One-Man Band Series, #14: Two Tears

One-Man Band Series, #14: Two Tears

With a sound straight from the garage, Two Tears is one part indie rock, one part alterna-pop, and two parts punk, along with a few other less obvious styles. She is all attitude, this talented one-woman band, with a thrift store fashion sense and a rather down-to-earth manner about her.

- James G. Carlson

posted April 4, 2011

Despite its name, the one-man band movement isn't exclusive to one gender. It is, admittedly, a male-dominated realm of independent and underground music, though there are a handful of notable female singer/songwriters involved as well. One such songstress is the very lovely and talented Kerry Davis, whose one-woman band project Two Tears has seen a fair amount of success in recent years.

With a sound straight from the garage, Two Tears is one part indie rock, one part alterna-pop, and two parts punk, along with a few other less obvious styles. She is all attitude, this talented one-woman band, with a thrift store fashion sense and a rather down-to-earth manner about her. Also, with her fiery and slightly raspy vocals, her raw chord progressions and sharp note patterns on electric guitar, and her well-timed kick drum work, Davis has indeed created her own signature sound. In fact, hers is a sound somewhat reminiscent of the early to mid '90s underground alternative scene, before the corporate mainstream music machine took notice of what bands like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, The Pixies, and Dinosaur jr. were doing, ate it up and spat it out as a ripped off and highly commercialized product for suburban teenage consumers. In other words, it was at that very moment that the genre was utterly and conclusively ruined, with a large portion of a generation singing about what teen spirit smelled like, sitting comfortably on their parents' living room sofas and raging against the machine, imaging what it would be like to get caught stealing, and listening to Green Day's Billie Joe Armstrong welcome them to paradise. Undeniably, it was a sad time for music, save for that which remained independent and kept itself deep in the underground, playing to a dedicated scene of individuals at various all-ages venues, and holding true to the ethics of important, meaningful and worthwhile music. But, as I've already said, Davis's sound is reminiscent of this past genre when it was at its very best, combined with her own original style and devil-may-care attitude.

Actually, it was in the '90s that Kerry Davis got her start in the LA all-girl band The Red Aunts, whose time together was marked by a good deal of success...as such bands in such scenes go, anyway. Later she teamed up with Mick Collins of The Gories and The Dirtbombs for a project called The Screws, and then joined Beehive and Barracudas, which featured San Diego musicians from such notable bands as Rocket From the Crypt, Hot Snakes, Burning Brides, and Pee Chees. When all of that was said and done, Davis formed her Two Tears endeavor, which had a full band lineup at first. After releasing a full-length album in 2004 titled "Enjoy Yourself," she simply packed her bags, relocated to Paris, France, and began her rock'n'roll adventure as a "one-lady band," as she refers to herself.

Since then she resided in Dubai for a time. She toured Europe extensively in support of such bands and singer/songwriters as The Donnas, Mark Sultan, and Dan Sartain. She appeared in Adam Clitheroe's remarkable documentary "One Man in the Band." She released a second full-length Two Tears album and two 7" pieces of vinyl. At present, Davis lives in New York City, where her music is surely quite at home.

Recently I had both the opportunity and pleasure of interviewing Kerry Davis of Two Tears. What follows is the content from that interview in its entirety.

For the interviews involved with this particular series I routinely begin in an introductory fashion, so as to provide the reader with a better understanding of the artist with whom I am working. With that said, I would like to ask: Who is Kerry Davis (aka Two Tears), not just as a singer/songwriter but also an individual, a human being of this mad, mad world in which we live?

Haha. I am a female human being back in New York City for the past two and a half years. Before that I was bopping around Europe and living in the Middle East. I like animals, going out to dinner and being nice to people. Or really fake mean to make my friends laugh. I make some art, collages and printing. I've been playing electric guitar for about eighteen years, and other instruments, such as drums and keys, but poorly. I speak French. I like thrift stores. And Pedro Almodóvar movies sum up my philosophy on life.

How about a little history of your project Two Tears?

The Two Tears started right after September 11th, when I moved from Los Angeles back to New York where I grew up. I had a bunch of songs on my four track after my last band the Red Aunts broke up. I started playing with some guys I knew from home, they recorded the first record with me, and ever since the line-up has changed depending on where I go and who can come with me. I think there has been about twenty to thirty different people in the Two Tears. Whatever needs to be done to continue to play out. I started playing as a "one lady band" years ago, when a drummer didn't show up to practice. Drums were my first instrument, I knew I could play a beat on the kick drum that wasn't only in 4/4, and I just went for it!

As a talented and driven one-woman band in a musical movement that is clearly rather male-dominated, what has been your personal and artistic experience?

I think I've had more opportunities as a female in the scene because it's more interesting to watch women than men. We're different. There are less of us and therefore it's more special. Of course, if I weren't any good, it wouldn't matter what my sex was. I think people like me because I wear my heart on my sleeve and have a stripped-down setup with only a guitar and kick drum with a tambourine taped on top of it. Most of my songs are about heartbreak, as I am playing rock'n'roll and that's kind of the formula..."ooo, baby" and all that.

The only time being a woman was a problem was when I was touring alone through Europe and I was concerned for my safety, riding trains at night and trying to find clubs in dark corners. Normally promoters really help and take care of me. I always get the best bed or room on tour as the only chick.

From what I have gathered over the course of doing this series, the one-man band/one-woman band scene is more prevalent in Europe than the States. It is also true that many of the Stateside-based one-person bands favor touring in Europe over the US, some of them even relocating to select parts of Europe as a new crop of musical expatriates. What has been your experience in touring these two very different circuits?

I've only played a bit in the US alone and prefer Europe as the pay is better, the distances between shows are shorter and the scene is stronger. Most one-man band music is blues-based and Europeans really idealize American music and our culture. It's just better for business to play over there. And the cities are pretty and the boys have cute accents...and the food is amazzzziiinnnggggggg. Don't get me wrong, I will throw down on a hot dog or some BBQ, but Italy and France have it going on cuisine-wise.

You are undoubtedly one of the hardest working independent artists involved in the one-person band community these days, with your handful of releases to date, with your seemingly ceaseless touring schedule, and so on. As such, are you more or less content with the level of success you have reached over the years, or do you have aspirations of further ascending from the independent and underground stations of music to perhaps breathe in a bit of the mainstream air?

At this point, I'm just so happy to play and I'm really, really grateful I found my "thing" when I was young. I would like some more help with tour support and booking shows and better distribution of my recordings. Most are out of print now, which is kind of sad for me. I guess everyone wants to breathe some mainstream air, as that can translate into more money. And that enables you to play more. I saw Prince last night in concert and I just wanted to come home and kiss my guitar. I feel really lucky. The thing is, there's no decisions to be made, like, should I do it or not; it chose me, I didn't choose it. I have to do it. It's just part of me. And I'll never stop.

What have been some of your most memorable touring/gig moments to date?

Playing the B.O.M.B Festival in Bremen, Germany hosted by Dad Horse was so fun and so warm, and it was so great to see all the one-man bands together. Mr. Occhio had me crying laughing, he says he can't speak English well, but he did a radio interview to promote the shows that I would pay a million dollars to hear again. Also, the Big Sound of Country Music played such beautiful music, but announced his songs with things like, "This song is about when I killed my whole family." I played the ONE Festival in Denver that was also so well organized, and Alex, the promoter, cared so much for all our comfort. Honkeyfinger was there and so was Reverend Beat-Man. I had never seen him before and he blew us all off stage. Every one-man bad event/show I have played has been special; I wish people would invite me to play more! I toured in Brazil this summer and was with The Fabulous Go-Go Boy from Alabama, and then flew over to Buenos Aires to play with Trash Colapso. He and I had been friends on MySpace for years and we finally met. I couldn't believe I was in South America. The thing I love most about this scene is seeing how everyone has a different setup and persona.

Having been part of full band line-ups like the Red Aunts and Beehive and the Barracudas, and now doing your solo thing with your Two Tears endeavor, do you prefer the one-lady band approach over the full bands you took part in? Or would you rather one day return to a band setup?

I like doing both. I love the freedom of my one lady band, as I don't have to depend on anybody. I can practice when I want. I can tour when I want. I can play fast. I can play slow. Change the tempo mid-song. The only thing I do not like is that I can't move around, since I am stuck to the drum. So now I try and do small intros to walk around the stage or do backbends when playing and add little dances and flourishes with my arms at the end of songs.

And as I mentioned, touring alone was very, very difficult. I'll never do it again. No one to talk to during the day or being perceived as too friendly or weird when arriving at the club. Following around whoever was nice to me. Like the sound person or bartender or another band on the bill, like, "Please be my friend!"

I've been playing with friends for the past year or two more than alone, though I go back and forth depending on the situation.

A little while back you appeared in Adam Clitheroe's documentary "One Man in the Band" beside other notable one-man bands such as Dennis Hopper Choppers, Honkeyfinger, Man from Uranus, and Thomas Traux. Personally I thought it an entertaining and informative piece of work, even though it focused more on the synth-heavy mechanical side of one-man bands over taking a more purist approach. You certainly stood out among the other artists featured. What was that experience like for you?

The way that all worked out was so strange, as I was staying in London and saw Bob Log was playing a show. My friend Zoe knew the promoter, gave me his email and phone number, and I just kept bugging him until he agreed to put me on the bill. I knew Bob from when I played drums in The Screws; we toured in Japan together. Adam was at that show and asked if he could film me, and the rest is history. Because I am the only non-electronic female, I am invited to lots of film festivals to perform where it's being shown, which is totally awesome for me. I've been to film festivals in Milan, Amsterdam, Tui in Spain. I hope I inspire more girls to play. I hope lots of people watch his film.

What's going on now in the world of Two Tears? And is there anything of note on the not too distant horizon for you and your music?

I have three new 7" records coming out and I will be recording a new Two Tears full-length soon. I'll probably record half and half -- with a band and alone. I'm going on tour in Europe with my friend Dan Sartain this spring. I need to update my website, but I don't know how; maybe I should just make a blog...or a fanzine. Yes, that I can handle. Please have your readers contact me for a Two Tears fanzine at twotears@twotears.com, and I'll run down to the copy shop and print some up.

Lastly, if there's anything I failed to cover, or anything you would like to express or discuss, please feel free to do so now. The floor is all yours, Kerry.

Ummm...just be nice and have fun and buy records and support your scene. Be weird and stay positive! xo