She Wants Revenge on New Wave, Past and Present

by Alison Meeder

swr.jpgPick up a copy of She Wants Revenge’s debut
album and you will immediately notice the cover artwork. Though
there’s no picture of the band, there is a shot of a young woman
dressed only in her underwear. Exuding calm sexuality, she faces
the camera and pulls, with her left hand, at her sheer white tank
top. The message is clear: something is about to happen … but not
so fast. When the cover booklet is removed from the CD case and
flipped over, there is another picture. Here is the same woman
photographed from the back, every bit as lovely and inviting but
now revealing her right hand and the enormous butcher knife she is
clutching. Something is about to happen alright, but it may not be
what you think.

Herein lies the appeal of She Wants Revenge (SWR). The San
Fernando Valley duo, comprised of Justin Warfield and Adam Bravin,
are masters of depicting lust and danger as two sides of the same
coin. Their self-titled album takes a long, hard look into the dark
side of human attraction. There is no discussion about having a
couple of kids and settling down in the country with a golden
retriever. But there are limitless possibilities to make-out with a
stranger on the dance floor, develop unnatural obsessions, get your
heart smashed to pieces — usually all in one song.

On the upside of things, these songs are surprisingly easy to
dance to. SWR’s gothic love anthems are catchy — very catchy. The
sound is reminiscent of all things new wave: think Joy Division,
but with lyrics like “Take my hand … and smack me in the mouth my
love.” SWR’s haunting sound seems to manifest itself seamlessly,
and Warfield and Bravin have admitted to writing tracks in under an
hour. This kind of creative ease makes some sense, since both
members of SWR have been in the music industry for more than 15
years. What doesn’t seem to add up is the fact that Warfield and
Bravin spent those years as devoted hip-hop heads.

The two members of SWR initially met as teenagers in the 1980s.
Bravin was deejaying at a San Fernando party and caught Warfield’s
attention by playing Eazy-E’s “Boyz in da Hood.” The two bonded
over their mutual affection for the gangsta rap anthem and became
comrades in hip-hop appreciation. As the next 20 years passed,
Warfield developed his skills as a West Coast MC. In 1991, he
released the Yo! MTV Raps-approved single “Season of Vic,” followed
by the 1993 Prince Paul-produced full-length album My Field Trip to
Planet 9. Bravin continued his career as a club deejay and
producer, collaborating with Mos Def and occasionally sipping
Cristal with P. Diddy.

While both members of SWR enjoyed a measure of success in their
own right, it wasn’t until they reunited in 2003 that things really
took off. Almost 20 years after their first introduction, the pair
met for a second time at another San Fernando party. After a few
minutes of conversation, a mutual friend convinced them that they
needed to make music together — immediately. The pair skipped out
on the party and began impromptu recording sessions at Warfield’s
house. While their initial plan was to produce hip-hop tracks, the
two discovered a second shared obsession, this time with Prince and
Tangerine Dream. Hip-hop was forgotten, and She Wants Revenge’s
signature vampire beats were born. SWR has taken a bit of flack for
their recreation of ’80s synth-pop, but the band remains unfazed by
the media’s critique of their sound. “We aren’t going to pull any
kind of 180 on our next album,” Warfield told me by phone. “This is
our sound and we aren’t changing it.” A wise decision by most
counts. SWR may borrow heavily from ’80s new wave, but this isn’t
necessarily a bad thing. There are several references to Joy
Division and The Cure on SWR’s album, but they all take a back seat
to the overriding theme of doomed romance.

Following the release of their album in 2006, SWR has been a
staple on modern rock radio and has toured almost ceaselessly. One
stop included an opening spot at KJEE’s Summer RoundUp, and on
Friday, October 20, the duo will return to headline at the UCSB
Event Center. “I’m excited about playing Santa Barbara again,” said
Warfield. “Playing the RoundUp was cool, but with our kind of
music, it’s never ideal to play a festival setting in broad
daylight. I’m glad we had the opportunity to play to some people
who may not have heard us otherwise. Now they can see us play
again, with a full set list and some lighting.”

4•1•1 She Wants Revenge plays
UCSB’s Hub on Friday, October 20, at 8 p.m. For ticket information
visit or
call 583-8700.


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