Before most bands announce their reformation, there tends to be a hatchet-burying meeting, perhaps a rehearsal or two to confirm the old magic is still there. But when legendary 90s sleaze-rockers Royal Trux signed up to headline the final day of this month’s Berserktown II festival in Santa Ana, California on August 16, the band’s core duo of Jennifer Herrema and Neil Michael Hagerty hadn’t even been in the same room together since they split as a band and a couple 13 years ago. Still haven’t, in fact.
Not that this is a concern. “I’m not even sweating it,” says Herrema, who has at least been exchanging cordial emails with Hagerty for the last few years. “He and I came up with the set list together so it seems like it’ll be second nature. I don’t know how much actual real rehearsal we’ll do…”.
This attitude feels true to the original Royal Trux spirit of wilfulness and spontaneity. Formed in Washington DC in the late 80s, they started out trying by to deconstruct The Rolling Stones through an intellectual drug haze and ended up rocking harder than anyone else around. At the height of the grunge goldrush they negotiated a ludicrously generous contract with Virgin Records and walked away after two albums – one of which featured a toilet on the cover – with the label owing them money. Despite hitting peak form on 1998’s ‘Accelerator’ (“a total classic… covers all psychic/spiritual/physical bases” said Bobby Gillespie), the Trux ran out of gas in 2001, although Herrema and Hagerty have continued to melt minds with their various solo ventures, notably Black Bananas and The Howling Hex.
When giving interviews, separately, to promote a tranche of Trux reissues in 2011, the pair were both cool on the idea of a reunion. So what’s changed? “I don’t know! We’ve never been open to the idea of reforming and playing full albums but when Neil said he was down with it, I was like, ‘Well, it’s right here in my backyard, I don’t really have to do much.’ It wasn’t a long, drawn-out thinking about it. We didn’t even solicit it. It was just, ‘Bam!’, right there. It probably would have fallen apart if it was something that actually had to be planned.”
With Black Bananas’ Brian McKinley on bass and The Howling Hex’s Tim Barnes on drums, the new Royal Trux lineup plan to range freely through the band’s mercurial back catalogue. “There’s a few songs from every album,” says Herrema. “No emphasis on any particular time.”
The big question, of course, is will this unexpected reunion coalesce into something more permanent? “Well that’s another thing. It just totally depends on how it feels. I know for a fact that Neil doesn’t want to travel much, he doesn’t want to play big festivals, so that takes some things off the table. But I don’t know, it’s hard to say.” And the same goes for recording? “Yeah, exactly.”
Herrema has plenty going on – as well a new Black Bananas LP, she’s starring in the new series of the Judd Apatow-produced Netflix romcom Love so she can afford to suck it and see. Yet even if the Royal Trux reunion starts and ends at Beserktown, their legacy will continue to live on. “Royal Trux,” decides Herrema, “is two people, two very inclusive, very open-minded people, making a lot of great music that’s inspired a lot of people. And hopefully we’ll continue to.”