Interview: Liza Graves - Civet

CIVET is a quartet of rockin' ladies outta Orange County, California which plays a tough but melodic brand of Punk Rock. The band has just released its second album - and debut for Hellcat Records - called 'Hell Hath No Fury' which growls with a fury not heard from an all-female band since those heady days of prime time LUNACHICKS. This interview is with the band's singer and guitarist, Liza Graves.

..OK, first off, introduce yourself and tell us what frame of mind you are in right now and why.
..Liza) I'm Liza Graves, I play guitar and sing in CIVET. I am always in a great mood... because I am doing exactly what I want to do!

..Give us a brief history of CIVET - why did the band get together, how did you all meet, what turned you on to Punk Rock in the first place, has there been any line-up changes previous to the release of your latest album, ‘Hell Hath No Fury’?
I formed CIVET a few years ago out of the frustration I felt with the music scene not having any good, hard girl bands. CIVET was always a girl band! I was basically trying to fill a void I saw. I believe that Punk Rock found me. I opened up my mouth and that's what came out. I've always loved the way old Punk sounds, and although I don't really listen to it everyday, it’s a huge influence. As for line up changes - of course! You have to find the perfect fit for your band. In the beginning a lot of people just couldn't measure up... We've now got a super solid line-up AND I'm lucky enough to have my sister in the band!

..Did you have any aspirations or goals when the band started? How have these goals changed as the band has progressed?
..Liza) Of course, like with anything in life, you set goals and then you reach them, then you have to re-adjust and make new ones... Back in the day I just wanted to release a record.... and we did. Now the goals are a lot bigger, songs in movies, sponsorships, sold out shows, world domination, etc.

..Your first album, ‘Massacre’, was released on Disaster Records - the label run by Duane Peters of, amongst others, US BOMBS fame. How did you get involved with Duane originally and how did you find working with him? He’s quite a character - do you have a classic Duane Peters story to tell?
We were discovered by Duane and his wife Corey (of NASHVILLE PUSSY fame). Duane is a great guy and Corey is one bad-ass female musician. He actually produced ‘Massacre’, but what happens in the studio stays in the studio... We love both of them!

..Awww - that’s very diplomatic! Hahaha!! Is there a big difference between ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ and ‘Massacre’ in terms of sound and direction?
..Liza) Hell yeah! This album is definitely bigger and badder, while still maintaining our signature growl. We didn't go soft on anyone yet!

..I read a quote of yours regarding the recording of ‘Hell...’ stating, "We felt empowered, but not like, Riot Grrl empowered." Can you expand on that a little?
..Liza) Yeah... I read a lot of feminist literature and I am very aware of the "girl cause". I think in a way the Riot Grrl movement helped women in music, but now that it's 2008 it almost dates us. I mean women should be making progress every fucking day, not just in the 90s. It almost hurts women that it gets brought up all the time... Shut up and do something... move ahead! Women do great stuff everyday... That said I'm a huge fan of all Kathleen Hannah has to say!

..‘Hell Hath No Fury’ has been released on Hellcat Records - how did that deal come about?
Hellcat and CIVET were totally meant to be... Tim Armstrong and Chris LaSalle watched us grow up on Disaster and swooped in just at the right time!

..In what ways is Hellcat a different and/or better organisation than Disaster?
..Liza) Disaster, which is actually a division of Bomp Recs, is a Catalog label. Save for the HUNNS and THE HOLLOWPOINTS there were no other actual bands on the label at the time. Duane did a great job (even though he didn't run the label), but Hellcat is a powerhouse backed by Epitaph, it’s like comparing apples and oranges.

..Did the fact that Hellcat has released records by many female/ female fronted acts (DISTILLERS, F-MINUS, HORRORPOPS etc) add to the label’s allure?
Chris LaSalle used this as a baiting tool ha ha.... He took us out to lunch and reminded us of how good female bands tend to do on Hellcat - not news to us! It definitely added to the allure; it is an amazing label that gives females the support they need to do well. They are women loving men!

..As far as you are concerned, is the Hellcat deal a long-term thing? Would you consider signing to a major if the opportunity arose?
Never say never, but Hellcat really feels like home. I think major labels are almost extinct and indies are the wave of the future. Or just releasing your records yourself, yay!

..One of the tracks on the new album, ‘All I Want’, is co-written with RANCID’s Tim Armstrong. How did you find working with someone of his stature?
..Liza) It was great, I wasn't scared at all. Tim and I did a co-write on this song and it was relatively easy. It’s an honour to work with someone so talented!

..Did he teach you anything new about the songwriting process and about the music industry in general?
..Liza) Tim has really shown me that it is important to create at all times and really get out there and write with other people, paint, live, tour... He makes music and success not seem fleeting, but a way of life.

..I’d just like to talk about a couple of the tracks on the album, starting with ‘Brooklyn’. Why would a band from OC, California write a song about New York’s famed suburb? The refrain of "On the road" suggests this is a touring song - that correct?
..Liza) Hell yeah, it’s a touring song! It’s actually more about someone you love being on the road. My boyfriend had gone on tour with MURPHYS LAW for 6 weeks in Japan and a lot of the references are about having something to come home to when you are a touring musician.

..What about ‘1989’? What happened in that year to inspire this song? I have no lyric sheet with my copy of the album, but there seems to be a suggestion that the song is about family.
..Liza) Very good! This song is totally about family and my dad passing. 1989 happens to be the year my sister - Suzi Homewrecker, CIVET’s guitarist - was born. A lot of my memories of family are of all of us living in the Bay Area when I was younger.

..Generally, what inspires a CIVET song lyrically? Would you say you are a political band?
..Liza) We are not a political band. I believe to each his own. My sister is a bit political, but it doesn't make its way into our music. Our themes are a bit universal, heartbreak, woman scorned, infidelity, life struggles, etc.

..So, what’s the live CIVET show like? I guess you are not an introspective bunch of shoegazers? You do any covers live?
..Liza) Hot and Rocking! We have been known to bust out a MURDER CITY DEVILS cover and a MISFITS cover from time to time....

..Have you been on anything like a Warped Tour yet? Do you view these events as one big sanitised marketing venture organised by businessmen or a viable progression of what Punk Rock is today?
..Liza) We have done some Warped Tour in the past. I think everything can be considered corporate or whatever if ya really look into it, but kids come out to the shows and have a good time, who cares who’s making the money if the music and experience is alive for the kids?

..Hmm... I guess that’s one way of looking at it. Personally, I’d rather see the money going back to bands, DIY promoters and to those who live it rather than an accountant. Tell us about this documentary, ‘Punk Rock Circus’ that Crazy Cow Productions made.
I don't know anything about this! I don't think it’s being released; we filmed some stuff over three years ago, we don't even have the same drummer, so all the footage is seriously outdated.

..You’ve also filmed a video for ‘Son Of A Bitch’ from the ‘Hell Hath...’ album. You done any other videos?
..Liza) That was actually our first video shoot. We joke that we've been around forever but held out for a super budget because we believe in quality over quantity. The whole thing was surreal!

..What are the best and worst aspects of making a video? I understand the video was shot at a beach yeah? You gals beach babes too?
..Liza) We actually don't really go to the beach. It was more of a "beach blanket bingo" meets THE CRAMPS at a heathen dance party... Not so beachy... Just dark.

..Why choose this song as the lead single/ track for the new album?
..Liza) Cause it kicks ass! It was the last song to go on the record and it was just magic.

..Have you found any beneficial aspects for the band in the fact that you and guitarist Suzi Homewrecker - or is there ever any tense moments of sibling rivalry between you two?
..Liza) The fact that Suzi and I are sisters really brings a powerfulness to the band. We are both really crazy and love being in this band. We work, play and of course fight really hard sometimes.

..How have you found the reaction to you being an all-female band in a predominantly male-based scene? Given women have played a big part in Punk – from Debbie Harry, Siouxsie, and Penelope Houston through to Joan Jett, Exene Cervenka and Kirsten from NAKED AGGRESSION and onto the likes of LUNACHICKS and Cinder Block from TILT – do you find sexism still exists within Punk, however covert? With dicks like BLINK 18turd claiming affinity with Punk while spewing prepubescent sexism, maybe it’s not a surprise.
..Liza) You can't change the way things are. You can only be yourself and do what you do. I'm not ashamed of being female, nor do I fault bands like BLINK 182 for being sexist. Men tend to really change their views about females once they take us on tour! I'm proud of that. I think in that sense we are doing a service to women everywhere. God Bless all the females in Punk that came before me!

..As a band of confident ladies, do you view yourselves as feminists in any way? Do you think that the role of the female in wider society (ie: that outside of Punk Rock) is still viewed as the weaker sex?
..Liza) I definitely see myself as a feminist, but I also really love men... Ha ha... I think that all you can do is what you do best and what you feel is right. I think that by doing this we, as a band of females, are inspiring more girls to play music and creating more tolerance in the scene.

..No doubt the band has had comparisons with DISTILLERS, L7, LUNACHICKS etc. Do you think they are justified, or just easy comparisons for a reviewer to make based on those bands being female/ female-fronted? I personally hear a great deal of Kim Shattuck (MUFFS) in your vocals - you feel that is a justified comparison?
..Liza) You said it! Too bad there aren't more bands to be compared too! Truth be told I didn't listen to any female musicians growing up, so I like to think my sound was my own. I later liked THE MUFFS; Kim used to take her dog to my dogpark. I wish I could say she mentored me, but she didn't. Anything pretty much is a justified comparison, someday I hope it will be little bands being compared to me. Some day the comparisons will be justified because there will be hundreds of tough girl bands to choose from instead of a handful.

..Tell us about life in Orange County, CA. It’s always been a hot bed of Punk Rock - has OC itself influenced what CIVET is and how it has evolved?
..Liza) I grew up with messy 77 style Punk of Huntington Beach... LE SHOK, TSOL, THE STITCHES, Hostage Records... I'm sure that is where part of my 77 inspired Punk sound came from!

..What are the best and worst aspects of life in Orange County? Is there much violence and homelessness? If you could improve any one aspect of OC, what would it be and why?
..Liza) Really? I don't claim OC, Suzi and I have both been living in North Hollywood for a few years now. There is no real homelessness or violence, it’s just life. Kinda suburban... lots of traffic.... We are on the road a lot though so it doesn't really matter. Some things are kinda fake, but it’s not so bad that it needs to be changed.

..The American Election is looming large on the horizon now. Where do you stand politically? No matter what, Bush is finally outta the picture - but who do you think will make the best successor - Obama or McCain - and why?
..Liza) Yeah, music and politics are a no go for me... Whatever happened to Jello Biafra running?

..I read on your website profiles that Jacqui and yourself at least are into films. What are your favourites and, if you could be cast in any film, in any role, what would it be and why?
..Liza) I would love to be in a remake of Gone With The Wind. Scarlet is such a spoiled bitch I love it.... Or any of the villains in Disney movies, like Malificent from Sleeping Beauty!

..What’s next in line for the band? Any big tours planned (how about Australia and/ or New Zealand)? Any comp appearances or single/ EPs lined up?
..Liza) We have friends in bands in New Zealand (King Cannons and the Rebelles) we'd love to tour over there!!! Soon! Right now we are making plans for a full US tour and a Euro tour.

..Have you even thought about the follow-up to ‘Hell Hath No Fury’ yet? At this early stage, what predictions do you think you can make about it and the direction it will head in?
..Liza) Not yet, but it’s safe to say I write all the time, so I'm not worried a bit!

..Anything you want to add, tell us about or give any general shout outs too?
..Lisa) Thanks for the interview yo! Don't believe what you watch on the OC, it’s just TV xo

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