Lena Zawaideh of Bad Things (INTERVIEW)

With a springy hit single called “Anybody,” which debuted last year, and snappy killer performances at Lollapalooza and the Voodoo Music Experience, Bad Things have already perked up the ears of music fans who like a little synth- rock mixed into their daily iPod shuffling. Along with the punk “Fool” and the new wave-ish “Caught Inside,” which showcases the band’s natural knack for harmonies, Bad Things the album is more than likely to sell big. It doesn’t hurt that the band contains a quirky but revelatory singer-songwriter in Davis LeDuke and an Olympic snowboarding champion in Shaun White. But what really makes this band cool is drummer Lena Zawaideh, with her red lipstick and a swinging beat, she helps keep Bad Things from being just one in a million young bands trying to find their niche in the music world. And I got to talk with her last week while she was chilling out near LA, waiting for her band’s album to hit music stores and iTunes Tuesday January, 2st.  “It won’t last long,” Zawaideh said half-joking about the band’s calm before the storm.

When you went in to record this album, did you have a lot of songs to choose from?

Yeah, we had quite a few songs written, almost thirty songs, and we kind of had to whittle it down to about twelve. And, surprisingly, it wasn’t too difficult. We were in Lake Tahoe and we each individually wrote down our favorite songs; that if we had to narrow it down to five songs, what would we pick? And we all came up with the same list (laughs)

Was this the first time you had been in a recording studio?

Yeah. Anthony and Davis were in bands and they had recorded professionally. I was in bands growing up but I was like in a heavy metal band with my brother, nothing serious whatsoever. So, yeah, that was the first time. It was a whole new world to me and I was like, this is amazing (laughs).

What surprised you the most about the process of recording a record?

Like, you write these songs pretty quickly, but when it comes to the final product, like pushing it out to the public, you inspect the finest detail of what you want it to sound like and that can take forever. You can go over it a million times but ultimately you got to let it go.


What was the surprise song – the one that almost didn’t make it on here or was the last one picked?

The one song that Davis had the hardest time on is called “Vices.” We had this really cool guitar line and we just didn’t know how to … and it came down to the final hour and we came up with this rendition of it, like the week before we recorded it. It was kind of like a nightmare song but it came out to be one of my favorite songs. So I would say definitely that is the one that was like, surprise (laughs).

Who is the main songwriter in the band?

To be honest, it’s no main songwriter. It’s one of the most collaborative projects I’ve ever been in. And there’re no barriers. Davis can hop on the drum set and say, “Hey, I really like this beat, this is kind of cool.” I’ll write a guitar line or a vocal melody. The whole thing is very collaborative and everyone can play any instrument. I mainly write like vocal melodies but it’s not like one main person. I love writing vocal melodies. There’s just different styles to everybody.

Does Davis ever surprise you on stage? At Voodoo, he had a pumpkin and was throwing the pumpkin out into the crowd.

Oh yeah (laughs). I was staring at that pumpkin the entire concert (laughs). He asked me for my Chanel lipstick at Lollapalooza and I was like, “Wait, what for? Are you going to lose it?” And he was like, “No, no, just trust me.” I could see him like wipe it all over Shaun’s face and throw it into the crowd and I was like, “Dude, that was my only lipstick.” (laughs). Oh yeah, he does surprise us. Every concert is like, “What is Davis going to do?”

What are your plans now that the album is coming out on the 21st?

We’re hoping to tour right after the Olympics end. I don’t know if Shaun gets to even rest even for a few days but the goal is to kind of go on tour in late February, March, and then hit the festivals from April through the summer, all that jazz (laughs). But mostly playing shows.

Where did you grow up and what kind of kid were you like?

I actually grew up in the same city in San Diego as Shaun, but I actually grew up in Carlsbad, where Shaun used to live as well. I don’t know, I was kind of like a big nerd. My goal was to go to like Harvard Med School. It did not turn out that way (laughs). Playing drums was kind of a complete fluke. I was doing ballet for six years and my mom was kind of egging me on to do it and I finally got fed up and I was like, “Mom, I want to quit ballet” and she was like, “If you do one last recital, I’ll get you anything you want.” And it was just the randomest thing and I came out with, “I want a drum set.” Out of all things, it started with a bribe (laughs). But I stuck with it and I loved it and it’s been great.

When you first started to play the drums, what was the most difficult thing to grasp or learn?

Coordination. Especially when you’re eleven years old, you’re like, I don’t know what I’m doing, coordination-wise. A drummer’s first step is kind of to get the coordination, learn the few basic beats and then honestly after that, everything becomes your own unique flair. It’s a very fundamental-based instrument and then the minute you pass that little plateau, you’re on your own, you’re good.


As a drummer, for you, what is the most difficult thing about playing live, because you’re not stuck back behind all the other guys. You’re actually on an even level with them on stage. You can’t hide.

No, you can’t hide (laughs) but I don’t really mind. I have a lot of confidence when it comes to playing drums. The newest thing to me, which I’m still getting used to, is singing and playing drums at the same time. Cause for one, I’d never sung/sang/sung (laughs) before this band, so that was a new thing for me. So adding that to playing drums and putting on like a really vivacious performance, I’m still getting used to that.

When you started playing drums, was there a drummer that you loved?

If I had to pick one band that I was like, wow, he’s a great drummer, I would say like Black Sabbath’s drummer. They were kind of a huge influence on me and they still are an amazing band. But I can’t say he really influenced me. And I feel like metal music is a little bit lame now. But Black Sabbath is like timeless. You can’t go wrong with them. And obviously, like something as simple as The Beatles, he’s not even like a very intricate drummer or anything but everything fit and I feel like that’s what a drummer gets to do. It’s not how technical you get. It’s what fits the song, what makes the song groove. And I think Bill Ward really had that.

We brought up Voodoo earlier. Do you think that the big festivals like Voodoo and Lollapalooza are the best way for young bands like yourself to get your music to the masses because it’s such a different music world out there than even it was a few years ago?

Yeah, I agree. The fact that with festivals you kind of roam around and see new bands whereas you would never see that band if it was at a club gig. I think half the reason people started adding us on Facebook and all that stuff was just because of Lollapalooza, cause people were curious and festivals are the ultimate breeding ground for new music. It’s awesome.

What is the worst thing about being on a tour bus or van with a bunch of guys for days on end?

Oh my God, that is a good question (laughs). I don’t want to say farting cause that ended up in another article (laughs). It’s pretty much privacy, like especially girls need their privacy sometimes and we’re just surrounded by like six guys. We have probably more than four guys because you have the tour manager and the keyboardist who is with us, so it’s like all you want is a girlfriend to go get a manicure with sometimes (laughs). Even though that is not you, it could become you. You’re like, I need to do the most girlie thing right now cause I’m going to lose my mind (laughs)

Shaun-White-Bad-Things-musicAnd what is the best thing about being on a tour bus/van with a bunch of guys for days on end?

The memory. You think about being a grandma later and like, yeah, I drove a fifteen passenger van from LA to New York on tour with my band. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl or a guy. That’s like the coolest memory you can have when you’re older. I mean, it’s definitely an experience that you don’t usually get.

And there’s no regrets cause you did it

Exactly. And there’s a lot of fear, like stepping into it for the first time. You grow up sheltered and you’re like a tiny girl with all these guys about to drive cross-country. In the process you get comfortable and then later on you look back and you’re like, yeah, that was amazing.

Who was the first real rock star you ever met?

The first real one was Matt Sorum. I went to Shaun’s video game launch when we were first starting and he was there and I was like, whoa, this is insane (laughs). Then the second time, which was actually more insightful for me cause I love her, was Joan Jett. She was so sweet and it was like the weirdest thing cause she’s like attitude and bad ass and then I meet her and she’s the kindest person ever. So that was really impactful for me. I came home like, Ahhh (laughs)

Shaun seems to have a lot of enthusiasm about playing in a band. Is that true?

That’s definitely true. Honestly, if he broke both of his legs tomorrow, all he’d want to do is be with his guitar, be with the band. He loves it just as much as his sport and he shows that whenever he’s with us. He brings the Olympic drive into this band which we so need. It’s awesome.

Tell us about Jared Palomar and Anthony Sanudo. We don’t know a whole lot about them so what do they bring to Bad Things?

Number one – hair (laughs). Anthony and Jared are vital. Jared produces a lot of our music. He does demos for us and he’s an incredible producer. And Anthony is a very creative guitarist. There’re a lot of guitarists out there that they can shred and they are like technically good but Anthony is very creative and his sense of which chords to use are very unique. And Anthony’s the oldest one in the band, kind of like Papa Anthony, and when Shaun’s gone he’s kind of like dad (laughs). It’s good to have one of those anchors.

I wanted to ask you about the album cover artwork. It’s pretty interesting.

It is interesting. We were shown a book of different album covers and it was a unanimous “that one.” We all just pointed to it and were like, that is so cool. We have no clue what it is but that is so cool (laughs). Initially, it wasn’t like, oh, you can read into this and all that stuff but it kind of gives a sense of what the band is like. We’re not too serious, we don’t take ourselves too seriously. And I feel like the album artwork kind of shows that. It’s just a tiny little girl crying black tears on a hippo. That’s not supposed to be very deep and that’s what we’re trying to pretty much tell people: Don’t take us too seriously. We take our music and our craft really seriously but as people, we’re just fun, we play jokes.


You’ve just opened up a big can of worms there. If you’re playing jokes on each other, what was the best prank or joke?

Oh April Fools (laughs). We were on Lake Tahoe and Anthony shot me with this little like pellet gun so me and Davis started scheming and Anthony loves tea. He was away from the kettle and Davis and I stuck dog treats in his little kettle and he pours the tea like five minutes later and he starts drinking it and you can just tell on his face, like what the hell is going on? And he wouldn’t say a word. I was videorecording this entire thing and his face was like slowly frowning and like, oh my God, I’m going to lose it (laughs) and he goes, “What did you guys do?” (laughs)

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you?

I would say, it’s not a bad thing, no pun intended (laughs) but it’s hilarious. I thought it was a joke that we were going to dress as each other one day so I came normal and I come in and our producer is dressed as me. He is wearing a long black wig, he’s on his knees cause I’m short, and he is surrounded by bags – they used to call me bag lady – and, I mean, it’s great and I have a picture of that but that was kind of the greatest thing I’ve ever seen. Our producer [Rob Schnapf] had a long gray beard and he’s bald and he dressed as me and it was just like the greatest sight I’d ever seen. It was awesome. And Jared dressed as our producer with a long gray beard. It was a good time, a lot of fun.

Being a female drummer and a female musician, what would you say to girls out there who are wanting to be musicians and are maybe a little bit nervous about what it’s really like out there?

Don’t buy into the stigma that girls can never be as good as guys. I feel like that’s a ridiculous idea. No matter if you are a girl or a guy, just practice every day and practice right and like at an audition or something, don’t make being a girl, don’t use it against you, don’t act like, “Oh my God, I’m a girl and I don’t play hard” and all this stuff. Just put it on the table, hit hard (laughs). Don’t be afraid. Don’t be afraid to like bang the shit out of those drums or whatever instrument you play. Don’t let the stigma stop you at all.

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