Jennifer Herrema of Royal Trux is Back

Article by Miles Raymer

A friends’s older sister turned her on to weed when Herrema was 12. Alcohol and acid followed. When she got into heroin, she got into it deep, developing the kind of rapacious addiction where the user deals with abscessed veins and doctors talk about amputating fingers—the kind of habit that’s just the thinnest of veils for suicide.

“It’s like, which came first?” Herrema reflects. “The chicken or the egg? Were you clinically depressed or did you just do a lot of drugs and then got into a dark space?”

Eventually, antidepressants helped Herrema find stability and stay off smack. Meanwhile, the dissolution of Royal Trux gave her an opportunity to prove that she was more than just her partnership with Hagerty. While he went off to explore the shamanic frequencies of his next project, Howling Hex, Herrema continued refining her trash-rock vision with a new creative partner, Jaimo Welch.

“He was like 17 at the time,” Herrema recalls, “and all he really listened to was Rush and White Lion.”

With their duo RTX (which later evolved into a bigger band, Black Bananas, the only traditionally structured rock combo Herrema’s been in), they used digital production techniques to make her music even more ecstatically trashy and overwhelming.

Somewhere along the way, people started giving Herrema something at least approximating the credit she deserves. Recognition also came from a huge wave of new fans that found her through fashion. As with her becoming a rock star, Herrema never specifically set out to be a style icon, but she’s excelled at it nonetheless.

In the nineties, she perfected a look that—like her music—blended a bunch of seemingly unrelated cultural signifiers: tattered rock ’n’ roller bell-bottoms, truck-stop aviator sunglasses, ratty flannels, oversized Raider jerseys redolent of the era’s gangsta rap aesthetics, and a shaggy mess of blonde hair with long bangs that conjured a 1960s go-go girl gone feral.

Her style seemed thrown together for reasons that had little to do with how its components met the eye. For example, there was that huge parka with a fur-lined hood she seemed perpetually wrapped in, no matter what she was doing or the time of year.

“Basically, I wanted to be inside of myself,” Herrema explains. “So I kind of cocooned myself and put on shades and my hood and had my hair [that way], so I was like basically in my own world.”

Back in the day, her signature underground style earned her a spot in a Calvin Klein ad campaign shot by the legendary fashion photographer Steven Meisel. Herrema was the company’s first model for an iconic, mid-nineties look that came to be called “heroin chic.”