• Title: Violent Femmes reflect on the ups and downs making decades of music together
  • Author: N/A
  • Publication: CBS News
  • Date: July 15th, 2017

The Violent Femmes made their mark on American music as one of the most successful alt-rock bands of the 1980s. 

“CBS This Morning: Saturday” co-host Anthony Mason had the chance to talk to members Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie about their sudden big break, slow rise to stardom and the dust-ups and reunions along the way.

The group first gained notice in 1981 when they were spotted busking outside a Milwaukee arena by The Pretenders, who were playing there that night.

“And suddenly we saw these British people and Chrissie Hynde, like, almost observing us. And they invited us to open the show, which was tremendous,” Ritchie said.   

“And then what happened from there is the next day we still couldn’t get any place to play,” Gano said. “People were really mad at us.”

But the next year, Gano and Ritchie started work on their first album. It would feature the Femmes’ breakout song, “Blister In the Sun.”  

“Even when we were making the first album, we knew that we were making a masterpiece. We didn’t know whether other people would agree with that, but we knew,” Ritchie said.

“Yeah. Isn’t that funny? I mean that’s just something about being young and believing in what you’re doing,” Gano said. 

It would take eight years, but the Violent Femmes debut eventually sold 1 million copies.

It happened so slowly that Ritchie says it’s the only album to hit the Billboard charts after achieving status as a platinum album.

“So it said ‘platinum’ and ‘new entry.’ It’s the only one. But that’s the power of word of mouth,” Ritchie said. 

The band has survived a couple of breakups. The most recent was in 2007, when Gano sold the rights to “Blister In The Sun” to the Wendy’s restaurant chain. Ritchie went ballistic. He called Gano greedy and insensitive, and sued.

Asked how the two made peace after a nasty breakup, Gano said, “It’s the power of the music. There’s a sound when we play together which is different.”

“But then there’s also this element of like, if you want to have a long-term relationship with anybody, even with this guy, you know we have to forgive each other,” Ritchie said.

But Gano says the two don’t often talk about their disagreements. 

“We disagree on so many things, except when we play music together. If we had to talk through everything and agree on everything that isn’t going to happen. So we gotta stay focused on the music,” Gano said. 

And the Violent Femmes have found their wavelength — in the space between punk rock success and superstardom. 

“And we’ve ended up having decades of somewhere in between,” Gano said. 

Their new live album is called, “Two Mics & The Truth: Unplugged and Unhinged in America.”