The Flesh Eaters Roar Back With Sonics 'Cinderella' Cover: Premiere

The Flesh Eaters
Frank Lee Drennen

The Flesh Eaters

It's been 14 years since the Flesh Eaters, the iconic all-star punk/rockabilly outfit from Los Angeles, has released a new album. More importantly, it's been 37 years since the troupe's best-known lineup -- including Dave Alvin, X's John Doe and DJ Bonebrake, Los Lobos' Steve Berlin -- was a going concern.

The wait ends on Jan. 18, when the Flesh Eaters' new I Used To Be Pretty -- whose cover of the Sonics' "Cinderella" is premiering exclusively below -- comes out. The group is also hitting the road starting Jan. 16 in Phoenix with dates booked into March so far.

The album in particular is the culmination of several Flesh Eaters reunions that included dates in 2006, 2015 and then again earlier this year, during the spring. "Midway through the eight shows I thought he band was sounding so incredible," group mainstay "Chris D." Desjardins tells Billboard. "I told everybody, 'Y'know, who knows when we're gonna do this again. We should really get in the studio and document what we're sounding like right now.' I thought I'd get a lot of hemming and hawing, but everyone was really into it -- even (Alvin), who's usually the devil's advocate. We set up at the studio he usually uses in Hollywood, and he became the most excited of everybody."

The material on I Used to Be Pretty, which also includes the Blasters' Bill Bateman and Chris D's ex-wife and Divine Horsemen bandmate Julie Christensen, is hodgepodge of sorts, bookended by two brand new songs -- "Black Temptation," which dates back to the early 2000s, and the 13-minute, Doors-like epic "Ghost Cave Lament." It also includes new recordings of songs that appeared on later Flesh Eaters albums and more covers, including Fleetwood Mac's "The Green Manalishi" and the Gun Club's "She's Like Heroin to Me." "This lineup has been playing these songs since 2006, when we first got back together," Desjardins notes. "We knew this record was going to be good because we felt we sounded so good and so tight. So even there's material that had previously been covered by other lineups, we were doing significantly different things with those songs that I really wanted to get onto an album."

"Cinderella," meanwhile, is homage to the Flesh Eaters' longstanding admiration for Washington state garage rockers the Sonics. "We started doing that as a cover in 1981 and we've been doing it live in all the successive reunion shows," Desjardins says. "We all love the Sonics, and it was kind of hard picking a Sonics song at first. The Cramps had already done 'Strychnine,' but I love 'Cinderella' and that kind of updating of a fairy tale in more of a gritty, urban context, which you don't see too often."

Desjardins' enthusiasm for the Flesh Eaters' return to recording is certainly matched by his bandmates. Alvin notes that, "It's six old friends who rarely get to see each other or play music together and decided to make an album while we're all still alive. Our lives are very different now. We decided to pick up where we left off, incorporating the various styles and lessons we've learned in the past 35 years."

No one is making any predictions about how long this particular Flesh Eaters incarnation will remain reunited or how much more work is ahead. All of the members are continuing their other concerns, including Desjardins and Christensen with Divine Horsemen. But with an option for a second album with Yep Roc, Desjardins is hopeful that all concerned will continue to carve out some time to keep the Flesh Eaters alive for the foreseeable future.

"I think the guys are looking at it now as a much more real kind of alternative entity that we can try and synchronize into our schedules and do it when everybody isn't doing their main thing," says Desjardins. "I have ideas for another record, for sure. And we'll probably do more dates later in 2019. This lineup of the Flesh Eaters has never been outside the West Coast, and there's certain pockets where we definitely have a following that would love to see this version of the group. We've been constantly getting more people to the shows every time we do this, and that's been really gratifying. So there's some incentive to keep it going."

The Flesh Eaters' upcoming tour dates include:

Wed., Jan. 16  PHOENIX, AZ Crescent Ballroom

Thurs., Jan. 17  TUCSON, AZ 191 Toole

Fri., Jan. 18  PIONEERTOWN, CA  Pappy & Harriet's Place, w/Mudhoney

Sat., Jan. 19  LOS ANGELES, CA   Echoplex, w/ Mudhoney

Sun., Jan. 20  SAN FRANCISCO, CA   Independent

Tues., Jan. 22  PORTLAND, OR The Star Theater

Wed., Jan. 23  SEATTLE, WA The Crocodile

Thurs., Feb. 21   HOUSTON, TX Continental Club

Fri.-Sat., Feb. 22-23  AUSTIN, TX Continental Club

Sun., Feb. 24   DALLAS, TX Club Dada

Sat., March 9  SAINT PAUL, MN   Turf Club

Sun., March 10   CHICAGO, IL Lincoln Hall

Mon., March 11   GRAND RAPIDS, MI The Pyramid Scheme

Tues., March 12   DETROIT, MI El Club

Thurs., March 14   BOSTON, MA City Winery Boston

Fri., March 15   PHILADELPHIA, PA  Johnny Brenda's

Sat., March 16   WASHINGTON, DC Union Stage    

Sun., March 17 NEW YORK, NY Bowery Ballroom