Sweetie – Interview


An interview with Rob Zammarchi and Emily Unverterth
by Scott Hefflon

How did you get your name?
Rob: I was obsessed with the title and a friend’s vivid description of a gloomy little Australian movie called Sweetie. It left the theatres early and became sort of a cult film.

Having missed it, I just imagined its existence; what the main characters looked like… I was especially curious about this obese retarded woman named Sweetie. It finally came out a year later on video and I watched it for the first time at the Food Co-op’s film series in Allston. I saw it alone and left the room with a cold, clammy feeling by the end. It was very unsettling. It riveted me. I guess there were some parallels to the darker side of my otherwise happy childhood. Hence, the name was chosen and the creepy mood was set for the music I wanted to make.

What kind of reaction does the name get?
Rob: Well, it’s a sick little name. An inside thing, I guess. Unless you’ve seen the movie, you’d probably think we’re all queer or something. The band’s had some personnel changes this year and at one point, I stopped telling musicians who called our ad the name. Mainly guys called and seemed quite puzzled by it. Some were insulted. They couldn’t see the irony, even after I explained the concept. It must have intimidated their macho American attitudes. I finally asked one guy, “If this was 1968 and I told you that you were auditioning for a totally unknown band called Pink Floyd, would you be interested?” My favorite reaction came from a painter in the Rugg Road artists building who was starting a band called The Purple Pasties. She said, “I love the name Sweetie. I’m jealous. I want it for my band.”

We even have this bimorphic monster character called Sweetie that we use in our flyers. I guess he’s our mascot, sorta like Eddie from Iron Maiden’s album covers. Even though we sound nothing like them, I like the idea of a mythical creature being created for and inspired by a band’s music.

Your song titles suggest some rather provocative imagery.
Rob: Yeah. It’s a bit of a contradiction because I really feel the title isn’t as important as how the music and the lyrics play together for the listener. But I have this preoccupation with old horror films, so I write songs called “Preacher from the Black Lagoon” and “Incredible Shrinking Man is Dead.” I do try to work in some socially conscious messages. “Preacher” should be obvious from the title. “Incredible” is about the actor who starred in the movie from the ’50s. He was typecast for the rest of his career because of that one role and didn’t work much after that. The title of our song is the headline from his obituary. It followed him right down to his grave. Poor bastard!

You seem to be fascinated by movies.
Rob: I guess I am, because they pull me into a whole different reality. I get lost in that big screen, and when I leave the theater, I feel like I’ve absorbed some of the main character’s persona. It happened when I saw Fearless with Jeff Bridges and Mr. Jones with Richard Gere. It’s kinda silly, isn’t it?

Did you ever think of acting?
Rob: Perhaps in some unrealistic fantasy. But I assume it’s incredibly hard work to act in films, and I can just about remember my own lyrics at a gig. Plus, I’m nocturnal, so I wouldn’t have much luck with those early morning casting calls. Vito just acted in a short porn film that his neighbor shot over the weekend. Why don’t you ask him what it was like.

Vito Lodovico: First of all, it was NOT a porn film. It’s about a guy who leaves his gorgeous girlfriend and falls in love with the inner beauty of a rather large woman. It was a great experience.

Rob: Well, it did have a love scene in it. Tastefully done, I’m sure. We’re actually incorporating slides and film into our live show. Some simple but effective mood-enhancing imagery. Although we feel the music should always come first, we remain awed by the rich pageantry of rock ‘n’ roll history. From Ziggy Stardust to the Who, the Cure, NIN, and, most recently, Monster Magnet. These groups all have great songs plus this larger-than-life mystique about them. That’s what I want to see at a rock show. I get bored these days by anything less. So I hope in our own way, on our limited budget, we can provide some creative entertainment for the people in clubland. That’s really what stepping on the stage is all about, isn’t it?

So, what’s next?
Rob: We’ll be releasing our new demo tape soon with “Preacher,” “Petroleum,” and “Caveman” on it. It was recorded before Jaime and Sam joined the group, although Jaime overdubbed some grisly raw guitar and Johnny Grady from the 360s played drums. We’ve demolished an Aerosmith song for this tribute CD coming out and we’re finishing up our own CD to be released on Darkride Records early next year.

What’s the nicest thing that’s happened to you lately?
Emily Unverterth: Rob and I were rollerblading along the Orange Line bike path in Jamaica Plain and this little girl came whizzing by on her bicycle and yelled “grab on!” So I did and she pulled me along for about a quarter mile up the path. Rob latched on, too, and we had a human train with this little free-wheelin’ conductor girl leading the way. Wouldn’t it be nice if adults could be as uninhibited and playful in public as this little girl?