Arts Article: Queens of the Stone Age

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KJEE’S SEASIDE BEACH BALL: The Queens and I – Guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen part of ever-changing Stone Age roster
Ted Mills, NEWS-PRESS CORRESPONDENT
June 8, 2007 8:00 AM

Signs of Summer: Popsicles, beach towels, flip-flops, barbecues. Add radio-friendly rock bands arriving en masse to that list.

Large rock festivals like KJEE’s Seaside Beach Ball, coming to the Ventura County Fairgrounds today, have become a way to expose a roster of popular and up-and-coming artists to the maximum amount of like-minded fans. One month ahead of the Warped Tour, the Beach Ball brings to the sunny city to the south a lineup featuring the famous (Queens of the Stone Age, former Soundgarden and Audioslave frontman, now solo artist Chris Cornell), the hip (Sum 41, Plain White T’s) and the buzz-worthy (Cold War Kids, Shiny Toy Guns).

For Troy Van Leeuwen, guitarist with Queens of the Stone Age, these festivals are a good way to make new fans and to play short sets to an already-hyped crowd. “We just came off KROQ’s Weenie Roast festival,” he says. “They had a revolving stage, and so you come on already playing. It’s crazy.”

The KJEE stage might not revolve, but the Queens will be turning heads with a set that unveils many of the new songs on their fifth album, “Era Vulgaris,” set to drop in a week.


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“The previous record (‘Lullabies to Paralyze’) was dark, but that has provided us a chance to do something like (‘Era Vulgaris’),” Van Leeuwen says. “We’re tapping into stuff we hadn’t even seen before.”

Those who have heard tracks — the band leaked a few, some popped up on the Internet, and press at Austin’s South By Southwest festival heard most of it — are using terms like “electric” and “nervous” to describe the Queens’ new direction. Van Leeuwen agrees.

“This album is full-on, electric, buzzing, fuzzing, crackling, popping!” he says.

Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails lent his vocals to the title track, which was eventually left off the album and now exists as a free download and bonus track in the UK. The group knew Reznor from a previous tour, when they were opening for him.

“He was super-duper professional,” Van Leeuwen says about the session. “Trent came down to the studio well-prepared. He nailed the song, then said ‘See ya’ and left.”

“Era Vulgaris” features vocal appearances from Julian Casablancas from The Strokes and Mark Lanegan, formerly of Screaming Trees.

If there are any constants with the Queens, they are Joshua Homme on lead vocals and Homme’s need to change the lineup, especially when a tour arrives.

“This album is super-well-produced,” Van Leeuwen says, “and so we added members to get all those notes onstage.”

To that end, the touring band features Michael Shuman from Wires on Fire on bass and Dean Fertita from The Raconteurs on keyboards.

Already some months into the tour, Van Leeuwen says the songs from the new album are morphing into something else.

” ‘Battery Acid’ has become more frantic,” he says. “There’s a lot of nervous energy in it. It’s such a weird centerpiece to the record. That and ‘Misfit Love’ are the funnest grooves we get to play.”

After the Beach Ball rolls up its tent, Van Leeuwen says he’d love the band to tour and play less-visited areas of the country. (He won’t get his wish, however — the band hits Europe soon).

“We’d go to places like Truckee, which is up past Bakersfield,” he says. “Way out there. We’ll call it the Duluth Tour, I think.”

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