Queens would want jewels of priceless quality on their crown. We’d like to think Isis is the reigning queen of punk and only drinks Crown.
Barb Wire Dolls hail from Greece and left their home at an artist commune on the island of Crete and transplanted themselves in Los Angeles in 2010. Since arriving in the U.S., and most notably selling out their debut concert at Hollywood’s Roxy Theatre, Barb Wire Dolls have performed on over 700 stages in 22 countries. The quartet is made up of Isis Queen (Vocals), Pyn Doll (Guitar), JJ (Bass), and Krash Doll (Drums). Isis was kind enough to sit down and talk about the new album, Desperate, about selling out most of the L.A. strip, and about not believing anything you see on television, kiddies.
NRR: Thanks for taking some time before you guys start the tour to talk to us for a few minutes. Help me out, what’s the band been up to in the last year or so?
Isis: It has been a never-ending odyssey for the band. We have just finished our sophomore album entitled, Desperate, that has been produced and mixed by Jay Baumgardner at NRG Studios in L.A. and then sent off to Howie Weinberg for mastering. These are some pretty big dogs in the industry and working with Jay has been very artistically fulfilling. It has been quite a change for us from our last record that was engineered and recorded by underground mastermind Steve Albini in just two days. If our debut album, Slit, was our baby that came kicking and screaming into this world, then Desperate is the teenager out to find who it truly is.
We are also finishing up a two-month residency at the World Famous Whisky A Go Go on the Sunset Strip in L.A. We have had a great time there. They have been very accommodating to us and we’ve had the chance to choose all the bands playing these shows with us. The shows have been a total success every week, but it is time for us to go on tour!
Barb Wire Dolls: Live at Whisky A Go Go (full concert)
NRR: I’d like to ask a few questions about your musical background. Will you tell me how a band from Greece gets to the City of Angles and makes such an immediate presence in the local scene?
Isis: How does anyone make an impression in an already successful environment? I guess by being different and not following the rules. We came from a country that does not give the same opportunities in Rock N Roll as the U.S. does, so we took advantage of it. We came here with literally no money and no plans, but we didn’t waste our time. We MADE it work. We did what we’ve done all over the world and other states. Find the bar or venue that is most accommodating to our needs, play as many residencies as possible so people know where to find you every week, then promote the fuck out of it.
Our first show in L.A. was at the Roxy Theatre in L.A. a few blocks up from the Whisky, and I passed out over 10,000 flyers. We ended up selling out the Roxy. We knew no one in L.A. and no one knew us. But by the time that show was done, the buzz was starting. We played continuous residencies at the Doll Hut in Anaheim and built up our name and following. We continued and did the same thing at The Viper Room and On The Rox in L.A. We would bring bands from the OC that would never think about playing Hollywood and we brought L.A. bands to the punk rock Doll Hut. There was a real happening during that year. We left on tour and ended up doing the same thing in NYC, South Carolina, New Mexico, Florida… So that’s proof for us that we can survive successfully as long as we do it under our own rules!
NRR: The band released Slit in 2012 and it really helped to launch you guys into some pretty good shows here and abroad. What are your plans for the new album?
Isis: Slit was a very successful album for us. We were a successful DIY band touring all over the world while licensing the album off to different labels for one time only deals. We have done over 600 shows in 22 different countries with no backer, money made only from shows, no big record company and no big booking agent either. We have had some pretty legit deals offered to us from some pretty legit record labels for this next album so we’ll probably go with the best deal. We did the DIY success story, now it’s time to step it up a notch.
NRR: You describe your sound as (meta-modern) Punk. Will you describe your sound for us or explain what that description means in a way that makes sense?
Isis: Metamodernism is the new cultural era that we live in. Before meta-modernism, there was Postmodernism and before that was Modernism in the way our society explained our contemporary culture. Metamodernism is a term that explains the developments in our contemporary culture that moves beyond the postmodern movement. We live in an era where the old is harnessed with new ideas rather than erasing our past and starting fresh like modernism and postmodernism. It’s quite simple. If you listen to the radio, there is a radio station called Jack FM. The station plays hits from over 10 years ago and then throws in some top 20 rock songs of the year. Combining the old with the new. That is (in a very small description) meta-modernism. People are just as interested in the old stuff nowadays, as they are with the new. It has never happened before in our cultural history. We are all moving into this new era whether we realize it or not. For us, it’s just the best way to describe our music; (meta-modern) Punk.
NRR: Talk to me about the name, Barb Wire Dolls. How did that moniker come about and is there anything special behind it for you guys?
Isis: We formed an Artist Commune in the mountains of Crete called, The Ikarus, and thatâ€™s where the band was conceived. We have had many artists, musicians, filmmakers, and authors stay at the commune so being around so much artistic expression is bound to rub off on you. Funny that in such hippie surroundings a punk band would emerge! That is the magic with being free minded.
The crisis had just hit the year we left Crete so it had a lot to do with our music. We took the name Barb Wire Dolls as an homage to The New York Dolls. They literally broke down all misconceptions of what music, art, and sexuality were in a time when it was really needed. We like to think that way about Barb Wire Dolls. We wanted to create our own rules and our own style of music but still based on the idea of the rebellious concept of the first wave of punk that was; only by being different you were considered punk.
NRR: How does a typical BWD song come about? Is it one person does the lion’s share or is it a group effort from the very start til finish?
Isis: Me and Pyn Doll (Guitarist) collaborate. Every song is different and there is no real ‘way’ to writing a Barb Wire Dolls song. We don’t play covers (or know how to) so the writing comes very quickly. Pyn is the master riff writer. We have written a whole new album already. Once Desperate comes out then we can focus on a third.
NRR: You guys have already been on tour a lot since 2010 and with some great bands as well like Mushroomhead and Candlebox. What has to be the most fun show you’ve share with another band since you started the grind of being on the road?
Isis: We really haven’t opened for many bands. We have played with the Descendants, NOFX, and others that were great, but I think I speak for everyone when we opened for Jello Biafra (ex Dead Kennedy’s singer) with his new band G.S.M. Jello is as authentic as your gonna get! He puts on a great show too, unlike most of the “dinosaur rockstars” that still think they got what it takes to get on stage.
NRR: What has been one or two of the more difficult lessons you’ve had to learn since you started out to make your mark in music?
Isis: Patience. It is the key to any success. Finding out who you are and how you wish to portray yourself with an artistic expression is much different then how you go about in everyday life. And it takes time to figure all that out and what steps you should take to respect the art.
NRR: Is there a moment, that thinking back on it now, in your career that you can’t help but still feel a tad bit embarrassed about, makes you laugh about despite yourself, or just still makes you shake your head in disbelief? A Spinal Tap moment if you will, that you’d be willing to share with me?
Isis: We went on a talent show back home in Greece when we first started out. We lived on an island, and no one wanted to book a punk band. No one played punk when we started the band. We had to take the 9 hour boat ride to Athens, the capital, to play shows but even then we couldn’t get booked because we were from Crete and couldn’t guarantee a crowd. So we went on this national talent show thinking we would get a chance to speak about some cultural topics but when they aired it the cut out everything we said and showed a completely different view on what actually happened. That’s what you get for going on TV. Nothing is real.
NRR: When you came over from Greece, was it an easy transition from that culture to an “American” one or was it pretty easy to adjust it day one?
Isis: Small things. But luckily we didn’t come from the UK where everyone drives on the other side of the road… I think going to the UK was the hardest cultural adjustment.
NRR: Within your influences, who would you say left the biggest mark on your sound musically and why?
Isis: Cretin Music. Traditional Greek folk music. You can here a lot of it in the guitar playing. We are influenced by the inspiration of life and what that means. Not to be repetitive but unique in every action you make. We don’t want to have safe music that people understand but we wish to make it attainable to all sorts of listeners. You may hear a lot of influences in our music but every song is unique. We write the way we live. Careless and free.