Automatic Loveletter's Juliet Simms talks dating, sex appeal and her turbulent career
“Why such drama? I’m a Pieces — hello?” she laughed during a recent Warped Tour stop in Indianapolis. “I’m very emotional, I’m very elaborate and big, and when I’m speaking to people, I use my hands. I’m a very dramatic person, to a T.”
It shows on Truth or Dare, the long-awaited debut LP by Simms’ band, Automatic Loveletter. The album, released in June, is a big, glammy glitterball of guitars, pianos and Simms’ gritty, Joplinesque wail. It’s a grand departure from the band’s previous emo-heavy output, and it could be the album that finally pushes the Tampa Bay band to stardom.
“I’m not going to lie: I want to go to radio,” said Simms, 24, who’s traded her usual hoodies and skinny jeans for a flashier, sexier onstage look. “I want it to be a Top 40 record. But at the same time, I want to keep the integrity of the music, in that every song is its own entity, and the album itself is kind of a roller coaster.”
Automatic Loveletter formed in Clearwater in 2005 with a teenage Simms on guitar and vocals; she’s the only remaining member from the group’s early days. Her brother Tommy, of the well-regarded local band Win Win Winter, now plays guitar. This is the band’s third Warped Tour, but Friday’s stop at Vinoy Park in St. Petersburg will be their first Warped show in Tampa Bay.
Automatic Loveletter has been pegged as a band to watch on this year’s tour, and so far, they’re living up to expectations. After a stop in Texas, the Dallas Morning News called them “the day’s shock ... (having) morphed from a promising acoustic-anchored post-emo exercise into a beautifully grungy modern rock juggernaut.”
We caught up with Simms by phone to talk about Truth or Dare, her drama-filled career and her evolving sense of style.
Truth or Dare — this is it, right? This is the album that’s gonna make you guys superstars?
Yes, that’s hopefully what happens at the end of it. (laughs)
It feels like there’s been this Next Big Thing buzz around Automatic Loveletter for the last three years. You recorded an album’s worth of material in 2007, but it wasn’t released. What happened?
What happened is bad management. We made the record, and our label told us to go out and tour, so we did for a few years. Then when we started getting a fan base, they were like, 'Oh, maybe this band does have potential.’ I recorded half of another record, because half of the record we made was put out as an EP. A couple of years later, we wrote and recorded new songs, and we were getting ready to put the record out. The label was putting money behind us. And a new president comes in and cuts costs. She dropped like 60 bands, and I happened to be one of them. S--- happens.
Was there any point in the last four years where you thought, “Wow, this might not happen for me?”
I definitely had moments of discouragement — “What the f---? Why is this so hard for me?” I would see other girls getting signed right out of high school, and then the next year, they’re, like, Paramore. I’ve definitely had those moments. But having to go through all of it definitely gave me that raw organic-ness in my voice and my performance, and it made me the musician I am today.
How do you and Tommy get along on the road?
Amazingly. He’s my best friend.
Does he play the big brother card very often?
No, he knows I’ve got my head on my shoulders and I’m not going to do anything stupid. But he’s also there if I need my big brother.
Are you dating anyone right now?
No. I am completely single.
How does that work on tour? Do you allow yourself to look around, or are you just in a business state of mind?
It’s definitely look, but don’t touch. (laughs)
You’ve become this pop-punk sex symbol among the Warped Tour set. Your face is front and center on any Automatic Loveletter press. Are you comfortable with that?
Very comfortable. Obviously I’m a woman now, and I’m not a teenager. I work out every day, I eat right, I like showing off my legs, and I love the fact that it’s summertime and I just have to put a bathing suit top on, and a pair of shorts, and I can go on stage and feel comfortable in what I’m wearing. I’m completely confident in my own skin.
Was there a point where you decided to start going on stage not wearing much?
I lived in L.A. last year while I was recording the record, and I really got into fashion, and I started really just coming up with my own style. I did an acoustic tour, and it was very easy — all I had to do was sit there with my guitar, my bassist and my other guitar player, and play music. I was like, “Okay, we’re not standing, we’re not rocking out ... I gotta bring something else to the stage.” So that’s when I started wearing sequined hot pants with fishnets and thigh-high boots, or a T-shirt with underwear and heels. I just started feeling more comfortable as a woman.
Do you get a sense that people begrudge you for, I don’t know, being hot and not wearing a lot of clothes?
No, because I didn’t used to do this. It was my voice and my music that got me out there. I feel that I have the music and the voice to back up whatever I’m wearing. Maybe if no one had heard of me and I walked out on stage wearing something, they’ve have been like, 'Oh, great, some hot chick that thinks she can be a singer, because she’s pretty.’ But then they’d change their mind after the set. (laughs)
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*