this opportunity to delineate and give it a new name.”
Black Bananas didn’t come completely out of left field. Herrema says that Dan Koretzky, her pal and the owner of the band’s label, Drag City, suggested the band call itself Black Bananas, also the name of a song off of RTX’s 2007 album Western Xterminator. “It was a really good idea to have fresh name with fresh music,” says Herrema.
And the music’s definitely that. Recorded over three years in the band’s own studio, songs like “Rad Times” and “TV Troubles” prove that the “new gear and new way of playing” Herrema talks about are vital, giving the band a wide-ranging sound that should surprise and impress long-time followers.
The band’s mind-expanding activities weren’t always limited to the Studio. “Some of the songs, particularly ‘TV Trouble,’ were written while I was sitting on this couch watching TV and getting stoned,” Herrema says. “It was written right after the [last] record had come out and honestly I’ll say I think it’s one of the most honest songs I’ve ever written. It was never edited, it just captured the moment.”
That’s what Black Bananas seems to do best, is capture a moment. It might never be recreated — “ I don’t look back, I don’t think about stuff that already happened,” says Herrema — but it’s exciting to hear and anyway, recreating the same old thing has never been what Herrema’s interested in.“If I don’t deliver what you think you want, that’s not my problem,” she says. “Not because I don’t care, but because I do care and I think fans deserve something new every time.”
RTX R is out now on Drag City.