Two and a half years ago, Jackie Stone had just graduated from high school in Falkenberg, Sweden, when he and his bandmates decided to sell everything they had and head for London.
Stone’s band, the oddly spelled Vains of Jenna, had just been offered a chance gig at LA’s infamous Whiskey A Go Go as part of Crüefest 2005. Sporting birthdates in 1981, 1983, and 1986, vocalist/guitarist Lizzy Devine, bassist JP White, lead guitarist Nicki Kin, and Stone were barely legal, clearing it with their parents before spending thousands of dollars on the flight to Hollywood for the show. The young Swedes packed themselves into their old, silver Volvo Estate, took the ferry to the UK, and tried to land some shows on the London club circuit before their first trip Stateside. The beloved “Silverfish” became their home for more than a month, as the band snagged five or six gigs and settled back into their respective sections of the car when night fell on London’s streets.
“That was one of the best times,” recalls Stone, the band’s drummer. “We each would eat a sandwich a day, get some bottles of beer when we could, and play shows. I had one of the best times of my life when I was there.”
Fast forward to summer 2006. After turning some heads during their first appearance in the States, VOJ cut tracks with ex-Guns N’ Roses guitarist Gilby Clarke, recorded their first album, toured Southern Europe and the UK, and ultimately relocated to the music-saturated LA scene.
The band started making some noise on the Sunset Strip with loads of raw energy, a trashy rock ’n’ roll sound, and throwback sleaze appeal. Within a few weeks they were playing for respectable audiences in the core of Hollywood’s club scene — places where British bands like The Who, Led Zeppelin, and Cream cut their teeth in America. They attracted the attention of skateboarding icon and Jackass celeb Bam Margera, who created a record label and signed the band immediately after catching an explosive live show at the Cat Club.
The foursome looks like they just walked off a Guns N’ Roses album cover. Despite Sweden’s reputation for spawning melodic death- and black-metal bands (not to mention the candy pop of ABBA), they were fed a steady diet of straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll.
“JP and I, because we’re brothers, always remember riding with Mom and Dad in the old station wagon, and they’d have mixtapes of old rock like Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, the Stones, Motley,” said Stone. “Then around ’94, I was a huge Nirvana fan.”
VOJ released their debut, Lit Up/Let Down, on Margera’s Filthy Note label in October 2006 and just came off a tour opening for ’80s hair-metal legends Poison and Ratt. “It was awesome to be able to tour with them,” said Stone, who turned 21 just before hitting the circuit. “It’s kind of weird to be able to play huge amphitheaters and arenas, and then to be able to do it with Poison and Ratt. We’ve listened to them since we were 10 years old.” A revamped White Lion lineup was slated to open, but the VOJ camp landed the slot after legal issues forced White Lion to bow out.
We caught up with Stone just a day before the Viva La Bands tour opened, a 30-date affair featuring Cradle of Filth, GWAR, CKY, and Vains of Jenna. “It’s perfect because we’ve been home for three weeks since we got off the last tour, and now we’re starting up another big one,” said Stone. “It’s gonna be a different audience, of course, but it’s good to have some competition on the stage as well to see how the audience reacts to you. Since it’s Bam’s tour and his label, he’ll be at a lot of those dates and that’s really good promotion.”
The band has mixed feelings about the success of their self-produced debut, largely because only 3,000 copies made it to the stores and those are long gone. “Right now people can’t find them, so the only way to buy an album is on our website, Myspace, or at concerts,” said Stone. “That sucks so much, but once this tour’s done, we want to record a new album. A much better one, with a lot more time behind it and hopefully a lot more money.”
In addition to their over-the-top image, reminiscent of an earlier era, one of Vains of Jenna’s major strengths is their ass-kicking live show, delivered with an abrasive energy that embodies their fuck-you attitude.
“A lot of stuff happened really fast, but we’ve worked so hard to get where we are right now,” said Stone. “But if you don’t work hard, if you don’t take chances, nothing’s gonna happen. It’s giving 200 percent on the stage in front of five people or 5,000 people; that’s how you gain fans. If you don’t do that, then there’s no point being in a band.” •
Viva la Bands Tour w. Cradle of Filth, Gwar, CKY, & Vains of Jenna
6:30pm Sat, Oct 6
1174 E. Commerce