Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux is Back

Article by Miles Raymer

Jennifer Herrema Photo by David Black

Herrema and Hagerty weren’t trolls, but in pursuit of their art they managed to alienate huge swaths of the underground scene. Indie rock fans were offended by their aggressively esoteric noise, their openness about the heroin habits they’d developed, and the air of celebrity and salaciousness that clung to the breathless fanzine and alt-weekly coverage of this scruffily photogenic couple’s thunderous records and narcotics use.

Royal Trux was widely accused of making pretentious, cryptic bullshit, when in fact they were always straight-up about who they were or what they were doing—two people who loved drugs and the Rolling Stones, and wanted to make druggy, Stonesy music.

They may have once been the go-to band for anyone looking to mock indie-music snobs—those connoisseurs of underground sounds who claimed to like, and sometimes actually did like, Royal Trux—but Herrema insists they themselves did not fetishize obscurity.

“Back in the day, indie music was very exclusive and [some of the bands] would try to only have a certain kind of fan,” Herrema remembers. “With Royal Trux, our M.O. was always inclusivity. We didn’t care who you were, where you were from. We didn’t even care if the only band you ever listened to was the Partridge Family.”

After taking reams of criticism for being unlistenable, Herrema and Hagerty managed to piss off a lot of the same people when they started writing songs with recognizable pop structures and hooks on their 1993 breakthrough, Cats and Dogs.

That was followed, in 1994, by Virgin Records signing them to a million-dollar deal, which some observers smirkingly viewed as proof that the major label’s alternative-rock buying spree had reached a new summit of bad decision-making, reckless spending, and unchecked greed. If these two flagrant junkies could get a record contract of that size, the thinking went, then this looking-for-the-next-Nirvana bubble had to be close to bursting.

The deal did turn out to be a disaster for Virgin, but not for the reasons everyone expected.