Rotten Apples

w/Right On!, Party Time
Sat Sept 21, Sunset Tavern, $5.

w/the Spits, the Lashes, DJ Chris
Thurs Sept 26, Chop Suey, $6.

In her book We Gotta Get Out of This Place, author Gerri Hirshey comments that when it came to hard-hitting girl groups of the '60s like the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes, "few gambits worked better than loving the Wrong Guy."

The same is true in 2002, when a band like Rotten Apples rocks as hard as any punk band while singing about unrequited love, bad boys, and fights in voices sweet with layered harmonies. The bad boys are most likely on the receiving end of the beat-downs, however, because lead singer and songwriter Dejha (just Dejha) has had it up to here with their stupid behavior. However, like most women, she's willing to give the next guy who comes along a hopeful chance. And if nothing comes of it romantically, a new song surely will.

Released on Empty Records, Rotten Apples' debut Real-Tuff is just that. A longtime Seattle resident (her former bands include the Pin-Ups and 3D S&M), Dejha now lives in Los Angeles, but the rest of the band remains local. She's delighted with my opinion that Rotten Apples is reminiscent of the tough/sweet girl groups of the '60s.

"I totally agree," she says. "Actually, Heather [Jane, drummer and backing vocalist, and Rotten Apples' only other permanent member] and I were just talking about that last night. [The woman] who did the artwork for the album told us that we were kind of like the Ronettes and all those other bands, and I thought, 'Oh my God, that's so funny.'"

I tell her that Real-Tuff manages to sound fresh because instead of being overly feminist or sweetly romantic, it sounds honest and mature--like a grown woman is actually singing. "I think honesty and maturity really does have to do with it," agrees Dejha, "because this whole project was supposed to be for fun. Since it stemmed from that, it is really honest; it's just whatever was on my mind, or on whoever wrote the song's mind, just came out at that time. And that's the way I write lyrics anyway. I love people who are clever with their lyrics and come up with cute little stories, but I just don't write that way. I can't get any further than word one if it's not about something that I've experienced or seen.

"When I was younger, I was spending more time subconsciously contriving all these different styles or shticks or whatever, and I just don't care about that kind of shit anymore," she laughs. "You get what you get, don't make it fit, you know?"

The album's opening track kicks the tone off; a drumbeat rolls as Dejha coos, "Sometimes intention just isn't enough/maybe you should consider the truth." In a heartbeat, she's laying out that truth with defiant, unblinking clarity: "You made your choice and it's a golden opportunity/to move ahead in your love career/look at my face and then erase it from your memory/the best decision for your love career."

True to her claim that her songwriting is immediate, "Road Rage" sounds like it was written just moments after a traffic altercation erupted into a fight, speaking for all of us who shake our heads and swear behind the wheel: "It was you who cut me off/how dare you give me the finger?/you should have thought before you got into your car/the light was fuckin' red/and if it weren't for me we would both be dead." The hollering chorus is the best justification I've heard for screaming out the window when the jerk next to you is acting like it's your fault: "You shouldn't drive/you're retarded/look what you've done to me!"

For the forseeable future, Rotten Apples will remain a bi-state affair. Says Dejha, "Honestly, I have no plans to move back to Seattle. The nature of the way [the band] is set up... I don't know for sure if it's gonna work out. I really like to think so, and I think Heather and I are pretty dedicated to it because we've both finally found some kind of connection musically after all these years. I think we're gonna play it by ear, and keep trying to do this rock-star long-distance love affair."

by Kathleen Wilson