Early in her career, Ms. Juliette Lewis proved straight away how utterly impossible it would be to pigeonhole her: she was the hilariously suffering daughter in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation; the hotsy, prof-seducing student in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives; and the unrepentant nihilist in Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers. Most recently she starred with Emma Roberts in the psychological drama Nerve, and held the title role (alongside Ryan Phillippe) as a hard-bitten homicide investigator in the hit television series Secrets and Lies.
But more than anything, Juliette loves to get her groove on; and for as long as we can remember, she’s been carrying on a parallel career as a fevered rock goddess. She’s just released her fourth album, the intriguingly title Future Deep, which is easily her fiercest ever. Collaborating with Brad Schultz of Cage the Elephant and Isabella Summers of Florence & The Machine, it’s Juliette at her most alive and daring.
Always one to turn to the classics for inspiration, her Led Zep infatuation, particularly, is in full flower on such wicked, blues-grooved tracks as “Ode to Hollywood” and “I Know Trouble.” She also seems to be having great fun on the Stonesy “Any Way You Want.” And though there are quite a few ominous, unsettling moments, she’s quick to point out that its all carried out in the service of emotional and spiritual catharsis – the journey out of the darkness into the light.
When we caught up with her for a chat, she was her usual excitable, passionate and, surely most importantly, really funny self.
You just had a hit television show, Secrets and Lies – but I take it you’re thrilled to get back to music?
It was interesting, to do network TV. We did two seasons, a fascinating take on the whodunnit series. But yes, I’m excited to get this record out, to release it into the ether.
It’s a pretty fiery record. I can’t tell if it’s pissed off or exuberant.
HAHA! Can you print that? That’s exactly the way rock & roll should be. A celebration, but with a bit of danger and anger thrown in. Enjoy the ride, but at any time the train might go off the tracks.
“I Know Trouble” is different for you – it reminds me of Nick Cave or Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.
That’s beautiful! Yes, it’s my answer to “I Put a Spell On You.”
And you seem to have really drawn out your inner Led Zep on this record.
Definitely on “Ode to Hollywood,” which I think is also very David Lynch-esque. That and “Hello Hero” are real, honest-to-god blues tunes.
In the title track, it’s like you’re doing electro, funk and metal all at once.
I got to feed my desires on this record! I’ve had a love of funk, disco…and right now I’m in love with anthemic dance choruses. So we put on our space suits and made this dance party song; but with these really dark lyrics about decay and destruction…only I’m rising out of it, and taking everyone with me.
Where does that come from?
We’re fucking living it! That’s where it comes from.
Do you feel we are, indeed, living through deeply unsettling times?
As you grow and change, your parameters grow too; and all the pain and trauma that we collectively experience becomes more a part of your point of view – your eyes are open. “Mean Machine” is incredibly dark – it ends with “My head’s in a hole.” But sometimes I also just want to uplift and make people feel elated. “Future Deep” is about revolutionizing yourself and others.
I was at a Marilyn Manson concert in Europe, and he got the whole audience to sing, “I hate love!” I understand how you can feel that; but I want to try to help bring people out of that.
Is that not always an easy balance to strike?
I make music that is spiritual and visceral, but that is also groovy as hell, and makes you want to shake your ass. It took me this long to find my deepest pain, my lust, my nervous hysteria, my big truths. You can’t fake that stuff, you have to own it. I feel like most people don’t go deep enough.
Your voice sounds in great form – it comes off really confident.
Yeah, when I first started doing this, I was all energy and drama. After years of touring with colds and fevers and bad equipment, you learn how to refine your voice. But I like humanity too much to ever use Autotune. I learned how to sing from people like Bilie Holiday and Anita O’Day, it just took me awhile to find my true Julietteness. I would love to have a range like Tina Turner.
Image by Sara Jones
What do you think of the current state of music?
Well, in pop music you now have this sort of corporate created, waxy semi-porn. There’s an obvious corporate hand of manipulation involved.
Any other acting projects in the works?
I’m going to make a film that I co-created and am writing with a partner named Eric Massini – we will also co-direct. It will be a fun, interesting, humorous, painful, bittersweet movie.
What will you be getting up to for the holidays?
Here’s the yin and yang of me: I started out going, “Fuck all this brainwashing consumerism.” I don’t like when other people are deciding my fate. But then I got a few awesome gifts for people, and I found I really just loved making them smile…
That’s what counts.
That’s it! It’s only when you’re buying bullshit…I don’t know, right now I’m enjoying the holidays, that whole thing of sharing it with people you care about. I’m actually a big fan of New Years – I’m looking forward to that.
And finally, how do you feel about 2017?
It’s looking bleaker and bleaker, very Darth Vader. But these grassroots movements are coming together and seem very strong; I’ll be at the march on Washington in January. But more importantly, I feel like music might get better in this current political climate. People might get angry again and have something to say. I’m really hoping for that.