Most artists are inspired by art they love, but it was a particularly bad backyard show by a Los Angeles punk group that spurred singer Liza Graves to form a band. “I went home and started my own band because I was so disappointed,” Graves remembers. She teamed with her sister, guitarist Suzi Homewrecker, bassist Jacqui Valentine, and drummer Danni Harrowyn, and the new foursome started the snarling punk outfit Civet. “I think there’s a stereotype that if you are a girl, you have to be girly. We’re not afraid to say we’ve got balls but we’re going to dress nice because that’s how we are in regular life.”
Inspired by her mother’s ink, Graves got a tattoo of a spider web complete with a black widow on her lower back when she was 16. “My mom has a lot of tattoos and my sister and I pretty much learned off her in the first place. I’ve always thought tattoos were really attractive on women,” she says. Just after the release of the band’s first album, 2005’s Massacre, she picked up a tattoo of a civet as well.
With her reddish locks and perfectly dolled-up face, Graves may look like a retro-styled sweetheart, but don’t be so sure. She sports a dagger on her forearm that reads “Hail Hail Rock and Roll,” and lights up when she says, “You wouldn’t think I’d sound like this. A lot of people are like, “Oh, you’re so cute and sweet in person and then you get up onstage and scare us.'”
Although Graves says the band’s recent release, Hell Hath No Fury, is more toned down than their debut (“On the last record, I felt like we had something to prove,” she explains), the newest isn’t exactly easy listening. In fact, the furious intensity and Graves’ fierce vocals could easily make it a follow-up to Rancid’s frenetic 2000 album. So it’s no coincidence that Rancid frontman Tim Armstrong released Civet’s album on his label, Hellcat Records.
So, what has the women of Civet so angry? The guys the band members are dating may be one cause. Just before writing the album, Graves had split with her boyfriend of four years (she’s looking to cover up the heart tattoo behind her ear that features his name). “Everybody has problems with their boyfriends at all times,” Graves explains. “We go out on the road and it’s hard being away from people and there are trust issues. Then there’s the fact they’re in their own bands—and to have us doing so good right now is a bit of an ego blow. … When we wrote the song [“Hell Hath No Fury”] it encompassed the whole record. If you cross us, you’re totally fucked.”