In addition to her genre-shaping work with X, Cervenka has also recorded solo albums, appeared on spoken word records, hosted museum exhibits, acted as an art gallery curator, and even owned a popular boutique/novelty shop named “You’ve Got Bad Taste.”
Right now, Cervenka finds herself fronting not one, not two, but three different bands – X, the Knitters, and the Original Sinners – while at the same time publicizing the release of her latest book, A BEER ON EVERY PAGE. Cervenka recently checked in from San Diego, where she was performing with the Knitters, to give us an update.
You’re currently a member of three very active bands. What’s that like?
Being onstage and playing with all of those bands is really fun. I get a little worn out sometimes from rehearsals, phone calls, and trying to balance out everything so I still have time for other things, too. It’s not as hard as you would think because X and the Knitters are so well rehearsed that I don’t have to put as much rehearsal time into them as the Original Sinners.
At this year’s Hootenanny, you’re going to perform two sets – one with your first band, X, and one with your new band, the Original Sinners. Are you at all concerned about playing two sets on the same day?
No. The Original Sinners opened for X a couple times at the House of Blues in Orange County. And that was playing the set right before X, and then going and changing clothes, and coming right back out to do another show. At the Hootenanny, I’ll have three hours between sets, and that’ll be fine. I’m not worried about it.
How have longtime X and Knitters fans reacted to seeing you in the Original Sinners?
People who love X and love the Knitters don’t want to see me in something that’s not good, you know? So when they come and see the Original Sinners, and they leave liking the show and the whole band, it’s kind of like they’re double happy. First, they’re happy that the Original Sinners are good, and then they let out a soft little “yea” for me.
Two members of the Original Sinners – bassist Kim Fuelleman and drummer Mat Young – used to be in a popular LA punk band called the Distillers. How did they wind up in the Original Sinners?
That’s kind of Kim and Mat’s story to tell. I’m not sure how mutual their split from the Distillers was, or what. I had heard they weren’t in the band anymore, so I called them and asked them to join the Original Sinners. It was just perfect timing, and I’m so lucky that they were available.
How did the Original Sinners hook up with Nitro Records?
I wanted to make a record, so I made a list of all the record labels I wanted to be on, and there were two. And Nitro was at the top of the list. So, we made a demo and sent it to Nitro and the other label. The other label didn’t return my phone calls or listen to the tape or anything. They just totally blew me off, like didn’t care and didn’t want to talk me. And Nitro, of course, was completely enthusiastic, so it worked out. In fact, the only reason why we sent the tape to anyone else was because it seemed so stupid to make a demo tape and send it out only to one label. But signing to Nitro is really all I ever wanted.
Nitro issued a press release that quotes you saying, “The Original Sinners are the perfect band for me because it allows me to do all the different kinds of music I love with the same musicians. It combines aspects of X, the Knitters, the country stuff, the love songs, and all the music I have wanted to do – everything is mixed in together.” Does that sum it up?
It sums it up a lot because there’s room for people to take off in musical tangents. And then, there’s these really tight rockabilly, rock n’ roll songs that are very simple, and very direct, and very fun to play. I also get to play guitar in the Original Sinners, which is really fun.
You’re best known as a singer-lyricist. When did you start playing guitar?
I learned how to play guitar in the late ‘80s. Actually, I was in the Knitters, and Dave Alvin was the person who said, “These are your four or five chords. This is all you need to know right now. You can make up a song anytime you want.” It was kind of frustrating before to have so many words, and not be able to play music on my own. I’m an okay guitar player and I have my own style, but I like having Jason [Edge] and Sam [Soto] play guitar in the Original Sinners so I can run around more and concentrate on singing.
How would you compare singing with Kim in the Original Sinners to singing with John Doe in X?
I’m not going to compare them because I don’t think there’s any point in comparing them. Kim is a really, really great singer. She’s got great pitch, and I think our voices go together really well. I’m really lucky that she can sing in the Original Sinners. I like singing with Kim.
The Original Sinners debut album is coming out on June 25, and John Doe is also going to release a new album soon. Is there a new X album or a new Knitters album on the way as well?
I would love to make a new X record or a new Knitters record. I think the people in those bands feel the same way, but everybody has got other things going on. Unless John Doe and I sit down and make time to write together, I don’t think it’s going to happen. So right now, I’m just writing songs for the Original Sinners, and going on the road with them, and making that band happen. But I still hope to write some new songs for X and the Knitters. Those kinds of things just happen when they happen. Suddenly, you realize that it’s time to go make a record. We would probably do a new Knitters record before a new X record, I think.
You’ve also recently written and published a new book named A BEER ON EVERY PAGE. How did you come up with the title and what is it about?
It’s a jokey kind of title in a way. I guess I was looking at the things I was writing and drawing, and it was in the summer, and I was drinking a beer and thinking about what goes into a book. I was thinking about not just the words, but also the amount of time you spend on it and what happened to you to make you write it. Because I was thinking about where I was living and what I was doing when I put it together, it’s more like a collage than a regular book. Anyway, I just thought that was a funny title. It seemed appropriate.
Where can fans get copies of A BEER ON EVERY PAGE?
When one of my bands plays, we have books for sale. I published it myself, and you can get it through my website, www.exenecervenka.com. There’s other stuff for sale on the site, like the LIVE AT THE MASQUE recordings, some posters, some X stuff, and more books.
This article first appeared in Mean Street Magazine. Please check out www.meanstreet.com.