For Jane Wiedlin, some parts of the rock lifestyle are impossible to leave behind. As a founding member of the punk band the Go-Go's, she palled around with the Germs, toured with Madness, played with X, lived in LA's famous punk-rock dormitory the Canterbury, and crafted some of the catchiest pop-punk songs ever made ("Our Lips Are Sealed" and "Vacation" among them). But after nearly 40 years, the band called it quits after a fall-2016 farewell tour. Fast-forward a few months, and Wiedlin is about to hit the road in support of an entirely new project: Elettrodomestico (Italian for "appliance" — "It's kind of random," admits Wiedlin), a collaboration with Italian musician Pietro Straccia that finds itself at the intersection of psych-pop, electronic music, and rock-'n'-roll rebellion.
The album, If You're a Boy or a Girl, which comes out on October 20, is full of upbeat songs built around unexpectedly darker lyrics. And that's just how Wiedlin likes it: "I've always gravitated toward that mix because otherwise it's boring," she says. "If everything is all yeah yeah yeah and the lyrics are yeah yeah yeah , it's just not really for me." It is a combination that should sound familiar to fans of the Go-Go's, whose sugary tunes always have an added kick.
As she prepared to hit the road again, she called me up from her home in the Bay Area to talk about her new band, her punk past, and why she doesn't write love songs anymore.
Melissa Locker: What inspired this album, especially so soon after the Go-Go's retired?
Jane Wiedlin: When David Bowie died, I was super-depressed, so I started writing a lot. All of a sudden, I had tons of lyrics. I contacted Pietro, who I met when he made a solo album in my recording studio, to see if he would be interested in making songs out of them. We started in January 2016. I didn't really have a goal in mind or thoughts about where we would place them, but by the end of the year, we had an album's worth of songs and nowhere to put them, so we decided to start a band.
ML: The music you and Pietro make sounds pretty different from what people might expect from you.
JW: I think that's great. It's so nice to be doing something different. I have to credit Pietro, because he's a way better musician than me and he has a kind of mixture of American and Italian sensibilities. I think that's why it sounds so different. I also try to delve deeper lyrically because I'm older and more introspective. I was always very explanatory in my lyric-writing, and I tried really hard not to do that this time. I wanted to be more poetic and more mysterious.
ML: How do you think your songwriting has changed over the years?
JW: Less love songs for sure. After you've been repeatedly crushed in love, you lose the taste for writing about it. I think that's true of anybody if they're older and haven't been in one relationship their whole life. I'm kind of a serial monogamist. I've been married twice and have been with a few guys long-term, but I've been single for a while, and I'm over it.
ML: What are the songs on your album about?
JW: I would say mostly alienation and despair [ laughs ]. It's so cheerful! I'm hoping it will be uplifting to people, and that if they happen to notice what the songs are about, they will just take them as they are.