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Jennifer Herrema of RTX

Down with democracy

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Jennifer Herrema of RTX
  • Jennifer Herrema of RTX

Jennifer Herrema doesn't think too much about the expectations that inevitably follow RTX, the Royal Trux offshoot she formed four years ago without her former partner of 13 years, Neil Hagerty. There's no goal in mind and certainly no ulterior motive. It wasn't even a decision, she says.

"I'm still myself. There's no conscious or super-conscious effort to take on some kind of put-on genre," says Herrema. "Royal Trux was a phenomenal way of working, but it was like big government. Major checks and balances both ways. I wanted to move a little bit more fluidly."

RTX has afforded her that freedom, but it didn't come easy. The band's 2004 Drag City debut, Transmaniacon, was recorded by only Herrema, her second guitarist and an engineer. Something was lost in trying to replicate the record's sound on a subsequent 35-show tour; Herrema felt frustrated and disappointed.

"[It was just] playing the songs. There weren't enough liberties taken," she says. The length of the tour added to the dissatisfaction, and Herrema overhauled the band before taking RTX to Europe, scrapping two members, hiring a new drummer and moving her guitar player to bass. It clicked. She says, simply, "It was a lot more fun."

On this year's Western Xterminator, their second album, the band is newly functioning as a collaborative unit, and it shows: Xterminator is a focused chunk of deeply fucked-with classic rock, reminiscent of Royal Trux's most sonically dense and hooky late records but with a sensibility that is Herrema's alone. And this tour seems up to the task of bringing ferocious, spontaneous performances of the album's monstrous tunes.

"Tonight's gonna be our eighth show, and I'm the happiest I've ever been," Herrema declares. And she's dealing with her band politics in admirable fashion this time around. "Any good band could never possibly be a democracy. But there's nothing like sharing common ground and respecting it and letting it breathe."

RTX plays Local 506 with Totimoshi and Black Skies on Wednesday, May 23, at 9 p.m. Tickets are $8 in advance and $10 at the door.

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