She may have exploded into international infamy with her debut record, The Fame, but Lady Gaga never forgot where she came from — which couldn’t have worked out better for her favourite New York band, Semi Precious Weapons, opening act on Gaga’s gargantuan Monster Ball.
“She kicked and screamed and put her foot down until everyone that works with her and for her let us open her tour. And here we are,” says SPW frontman Justin Tranter over the phone from a stop in San Jose, Calif., six months into an insane world arena tour that will keep him and his band on the go until next May.
Formed in New York in 2006 by four stylish music school grads looking to inject a little glamour and filth back into rock ’n’ roll, SPW quickly attracted the devotion of Gaga, then a young singer-songwriter.
“She was a big fan of ours, luckily, thank God,” says Tranter. “Probably one of our first fans we had that wasn’t related to me.”
When Gaga began collaborating with Lady Starlight in what Tranter — an emerging style icon in his own right — describes as “over-the-top, Hairspray sort of disco-ball breaking insanity,” SPW knew they’d found their perfect match and asked the pair to open a show for them.
“[Gaga] became our permanent opener in New York; every time we played, she’d open. And then she moved to L.A. to make the biggest record of the decade,” Tranter says. “The first time [SPW] heard ‘Just Dance,’ we were driving through Minnesota to play a show to like 15 people and we heard it on the radio. We always stayed in touch with her, so it was just kind of really surreal and insane.”
Obviously, when its newly successful longtime admirer hand-plucked SPW from the world of dingy bars and danger vans, taking it to a promised land of stadium seating and climate-controlled tour buses, everything changed, says Tranter. Oh, except the most important thing: “Our show is exactly the same. Whether we’re playing in a bar to 30 people or whether we’re playing in an arena, we do the exact same show.”
The hardworking band’s crazy workload hasn’t lessened since graduating from DIY to Monster Ball — it’s just shifted. “There is still some filth and some glamour and some rock ’n’ roll debauchery,” says Tranter, “[But] both situations are tons of work, just in different ways. The smaller bars, we’re driving ourselves from venue to venue, we’re selling our own merch, we’re making our own merch. But there aren’t 200 kids who want to meet you and have their CD signed.”
There are also the daily on-location concert ticket giveaways, the interviews, the soundchecks, the shows, and the inevitable after-parties, which typically feature DJ slots or live SPW sets, to think about. And as Tranter mentions, each gig is followed by a meet-and-greet where fans can get their copy of SPW’s debut record, You Love You, signed.
SPW’s work won’t stop with the Monster Ball: expect the band’s follow-up record early in 2011, as well as a headlining tour though Canada during its off-time this autumn.