Posted March 22, 2007

Here at the I-94 Bar, we’ve just about run out of superlatives to find to apply to Detroit band The Paybacks. Terms like “hard rocking”, “soulful” and “motherfucking wonderful” just don’t cut it. Fronted by the amazing vocal talents of Ms WENDY CASE, they're powered by the sort of hi-octane guitar-driven, don’t-give-a-shit-about-fuel-economy musical V-8 that they just don’t manufacture these days - in the Motor City or anywhere else. The Paybacks have recently released their third and most well-rounded album to date in “Love Not Reason”. Packed with the characteristic power but showing a more sensitive side, it’s simply an essential for anyone with a love for Heartbreakers-tinged raunch, AC/DC swing and a more refined take on the "Raw Power" Stooges attack. It's so good that we sent our Italian-based writer ROBERT CALABRO out to corner the band’s front-lady to find out what makes it the killer record it is. It's her second visit to the Bar. Here’s the result...


You’ve just released a new album “Love, Not Reason” and it shows two important things: you’ve changed drummer and label. Why did you left Get Hip
after two well-received albums and why did Mike Latulippe leave the band?

Mike was ready to retire from the road. After 10 years with the Hentchmen and four years with us, he'd pretty much seen it all. We're all still very good friends. In terms of the label, it was time for us to do our own thing. We had an opportunity to do it ourselves and have much more extensive distribution than we were able to have with Get Hip, so we took it. It was also a better deal for us to put the money in our own pockets.

It took you a couple of years to release a new album. What have you been doing in the meantime?

Dan was doing The Muggs, John was doing SSM and I was sobering up and writing songs.

Your new album “Love, Not Reason” is focused on love. The title comes from a Thomas Mann’s sentence: “It is love, not reason, that is stronger than death”. Can we consider it as a concept-album?

I hate to admit it, but, yes. It seems trite to confess that an album is all about love but, really, what else is there? This album is the result of a period in my life that was centered on the chaos of a very important relationship. It's all in there: the love, the sex, the loss, the effort to fuck it all away and the realization that nothing else can match the intensity of that desire. It renders everything else useless.

Some say that real uncompromised rock’n’roll and love are fuelled by the same thing: passion. Do you agree?

Absolutely. Those are two things in life that you can't fake: love and rock 'n' roll. A lot of people try, but the charade never lasts.

Wendy, what kind of relationship do you have with love? Are the album’s lyrics deeply personal?

All of the lyrics to all of our albums are deeply personal. They are all based on real events – whether I'm singing about heartbreak or a hangover.

What is your fave tune of the new album and why? Is there any song you feel closer to?

Wow! Nobody has asked me that. It's hard to pick, but I guess I'm more partial to the really melodic numbers: "Dumb Love" and "Bring it Back”. I also really like "Call When You're Ready" though: it's more of a sexy, old-school jam.

“Love, Not Reason”, more than your previous albums, shows the Paybacks’ melodic side. I mean, songs such as “Dumb Love”, “Painkiller”, Something Simple”, “Bring It Back”.

Was this a band’s choice or this side of your sound came out naturally?

We always do what comes naturally. There's never been a big plan. We just hit it hard and see what makes sense. This period was a little darker time, a little tougher and also more vulnerable. I think the record reflects that. We try to make honest records. We have too much respect for our audience to bullshit them.

Your vocal style has been raucous and powerful so far. But in “Painkiller” you show a fantastic soul oriented singing. How did you move into this musical territory?

That's always been there, part of my trip. There just was never a reason to put it on a record until now. 

Tell me something about Detroit. In the last years many fantastic bands came out from the Motor City:  apart from the million-seller White Stripes, there are The Dirtbombs, The Soledad Brothers,  Demolition Doll Rods, The Sirens, just to name few of them… Is there a real rock’n’roll scene over there. If so, do you feel part of it? What kind of relationship do you have with the other Detroit’s bands?

We are all pretty close. It's weird these days because we've all been on the road for so long that we don't really hang out anymore. But it's definitely a family-type thing.

At this point do you live with music or do you have another job?

When I'm at home, I sometimes freelance as a journalist. But, mostly, it's music. Rock 'n' roll.

Are you satisfied with your musical career or do you wish a greater (mass) success ?

Well, a little more money wouldn't hurt my feelings or anybody else's! But, on the whole, I'm very satisfied with the way things are. The Paybacks have been very fortunate. We've had the opportunity to make music we're proud of and play it for our extraordinary fans. For that, we'll be forever grateful.

Apart from music what are your personal interests?

I love vintage travel trailers. My man and I have an old one from 1955. We like to take it out into the woods and camp out like a couple of hermits. 

What kind of music are you listening to at the moment and what music did you listen when you were a teenager?  What bands influenced you and made you to take the decision to start a band?

At the moment? I've been listening to Steven Malkmus' solo records and a killer rock band from North Carolina called All Night. Growing up, it was the Stones, Cheap Trick, Judas Priest, the Ramones, the Damned, anything that got your blood pumping.

Your live activity is pretty intense. What are your favourite countries to play live? And what countries would you like to play in the near future?

Spain has been very, very good to us. That's why we keep going back. I'd like to make it to Italy, Australia and Mexico some time soon.

You shared the stage with many bands. Same question: what are the bands you loved to play with and with who you’d like to play?

We always have a great time when we go out with Southern Culture on the Skids. They are greatm usicians, funny as hell too. Same thing with Supagroup. They rock and they make us laugh our asses off. We recently toured with Danny's other band, The Muggs. That was a blast as well.

Rock music is a tremendous way to communicate and get in touch with people. Now also technology (Internet, Myspace, etc.) helps in keeping in touch with friends and fans. Do you use it to communicate with your fans?

Yes we do. We love hearing from fans and always do our best to keep in touch. It's pretty amazing to live in this modern age where we can all communicate with each other. Much different than what I grew up with.

“Love Not Reason” is out now on Savage Jams
through Shock Records in Australia and is reviewed here. The band's website is down but you can taste them via Myspace here.