Like many popular young female singers these days, Taylor Momsen has been criticized for incorporating sexuality into her performances, photos and videos. The Pretty Reckless singer sees a bit of a double standard there.
“I can see Robert Plant’s dick!” she exclaims of the Led Zeppelin frontman’s sometimes-revealing attire. “I don’t know if anyone is aware of that, but I don’t know why everyone just focuses on women.”
In large sunglasses, an Eric Clapton T-shirt and knees popping out of torn jeans upstairs at the House of Blues before a late October performance, the 20-year-old artist actually looks more like Plant or Kurt Cobain than the controversial musician who wraps a snake around her naked body in the video for the band’s new single “Going to Hell.” The hard-rocking cut is the title track to the band’s sophomore album, which Momsen expects to arrive in March.
Momsen—perhaps best known for her time on “Gossip Girl,” though she’s all about music now—says the wardrobe is the only difference between her onstage and offstage personality. That disconnect notwithstanding, it’s good to have a rock band worth listening to that, as Momsen says, wants to “just crank to 10 and play.”
You said that parents have called the cops during your shows about things being inappropriate. What are they taking issue with?
That was a show somewhere overseas, and a fan jumped onstage and got naked and was dancing and the cops got called. Weirdly I think it was a boy whose dad was like, “This is inappropriate for my son to see” [Laughs].
I’m sure the kid was like (whispering), “Dad, stop!”
(whispers) “Shh, shh, it’s fine!” Whatever. It’s live rock and roll. You never really know what’s going to happen, which is what keeps it entertaining.
There have been so many times with rock bands that you hear people saying, “Mothers, lock up your daughters,” but you don’t often hear, “Mothers, lock up your sons.”
[Laughs] “Mothers, lock up your sons,” yeah. That was a new one for us, but you never know. A family member’s pregnant and it’s her due date today and she’s coming to the show [Laughs], so maybe we’ll have a new experience tonight of water breaking.
You toured with Guns 'N Roses. What did you learn from Axl Rose, for better or worse?
We’ve played with so many people now at this point that really just playing with acts that have been doing it for so long, it really makes you step up your game. Particularly Axl’s voice was just insane. He can go out for two, three hours every night and just wail. And it was like, “OK, I gotta go on before that, so I gotta not suck tonight.” So it definitely makes everyone be better.
Does it take a long time to warm up your voice to get that point or can you turn it on whenever you need it?
[Laughs] I don’t do anything. I don’t have any [techniques]. Everyone always asks me that. I drink a drink and smoke a cigarette and walk on stage. That’s my pre-show ritual.
To get warmed up?
Yeah, if you call that warming up. [Laughs] I pretty much do that anyway, whether it’s a show or not.
Why do you think there aren’t more rock bands out there now that, for lack of a better term, sound like they have some balls?
I don’t know. I think music’s kind of cyclical. I think pop always exists and once in a while, every 10 or 20 years or however long it is, a band comes back in and guitar’s just cooler than everything. Crank it to 10, and it just takes over. There’s definitely a lack of rock bands right now, and rock could definitely use a resurgence, but we hope to be a part of that. It is what it is right now. [Laughs]
It seems like it’s been a long time. You can see from playing Lollapalooza in 2011 that the quantity of actual rock is not there.
Not so much right now, no. All the bands in England and stuff--there’s a few bands coming up, this band called The Stripes, they’re like these 16-year-old kids that are good. They just need to plug in and turn it up. At least playing is coming back into music again. It’s not just all computers. There’s people actually playing instruments again. That’s starting to come back around. Again, just plug it in. [Laughs]