Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux is Back

Article by Miles Raymer

Instead of simply running off and shooting up their recording budget, Herrema and Hagerty used it to buy a large house in rural Virginia, equip it with a home studio, and get clean, while starting work on three of the most fractured-genius rock albums of the alt-rock era.

By the time they set out to make 1995’s Thank You, the pair turned from deconstructing rock ’n’ roll to its bones to rebuilding it into a Frankenstein monster of clashing essences–canonical “Serious Rock” like Neil Young and Exile-era Stones colliding with the kind of squealing synthesizer prog-rock and high-gloss glam metal that can make critics cringe. The Trilogy, as Herrema-Hagerty called the work Virgin bankrolled, forms a multi-album masterpiece.

Unfortunately for Virgin, the records didn’t make sense to many people outside the band, and the label had no idea how to sell them. To complicate matters, Hagerty and Herrema had no interest in being marketed, and since they had complete creative control written into their contracts, they could veto any of the label’s attempts to make them do boring, profitable things like shoot music videos or tour overseas. The fact that it would be 20 or so years before audiences were truly ready for Royal Trux didn’t help the recording giant at all.

Label execs eventually threw up their hands and let Herrema and Hagerty walk away with the Trilogy’s final album, Accelerator, which they recorded on Virgin’s dime and released through their old Chicago-based indie label, Drag City. Unlike the majority of bands that got caught up in the alt-rock buying spree, Herrema and Hagerty emerged from their major-label period in better financial shape than when they went in, but the stress of years of intense creative and romantic codependency, compounded by their famously ferocious drug habits, eventually overwhelmed them. Herrema’s crisis deepened after the death of her father. Amid rumors of relapses and rivalry, the band dissolved in early 2001.

Looking back at that difficult juncture, and to earlier years with her band and even before then, Herrema says, “Drugs have really had a big impact on my life. All kinds of them.”

Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux by David Black
Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux by David Black