MEB staff member Heather Allen got to chat with Los Angeles grunge-pop quartet Ramonda Hammer about their upcoming debut album Whatever That Means, tips on rocking out in Los Angeles, and how a reality tv show contestant inspired their band name.
MEB: You’re getting ready to release your debut album ‘Whatever That Means.’ Care to give us a sneak peak on what to expect from the tracks?
Devin: This is super cliche, but the album really will take you on an emotional roller coaster. I’m serious.
Justin: Some cute shit.
Danny: Hard hitting grunge pop cute rock.
Andy: Expect some Pixies shit and some Garbage shit.
MEB: What was your favorite track to write and record (can be separate tracks)?
Devin: “If, Then” was my favorite song to write on this album. I took a lot of time to make it special and powerful and I wrote the ending vocal part just slightly out of my range so I would have to work for it and really throw my whole body into it to belt it out. Recording “Strangers Love You” was awesome because I got to use this megaphone they had in the storage room at Sunset Sound, which I was told was last used by Band of Horses, a group I really love.
Justin: A couple of my favorite tracks off the album are “If, Then” and “Out of Style”. I got to improv a lot while recording so anytime I can do that in a song it usually ends up as a favorite.
Danny: “Goddamn Idiot”. It was a challenge because it was our newest song.
Andy: “Goddamn Idiot” was a lot of fun because initially we weren’t expecting to record it. We weren’t able to figure out the sound until just before we went into the studio, and I think we’re all really happy with how it turned out.
MEB: What do you feel is the difference between recording on your own terms and recording in a professional setting?
Devin: I guess there’s more creative freedom when paying for and producing an album yourself, as opposed to a label controlling the product. But you have to be extremely self-disciplined to make sure things get done efficiently, while still creating a kick-ass, heartfelt recording. I’m not just writing songs for the band and playing in it, but I manage us and make sure everything is worked out with finances, scheduling, etc. It’s a pretty professional operation actually, ha. I mean we just recorded at Sunset Sound! Professional and on our own terms!
Justin: I feel like we recorded this album on our own terms. Morgan [Stratton] was totally cool with letting us do our thing.
Danny: Time. We did our best to fit as much as we can in the amount of time we had.
Andy: We definitely had to bring our A game. The week prior to recording we practiced and/or played a show every day. We were paying a lot of money to be in the studio, so we wanted to make sure we were tight before we got into the studio.
MEB: You got your band name from a woman featured on the reality tv show Cheaters. What exactly was it about her that made you say ‘Ah ha! That’s my band name?’
Devin: It sounds like a super grungy, underground girl band from the 90s, am I right? Plus I like it because a great story comes with it instead of some band names that are just really meaningless or pretentious, or both.
MEB: Who are your musical influences?
Devin: Mine are Isaac Brock, Stephen Malkmus, Kurt Cobain, Jenny Lewis, Fiona Apple, Connor Oberst, Mark Mulcahy, Cat Power, AC Newman, and many more.
Justin: Definitely Kurt Cobain, Jimi Hendrix, Eddie Hazel, David Gilmore, Brendan Ekstrom, Joey Santiago, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, and Kendrick Lamar.
Danny: For me, Spinal Tap.
Andy: In a broad sense I’ve been influenced by a lot of glam rock a la [David] Bowie, The Stooges, and T-Rex, as well as ragtime and big band jazz.
MEB: Which three well-known artists/bands would you compare yourselves to?
Devin: I think we’re similar to The Pixies, The Cranberries, and Wolf Alice.
Justin: I have a hard time personally comparing my music to other artists, but I’ve heard we sound like Smashing Pumpkins, Garbage, and The Pixies.
Danny: The Pixies, Garbage, and The Cranberries.
Andy: Pavement, Polaris, and The Pixies.
MEB: If you could choose three artists to go on tour with who would they be and what would your tour be named ?
Devin: Mine have to be Bully, Dilly Dally, and Slothrust! I would call it Bonertown.
Justin: Alive or dead? Well Nirvana would be one for sure, Circa Survive, and to change things up a bit, Kendrick Lamar. The name of the tour? I don’t know since the styles are so different it can called the FM Tour or Fucking Music Tour, because who cares about the style difference, it’s fucking music.
Danny: I’d like to tour with Silversun Pickups, The Joy Formidable, and Sonic Youth.
Andy: I have to say Iris, Slugs, and Dilly Dally. It would be called Grunge is Dead.
MEB: If money wasn’t a factor, where would you want to tour and how would you decorate your stage?
Devin: A tour cruise! Just sail around on a big houseboat, dock in coastal cities around the world, and play from a big stage on the top of the boat. Then we’d go ashore and afterparty with the locals every night.
Justin: I’m a big Newcastle United fan so I would love to be able to tour England! As for the stage, just bring all the crazy lights, have a bunch of people dancing on stage, and some weird shit projected behind us. I like the idea of having a party on stage and sharing that with people.
Danny: Japan. Full of anime.
Andy: If money weren’t an object I’d like to be the first band to play a show on Mars. I’d decorate the stage with fresh oxygen and life sustaining NASA meals.
MEB: What do you hope your audience takes away from your music?
Devin: Happy and sad crying. Learning about themselves.
Justin: Some cute shit with all the feels.
Danny: I hope for our music to become that special part of their lives where they listen to us and remember the hard times they’ve experienced but have an uplifting effect for them.
Andy: I hope they feel some feels and get a catchy melody stuck in their head.
MEB: What advice do you have for other local bands trying to make a name for themselves in LA?
Devin: Go to a lot of shows and become friends with like-minded artists. You don’t have to be best friends with every single musician in LA, but just have mutual respect for each other. If we’re all supporting each other then it’s easier to succeed. And don’t waste time with idiots who don’t appreciate you or your friendship.
Justin: Play shows and keep playing shows. Don’t worry about what kind of sound you want to go for, trying to figure out the genre or style is bullshit. Just write a song and if you like it then play it for people.
Danny: Play music that you want to play. Perform with all your heart. Express gratitude for those that support you.
Andy: Whatever the advice is I’d like some of it, cause we’re also a local band trying to make a name for ourselves in LA.
MEB: What big plans should we be looking forward to from Ramonda Hammer in the near future besides your debut album?
Devin: A brand new, very cinematic music video for our song “If, Then” is almost done being edited and we can’t wait to share that early this summer! Besides that and going on a west coast tour in June, we’ll be working on new music and I really want to record again in the fall!
Justin: Honestly I have no idea at this point, but I know it’s all going to be good. I’ve been in this band for less than a year and more stuff has happened than I could’ve ever imagined.
Danny: Become our friends to find out!
Andy: We’re going on tour in June! Up to Seattle and back with lots of stops along the way. Looking forward to making friends and fans all up the coast.
Ramonda Hammer’s Debut Album Whatever That Means is out now!