Attractive front woman, Juliet Simms, is clearly determined to make it as an international rock star. Not only does she ‘got the looks’ of an MTV-approved artist, but she also possesses one of the strongest voices on the club circuit. Her band, Automatic Loveletter, has received many accolades for their easily accessible, yet valiantly rigorous and radio-friendly arena rock anthems.
Partnered with her co-composing lead guitarist-brother, Tommy Simms, Juliet counters real and imagined broken-hearted tear-stained reflections with jarringly vindictive rants. Contradictory characters in many ways, sweet-faced green-eyed jewelry-laden high-heeled rhythm guitarist, Juliet, lives like a privileged vagabond, splitting downtime at her parents’ Florida house when she’s not making the rounds out in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, older longhaired sibling, Tommy, lives a quiet family life in splendid Southern outpost, Savannah, Georgia, spending free time on various balls-out hard-rocking solo projects. Together, they’ve led Automatic Loveletter through two promising EP’s and 2010’s newly waxed long-play entrée, Truth Or Dare.
Tommy claims Juliet hit her stride as a precocious teenaged lass. She’d freak out their mom with crazed adolescent rebel yells emulating from a small basement closet studio used as practice space. “Like a chameleon, she hit puberty and her voice changed to a raspy blues belter. The home studio gave her lots of opportunities to loudly squeal and screech,” Tommy claims.
Able to leap from breathy rock diva quaver to Pat Benatar-like operatic wailing to an unbridled folk-blues vixen bleeding heartache, Juliet is a true vocal dynamo. In lesser hands, her songs would never retain such emotional resonance. She purrs through agonizingly meditative requiems and restlessly pours out venomous rage on noisier numbers.
Truth Or Dare roars out of the gate as Juliet plays a tough-ass tigress on blaring spike-through-the-heart wrangle “Heart Song.” A certain dramatic vulnerability radiates inside balladic fare such as “Fade Away” and tenderhearted piano lament, “Hush.” “My Goodbye” rushes by with the swagger of Patti Smyth’s best ‘80s Scandal tunes. And the resiliently ruminating refraction “Story Of My Life” brings to mind Paramore’s most compelling compositions.
I spoke to the Simms at Manhattan’s Union Squared Heartland Brewery in late August.
How’d you come up with your catchy Automatic Loveletter moniker?
Juliet Simms: When I first started writing songs, they were poems, or little loveletters, to my boyfriend. I turned them into songs. Back in the day, when I started Automatic Loveletter, they were love songs I’d written for people I’d fallen in love with or had crushes on. Automatic comes from that innate feeling you have immediately. More recently, I’ve developed a broader writing style, whether it be controversial or about my life.
As siblings, is it hard to get along on tour?
JS: Ah. Yeah. (laughter)
For someone so petite, you’ve got a pretty large voice to carry the harder rocking numbers. Who inspired you as a kid?
JS: I love Taylor Swift and the stories behind her songs and the soul. I grew up with that genre of music. And I like Jewel, Alanis Morrissette, some country. But I also enjoy earthy Stones music, Jethro Tull, and Steve Miller. They’re not country, but all their influences come from there. It has a lot of heart and soul and I gravitate towards it.
Do you draw more influence from your Florida hometown or your Los Angeles retreat?
JS: One of my favorite places to write is sitting on my bed in Florida. Going to the beach at night is beautiful. But the heat is unbearable. I love my family to death, but sometimes I don’t think they understand me. My parents fully support me, but worry so much to the point I’m going insane.
What’s the dark, cautionary “Fade Away” about?
JS: That was written because I almost died in a car crash.
Tommy Simms: We literally were writing for the record, pulled out of Starbuck’s, and some retard just T-boned us. It was bad…totaled the car. We danced around the crash, wondering ‘How’d we not die?’ This was q brand new Mitsubishi SUV. We just threw it away.
JS: And I had just driven it cross-country two days prior from Florida.
TS: Fifteen minutes later, we hopped in another car and headed to the studio to track vocals for that song.
Tell me about delicious guitar rock anthem, “Don’t Let Me Down.”
TS: It’s about falling in love and doing the deed. The physical act of love.
JS: For me, I see the compassionate side of making love.
TS: I don’t think it’s about love at all. But I don’t speak for her. When I’m playing that song, it’s pure sex. It’s not about pulling hair. I’m just saying it’s about lighting up the bed.
How true-to-life is “Story Of My Life”?
JS: I collaborated with a friend and did the lyrics. The second verse, “waking up/ I have a headache/ I’m running late,” is the story of my life. I’m running late because I have a hangover. I’m on tour. I’m irresponsible.
TS: Juliet’s not a schoolteacher. We’re on tour. You get hung-over. We’re on tour for most of the year.
JS: I don’t have a valid driver’s license. I keep a Florida license so I don’t pay California taxes.
Do you pine for Florida when you’re living out West?
JS: I don’t pine for Florida. I go there as a last resort because I have nowhere else to live.
TS: Especially where we grew up, a real slow-paced boring beach community.
JS: We’re musicians. We hide from the sun.
I thought “My Goodbye” would’ve been a really climactic dramatic closer, but it’s actually two songs from the finish.
TS: That would’ve been too clichéd to put it last.
JS: I wanted it last but they didn’t go for it.
Automatic Loveletter plays School Of Rock on Oct. 1 and their latest release, Truth Or Dare is available now via Sony BMG. Myspace.com/automaticloveletter