Rock-Steady: An Interview with Jennie Vee

Rock-Steady: An Interview with Jennie Vee

Bassist of Eagles of Death Metal pays homage to 80s post-punk on her new EP.

Blending a dreamy, synthesized haze and a static punk-rock buzz, Jennie Vee’s new EP Suffer pays homage to the 80s post-punk movement. Heavy and heartbreaking, the six songs are a snapshot into the tumultuous life of one of rock music’s most underrated players. Vee is screaming her story into the wind, and we’re lucky enough to hear the echoes, airy and unfiltered, careening back to us.

Vee has been playing constantly since the 90s, releasing music both on her own and with the band Tuuli. More recently however, she’s joined Eagles of Death Metal and has been on tour with both Lana Del Rey and Courtney Love, the latter having been a huge influence in Vee’s formative years.

As of right now, Jennie Vee is at a point in her career where she doesn’t have to be modest anymore. She knows herself and she’s completely level. She brandishes her Fender P-bass like a sword and calmly declares, without conceit, that she’s the best rock bassist playing today. She’s currently on tour but agreed to take some time away from her busy schedule to talk to us about Buddhism, The Cure, her creative process, and her new music in this Popdust extended interview.


I am going to tell you a question I will not answer.

Okay.

I will not answer any boring question about having a vagina.

I didn’t have any questions about your vagina prepared.

[I don’t want to answer anything] about how hard it is to be a woman in rock. It’s not hard.

Sounds good. We’ll start with an easy one then. I know you play guitar, why did you pick bass?

I picked bass because I thought Simon Gallup was the coolest person in the universe. The Cure is my favorite band and he was my hero. I just thought bass players were cool. I knew I was gonna play guitar, but I just wanted a bass first and foremost. [Basses] just made sense to me.

How did you get into music as a kid?

Like with most kids, it started with [my] parents’ musical taste. I curated my own taste via their taste. For example, my dad liked Led Zeppelin and The Clash. I liked The Clash. I didn’t like Led Zeppelin. So within the records that we had, I made my own little section. I grew up in northern Ontario and we had a satellite dish, so I had MTV unlike a lot of kids. I also messed around and found different radio stations and via that technology, I managed to expand my horizons.

So you’re a touring member of Eagles of Death Metal, correct?

I’m in Eagles of Death Metal baby. I don’t know where this whole “touring” label comes from. When you’re in Eagles of Death Metal, you’re in it for life.

How did you start playing with them?

This question is always weird to me. I’d been playing and training. They needed a bassist and I’m a bassist. And I’m cool. It was just a natural thing. It’s not like I’m out there hustling or something. Eden Galindo is the sixth member of Eagles of Death Metal, and I’ve known him since the 90s. When they needed a bassist, he thought of me. That’s how it happened. This is my family. I love Eagles of Death Metal.

You also did some touring with Courtney Love and Lana Del Rey right?

Yeah, we did the Endless Summer Tour in 2015.

Was that a big deal for you? I know Courtney Love was a pretty big influence on you.

Fuck yeah, it was. Live Through This was one of the records I played to every day before I went to school. [I was] learning to play on my white ’91 P bass. Fast forward to 2015 and I’m in the Hollywood Bowl, playing Asking for It on that white bass. So, absolutely. It was magical.

The Eagles of Death Metal are your family, but you just released your second solo EP. You also have a solo album. What made you want to branch out from them and go out on your own?

I was not branching out and writing on my own. I’ve been writing and recording songs since 1994. This isn’t a new thing that I’ve decided that I needed to do. I’ve always expressed myself through my own music. [As a writer,] I’m not super prolific. I think I’ve written six albums in 22 years, but I have an innate need to write and express myself. It’s therapeutic to me. That will always be a part of me. It just works. It doesn’t take away from anyone else I happen to be playing with. It’s just this beautiful thing that works in tandem [with my other pursuits].

Did you do any of the writing on the newer Eagles of Death Metal stuff, or are you just the bass player?

We’re tinkering around in the studio right now. We did recently get together and record the score for Super Troopers 2, which is coming out in the spring. I was in the studio with the guys and it was a lot of fun. It was my first time scoring a film. We did that together. It’s so different though. My writing is for me. It’s a form of therapy and it’s painful. When I perform my own music, it’s hard. I’m vulnerable. I’m direct. I’m honest. I’m raw. I make people a little bit uncomfortable. When I get to play with Jesse Hughes or Courtney Love, it’s a blast. But that’s their pain and that’s their diary and their vision. I value my role supporting that. I don’t like to compare and contrast.

So with this new EP, is there an overarching theme?

Yeah, suffering. That’s why it’s called Suffer. We all suffer. I have a beautiful life. I have amazing people in my life. I have a strong Buddhist practice. I’m super happy. But all that being said, it’s not the human experience if you don’t suffer from loss, heartbreak, or moments of self-doubt. This is what I draw from when I write. Losing a father to drug addiction, almost losing my sister to alcoholism, having my heart broken, coming out of a marriage, all these things are part of my experience and I write about them. I know people can relate.

Is your Buddhist practice something that really informs your writing?

When I think about writing as a 19-year-old girl and now writing as a 41-year-old woman and how I’ve changed and grown, I think the Buddhist practice has definitely shaped me. I think I evolved from feeling like a victim and blaming outside sources to blaming myself [for my problems]. [Now I’ve arrived] at the happy medium of understanding that despite the outer conditions I have to stay steadfast, like the flagpole, not the flag whipping around.

Who’s the hottest bass player right now? Who’s killing it in your mind?

I am. I kill it every night. I’m a warrior. The best to you is different from the best to me. Some people think the best [player] is someone who knows all the scales or someone who can play all the songs, like human karaoke. To me, it’s about being sincere, strong, passionate, and open.

What musicians inform your playing style?

Simon Gallup influences me still to this day. I stand like him. I hold myself like him. My playing is also influenced by Peter Hook from Joy Division and New Order. His melodic style of playing really influenced me.

Are you taking the EP on tour?

Maybe, if it feels right. I’m not going to trudge around and just play to play. I love playing heavily curated events. My EP release party in Los Angeles was a beautiful party. Who needs a wedding? Planning a gig like that is just as labor intensive. [I like playing] things like that, you know? Special things.

There’s one song on the EP that really stood out to me as different from the rest. It’s the fifth track, The Last Time. It really breaks the album up nicely. Was this a conscious decision? Did you want to have something that changed it up in the middle like that?

There are no conscious decisions in my writing process. I can’t sit here and say “I’m going to write a song.” It’s not like that for me. I feel like a vessel. The melody comes through me, filtered through my experience.

So you’re a vessel. I get the sentiment, but how does that translate literally? In what context does your work come to you? What goes on in that moment?

That’s indescribable. That’s magic. Honestly, there are no words to describe it. I can’t explain it. If I could explain it, then I could harness it in a more prolific manner. For me it’s not like that. I know Nick Cave goes to his office/studio and writes every day. Everyone has a different process and I can’t describe mine. I haven’t written for quite awhile. Since my last EP, I moved to Los Angeles from New York. My life changed a lot. I’ve been playing with Eagles of Death Metal, so I really haven’t written in awhile. I anticipate that I will soon, but I don’t know when, where or how. I never know how it’s going to be. My life doesn’t have that sort of structure.

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