Punk Not Dead – Brody Dalle
by Rebecca Swanner
In the heart of New York City, Brody Dalle wails into the microphone. Her kohl-rimmed eyes squeeze shut, her black hair, coated with sweat, sticks to her face, and her ruby red lips open to let out a wrenching scream: “They say this is the city/The city of angels/All I see is dead wings.” But this is no city of angels. In fact, Dalle is more than three thousand miles from her home in the hills of Los Angeles. Onstage, inside a blisteringly steamy CBGB, Dalle, then the frontwoman of the furious punk rock band The Distillers, stirs the cramped audience—a mess of grubby, rail-thin punks and celebrities like Janeane Garofalo—into a frenzy that has them crashing into one another as waves of fans push up toward the small stage.
It was July of 2003. The Distillers had recently signed a contract with Sire Records, a division of Warner Music Group. They were on a break from Lollapalooza and were already hard at work on Coral Fang, their third album, due to be released that October. But not all was well in their world. Coral Fang would be the last record The Distillers would release together, and Dalle, the sneering mouthpiece of the band, had been caught kissing the lead singer of Queens of the Stone Age in a Rolling Stone photo—which wouldn’t have been a problem had she not been married to Rancid’s Tim Armstrong.
That photo and the divorce that soon followed would split part of the punk world in two. When the pair were together, being a fan of both bands wasn’t a stretch. Musically, they had much in common. But after that fateful summer, it was as if you had to choose sides. Even at this intimate show, one male fan crowd-surfed holding a sign that read “Take Tim Back.” Dalle ignored him. It seemed, at least as far as the outside world was concerned, she’d moved on. When The Distillers released Coral Fang that October, there were no breakup songs. (On the other hand, Rancid’s Indestructible, released that August, featured songs such as “Tropical London” and “Fall Back Down,” which showed Armstrong wasn’t grieving quietly.)
Dalle changed her last name (she’s had seven since birth) almost immediately after the split, naming herself after her favorite screen star, the French actress Béatrice Dalle, who, to Brody’s surprise, surfaced at their Paris show the following February. She recalls, “I almost stopped singing and freaked out because I could see her in the back of the room.” Before settling on her new last name, Brody returned home to her native Melbourne. “I was in Australia and my aunt’s got a really great sense of humor. She was like, ‘What are you going to call yourself now? Maybe you should get really authentic and make it a real Australian name. You know, like Brody Bushwacker or Brody Kangaroo!’ She was totally fucking with me,” Dalle recalls, her faint accent finally slipping in. While she’s Brody to you, Dalle’s family still calls her by her given name, Bree. “They call me Breezy Wheezy, which drives me crazy because when I was a kid I was asthmatic, so I got called Breezy Wheezy—which seems really cruel!” Continue reading