Purple Rhinestone Eagle

Art by Anne Emberline
Art by Anne Emberline

Sleep, Golden Sleep
I got the chance to talk to, Morgan Ray Denning (bass, backing vocals) and Andrea Genevieve (guitar, vocals, lyrics), two of the three lovely ladies from Purple Rhinestone Eagle. After seeing them play at Antisocial, I’ve been hooked. With their newest album The Great Return and their upcoming shows, it was a good opportunity to chat with them about their music and their experiences.

Discorder: What are you working on right now? Playing lots of shows? Writing songs?

Morgan Ray Denning : We’re doing both. We’re playing less shows than we did when we left for tour. We’re still playing cause it’s really fun and it keeps our energy up and our wrists quick. We’re also trying to work on new stuff cause we just played the same songs for like two months straight. So, we’re into writing some new songs now. We’re really excited about the direction we’re thinking about going.

D: What is the direction you’re going?

Andrea Genevieve: Musically, we’re shifting gears a little bit. As far as our direction: definitely heavier than it has been, we’re shifting away from the mid-tempo Black Sabbath-y style of music to something more metal, more like thrash. We’re not going to switch genres, but we’re working on faster music. More music inspired by thrash, quicker, faster, more rock ‘n’ roll than we have been doing.

D: What kinds of instruments and gear do you use?

MRD: Nobody’s ever asked us about our gear, and we’re kind of obsessed about it. I have my dream bass, so I’m really stoked about that. It’s a ’74 Rickenbacker in black. Ever since I got it, I haven’t looked at another bass. I have an old 115 Horn cab that I’ve been using. It projects a lot of low-end stuff to the outer corners of a room. So it feels the room with a lot of deep, low sound. I play out of a 210 cab as well so you can hear the notes I’m playing. Right now I’m using a 200-watt acoustic bass head. But I’m always looking for something bigger and louder. Religiously, I use a Big Muff Pi fuzz pedal.

AG: My main guitar is an [‘83] Ibanez Artist, which is basically the poor woman’s Les Paul. My ideal guitar that I’m saving up for now is a vintage Gibson SG, maybe like a mid ‘70s to late ‘70s SG. That’s my ideal guitar for the sort of tone that I want. My amp is a 130-watt vintage Music Man; it’s a tube amp. It’s really awesome, but again, it’s not my ideal amp. My speaker cabinet is a 412 speaker cabinet from this company Avatar. I have two vintage 30s on the top and a 100 watt speakers on the bottom. It’s a really nice balance of higher tones and the heavier lower tones. My pedals that I use, I use a Vox Wah, also a Big Muff Pi. I recently bought an old Boss Heavy Metal pedal from the mid-’80s. It’s really sweet cause, like I said we’ve been shifting towards more, faster music. So, I wanted something with distortion but a little less sludgy, a little more precise. I also use an Echo Delay pedal. Ashley [Spungin (drums, backing vocals)] has a Vistalite drum kit from the ‘70s. She loves that kit to death. As far as her cymbals—

MRD: She’s always breaking her cymbals so she’s always adding a new one to the mix. Her cymbals are always switching, but it’s usually something big and thick and heavy. She likes a darker, less high-end ride and crash. Usually vintage Zidljians.

D: I was wondering where, or if, you locate yourselves in the music community in Portland. What kinds of bands do you play with and what kinds of venues do you play at?

MRD: We definitely consider ourselves as part of the scene in Portland, but there are a lot of scenes here ‘cause there are so many bands and venues and music. We end up playing at Plan B or the Know. We’ve played a couple shows at the Doug Fir. Most of our friends are musicians. A lot of ladies playing heavy stuff too. Our friends from Tacoma, Lozen, are some of our favourite people to play with. Sei Hexe and Order of the Gash are friends of ours—heavy bad ass bands in town. We don’t really play the same style of music but they’re great friends of ours and we’ve played shows with them for a few years now. Nuclear Aminals and Psychic Feline are good friends of ours and we end up playing with them a lot. It’s good but we’re at a point where we’re trying to get away from these friend shows that we play all the time. They’re super fun and we want to keep doing it, but I also want to play with some bigger bands that will totally show us what’s what.

D: You mentioned a lot of ladies’ bands. Want to talk about your position as females? I know that it might be over done, because you’re not seen just as “musicians” but as “female musicians.”

MRD: It would be nice if it were the kind of thing that didn’t matter at all, but the reality of it is that people do notice it. It is our identity. It does have an effect on the way we interact with the world and the way we play music. I do feel a lot of support and a lot of connections to other women who play music, and I want to be supportive of them. Every now and then we’ll run into a band that I can’t relate to on that level, cause they like to play in bikinis. I mean that’s cool if that’s your thing but that’s not what I want to represent as far as playing music goes.

D: Has that happened?

MRD: Not to name names, but just picture translucent instruments that you can totally see through and just people wearing bikinis and underwear behind them. Sometimes you just have to leave the room.

AG: I have to agree with Morgan. That it is a huge part of our identities and you can’t escape it. I would love to live in a world where people just saw people as people, but there are so many judgements happening all the time. What I like to do with this band is blow people’s minds and shift their paradigm a little bit. Hopefully they think twice in the future when they see women on stage, and just give them a chance, and let their socks be rocked off.

D: What was your tour like? Apparently it didn’t go too smoothly.

MRD: [laughs] It was great. We spent a little too much time in the Midwest U.S. It was also the hottest summer on record, while we were there. The West Coast and the East Coast of the states are always amazing. We’re originally from the East Coast. It’s good to go back and see friends and family. You know, people who knew us when we first started playing instruments, seeing us now is always really fun. We’d never been to Europe before as a band. It was pretty amazing. It was cool to be in a place where you don’t speak the same language but you can communicate through playing a set. In France, especially, I felt we were really well received. We sold all our records. We met some really amazing people and had some great experiences. But, two months is a long time to be in a van.

AG: Looking back, despite the technical difficulties, I think it was a fantastic time. I’d do it all over again, minus the van breaking down in Las Vegas.

MRD: I wouldn’t do that again either.

D: My last question is how you feel about the response to The Great Return.

MRD: I’m really happy with the way the album turned out, but honestly, I feel like every recording we’ve done, we’ve had to settle because of financial and time restrictions. I’m really looking forward to the next one where we’ll be able to take our time with it and make sure everything is really perfect. But this one is much more of a conceptual piece of music, meant to be listened to from start to finish. We really planned out the song order and the feeling and themes in the lyrics. I’m proud of it. I think I would be proud of it no matter what other people thought of it. But people do seem to like it.

AG: Yeah, I’ve heard only positive feedback from it. It’s wonderful to see something that you’ve worked really hard on be received so well. It’s pretty flattering. I’m really happy about how everything turned out.

D: Very cool. Any last thoughts?

MRD: I just biked in the rain here so I don’t have all my thoughts together. But I guess, it’s a really good thing to keep an open mind about people. Don’t assume they’re going to sound a certain way, suck or be amazing because they have terrible or decent fashion. People will surprise you. I’ve been surprised, pleasantly and horrified. Sometimes bands are terrible, and that’s okay too. It’s not about who they are; it’s about the music. Keep an open mind and don’t make assumptions. Allow the good things to enter your world.

AG: That’s beautiful Morgan. Well said.

D: It’s been nice talking to you.

AG: You too. Are you coming to either of the shows next month?

Purple Rhinestone Eagle are playing the Biltmore Dec. 10 with Bison B.C., Weapon and Haggatha, and again on Dec. 11 at Pat’s Pub with White Lung and Black Wizard.