For Fans Of: Bikini Kill / X-Ray Spex / Hole
Being called ‘exciting’ by Shirley Manson (Garbage) is high praise, but with every move Pleasure Venom make, they’re proving they’re worthy of exactly that. Led by a black woman, the band may face more than one prejudice in a mostly white, male dominated scene, but that’s not stopping Audrey Campbell and co from taking names whenever they find the opportunity. With new music on the horizon, we chat to her now about the recording process, the integral role of Black artists in rock and more.
Words: Renette van der Merwe
Photos: TaSzlin Muerte (header) / Victoria Renard
Tell us a little about yourself. Where the name came from, how long you’ve been going for and anything else new fans would want to know.
This project started around the Spring of 2014! I came up with the name, Pleasure Venom, one night when I was looking up female supervillans, and She-Venom came up, which I thought could sound cool. I had also read about Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins, and there is one that stood out: “Pleasure without conscience,” which I feel a lot of us can be guilty of. Just wanting to feel good without thought of any consequences really struck me, so I just mashed those ideals together. It’s funny, because I still get folks who tell me that they thought it was a reference to cum/ejaculation… but that is totally out of my hands at this point. It’s all subjective.
“Those sharp edges are capable of puncturing anybody’s jaded sensibilities or preconceived notions of what constitutes ‘heavy’.”
Going way back to the beginning, can you recall your very first memory of music?
Black Baptist Churches are probably my earliest memory of seeing skilled musicians, many of whom were self-taught… choirs and singers who sang with every INCH of their souls. Everyone passed around tambourines to us kids, and we’d fight over them to play along. EVERYONE and their MOM could SANG, not sing, but SANG!!! Something about older soul and gospel music, like you’d have to have no soul not to feel anything.
I’ve been on a 50s, 60s, and 70s soul kick lately which happens at least once or twice a year. Lots of Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Nina Simone, the Temptations, just back-to-basics rock and soul music.
A lot of different sounds came out of my household, because I am first-generation United States from two Jamaican parents. My mother played everything in our house, from Marley to Hendrix to Zeppelin to Gladys Knight to Bowie to the Ramones to Al Green and everything in between. It really made me open to listening to different kinds of music and later being open to venture into genres like Rock or Punk. Rock music is a Black art form, so I don’t feel like I am straying far away from my roots, and to this day, I love going back to re-explore these early musical memories. Because it all still fuckin slaps!
Who’s on your wishlist of artists that you’d love to collaborate with and/or open for on tour?
Too many! We love BLXPLTN, the Muslims, Jonny Jukebox, Chief Cleopatra, Danny Denial, Dry Cleaning, Diat. Bikini Kill, Saul Williams, any Mike Patton project, Trent Reznor/NIN, Gorillaz/Damon Albarn, Nick Cave would be crazy, or any bands/artist I listened to growing up. I always wanted to do something with Grace Jones, I think she is a badass who does it all.
Speaking of live shows, what’s your favourite story from a show so far?
Shirley Manson introducing me to Exene of X was pretty fuckin cool. We did a few opening dates for Garbage last year on their US tour, the whole run was the biggest “favorite story from a show” ever. Shirley is amazing and has been so supportive. Looking across the room and seeing our drummer, Thomas Valles, just chatting it up with their drummer and crazy-talented world-renowned producer, Butch Vig, was a trip! It was all very surreal.
Opening up for Against Me! end of last year was great too, they were all so fuckin dope. After our set the band invited us to go dancing with them at a local goth club in Austin called Elysium. Both of those bands were just so generous with their time and chatted with us like peers. Really wild pinch-me shit.
You’re working on your LP at the moment – what are some of the most fun and most challenging aspects of being the studio right now?
Most fun is completing a song. The challenge literally is COVID. It blows. I am 90% sure this album would be done if this shit didn’t hit but we are just trying to coast and be open and looser with deadlines.
Also putting our own health, mentally and physically, as a priority, which with our normal breakneck pace when playing shows and touring was more on the back burner. Seems like the best time to focus on ourselves as artists and people more than on deadlines at the moment. Priorities have shifted, but I think at the end of the day it is for the best. Got to take this shit day by day.
Being DIY we also make our own deadlines to some extent, so becoming more “go with the flow” vs. the usual pressure cooker band style of the past funneled with America’s “grind till you literally die” productivity culture. It just feels healthier.
Settle an argument for us (and the rest of the world) pineapple on pizza?
Sure. Why not? Let people eat what they want. Freedom!!!!!!!!
Rising to the challenge, Pleasure Venom have put together an electrifying collection of songs that best encapsulates the artists and music that inspire them as a band.
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