BY FRANK DE BLASE
With her flame-red titan tresses, sexified on-stage hip-swivel, and throaty purr, Los Angeles’ Kim Lenz is one righteous rockabilly filly. After four albums and roughly 20 years on the scene, Lenz and her band, The Jaguars, continue to barnstorm the States and beyond.
Lenz recently gave City a call after returning from a quick trip to Spain. Spanish jet lag notwithstanding, she was bubbly and chatty about these recent shows.
“They really love American rock ’n’ roll,” Lenz says. “They are crazy audiences. They love to get down front, jump around, and get all crazy. It’s like it was here 15 years ago.”
Crazy? She hasn’t seen Big Al at Abilene when he sees a band he likes. Still, she’s right; things have changed.
“The paradigm is shifting over here,” she says. “Record companies are pretty much dead; radio’s pretty much nonexistent.”
But while social media and digital downloads are erasing human contact, Lenz sees it as a way of getting closer. She maintains a stable of around 12,000 fans on Facebook, announcing shows, sharing songs, keeping her followers updated.
“In a way, it’s more intimate,” she says. And the fans are diehard. “I have to say, with people that are into roots music, they don’t change much,” Lenz says. “They’re not like people into pop music. They stick around forever.”
Those diehard fans stuck around when Lenz, at the height of her career, took a maternity leave in 200X.
“I took six years off to have my son,” she says, “playing a date here or there, but I thought, No one’s going to remember me, no one’s going to care, I guess I’ll just retire. But dang, everybody remembered me, and I was like, ‘Yeah, I get to keep doing this. Excellent!”’
Her triumphant re-emergence was marked by the release of her fourth album, “It’s All True,” on her own Riley Records Label in 2009.
“It was my first record after taking a break,” Lenz says. “I had grown as a person — you know, being a mom. And I think in the earlier part of my career, I was a little insecure and relied on other people with the producing. I didn’t trust myself in a lot of the ways that I wish I had. With this record, I decided I was going to do as much as I could myself. I got everything exactly as I wanted it.”
Lenz’s adoptive father first introduced Lenz to music. By the early 80’s, she was hanging out in San Diego’s mod-rocker scene. It was when she moved north that the rockabilly bug bit.
“I moved to L.A. in 1988,” she says. “And that was during the time there was this explosion of all these amazing bands in L.A., like Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys, The Dave & Deke Combo. Royal Crown Revue was just getting started. It was a pretty magical time, and I really got hooked on that kind of music.”
Lenz returned to college at the University of North Texas to finish her degrees in anthropology and sociology with a minor in music. “I always thought I would be a psychologist,” says Lenz.
It was during this academic jaunt that Lenz first performed, and there was no turning back. “My first gig was at a coffeehouse,” says Lenz. “I couldn’t sleep the whole night after. I was like, This is so cool. It was then that I realized what I’m supposed to do.”
So the degree in sociology helps her deal with rowdy audiences, both here and abroad. The minor in music helps her read the dots. And the degree in anthropology gives her insight to the future, when scientists unearth the remains of rockabilly man and his long-gone culture.
“I think those people will still think rock ’n’ roll was pretty crazy,” she says.
Kim Lenz & the Jaguars performs Monday, June 25, at 7:45 & 9:45 p.m. at Abilene Bar & Lounge. Tickets cost $20, or you can use a Club Pass.