It's safe to say there here at TGE we've fallen in love with Ramonda Hammer. The band will release their Destroyers EP on August 4 on New Professor Music and each sneak peek has been honest and enduring. Ahead of the release, the band was kind enough to answer some of our questions through e-mail and share a little more about the EP, creative process and more.
The Grey Estates: A lot of your material is so open and honest, and really delves into your personal life. I think that's a really powerful thing and brave to share so much of yourself. What made you decide to be so open about those hard moments and is it ever scary to express about ex relationships or mental illness? Is it hard to relieve those times on stage?
Justin: I can’t really speak for Devin on this since she writes the lyrics, but in my past I’ve always had issues talking to people about my own deep personal issues so the stage is kind of like a confessional. It’s our platform to say what we want and expose our true self.
Devin: Thank you. And also yeah I do feel slightly nervous once in a while with new songs, but not really because of the content, it's because I'm afraid I'll mess it up live. After a few performances it's all good though. And I really don't mind sharing personal information, it helps me cope by saying it out loud so much.
Andy: I'll say that any time Devin writes about something personal between us, she always talks to me before we put it out there. I think reliving those moments on stage helps provide powerful performances.
Mark: Thank you so much for asking, oftentimes people just can't really hear the honesty in my drumming. It's really refreshing to get a question about it. I feel like every single rhythm I play or groove I explore is really just a way of expressing my inner dialogue and it is quite terrifying to put that on display for people every night.
When did Ramonda Hammer come together and how did the band find each other? Have you always been interested in music?
Andy: Devin and I met at an art compound where we both lived. We snagged Justin on the rebound after his previous band broke up. Mark was recommended to us by our label.
Mark: Devin, Andy, and Justin had been playing together for a while, but mostly just jamming on Jefferson Airplane and AC/DC covers in the garage at Andy's house. Once Mark joined in early 2017, he introduced them to Justin Bieber's critically acclaimed 2015 smash record "Purpose," and the rest, as they say, is history. [Yeah, okay. -Devin]
Justin: I joined the band two years ago. I previously had a band for around 10 years that ended with heartbreak and devastation. I got a call from Jessie of WASI telling me to come to her place to jam and meet Devin. I was pretty reluctant since I was going through so much shit dealing with my band and relationship ending. Long story short I’m glad I went, one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Music has always important to me, I can’t really see myself doing anything else. I'm a man of very few talents.
Devin: I started writing what would become early RH songs in 2013 when I was super depressed living in my hometown in Orange County. I finally moved to LA in the summer of 2014, where I met Andy at my first LA home, an art compound in Frogtown called Nomad. Then a year later we met Justin after his other band had dissolved. Basically everything the rest of the band already said...except Mark, nothing about Mark's answer is accurate in any way.
When did you first start working on and recording the EP and what was the process like for you? What kind of mindset do you have to be in for songwriting and is there a particular place or time that you like to write? How does the band work together to record and release? Do you have start with something first and then come together?
Devin: The songs on this EP came together in a variety of ways. "Destroyers" was a totally different song that I had written three years ago, that we morphed into a hard hitting single. "Same Thing" was an unfinished song that we played once at a show like a year and a half ago and then ignored it for a while because it needed work but we didn't really know what it needed. "Bender" and "Care 2 Slam?" are riff based songs and they came together pretty quickly. But the weirdest experience I had writing for this EP was "Too Much, Too Recently", where I literally woke up one morning about two weeks before our recording session and was compelled to grab my guitar off the wall immediately. I then wrote the entire song in about ten minutes, brought it to the band, and then we recorded it.
Justin: Most of the songs off the EP were tracks we had been messing around with after we finished “Whatever That Means”. The process for me was a great experience since it was technically the first time we were able to write as a complete band.
Before Ramonda Hammer I usually wrote with the whole band just jamming and everyone making up their parts on the fly. Our songs are more calculated and based off of Devin’s experiences, so I try to really focus on the sound, mood, and tone of her voice and lyrics to help me get into a mindset.
I usually make up what I'm doing on the fly while everyone is playing. I like to hear all the instruments together to write.
Andy: The process was really quick. We set a serious EP deadline for ourselves but at the time we only had one or two songs ready to go, so we got together several times a week to hash out ideas and to reach back into our 'riff bank' to see if we could flesh out anything. We will have to recreate the process for our full length album....
Mark: Some of the songs on the EP we had been kicking around for years, but others came together in the weeks before we hit the studio. The process of writing, pre-production, and recording was pretty intense for us, we all shirked our personal responsibilities for about a month as we wrote and rehearsed tirelessly. Although getting the songs recorded was rewarding and cathartic for all of us. We usually start with a riff, melody, or chord progression that Devin writes, and then we flesh it out and arrange it as a full band.
You self released your first album and then signed to New Professor for this one. How has that differed and was it hard to get something out there on your own?
Andy: We raised money for our first album through Kickstarter, which we will probably NEVER do again. We love New Professor, and can't imagine getting this album done without them.
Justin: Yes, that Kickstarter campaign was so fucking hard. Being with New Professor has been a great experience, having representation has been very helpful.
Devin: Oh man, Greg Katz is one of my fave humans. Since signing with his label, I don't even wanna think about all the extra work I used to do. I mean, I still do a fuck ton, but New Prof cares and helps SO SO much!
Mark: It was great to finally be on a label. Our label paid us a huge advance, so we've been just rolling in the dough as we worked on the record. Like, Devin bought a new car right before we recorded. That's actually what one of the songs on the EP is about. "Same Thing" is the story of Devin's car. Because it was the same car that she used to have, or something like that. [Uhhhh, no. -Devin]
What would the themes of this EP be? Do you have a favorite track or any interesting backstories to the tracks or the release as a whole?
Devin: Every song on the EP touches on destruction in some way. I think the main thing is like destruction specifically in the modern age. I love all of the tracks but I really think "Care 2 Slam?" is cool because it was inspired by an illustration that our friend Kat made. She's an incredible artist and for this last Christmas, she made me a rad drawing that was inspired by the RH song "Goddamn Idiot"...and so I thought I'd do the reverse and write a song reacting to one of her art pieces, which I chose one of this naked monster-like woman cartoon that said "Care to slam?". If you wanna know more, you can visit katbing.com.
Mark: The record is about Netflix, and Devin's car, and also destruction. But it's very political too, very timely shall we say. [**smh** -Devin]
Justin: I tried to develop some themes within my guitar parts using more dissonant chords and spaced out shit. Just destructive and weird.
Andy: Devin would disagree, but I think the most consistent theme on the EP is 'watching Netflix.' [Sure. -Devin]
What would the title of the Ramona Hammer Netflix documentary be?
Devin: Dash Underscore Dash
Mark: 'This Banana Is Not Going As Planned' and Other Short Stories: A Biopic By Devin Davis [There really was a day where the banana didn't go as planned, so I'll let mark have this. -Devin]
Justin: Since When Is Grunge Pop A Thing?! The Ramonda Hammer Fiasco.
Andy: Shameless Californication
Give us a RH fun fact.
Devin: On our last tour, in a hotel room in Sacramento, we all tiredly and drunkenly made a four-way pinky promise to do something. But then the next day we all couldn't remember what it was. While Mark and Andy later became convinced that we all swore to go see the new Mummy movie while on tour, Justin and I are certain that we would never swear to such a thing, because 1) no thank you, and 2) no fucking way. The mystery hasn't been solved since.
Mark: WE FUCKING LOVE BRUNO MARS! [**eye roll** -Devin]
Justin: Andy is not a real person. He’s hologram, kind of like that Japanese Vocaloid thing. We tried to keep it a secret until he started glitching out during a show. His holographic image turned into Betty Boop while bass tracks suddenly became speeches from Benito Mussolini. Very embarrassing.
Andy: Bruno Mars is our ghostwriter [What's with these assholes and Bruno Mars?? -Devin]
Describe the new EP using emojis.