BY ERIC BROOME
Daddy's girls, silver-spooners, Gen X poseurs, novelty rockers - has heard it all. But the L.A. quartet is serving notice to its critics: is a pup no more.
"We've grown up a bit," says drummer Tony Maxwell. The Haden sisters, Petra (vocals/violin) and Rachel (vocals/bass), nod agreement. wasn't always so determined. Sitting in the living room of "The Lodge," the Westside house that Tony andsinger/songwriter Anna Waronker share, you're instantly reminded of the group's casual, campy beginnings: kitschy artwork and '70s TV souvenirs are everywhere you look. (The Charlie's Angels board game goes untouched today, unfortunately.)
It was this pop-culture savvy that propelled the band's 1993 debut into hipster consciousness. That self-titled disc, with a memorable cover lifted from Tony's sixth-grade yearbook, had other virtues - the gorgeous harmonies of Anna and the Hadens (two of a set of triplets), Petra's rich violin lines - but the cute media references to infomercials, Beatles lyrics, cable TV and the like were what really made college radio sit up and notice.
The low-budget "Old Timer" video, basically a tandem Shakey's Pizza/Hot Dog on a Stick commercial, cemented the group's kooky image. Still, the notoriety didn't translate into sales. Ironically, the group's biggest success came with last year's DGC Rarities Vol. 1, a sampler of DGC artists that included a new track, "Grunge Couple." "That's our bread and butter, baby," chortles Tony. "Counting Crows had a cut on the Rarities compilation," Anna explains, "so we got to cash in off it. Not that much, but we did get some money, which was nice." "Let's just say we got more than for our record," says Tony.
's second album, Totally Crushed Out!, ought to boost the kids' finances considerably. An improvement over the debut in every way, Crushed Out! turns up the electricity, tightens the songs and drops the gimmicks. Whereas before, Anna seemed like a bit of a shut-in, writing songs in her room about what was on her TV and stereo, now she concentrates on a more universal issue: that giddy, overinflated myth we all know as Young Love. "I think the first record was written before we even started playing," she notes, "so I had just sort of been living my little life. "But lately I've been going through a series of breakups and feeling really depressed, so I started writing songs about it. I was sort of insecure, because I had made this promise to myself not to do that, but I couldn't control it. Then it dawned on me that to take it away from being just simple love songs, we should make it a theme record. Make it a little lighter. Add some humor." The musical range of Crushed Out! is impressive, stretching from the delicate beauty of "Holidays" to the roaring punk of "Lip Gloss" and touching most points in- between. "To Keep Me" and the elegant "She Doesn't Know How" are highlights, but the showstopper is "Ms.Wrong," an instantly addictive tale of dating ambivalence which somehow, somehow, wasn't chosen as the single. "Originally, it was going to be 'Ms. Wrong,'" defends Anna, "and then we recorded 'He's Kissing Christian' at the last minute and decided to throw it on the record. And we got such a good response, everybody came to the agreement that we could do that song first and hopefully have a chance to do 'Ms. Wrong' after that." Anna should know plenty about singles and marketing - she grew up with one of the industry's most respected minds: her father, former Warner Bros. president Lenny Waronker. Anna spent her wonder years listening to Top 40 radio and what she calls "light-rock solo artists," particularly Lenny-guided acts like Rickie Lee Jones and Randy Newman. "I think the first record I bought was Leo Sayer or Shaun Cassidy," she shrugs. Meanwhile, the Hadens had a musical dad of their own: legendary jazz bassist Charlie Haden, perhaps best known for his work with Ornette Coleman and, well, Pat Metheny. "I love Pat Metheny," gushes Petra, who suddenly turns into a giggling teenager. While Petra spun Metheny, classical music and soundtracks, Rachel echoed her older brother Josh, who currently fronts Spain (now signed to Restless). "My brother made me a tape when I was in fifth grade," she remembers. "It was the greatest tape: Led Zeppelin, Minor Threat, the Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Husker Du..."
Anna met the Hadens during high school. Tony, who had a more punky musical rearing, already knew Anna. But the band actually began with Anna and roommate Jenny Konner, who co-wrote "Ms. Wrong" plus four songs on the debut. Konner's also responsible for the group's name. "I was with Jenny and we saw this roadkill," says Anna. "I got the chills and she said, 'What's wrong?' And I said, 'Oh, that dog.'" Once the group started performing around town, the labels came sniffing. Did the girls' famous fathers have any business advice? "My father said, 'If you sign to a major label, you have to assume that everything following will be very "major,"'" says Anna. "'Responsibility, the scale, consequences...' My dad was really helpful. It's like having a private library of information." "Mine just said something like, 'You're making more money than I am,'" laughs Petra. Not content with alone, all of them except Rachel have side projects. Tony records with indie-pop band 9-Iron, Petra plays in Recess (a duo with producer Tom Grimley) and Anna hopes to release some solo four-tracks. But the band's most notable moonlighting was on Mike Watt's recent album, which was traumatic due to the presence of Eddie Vedder, whom that dog had ridiculed in the track "This Boy." ("How could they make such a fuss over this boy?") "We were kinda freaking out about that," says Rachel of the meeting. "[Vedder] hadn't heard it, but afterwards he asked us for a copy of the record. I thought, 'Oh God, should I write him a note? What should I do?' I had been apologizing every time we played it. I ended up hanging out with Eddie and he was a very nice man. So I feel really badly."