Juliette Lewis made her name as an actress in the 1990s working with high-profile directors like Martin Scorsese and Oliver Stone in Cape Fear and Natural Born Killers. In the last few years, though, she's reinvented herself as a rock 'n' roll singer, fronting Juliette & the Licks—a high-energy, mediocre modern rock band somewhere between Lenny Kravitz and Jet, just with a movie star in front and not some nameless dude—since 2004.
"Every year and every few months is a new stepping stone," Lewis said recently while traveling to Brazil to share a festival stage with The Killers and Björk. "It's been an amazing ride, and we've been pretty relentless about it."
The Licks have played with Queens of the Stone Age and Jet. Dave Grohl played drums on the band's second album, Four on the Floor, and took the Licks on tour. They recently finished a tour with MUSE. Lewis wants the Licks to strive on the stage: "For me, it was about the live show, first and foremost. I think anything else you can't predict, but you can always create that really exciting live show and connect with people."
To wit, Lewis' live performances often involve spandex and leather outfits. She moves so much onstage, she says, she needs to wear something that fits as a second skin. During one set, she wore a simple necklace. By night's end, it had to be ripped from her hair.
Touring the world as a musician has been a learning experience all around. "I thought I was tenacious before I did this!" Lewis says, laughing. "Now, I've learned even more about persistence after this ... a real strengthening of purpose."
Lewis says she doesn't have any movies in the works, but once the current Licks tour ends, she plans to start work on the next record. That is, "after we sleep and probably do laundry and have Christmas." Music is still new for Lewis at a time when Hollywood doesn't have much to offer: "It's a difficult thing to find films that are unique and fresh, and I got lucky early on, working with some incredible filmmakers on some of their wildest movies."
Juliette & the Licks play Local 506 Saturday, Nov. 3, at 9 p.m. with Scisssors for Lefty and Suffrajette. Tickets are $12-$14.