“It’s a dirty… rock & roll song.” This is how Automatic Loveletter frontwoman Juliet Simms describes the sound of one of the band’s flagship tunes, “Heartsong.” Her same words could just as easily describe herself: dirty rock & roll chick.
No, that’s not a poke at the 24-year-old’s personal hygiene. It’s more a testament to the fact that Simms has lived rock & roll from her teen years, and has been as well somewhat sullied by it.
“It was tough,” she tells of the beginnings of her music career. “I had all my clothes in my car in the trunk,” she says, “and [would] stay at friends’ houses for weeks at a time, and just leave all my shit in the car.”
The “old, beat up Crown Victoria” served as both limo and closet for the then late-teen, as she took to the streets of Los Angeles in hopes of her big break, a tale detailed in the song “Story of My Life.”
Though her dream of making music has been realized, Simms does still show some vulnerability, and knows she hasn’t yet quite “made it.”
“I’ve just upgraded to a van,” she laughs when asked about the sacrifices she’s made and return she’s seen on them. “It’s still not easy; living in a band with boys,” she says, “travelling to a different city every day.” She goes on to talk more about her sometimes less-than-adequate backstage accommodations.
“You’re in a bar for a venue every night, doing your make-up in a frickin’ bathroom,” she vents. “It’s still really, really difficult.”
Before the dirty rock & roll life became her own, Simms was passionate about other forms of musical arts.
“I was actually a dancer for about 10 years,” she says of her early childhood love, one that she’s interested in continuing to have an affair with. “I want to get back into it so bad!” she projects with candid enthusiasm.
During her dancing years, the self-proclaimed Harry Potter dork was a gymnast, taking classes in everything from jazz to ballet. Along with recent attempts to begin attending classes, though, Simms also has her sights set on the Great White Way.
“Another thing that I definitely want to do in my life is musical theater,” she says. “I love it so much.” She goes on, “Aside from Automatic Loveletter, I would love to, I don’t know, one day do a Broadway show like, y’know… Rent, or, I don’t know… Footloose,” she laughs.
Just don’t expect to see any tutus and ballet moves at any A.L.L. shows anytime soon. “Oh, my God! That would just be ridiculous!”
Not that it’s likely, but it wouldn’t be impossible to see Simms cut a rug on stage with her lead guitarist.
“We were each other’s swing dancing partners,” she says of Tommy Simms, her older brother by two years and current bandmate.
“We were actually really good,” she boasts. “We would be at school dances, and everybody would be like, ‘Dude, do something! Do something!’ and he would flip me around,” she reminisces in laughter.
From swing dance flips to electric guitar licks, this dirty rock & roll chick has always had a band of boys to keep things interesting.
“The rotation of band members has been definitely quite a ride,” says Simms. “There [have] been so many different players. Ultimately, Automatic Loveletter has been around since 2006, 2007.”
Starting with herself as the foundation, on vocals and guitar, the band currently consists of drummer Ryan Metcalf, bassist Clint Fowler, and lead guitarist and brother Tommy.
“My brother has been playing off and on with me my whole life,” she explains. “He’s been touring with me off and on for the last few years, so he’s the most consistent one in the band right now.”
The other two musicians are much newer to the set, and were met through mutual friends. “Ryan has been with us since Warped Tour.” Fowler, who joined as bassist just under a year ago, was offered the gig in a much less formal manner.
“I met Clint randomly at a New Years Eve party last year,” Simms tells of their first encounter. During this time, she had been on the hunt for a bass player. “He told me he played bass, and I was like, ‘Cool! Do you want to be in my band?’ And he was like, ‘Sure!’” After following up the next day, he asked if she was serious. “I said, ‘Hell yeah!’” And he was in.
With such a new roster of band members, and a full-length debut that was in the works for years before its release, it’s only obvious that the majority of the album was completed without any of their input. Juliet Simms explains whether this affects their progress.
“On this particular album, besides two songs that me and Tommy collaborated on, I didn’t have them as band members yet,” she says. “They had nothing to do with the production or the writing or recording.”
So, what’s their purpose in the band?
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“I can say that what they do bring is an excellent live show,” she continues. “They’re great musicians! And they do add their own Tommy-flavor or Ryan-flavor–they’ll add stuff that’s really cool that will excite me for future songwriting.”
During those times where the rock & roll life gets too dirty, Simms is also able to use her bandmates as a sanctuary.
“They also bring joy to my life,” she giggles. “That’s another thing that they add in [to the group].”
All of these added counterparts are only a compliment to the coarse, strepitous, almost abrasive vocals Simms belts out that make you constantly want to offer her a Ricola. While the band’s music is not particularly groundbreaking, Simms’ voice allows for an entertaining listen regardless. This should be most evident on the project she’s most recently been working on.
“I’m going to LA to record an acoustic EP,” she says of her recent trip back to where it all began. “As a band, we talked about taking some of the Truth or Dare songs and recording them acoustic here in Florida,” she goes on, “but I think that in LA, it’s just gonna be all new stuff–just singer/songwrite-y new acoustic songs.”
One of the songs sure to be on this pending release will be “Heartsong,” as she says of the acoustic performances of the tune: “It’s really cool! It’s really rad! That’s like the #1 song that we want to record acoustically.”
In the first part of the New Year, you can look to see Automatic Loveletter spending both yen as well as dollars.
“We are set to go to Japan in January, and in April for PunkSpring,” says Simms of her band’s 2011 schedule. The next music video (“Right now, we’re discussing two songs: ‘Story of My Life’ and ‘Let It Ride.’”) is set to be filmed in Japan as well. “Lots of sushi to be had in 2011!”
The debut album, Truth or Dare, will be released internationally next year. With it, Juliet Simms and her band of heartfelt letter writers invite you to stay for awhile in her life–a life of dirty rock & roll.