KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: Purple Rhinestone Eagle…Tragically UnHeard Of

Em Brownlowe




(Portland, OR)

The first time I saw Purple Rhinestone Eagle they were signaling the cold spirits of Halloween in a very crowded humid basement…each member dressed as characters from Lord of the Rings. I went as a “gay-fetish” which of course meant handle bar mustache and extremely short shorts. Lucky for my bare legs, Purple Rhinestone Eagle filled the basement with their hot riffs and percussive thunderstorms. The trio moved from Philadelphia to Portland and have been heating up cold basements and venues ever since. PRE stir a black cauldron, mixing obscure psych bands from the 60’s with sexed up punk rock call and response vocals similar to The Third Sex or “The Woods” era of Sleater Kiney. Summer 2008 looks hot n heavy for the gals as they will embark on a bi-coastal tour and will release an album of hard hitting music.

How long have each of you been playing music? What inspired you to play music in the first place? How did the band form? When?

Andrea: I have been playing guitar for about 11 years. Before that it was a little piano and some woodwind. Mainly the music that was coming out of the Northwest (Bikini Kill, Heavens to Betsy, Sleater-Kinney, etc.) in the early to mid 90s is what inspired me the most to play guitar, those bands and Jimi Hendrix. The band formed in West Philly summer 2005. We were a lot different then. It’s taken us a couple of years to cultivate our sound and we’re pretty darn proud of it.

Morgan: Purple Rhinestone Eagle is my first band. I really only started playing bass when Andrea and Ashley and I started playing together. I started getting into punk when I was about 12, and it was the first thing I ever felt passionate about. I guess I wanted to be a part of whatever it was that inspired me so much as a kid, and continues to be one of the most important things in my life.

Ashley: I also started on piano, but I got sad and quit when my instructor gave me a hard time for not being able to read music. I started playing the drums when I was 18. I did not take it seriously for another few years when i got my first drum kit for my 20th birthday. Even then, I was moving around the county and didn’t really have a steady band until Purple Rhinestone Eagle started. I met Morgan at a potluck. She was wearing an All Girl Summer Fun Band Shirt. We decided it would probably make sense if we started a band together.

Watch PRE live:

Purple Rhinestone Eagle moved to Portland not so long ago yet seem to have dived right into a nicely knit scene. That is awesome you moved here together. Why did you all decide to move to Portland? What was your first impressions of Portland? How does the Northwest compare to the Northeast?. How does Purple Rhinestone Eagle experience the house show mecca of Portland and the queer scene?

Andrea: We went on an east coast tour with New Bloods. Adee was a friend of mine from before that tour. Ashely, Morgan and I were all suffering from varying degrees of stress and anxiety living in Philadelphia (for a multitude of reasons). New Bloods came down from above like angels, stroked our heads and beckoned us to the land of chill out. I personally like Portland a lot. It’s not as ethnically diverse as I would like it to be but outside my band I have really strong friendships with other people of color here, a lot of whom are in bands as well (which rules). The Northwest is a completely different culture than back east. As far as the show scene, it’s really friendly here and people are willing to help you out more. As far as queer issues go, I’m the only gay person in the band. We try to make our music accessible to people of all identities. We all come from very different backgrounds (race, class, sexuality, geographical locations, etc.) and we want to be as inclusive as possible to honor all of those varying identities. We don’t want to portray ourselves as anything but.

Has being a woman affected your music experience? Why or why not? Who are some of your lady heroes?

Andrea: Most definitely it has affected my music experience. When I was younger I was denied being able to play guitar in this one band I was in. It was a band of all dudes besides me. They were just intimidated that I was a better musician than them. Then I quit that crappy band and made a conscious decision that if I was going to be in any more serious music projects, it was only going to be with other ladies. My lady music heroes include: Carrie Brownstein, Etta James, Nina Simone, Odetta, Alice Coltrane, Grace Slick, Yoko Ono, and Kate Bush among many others.

Morgan: It’s strange to me that so many people still see it as a novelty of some kind for women to play music. I like playing in Portland because it’s less of an issue here than it was in Philly. Personally, I love Kim Shattuck, she is definitely one of my musical lady heroes. She has a great, not at all pretty voice and completely holds her own in a male dominated genre. And Joan Jett. She’s pretty great.

Ashley: Being a woman has had an affect on my musical experience for sure. People have some dumb, macho things to say sometimes when they see an all female band, but for the most part people are pumped to see our band because they are into the music. Right now, living in Portland and being able to play shows with so many great female (as well as male) musicians is wonderful. Some of my personal favorite female musicians include: Moe Tucker, Janet Wiess, Palmolive, Yoko, Slant 6, Kim Gordon, Amy Farina, Satomi Matsuzaki, Mary Timony, Tina Turner.

While your music is very heavy, I can’t help thinking you have a bit of a sense of humor! What is the story behind the name Purple Rhinestone Eagle?

Andrea: I’ll let someone else answer our name question.

Morgan: I think it’s important to maintain a sense of humor, about yourself and the world, but at the same time we are generally pretty sincere. Everyone always asks about the band name… sometimes certain images or phrases need to be recaptured and owned anew, casting aside preconceptions and arbitrary values… why should the eagle be resigned to a cartoonish emblem for capitalism, or rhinestones seen as worthless? The eagle is majestic and fierce, and I’ll take a rhinestone over a diamond any day.

What inspires your music and lyrics?

Andrea: As the main lyric writer, a lot of things inspire my writing. Lately my lyrics have been getting more witchy (e.g. casting circles, calling upon natural forces, prophetic dreaming). I like writing/singing about mental health as it’s related to the health of the planet, friendships, fun times, shitty times, political/social struggle, and of course sex. Musically we are inspired a lot by the music that came out of the 60s and 70s, especially music that came out of what can be labeled the more “obscure” scenes and bands.

How would you describe your own music?

Andrea: Our music is rock-n-roll-pyschedelic-garage-stoner fury.

What else is coming up for Purple Rhinestone Eagle?. What do you hope to be your legacy?

Andrea: We want to put out our recording on vinyl so we’re doing a little record label shopping right now. After our two summer tours we want to follow it up with one in the fall. Other than that we’re trying to do a lot of song writing. Legacy? Hmm. One day when I’m old and gray, I’d love to pass the torch on to some young girls who want to make rock n roll (or whatever kind of music) too. I want to be as inspiring to young kids as my music heroes have been to me.


4 Responses to “KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: Purple Rhinestone Eagle…Tragically UnHeard Of”

  1. April 29, 2008 at 4:47 pm

    i just want to say that this is one of the best bands around today. thank god they’re finally getting some recognition. seriously, go to their shows if you get a chance, or you will die regretting it. look for them on the east coast in mid july. i will be their merch girl!

  2. 2 EM
    April 29, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    ooooh candy, you are so sweet

  3. 3 The Bearded Traveler
    April 30, 2008 at 6:12 pm

    This Eagle is taaaakin me hiiiigher!!! yessss!!!

  4. 4 GeminiFools
    December 20, 2008 at 9:48 am

    A late reply, but I saw PRE for the first time at Slabtown in Portland, 12/12/2008. I had no idea who they were when they climbed on stage, but after that performance, I’m a dedicated fan. They ROCKED! I’m aurally salivating in anticipation of another stunning audio treat.

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