The McBroom sisters, Lorelei and Durga, have a long history of work with Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, Billy Idol, and Steve Hackett, among others. But in their latest project, as *The McBroom Sisters*, they usher us into the roots of classic rock through classic and new songs that will resonate with every music fan. We caught up with them recently - Lorelei in New York City and Durga in Los Angeles - and discussed their new collaboration.
Ed Lopez-Reyes: You were both born and raised in Los Angeles: what kind of influence did the culture there have on your music? Durga McBroom: Well: huge!
Lorelei McBroom: For me it started with folk guitar lessons - and singing as a child with a group that toured different schools. We did a lot of choral music, which was more like European choir type of stuff, in high school. Between the folky periods that I was growing up in – I was a child in the sixties and a lot of that music was very popular, from Joan Baez to Joni Mitchell... all that had a huge influence on me; and then in high school I got turned onto the rock people: Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, The Who… any number of those groups at the time – The Babies – you know, so I didn't understand, until I saw Lady Sings the Blues, how to start looking back to who influenced those people. I did have a record of Chuck Berry though, when I was five – and Meet the Beatles! But like I said, I didn't put it together musically until I was older and started to listen, starting with Lady Sings the Blues, learning a little bit about jazz, but really looking into blues – and it just got to me. I mean, [when] Durga and I wrote our first song together it was a blues song called Johnny, He's My Man. So go ahead, Durga!
DM: Yeah, I guess – what? – I was like eight and you were 13 when we wrote that? Something like that? But if you consider… I mean, just yesterday I was so thrilled to wake up to the news that Carol King had shared an interview that we did with her daughter Louise Goffin [who performs with The McBroom Sisters on their new album] on social media – all over social media – which was really an honor for us. But if you think about the fact that, okay, right now I'm sitting one block over from the mouth of Laurel Canyon: there was just a mini-series about Laurel Canyon on Showtime; about all the music that came out of Laurel Canyon – and then the whole thing on the strip too, with The Doors and Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash: they all lived up in Laurel Canyon. So when we were little kids we were running around Carol King's house. I have great memories of being the wild haired, crazy little black girl with no shoes on, running around the corner – and here's Carol King and I'm like, ‘hi!’ Of course, I was also a very precocious child. I was one of those, you know… you know, when you have younger siblings, they want to be all up in your stuff..? Lorelei had all this amazing music so either she was playing it or I was borrowing her records and playing them.
Then I got my own records and there was a little bit of a turnabout when I was about nine or 10, we lived in the Valley, in Encino and there’s a story that's etched in my memory forever:
There's this cool girl – we still know her name: Lori Reamer – and she lived up the street… she was Lori Brown back then. Her little brother was in my class: Bruce. So, Bruce and I, and another friend from school, were playing out in front of our house. And Lori drove up in her convertible Mustang, which was like, so cool. You know? And she's got the top down and I'm like, ‘wow!’ And on AM radio – I will never forget –I heard the first strains of Black Dog [sings opening verse of Black Dog]. And I was like… ‘WHAT is that?’ And then that went on to the Stones, and of course my best friend, Gwen and I had a mad crushes on Mick Jagger. I turned Lorelei onto the Stones, which is funny because then she wound up working with them. And then, of course, getting a little bit older, the whole scene on the Sunset Strip was just crazy. I mean, all those clubs hosting all those people, starting with The Doors at The Whiskey and then going into Van Halen and all that kind of stuff… and I was all up in it – and going to shows to see bands like Oingo Boingo once I got more into New Wave and stuff like that. This was a fabulous breeding ground for musical inspiration.
ELR: Which is really interesting because I feel like there has generally been a historical perception about all these bands: there's somewhat of an ambiguous recognition that they have roots in the blues and in a more diverse set of musicians than meets the eye. In Los Angeles, it seemed like that cultural mix was more pronounced. So when you'd go to the Sunset Strip, do you feel like that diversity was reflected in the audience as well?
DM: Hmmm... no...
DM and LM: No.
LM: But I will say this: there was a time when – very briefly, when I was about 21 – a friend of mine and I opened a weekly nightclub and we tried mixing genres. We had R&B music, what was early kind of dance music – not quite disco – and then rock stuff. And we had the DJ mix it up and we were able to draw a very mixed crowd, [which] was not really done back then. But because we weren't really professional, and we made some mistakes... we had to get a liquor permit every week and one week we had so many people that the bar got jammed and the police came and, you know, people were getting drinks without paying. It was just madness. So we had to stop doing it. But this was in the early eighties. So we were kind of proving a point that music listeners are not the ones that are being segregationist. It was the record companies and the radio stations that were deciding that if you're black, you'd have to be on black radio first. And then if you're successful, you can cross over so that you have exposure to a broader audience, which pretty much meant white.
ELR: When you went into Pink Floyd was the band’s blues and black influence understated or misunderstood by audiences and the industry – is this still a common problem or do you feel like there's been a greater convergence of cultural influences and that these roots are more explicit or widely recognized?
DM: In terms of black influence being recognized in Floyd, it definitely was. David has a definite blues sensibility to his playing and [Pink Floyd] were named for Floyd Council and Pink Anderson, who are both blues musicians. So, obviously, the influence is definitely acknowledged. In fact, a lot English rockers of their time were very, very adamant about giving credit where credit was due in terms of their blues heroes. I mean, from the Beatles to Eric Clapton, all of them have acknowledged that influence… Bowie, Jagger and the Stones… they’ve always been very, very acknowledging of their blues roots. And it shows: if you listen to the way Keith plays, you listen to the way David plays, you can hear the blues in it. Now the second half of your question: it's getting better, the lines are blurring a bit. But then the whole business has changed so much because it has moved away from big record companies for the most part. There are a lot more avenues for release. So, of course, you're going to get more eclectic releases. Now, in terms of what gets attention? It's still difficult for an indie release artist to get the kind of attention that somebody like Billy Eilish is going to get. But I do think the lines are blurring because society is blurring. Multi-racial families are on the rise, younger generations are caring less and less about race, which is great. And the fact that you do have access to such diversity on streaming platforms, people can kind of go through and find stuff that they like, and it's not being fed to them by, say, a radio station. So little by little.
LM: What I've found is that – the Rolling Stones, leading the list… they have gone beyond what even the others have done by literally having some of these really old school blues guys open on their tours. They've done that a few times – or have them guest on a tour. Mick Jagger produced a film about the life of James Brown, who he knew; certainly, Gilmour was influenced by Jimmy Hendrix. I do find that there's much more discussion of the influence in the older groups that came out of the seventies then now because I think, as generations go on, the people that are influenced by the Stones don't necessarily go back to Muddy Waters. And then they progress and then there's another band that's going back to the second one. They don't necessarily continue the journey.
However, there are some that I've heard talk about it. One of the guys from Rage Against the Machine was talking about how important it is to go back to the ancestors, so to speak. There's a British band, the lead singer is this black girl that's bald, and she's really hot. And the band is really great [possibly Skunk Anansie]. But you don't see it much. I remember when we were on tour with Pink Floyd getting turned onto [Andrew] Roachford, who was doing rock music, and I thought he was great. We got turned on to Seal. He was in the very, very early [stages], as a matter of fact, he was guesting on other people's records at that time. But you don't have a lot of artists like Seal, you know. When he did an unplugged set – this was years ago – I could really see how heavy the folk influence was on his music… ‘cause it really worked with just a guitar and him singing, without all those amazing arrangements that Trevor Horn added to make his sound. But it's rare. I mean, we had Tracy Chapman and then… like nothing.
DM: Although now you have Alabama Shakes – they broke really big and they're blues rock, sort of… I mean, it would be nice if there was more there; you had the rare standouts through the years, like Living Colour and our old friends, Fishbone. I'd like to see more of that… and Rage. I think the objection to it is dwindling so there's room for it where there might not have been before, because Living Colour should have been huge forever – and they did quite a big splash, but back then rock was still really segregated.
ELR: Your new album, Black Floyd, seeks to address these issues artistically. How do you feel your reinterpretation of Pink Floyd songs brings these issues to the foreground, aside from the obvious, which is the more soulful vocals and bluesier elements? For example, I think that in some cases you also addressed issues from a lyrical standpoint, like on What Do You Want From Me, which you approached from a female perspective – another interesting approach to diversifying how you hear Pink Floyd music.
DM: Lorelei made us a beautiful video for Wish You Were Here, and it takes a whole different perspective on that song that does bring a racial element into it that people didn't consider before. And, in fact, I got a beautiful note, an email from somebody, a Facebook friend of mine, who told me that he and his wife had taken her ex-husband in because he was a veteran that was suffering from dementia. And, you know, they'd been divorced for 10 years or whatever. So they took him in because he had nowhere to live. He was really offensively racist a lot of the time, but they kind of let it slide because he has dementia. So half the time he doesn't know what he's saying, but this person played him or showed him the video and the man’s eyes filled with tears. And he just said, ‘can't we all just get along.’ I don't understand why we can't all just get along. So it got through to him and I was very touched by that.
I have a lot of discussions about race on social media with people every day and a lot of people, I should say a lot of Caucasian people, get very frustrated – and they say, why do you have to make everything about race? Because we're black. It does affect what we do and our perspective on things. It's just as much as, you know, if someone came up to you and said, why do you have to look at everything from the perspective of a man? Of course that's going to color your perception of things. So when we reinterpret these songs, it's going to be from our perspective as women, as black women, as Americans in certain respects. But it it's going to color our perception of things because that's who we are. So to get frustrated with us... just wanting to express ourselves is very frustrating in and of itself.
ELR: How did you decide which Pink Floyd tracks to include on this album?
LM: For me, because we've been performing with various Pink Floyd tribute bands and also with Dave Kerzner, who began the production on this album, we've been performing some songs that we just personally liked and that work. Wish You Were Here we picked because it's familiar. It was very important that we make an arrangement that was not familiar so that it wasn't just one more group paying tribute to the Pink Floyd. And we're thrilled with how that came out.
DM: I just got to jump in, it was my idea to ask Louise to sing on it. As Lorelei said, because we sing with Pink Floyd tribute bands and aside from touring with them I did all of the last tours from ‘87 through ‘95, I'm on the last four albums… I'm the only woman that can say that. We just picked songs that we not only like as fans, but also that we enjoy singing, especially in my case, I sing lead a lot with these tribute bands now. So like, What Do You Want From Me, I sing that live all the time. I love singing that song and giving it that oomph, not to mention the fact that vocal range wise, my range is very similar to David's. So a lot of the songs, the lead part suits me.
LM: We had already started picking songs that we really liked doing live, so we just put some of our favorites on the album. Also, I was going to say On the Turning Away was significant to us because that was on the album and the first tour that we did when we joined Pink Floyd, as well as the fact that the message and the lyrics are quite pertinent to the times that we're living in – especially now with COVID and people dying. The state of the world is in need of healing.
People know us for Great Gig in the Sky because not only did we perform it with Pink Floyd live in Venice but when I first joined the Australian Pink Floyd, Durga came as a guest and she and I did it as a duet; Durga created the arrangement ending with us doing it in harmony. So we wanted to capture that on the album. We've had over a million views of the Aussie Floyd version. So we put that on the album.
ELR: The track Gods and Lovers was co-written by Jon Carin and it has a history that dates back to one of the Pink Floyd tours?
DM: After the Pulse tour I decided to move from London to the United States because I was in negotiations with RCA and they wanted me to do some demos. So I got John to help me and we recorded four songs – co-wrote and recorded four songs together. Unfortunately, as what often happens, the person that was the NR guy that was heading the negotiation just disappeared, or sometimes they get fired or something. So I had these four great songs that I always wanted to do something with and that was my favorite of the four.
ELR: So you had planned on a full album?
DM: When RCA fell through, I moved to Miami and Miami is like... you can have a very robust river of music flowing in front of you, and then there are these little eddies on the side where things kind of get stuck. Miami musically, to me, it's like one of those eddies. There is a music scene in Miami, don't get me wrong, but it was just... I found it very difficult to navigate. I should've gone straight back to Los Angeles but I didn't. I had three-and-a-half years in Miami. It was fun. Interesting.
ELR: I wanted to ask you about the track Money Don't Make the Man: it seems to me it's about that space between the artist and the fan, celebrity and ordinary people: is that gap closing with technology and with artists finding more niche spaces to work in? Smaller but more loyal groups of fans?
LM: Absolutely, people have much more access to the people that they follow or that they admire because of social media. They may not be able to communicate with the big stars directly, but at least they can follow their thoughts and post their reply.
DM: Sometimes they do get replies directly from the artist.
LM: Yeah, they do. But I'm saying in general, for the masses; they follow somebody and they might comment, they're at least able to interact in a way that we couldn't, like when we were on tour in the nineties or in the eighties; however, as far as the access to connect with the public beyond social media – which is really amazing because it gave us access to people who have then started following us, bought our album, or liking our videos and stuff like that - but as far as massive exposure, I think a lot of people have set that idea aside because if they can make the production of their album relatively inexpensive, they don't have to sell a platinum album to be able to recoup and make money off of what they've done. Now, the hard thing is a lot of bands have discovered touring and selling their merchandise was the best way to make money, more so than trying to sell their albums, because you can make a lot from touring and you can make even more from your merchandise, but because of COVID cutting us off from that element, that income stream, it's difficult.
And still, people are trying to find other things that they can sell. Like we have merchandise that we can sell, at least through our website: hats and t-shirts and some unique things like hand painted sneakers; I make jewelry and things like that. But, I think the plot to reach the fans is going to take longer. What I've seen, to be effective with unknown bands, is if they start doing covers... and if they do covers that were huge hits, but they do them in their own style, and then from there, they build a following that likes the way they reinterpret these hits, then they can do their own music and slowly introduce that because they’ve built a fan base.
DM: A great example of that is Dirty Loops. Oh my God. They are amazing. And, in fact, like several years ago, when I first got turned onto them, I started noticing all the musicians that I know and that I really respect in their musical ability were all into Dirty Loops. They do a Rihanna cover that you would not believe. It's unbelievable.
LM: They're Swedish. And they're kind of a pop-jazz fusion band. I love their cover of Circus too, by Britney Spears and Baby by Justin Bieber.
DM: And the lead singer sounds like a young Stevie Wonder. It's crazy. On steroids.
LM: And their original music is really good too. They did an album called Loop Aside, where they have a couple of singles they've put out since, but we're waiting for another album.
ELR: You also mentioned in your YouTube launch party for the album that this isn't just about celebrities, but also about politicians, leaders (with respect to what I was saying earlier about the space between artists and fans getting a little bit smaller): I feel like the gap between politicians and ordinary people has grown tremendously, which is kind of odd because I think we're in a weird populist political moment. Yet at the same time I feel like there's a big disconnection. In a way, do you feel the song is more topical on that side of the of the world we live in than on the entertainment side?
LM: I really wasn't focusing Money Don’t Make the Man on the entertainment industry, Have a Cigar is really about the entertainment industry. Money Don’t Make the Man has much more to do with that 'gap between' – particularly because I'm speaking as a woman who's being contacted by this wealthy man who is, you know, either her sugar daddy or some guy she's having an affair with. And he he's so into himself and how privileged he feels that he can sort of command that she show up whenever, at a drop of a hat, because he's there. The ending and the section where we have the news reports talking about this same man being corrupt and how either he's getting away with it or he's caught up in some kind of scandal just takes it to another level. I mean, certainly, we've been exposed to some very wealthy people working in the music industry, be it artists that we've worked with or peers that are superstars and, you know, we've seen how people can definitely take their wealth and privilege to a level where they can become condescending. Because they feel that they deserve a certain level of trust. DM: I would use a different word: I would say elitist.
LM: Yes. Yes. That, definitely. So it's a little bit of all of that. And also how critical for some people it is to just stay in the media. No matter what it is, they've got to jump on it, which is why there's a report in there about… there's some kind of uprising in one country and this guy called in to offer a support. Like, we really need to hear from you? DM: And the fact that it does fit a certain particular politician at this day and time is fine because it does, this was written years ago. So it's just amazing that the timing fit, right? If the shoe fits, basically…
ELR: I wanted to ask you about Forgotten How to Smile, which was co-written with Lemmy Kilmister. We've been talking about stereotypes and this is a song most people wouldn't imagine Lemmy writing. You stayed in touch with him after meeting him in 1989 and wrote this song with him: do you think the way we stereotype some musicians that we easily miss the musical bandwidth they posses?
LM: Yes, absolutely. Because people get pigeonholed in a certain style and every once in a while, you'll have somebody that will break out of their style. Like, say, when lady Gaga did the album with Tony Bennett, where she was doing something completely unexpected based on, you know, songs like Paparazzi. So with Lemmy, because his image was so hardcore, people just saw that one dimension. Whereas as a human being, he was a really kind, warm person. And his contribution to the song really was helpful. We finished the lyrics, I wrote all the music and the melody, but I was stuck on finishing the lyrics and he came in and whipped up some lines that I loved. And that was it.
DM: We were talking about people's influences: people don't realize the breadth of Lenny's influences, musically. I mean, they just think of Ace of Spades when they think of him, they don’t think of what brought him to that – and he grew up in that same era, you know, with those guys that were being turned on by blues artists and other people. In fact, one of my favorite memories of Lemmy, because I was friends with Lemmy too, was sitting with him in the lower bar at the Viper Room, down the street, for like two or three hours, singing acapella, Beatles songs. And the man had perfect pitch, which is crazy because, you know, you think it was all [voices Ace of Spades like Lemmy], you know, like that. And he was sitting there and did–not–miss- a-note… and we were in perfect harmony – and it was a really lovely evening. He was just a delightful person. His loss is still felt.
ELR: How do you share lead vocals - how do you decide who gets to sing the lead in a specific song?
DM: I say, 'I'm singing this, shut up!' [laughs]. No, I'm kidding! We basically just pick songs that we like singing. I mean, between the two of us, we really love working together. We've been singing together since we were kids and, you know, I was telling somebody the other day that our mother, who was a premiere cardiologists, she was an internist specializing in cardiology - arguably the first black female cardiologist with a private practice in the United States. In California, certainly. She would be at work all day long and come home and we would be like, ‘mom, look!’, and we would have this little show. Singing into something – and we'd make her listen... and, you know, years later I reflect on how exhausted she must've been, always very graciously watching our little show and being very, very encouraging and all of that.
So when it comes to singing together, we blend so well. Sometimes I'm listening to a recording and I'm like, ‘wait, is that me or Lorelei?’ We are very easy working with each other because we respect each other so much as vocalists. There isn't any ego and there isn't any, you know, ‘I gotta be this and you need to like’, okay, whatever – because I know anything that Lorelei is going to sing, she's going to kill it. And, you know, I think it's vice versa. So, basically, we just picked songs that we particularly enjoy singing. I don't think there was ever any question about who was going to sing what. Was there?
LM: No. And then also, like I said before, because we have done some of these songs live, we'd already kind of worked out ‘I'll, sing this verse, OK I'll sing that verse.’ And the other thing is I have, even I have a big range. I tend to sit and sing the higher parts and Durga sings the lower parts. So that also makes it easy when we have to divide something up as well.
DM: We did a vocal library that's going to be available soon and we discovered that when you record a vocal library, you have to go from the bottom of your range, doing different vowel sounds and different sounds [voices ‘oo’, ‘ah’, and ‘ee’], extended and things like that all the way up to the top of your range. And we discovered that I have the same amount of notes at the bottom that Lorelei has at the top that I can't make.
ELR: The era of Pink Floyd that you became a part of relied on a larger eco-system of musicians both in the studio and live. Do you feel you were there to improve some elements or to complement them?
LM: I'm a very group-oriented person, as opposed to ‘pay attention to me’. I really liked the camaraderie and unity of the band. So for me, I felt like what we were doing was just a compliment to the rest of what was going on in the band. And that the background vocals can create a certain softness or they can be harsh, like on What Do You Want From Me, the background vocals [sings ‘what do you want'], you know, it's like attitude. So I never quite made a separation like that. And I didn't feel that they did either. They were not like 'superstar', ‘I’m the biggest thing that ever happened,’ they were very much into the whole entourage on stage. Everybody had their place.
DM: I would say that it's kind of like if you like to cook, when you're preparing a dish, you need certain elements to make it taste good. And if there's like a little bit of acid missing, like if the lemon juice isn't there, you definitely notice it. The backing vocals are like one of those elements in preparing a well-rounded dish: without those… if you don't put enough salt in something, the whole thing suffers.
I will just toot my own horn here a little bit. Because when they recorded The Division Bell, Bob Ezrin had, uh, insisted on all-English backing vocalists, because of the intonation. And when they finished, David listened to the whole thing and he said, ‘the bottom is wrong.’ And so they want all the bottom tracks and I got this call one day here in Los Angeles saying, [in a British accent] ‘would you like to fly over to London and sing on this album?’ And I was like, ‘yes, please!’ So I got on a plane and redid all the bottom parts of the backing vocals. And that's, I think, why I'm featured almost… you can really hear me prominently on like, Keep Talking [sings the line ‘why won't you talk to me?’] I'm pushed really high in the mix. Yeah. Dave likes my voice, just a little aside. It's the whole: if an integral part of the sound wasn't there, you would notice.
LM: But I also think that you and I give an attitude, it's a black woman's attitude –
when you have something feisty to say – that I've found, in my opinion, was missing from some of the background vocals that the British girls did: almost like a reflection of the British personality, which tends to be more reserved. And when you need an attitude like ‘Motha fucka what?’ [laughs].
DM: [laughing] It's true. It's true. And David has said so. I mean, in fact, when we were first hired to do the shows in Atlanta, the quote that we got from the man who ran the production company, when he approached Lorelei he said, ‘you know, they want some black singers because, as David put it, he wanted to add some color. That wasn't just visually, he loves the vocal quality that a lot of singers with a soul sensibility to their voice have. I mean, his version of I Put a Spell On You with Mica Paris is just insane and it's so rich, and he has a real affinity for that vocal tone.
ELR: Changing gears a bit, COVID has happened in tandem with an escalation of issues related to law enforcement and law enforcement's relationship with our communities: so things that divide us have escalated. At the same time COVID precludes us from participating in things that unite us, like live music. Has the absence of things like live music - those outlets - made things worse?
LM: I personally feel that I agree with you that music is definitely healing. However, we're in a phase where people have been into sort of an escapist element of music as opposed to say the sixties era of the protest songs and stuff that was very serious, and it hit across the spectrum. You had Marvin Gaye with What’s Going On, you had The Temptations with Ball of Confusion, and then you had all your folk people, you know, Bob Dylan and the like, talking about how we were at war and we don’t like this. So, in my opinion, right now, what's happening that's really positive – it's taken years, you know, from Trayvon Martin to George Floyd, to get the general public, not just black people, to say, ‘wait a minute, something is wrong here.’ That they're going too far. And we are saying, yeah, ‘we've been telling you this for a long time,’ the problem is there's been a misconception about defund the police that I really wish the politicians would clarify.
Defund the police is not saying we don't want to have police available. It's about, instead of militarizing the police – that's what they should be saying: ‘demilitarize the police so that we don't have weapons from Iraq, tanks, and gear coming over and being bought by communities to “police the public”… instead, take that money and do things to enhance the communities that you're policing. Because the reason why people are turning to crime is because they don't have jobs. Put jobs into that community, it will build itself because as people earn more, they're going to purchase instead of just renting, they're going to start new businesses, etcetera, as opposed to just landing in jail, to feed into the private prison system – the private prison industry, which is what they're doing now.
DM: And not to mention, you know, instead of giving the LAPD a fleet of tanks, put that money towards assigning someone that has mental health training along with the officers. So you're not sending people that are trained to kill to a situation that needs somebody that's trained to listen. There are so many pilot programs that have been really successful, where they have sent out mental health professionals to some of these disturbance calls and they've deescalated the situation. And nobody goes to jail. Nobody gets shot, nobody gets killed. And that's more of what we need. We don't need people that are like, ‘you don't look right,’ bang! That’ll just shoot them in the head, you know. I would love to see some money go into programs to seriously root out the white supremacists that have taken hold in our nation’s police forces; the FBI was talking about this 10 years ago. Something needs to be done about this. When you have somebody like Kyle Rittenhouse walk past the police with an AR-15 slung around his chest, with his arms up, and people saying ‘he just killed somebody,’ and the police wave him by like Mayberry R.F.D., and he goes home after murdering two people… that's crazy. Yeah. That's crazy. The white supremacist majority's in a lot of these police forces needs to be rooted out and removed.
LM: I have two things to say. One is about Congress and the other is about the police department. One of the things I was trying to point out in the Wish You Were Here video is after the slave patrols, which basically went out to catch runaway slaves and bring them back, our country basically founded the way that we approach policing on these slave patrols; I've read this because I did some research on it. And I noticed when I was making the video, I posted badges for a few of the states. I had the LAPD badge, after a showing a scene of Rodney King, getting beaten: slavery ended, legally, in 1865... the date on the badge when that police department started was 1869. So it just goes to prove the point that they formed these police forces based on this idea, basically, that black people are criminals – beginning and end of story. Because after slavery, you could be arrested for “loitering” if you didn't have a place to stay? They didn't have homes. I mean, you release people who have no money, no family to go stay with, where do you expect them to stay? But it was an excuse to then arrest them and put them to work on a chain gang. So here we are back in, enslaved to somebody. And the mentality behind this has not been rooted out of these departments. And it isn't only white cops that do this. There are cops of every race that do this. If you’ve seen the movie Boyz N the Hood, that was one of the key elements of the film. In the film there was this black cop that absolutely detested these young black kids. He had his reasons. He felt that they were an embarrassment to the race, and so many other things that he was right about… but by the same token, he went out of his way to humiliate those kids. Instead of being supportive to his community, he wanted to lock them up like they were trash. So the issue that we need to address is the mentality behind the prejudice. Because very often it's based on preconceived notions. We get a lot of negative imagery in the media. We don't hear stories about the black college students that are becoming doctors and the amazing group of black women and the statistic that black women are doing even more in terms of their progress with college degrees and so forth.
We hear about the thugs that shot up a store. Like I saw this girl saying, ‘Oh, you know, they owe us, they have a TJ Maxx, they have insurance, we need reparations.’ They'll focus on that rhetoric as opposed to the people like Ice Cube, who's got a proposal for black America where he's talking about some very constructive ideas on how we can turn things around, where we can in interject with funding, which is what the black community needs most so that we can catch up.
DM: And meanwhile, there was a shooting in Compton where those two police people were shot. It’s come to light later that a possible motive behind the shooting was that they were sitting right next to a station – a police station – that's known for being the home of a rogue group of cops called ‘the executioners.’ These are the people that are policing our streets. They call themselves ‘the executioners.’ They have been known to terrorize the area for years. The Compton mayor was pulled over by some of these cops. And she came out saying that these are dirty cops, that they've been terrorizing this neighborhood for too long… and they were trying to pull some mess when they pulled her over – not realizing that they had pulled over the Mayor.
LM: The other thing I was going to say in my answer was about Congress. After John Boehner left the government, I read an article where he was quoted as saying we have Nazis in our Congress. So part of the reason why these people are being protected is because they're doing these people's bidding and they condone the behavior. I posted an article about an audio tape cut leaked where these North Carolina policemen were talking about ‘shoot these the 'n' word,' you know, being very derogatory and very clear that they were racist and that their objective was not about law and order. It was about ‘kill the black people.’
ELR: What role do musicians have in helping heal these problems?
LM: Well, like I said before: the fact that you can write about and make videos about subjects that create a dialogue – to me, that is a way that music can have an impact, because people – I mean, this is not a political example: but the fact that a WAP song got so much attention, from Cardi B? It opened up a conversation that a lot of people paid attention to (whether it went where some of us would have liked it to have gone is another story).
So you can get people talking about a subject if you have the right message in your soul, hopefully it can lead to some openness and awareness about issues that people need to talk about. I mean, the thing is most people – not most people, most white people, I find – are so uncomfortable with this topic because they feel they're being accused of something that they may not have done or that they are so unaware of… they're not experiencing what we're experiencing. Once they realize what that is, they're like, ‘wow.’ And it's overwhelming. And it's uncomfortable. You know, watching George Floyd die was really uncomfortable for everybody – as it should be.
DM: Artists have always been provocateurs. Artists have always been storytellers. All different art mediums have always reflected what is happening in society. And, and not only can music pinpoint certain really critical situations… I mean a song like Ohio by Neil Young, after the Kent State Killings, really got to people. You have that side of it. And like Lorelei mentioned, Ball of Confusion, things like that; you can have some really incendiary songs that evoke a visceral response in people. And then the other side of that is you can have songs like James Taylor's Shower the People, which have a very calming influence, and Black Eyed Peas, Where Is The Love? So we have the ability to really focus people's attention on a particular situation and then deal with the emotions that come up out of focusing on that. That's one of the greatest parts of music. I mean, to me, I've always felt like acting is very cerebral, dance is very visceral, and music is the bridge between those two.
ELR: Given how COVID has changed things, are you already working on more material, will you be streaming shows... how will you carry the project forward?
DM: Well, this is our first album, put out by ourselves. So just dealing with getting this out has been very overwhelming. We're getting it out. We haven't planned any live streaming shows as of yet, but that's always a possibility; it's difficult also because we're in different places. We can, somehow, but we would have to get everybody from wherever we are. I mean, I’m in Los Angeles, Lorelei lives in New York. I plan on going back to my house in Italy as soon as I can leave Los Angeles. So that isn't out of the question. We just want to get more word out about this album and get sales up higher and higher and get noticed by one of the big evening shows – night TV shows. That would be cool to do a gig on one of those.
LM: Like Jimmy Fallon, he loves your voice.
DM: We want Jimmy Fallon! He's amazingly talented and he just seems like a really cool guy.
LM: The other way that we're planning to keep ourselves in the public eye is to do more videos. We've done a video for Goodbye Blue Sky that does have live performance in it. It's not quite like what you would expect in a music video. It was an at-home, COVID lockdown video with Durga, myself, and two other girls that sang background vocals, Laura Smiles and Emily Lamb – and Armando Perdomo played guitar on it. So that'll be our next one. And so, hopefully we'll be able to do several videos and that will at least keep it in front of people and give them a little bit more insight creatively as to of what we were envisioning when we picked those songs or wrote them.
ELR: The song A Girl Like That - I wanted to ask you about it because Pink Floyd has a very male audience: how did you feel a song like that would be received and how cognizant were you about that when you wrote and recorded it?
DM: I actually wrote that years ago. I was doing Blue Pearl, which is my dance music thing. I was a British pop star, basically. And that had been a real sort of bane of my existence. I used to model, things like that. So I wrote it more, not for who was going to hear it, but just because I wanted to say it. Sure. I feel like a lot of women go through that, where we're not supposed to be sexual beings. It comes back to that, the WAP song: we're not supposed to express the fact that we're just as horny as men or that we enjoy sex… or else you're just a slut; you know, men… I mean, you look at, especially like the hair bands in the eighties, they had girls, you know, half naked, all that kind of stuff. And they were looked on as studs and all that. And the women were the sluts. But if you put it the other way around, where the woman is going around and looking at hot guys and stuff, she's still the slut. So what is that about? It takes a vagina and a penis to have sex. So why is one of those parts of the equation looked at differently? And it really pissed me off a lot because I'm not… I do like sex. I'm unapologetic about it, but I'm not just that... I can't even think of the words right now, but, 'whatever happened to the mind behind those legs, those eyes, those lips, you know, I am more than a girl in a show.’ So it's important, especially now in the wake of the ‘me too’ movement as well, that people… the other side of the ‘me too’ movement is ‘yes, these men can be very rapey and take advantage of women sexually’ and all that, but we are also entitled to own our own sexuality without being thought of as, ‘oh, well, she's just a target.’ You can have sex. It's really annoying and demeaning and sexist, but you know, we live in a patriarchal society. Hopefully we are now tipping more into a balance with the matriarchy, which has needed to happen because matriarchal societies ruled the earth for thousands of years before the patriarchy. So it's time we have more of that.
I also wanted to mention that A Girl Like That was written with Guy Pratt.
ELR: I know you did the Italian shows with people like Scott Page and Gary Wallis and then Australian Pink Floyd; are those projects you both want to keep working with, moving forward?
DM: That's how I make a living! So, yeah, as soon as shows open up!
ELR: I appreciate you both making the time for this. Hopefully we'll stay in touch and maybe we'll do a podcast soon?
DM: I think we should. I think we should do it on Zoom. Like we're doing it now and just record the video!
Photography courtesy of The McBroom Sisters, Durga McBroom, and Claudio Capuzzi. For more information about The McBroom Sisters, and to order their new album, Black Floyd, visit mcbroomsisters.com. This interview will also be made available on video soon.