It’s hard not to like The Like. They’re kind of like (ha!) a ‘60s girl group plopped down in the present—their songs are upbeat and harmony-drenched, no matter what the topic, and their style feels ripped straight off The Ronettes backs. Oh, but these gals actually play their own instruments. The Like formed in 2001, when Z Berg, Charlotte Froom, and Tennessee Thomas met in high school. They put out several EPs before getting picked up by Geffen and releasing Are You Thinking What I’m Thinking? Since then, they’ve switched bassists (to Laena Geronimo), added an organ player (Annie Monroe), and started working with Mark Ronson (yes, that Mark Ronson). The result is their new album, Release Me, which came out last week.
The Frisky sat down with drummer and founding member Tennessee (second from left) to ask about the new album and where they got the L-I-K-E dresses they wear on the cover.You guys formed the band very young. What were you all like in high school?
Pretty nerdy. Laena was valedictorian. Z was quite oblivious—she didn’t know what was going on and was always in a world of her own. I met her when she was 15. Annie was the shyest person of all time. She went to school with Z and Z didn’t even know—shy and oblivious are not a good combination. We were all really big music fans and all quite into school and reading and learning, but not necessarily the most popular kids around. I didn’t have any friends in school.
What was your first practice like?
Quite sad and pathetic. No, it was good. Z played me the song “One Soul” and I went, “Alright, yeah, this is good. I love this.” I’ve been her number one fan ever since.
What was the moment you realized you could be a real deal band with songs on the radio?
Honestly, right now is the first time I really feel like that. I mean, it’s always been fun. But when we got signed and our first record came out it was all quite surprising because it wasn’t something we ever intended to happen. It was very organic—we started because we loved the music and loved playing and it was fun. Then we played our first show and from that we played another show. We really just put ourselves out there and, slowly but surely, it built up. Now I feel like we’ve really made the record that we always wanted to make. I think we’ve grown up a lot, and having the two new band members has really changed the overall vibe in the band. I think it’s a lot more professional now. And hopefully, our new songs will get on the radio. I dunno, we’ll see.
So where did the title Release Me come from?
We were trying to come up with the title, and we couldn’t agree on anything. Until we just sort of decided on Release Me—it’s one of the best songs on the record and it just seemed really classic. We’ve been working on this record for a long time and a lot of the songs are about being trapped in situations and being frustrated and all of this stuff that’s been the road leading up to this. Release Me is sort of speaks to the record—we’re finally releasing it and being released from the whole process. We’re always a bit of a fan of a pun or double meaning.
What about the album will be surprising to fans?
I think the range. Lyrically, the sentiment changes. The record starts off with a song called “Wishing He Was Dead,” about a cheating boyfriend, and then the next song is called “He’s Not a Boy,” the idea being that he’s not a boy that you can change you just have appreciate it and get on with it. It sort of spans every angle of a relationship—the ups and downs. It gets pretty dark and then it gets light and it’s all really fun. It was all recorded live—so it’s not so polished. It really does sound like a raw rock and roll ‘60s band.
What about the record do you think will seem familiar to fans?
All our songs have always been very honest and from the heart. The lyrics and tone of voice hasn’t changed, and I think the structure of the songs has always been quite classic. I like the songs on our first record, but I think the presentation is different now. We always wanted to sound like this and it took us a while to find the people that really got us there. Now we have, so we’re really very, very excited.
You tend to tour with very dude bands, like the Futureheads and Kings of Leon and the Arctic Monkeys. What’s it like touring with so many guys?
Well, the thing is—there aren’t a lot of other girl bands. A long time ago we toured with another girl band, but this is a very male dominated world. It’s really fun being girls on the road. I think that boys appreciate it when we’re going out for a meal before the show and we’ll take them to some sort of nice little vegetarian place and along to a few vintage shops. We definitely have a feminine touch but I can’t really say what it would be like if we weren’t there. From the experience we’ve had with different tour managers, I think touring with us is a very different vibe. We’re clean and don’t smell.
When you guys are on the road, do you have any games you like to play in the van or any stops you have to make when you see it on the highway?
We need a few more games in the van! We play 20 questions. Our friend came to SXSW with us and taught us how to play poker, but I don’t think any of us really got the hang of it. We spend quite a lot of time DJing on our phones. And we always stop for Jamba Juice.
You guys did a commercial for Zac Posen’s line at Target. How did that come about?
We have a friend who works with Zac and when we finished our record, we gave him a copy. I guess they were playing it a lot in the studio and Zac really liked it and he used a few of our songs in his last fashion show. When this Target line was coming together, he asked us if they could use another one of our songs for the commercial. Then he ended up asking us to be in it as well. It worked out perfectly because we got to make a music video for one of our songs.
How would you guys describe your style?
Quite mod, Beatles fan, “The Avengers,” dolly birds. We’re sort of swinging London.
You guys always coordinate on stage. How do you choose what you’re going to wear?
It’s tricky business. Generally, one person makes the decision. If somebody’s feeling strongly about something they want to wear and then the rest of us work around it. At this point, we’ve got outfits all that go with each other, so if somebody says, ‘Okay I’m gonna wear this red skirt,” then we’ll all have red accents that night. Another night will be black and white.
Speaking of black and white coordinating pieces, where did you get the Like dresses?
Oh, a friend of ours from our high school, Effy Green, made them. When we became a 4-piece, I was like, ‘Oh, well now we can each take a letter.’ They all sort of rolled their eyes. But then Effy actually made the ‘K’ dress and it was so cool we told her to carry on with the idea. We’ve got our record release show on Saturday night at the Troubador and we’re going to wear them.
If you could join any other female group from any era, what would you want to be a part of?
The Slits always look like they’re having a pretty good time. Big fan of them. Or, the Supremes or the Ronettes.
All great choices, indeed.