Ramonda Hammer is named after one of the contestants on the 90s reality show Cheaters. Lead singer Devin Davis, along with Andy Hengl (bass), Justin Geter (guitar), and Mark Edwards (drums), give a fresh twist to a modern classic: grunge. We sat down with Devin to talk about her favorite female grunge acts and the realities of writing from the heart. Listen to the premiere of Ramonda Hammer’s new EP Destroyers below!
AudioFemme: Ramonda Hammer is Los Angeles-based. Are you native?
Devin Davis: I grew up about an hour(ish) south of LA, in San Clemente. But I’ve been living in LA for three years now. So close, yet worlds apart!
AF: I couldn’t help but notice a Fidlar album lurking in the background of the video for “If, Then,” Who are your musical influences in respect to Ramonda Hammer?
DD: YES! Andy our bass player bought me that record for my birthday a couple years ago. We do share a love for FIDLAR; we covered their song “Awkward” at an Anti-Valentine’s Day show once. I have many, many influences, but for Ramonda Hammer I’d say the main influences for my guitar vibes and vocal ideas are the Pixies, Nirvana, Pavement, Hole, and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Lyrics come from everything I’ve ever heard or seen or experienced.
AF: You’ve been called a “grungier No Doubt” by a few publications. I don’t know if I hear that comparison per se, but I will say your music feels both fresh and retro. Do you think that with the oversaturation of EDM music, grunge will start to move to the forefront again?
DD: I think that grunge never really left! It just morphed over the years. There’s always kind of been artists making music for everything – pop, dance, hip hop, rock, butt rock, grunge, folk, country, whatever. So grunge is always there because it’s always needed for the people that need it, the angsties and the introverts, and the outcasts, and the ones who feel too much but still need to feel more. And now in this weird political climate, we’re even more confused and angry and sad and frustrated, and there’s too many emotions to not have grunge be at the forefront. Oh and there’s a LOT of female-fronted grunge inspired bands killing it right now, so I can’t wait to see what happens.
AF: Who are a few of your favorite bands in the grunge scene right now?
AF: Back in 2015, you raised money on Kickstarter to create your EP Whatever That Means. Tell us a little about how that first recording process went.
DD: Making a record is hard work! Takes a lot of time and money and favors. The Kickstarter was totally necessary at that point in our budding career, but I don’t think we could go through that again. So much work. Also, I wrote most of those songs myself before I met my bandmates so they were just adding in parts and we were still navigating how we all worked. I produced the record with some advice from one of my music professors at UCLA and help from our homie Morgan, who engineered and mixed the tracks. It was a really great learning experience and the record sounds dope for our first try! The new Destroyers EP though is something else. We now write everything together and it’s getting heavier and more unique with all the different moving parts. And Greg who runs the label produced it and his input really made a huge difference. Just so stoked where RH is headed.
AF: You recently told Consequence of Sound that the your single “Too Much, Too Recently” is about your ex-boyfriend and Ramonda Hammer’s bassist Andy Hengl. It sounds like it was a cathartic experience for you both working on the song. Was it scary coming to him with those lyrics?
DD: Actually not scary at all surprisingly! Andy is my one of my best friends and we have pretty great communication. Plus “Goddamn Idiot” and “See” are about Andy too, and he knows that! I think for how sad this song is, it really is cathartic like you said. We’re both trying to move on in our romantic lives and it’s been over a year now that we broke up, so we’re doing that. Well sort of – I don’t date! But I hope Andy finds someone because he is the best!!!
AF: Do you usually draw from personal experiences for your lyrics? Have you experimented with concept-driven pieces as well?
DD: Every single song comes from some sort of personal experience, but there are a few that are more concept-driven (or more like a social commentary). “Strangers Love You” and “Zombie Sweater” for sure, and then then “Same Thing” from the new EP is actually a social/historical/political/pop culture commentary. But there’s always personal stuff in there.
AF: Tell us about your new EP Destroyers. What differences can fans of Whatever That Means expect?
DD: Grungier for sure. Still feely AF, but less sad and more sass!
AF: Is there another Ramonda Hammer tour in the works?
DD: YUP! We’re doing a bunch of U.S. dates in September, lots on the East Coast and Midwest-ish. People can check our website in the coming weeks for cities and dates! Also doing first two weeks of November on the West Coast.
AF: You’re currently up in Santa Barbara doing work with Rock n’ Roll Camp for Girls. Have the girls taught you anything surprising about the process of making music?
DD: THEY ARE EVERYTHING. I learn a lot about life in general from these kids. Also, we call them campers because not everyone identifies as a “girl.” But yes, there’s so many personalities and levels of skill and we encourage them to build each other up and collaborate. I mean, they have to form a band and write an original song in just one week, and then perform it at the end of the week at a showcase! It’s incredible. I’ve definitely learned to get weirder with my music and be my most authentic self creatively and in general.
DD: I honestly think it’s good for creative people to just be with their emotions and feelings, because that’s how the art even happens. I mean of course I don’t wish depression on anyone because I know how debilitating it is. But it happens in so many people and it really does fuel creativity if you learn how to navigate yourself and take the time for self care and self love. I don’t care how cheesy that sounds, you gotta put in that work. I used to be way worse and have panic attacks all the time but I’ve found techniques through therapy and friends and listening and trial and error with my own body and learning from my mistakes, all to learn how to self heal. And you really don’t have to be okay all of the time – you can be sad or angry or numb or whatever, but accept it while it’s happening and know that feelings come and go. And use those feelings for your art! It’s actually kind of lucky in a way when a creative person is struck with an intense emotion because it’s an opportunity. I really love how in ancient Greece they would say that instead of someone “being a genius” that they were “with genius.” as if something passed through them and they were the vessel for the art being created. And it was so fortunate to be “with genius.” So I try to feel fortunate to have all spectrum of emotions!