Thelma and the Sleaze Talks Surviving in Rock N’ Roll (3/6 at Underground Arts w/ Laura Jane Grace)

Last July we officially announced the release of Holey Water, the most recent LP from “all-female, queer Southern Rock DIY band” Thelma and the Sleaze, after a chat with...

Last July we officially announced the release of Holey Water, the most recent LP from “all-female, queer Southern Rock DIY band” Thelma and the Sleaze, after a chat with TATS frontwoman and only constant member Lauren “LG” Gilbert on her 38th birthday.  The chat was in advance of the band’s July 23rd headlining show at Kung Fu Necktie, which featured previews of much of the album.  The band had recently opened for L7 (“a dream come true,” according to LG) and played a handful of sold-out shows, but the album itself apparently didn’t quite land as the band had hoped in terms of getting listeners.  “We had a really fun album release party, even though the album was kind of a disappointment,” LG tells me during a phone chat last week.  When I ask her if she had any favorite reactions to the new music, she tells me, “At this point, I would take any reaction.”

However, February 9th saw the release of Holey Water Live!, an album featuring each of the songs of the LP recorded live last September at Soft Junk in Nashville (the band’s original home).  And, during our most recent chat, LG tells me that she not only prefers this live version, but that it’s gained far more listeners: “Our live album that just came out is doing really well, which is pretty much a live version of the record and gives more of an idea of what the songs are meant to sound like.”

Holey Water Live! came about as a “kickfarter” campaign LG started in order to get a new van for the band’s current tour.  In addition to the full-length live album, for their $12 donations, fans also received a bonus track of the band covering Dio’s “Holy Diver,” a set of 4 TATS Valentine’s NFTs, exclusive backstage footage shot on a flip phone, and access to an exclusive listening party with LG.  Talking with LG, we reminisce about the days when fans were happy to pay for music from their favorite artists.  “I could’ve had 10 times as much money in half of the time, if I’d gone through some real crowd-funding platform, but I have too much pride,” she reflects on the current pandering artists have to do just to make ends meet.  However, she admits that her fans have been more than happy to shell out the money for her latest release: “People are like, ‘No, we give a fuck, and we want you to sell your music!’”

I ask if LG and her crew managed to get a new van, and she tells me, “A new-to-me van, gently used for 20 years!”  As of the time of our chat, the van was doing quite well: “She’s beautiful.  She’s been on the road for three days now!”  Thelma and the Sleaze are currently on a run of headlining dates, but next month they’ll join 21st Century punk legend Laura Jane Grace (formerly of Against Me!) as direct support for her March dates (with Dikembe opening), including a stop at our very own Underground Arts on Wednesday March 6th.  I ask if she’s excited to be playing shows with Laura and she tells me, “I mean, obviously, what an icon!  Growing up in the Midwest, I don’t think there are many queer people that didn’t have a copy of an Against Me! record.”

Apparently, Laura Jane Grace and Thelma and the Sleaze already have a connection.  “The guy who produced our new album, Matt Patton, is playing bass with her,” LG explains.  She also admits that after listening to the punk singer/songwriter’s latest record — Hole in My Head, which dropped on Polyvinyl earlier this month and rings of a lot of the classic sounds that LG loves herself — she suspects the two acts are going to be a perfect fit: “When I heard it, I was like, ‘This is gonna make a lot of sense!’”  I ask how she feels about playing these bigger rooms (We normally see Thelma and the Sleaze at the likes of KFN and MilkBoy), and LG exclaims, “I fuckin’ love it, if I get the opportunity to run around on a big stage and I get to crank my amp up!”

However, when I ask what the future holds for Thelma and the Sleaze, beyond these March dates with Laura Jane Grace, LG tells me that she’s largely unsure of the future of the band: “I wanna actually pull back a little, focus on myself a while…  I’ve been doing this for 13 years and we’ve had a lot of breaks that haven’t really amounted to too much.”  Echoing sentiments expressed by Sam Quartin of The Bobby Lees prior the band’s final dates, LG laments the hardships of trying to stay afloat as a band in a time when music seems to be lacking in support from the industry and listeners alike: “It really just doesn’t seem to matter as much these days.”  Reflecting on the current state of things, she jokingly tells me, “The only two things that haven’t been affected by inflation are rock band guarantees and getting titties in your face at a strip club.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.