This interview was originally published in Life In A Bungalo on September 6, 2007
I first heard Mad Marge & The Stonecutters two years ago on a psychobilly comp Return of the Hot Rod Zombies. The song was called “Shake” and it completely changed the way I listened to female psychobilly singers. Rather than sound all cutesy like some of her contemporaries, Mad Marge tore into the track like a vampire vixen on crank. The tune had more balls then most of street rock punk bands, yet the song was infectiously catchy.
Turns out the band’s self-titled first record was teeming with songs like “Shake,” and even louder, faster numbers like “Monsters” and “Shallow Grave.” After three years of cruising the left coast, Mad Marge finally made it out to NYC. I decided to bother Mad Marge singer Alicia Ridenour while she was strolling through Central Park the day after a blistering set at The Knitting Factory.
Be honest, are you just cashing in on this new Simpsons craze?
(Laughs) No, but we are huge fans. We were sitting around one night and we had a few options for band names that were all Simpsons references. In the beginning we were just The Stonecutters, but later we added the Mad Marge to kind of make it one of those names that you just can’t forget. We even adapted the Stonecutters theme into the song “Troublemaker” on our first record.
What’s the history of the band? I know you’ve been through a few line up changes since the first album came out.
We are from a small town in California where there really isn’t much to do. We needed a way to occupy time, so we formed a band and played local shows but the furthest we went was LA. Some band members left to do the family thing, and now we have a new bass player, a new drummer, and we added a second guitar player. The new members are focused and this is what they want to do full time. Also, we can leave California. It is actually really liberating for us to be able to tour.
Why did you choose to play psychobilly? With your vocal range, you could sing anything.
Psychobilly is such an exciting style of music, and the sound is so different and so much fun to play and sing — we just took it and ran with it. Our new stuff has the psychobilly influence, but it’s definitely a departure from psychobilly. The new members also bring in a new writing style and musical influence, which might keep us from sounding like traditional psychobilly.
What was it like playing Hootenanny this year with some of the biggest names in rockabilly?
It was awesome. We were on the side stage, which sucks for most bands because you’re stuck playing at the same time as major acts. However, it turned out to be really good and the crowd was all there to see kickass bands that revolve around the same scene. It’s not that the scene is dying, but it is a niche scene that still needs time to grow. People that were there were obviously true fans of the bands and it was refreshing to see that — it also rocks that we played with Social Distortion.
I was talking to a random bassist at the Warped Tour this year and he mentioned that punk bands can’t get shows any more and that it’s a pain to tour from coast to coast. However, he was adamant that psychobilly bands can play just about anywhere and draw a crowd. Is that true?
I don’t know. It’s kind of a weird genre of music, because punk promoters are afraid to put you on a punk bill, because they are not sure if you fit. However, some psychobilly promoters are afraid to put us on a show because we have branched off from the style a bit. We are like leeches and try to play anything we possible can. We played with acts that we don’t necessarily fit with, and those shows end up being the best.
I think the whole underground movement is dying. I look at where I live, and there’s punk shows in LA, but it’s a fraction of what there use to be a few years back. I just think the scene in general is not as strong as it once was. I think it’s definitely harder to get shows. Promoters want to get big acts and they want small support. If you put two similar acts together, big acts don’t want to play the show. I know in LA, people will come for one band and leave for another, so promoters are afraid to put them together. It’s kind of weird, but it’s getting better as we play more shows and are able to branch out to all different scenes.
How come you don’t ever see psychobilly bands touring together?
Nekromantix brings out bands, but they bring out bands that they know will only open for them. In the psychobilly scene, it’s really competitive and people don’t have each others backs. It’s a really shady scene to be in and it’s sad. The whole point of punk and psychobilly music is camaraderie–we’re all doing this for the same reasons, but you don’t see it much. You definitely don’t see psychobilly bands touring together. Maybe there just isn’t a strong enough following. Who knows?
You have a new record coming out on People Like You. Can you tell me a little about it?
Liberated is a very grown up progressive step for us. It’s our style, but we did something new with it. The record was a huge work of progress and it took us like five months of weekend recording and weekday evening sessions to finally finish, and we are all stoked for it to come out. I think it’s a step in the right direction, and people who like the last record will love this one.
It’s getting hard to get your first record. Any plans to re-release it?
Our label ran out of money, so the album is ours and the only place you can find it is at our shows. We’ve cut a European deal with People Like You and once we find an American home, we will probably do a distribution deal so you can find it everywhere you can find the new record.
Your vocals have gotten increasingly aggressive over the years. Is it tough to maintain that style as a female singer?
The only problem I really have is when we play live shows, because I tend to have a problem hearing myself and I push too hard. And when I do sing more aggressive, I end up sounding a lot louder and stronger than on the record. In the studio you can hear yourself; live I end up screaming to be heard. I try to be conscious of it, but it’s tough.
What music is currently inspiring you to perform?
For me, I am all about the feeling in music. If I can’t feel what that person is feeling then it doesn’t get across to me. My favorite singer is Kofte from Mad Sin. He just has the strongest presence and he can tell you exactly what he’s feeling. It’s just one of those bands that I just can’t stop listening to.
What’s it like seeing your fanbase grow so big?
It’s crazy. You get to these shows with 12 people there, but there’s always that one person that’s there for Mad Marge — that’s worth it. Also, Myspace really helped out. That’s how we started the band. We put some songs on there and before you know it, people were asking us where we were playing. It’s a huge tool for bands.
Where do you see the band going in the next few months?
Our goal is to be on the road as long as possible. We got lucky with the album and the Internet. We have at least one person at every show that knows every word to our songs. For us, having never been to the East Coast, that’s pretty awesome–We want everyone to know us and hear us.