Wicked Will: One on one with Coco Hames of The Ettes
Over the course of eight years, five full-length albums and a couple EPs, The Ettes have been creating some of the best punk-infused, foot-stompin’ garage rock – or just plain ol’ rock n’ roll – you’re likely to come across. Formed in Los Angeles in 2004 and now based out of Nashville, The Ettes (Lindsay “Coco” Hames, Maria “Poni” Silver, and Jeremy “Jem” Cohen) have opened for bands like The Dead Weather and Kings of Leon, recorded with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, and collaborated with Reigning Sound frontman Greg Cartwright. Not too shabby.
Their latest album – the hard-rocking, reverb-soaked “Wicked Will” – once again finds The Ettes in full-on attack mode over 14 powerfully fuzzy tracks that clock in at just over a half an hour. We spoke to guitarist and singer Coco Hames about the band’s musical influences, how they unwind after a long stint on the road, and their worst show ever.
"Wicked Will" is the third Liam Watson-produced Ettes record. What is it that makes you keep heading back to London to record with him?
Liam! He’s why. We’ve grown so much together, and are such good friends, making records with Liam is part of our ongoing education in life and music. There is a lot of mythology surrounding Toe Rag [Studios] (and about analog recording, in general) but what it really comes down to is Liam is a guy who knows his stuff. You can have the coolest looking vintage gear on the planet but if you don't know how to use it, it's a waste. Liam knows what he's doing.
Nylon Magazine described your sound a few years back at "beat punk." Does that description still hold up today?
I think that's true for a lot of earlier Ettes stuff, possibly even into the choppier bangers on “Wicked Will.” But we do more than just "1, 2, 3, 4!!" live, and over the years of writing songs together, I can certainly hear some evolution.
What was it like working with Tom Scharpling and Patton Oswalt on the “Excuse” video?
That was so hard. Sometimes it's easy to forget how physical acting is. Take our "action" moves. We were sore for days after filming! Then think about Daniel Craig. We're like, “Were we supposed to train for this?”
Tom and Patton are heroes, and I'm a huge fan of The Best Show on WFMU – I call in when I'm feeling exceptionally brave. Those are two guys that give me hope in this world, give me something to aspire to. They are so impressive.
How do The Ettes relax when you're not recording or on the road?
I'm cooking right now! I cook, Poni sews, Jem never stops writing or recording – at the moment he's producing a band called Promised Land that are amazing.
What sticks out as the best (or maybe worst) show you guys have played?
So many good ones. And what's weird is we can remember every single one. Mention any town, any venue, any show, and the evening will take shape in our minds with insane precision of memory. And we all have pretty faulty memory capabilities! Touring is like that; life, distilled. The worst show? The LA Marathon as a pregnant woman was getting arrested behind us as we played at a bus stop – that comes to mind...
Who are the biggest musical influences on The Ettes?
Greg Cartwright is and always has been a major influence on me as a songwriter, and us as a performing band. He's just the best, all around. Jem's been listening to an awful lot of Byrds lately. I'll bet that'll come out...
Who haven't you worked with yet that you'd like to in the future?
We've been so fortunate to have the support of some of the best of our contemporaries. I'm happy as a clam as is. Maybe Bob Dylan and I will write a love song. Or Dolly will sing something I wrote. That would be amazing.
What's next for The Ettes?
We're working on the new Ettes album now, and the new Parting Gifts album (our band with Greg Cartwright) comes out next year.
Wicked Will is available on Krian Music Group/Fond Object. Get it on iTunes