The Cherry Valence with Nebula and Hacksaw at the El Mocambo (464 Spadina), Wednesday (June 6). $9-$10. 416-968-2001.
These days, cheetie kumar is happy to be behind bars. The guitarist with garage rockers the Cherry Valence gets to gigs in a beat-up North Carolina prison van acquired by the five-member band at a department of corrections auction in late 1997.
"It came complete with cages on the windows and padlocks on the doors," she says, on the phone from Houston before jetting to play Garage Shock, a weekend-long grunge festival in Austin, Texas. "We fixed all the oil leaks, so it looks ready to go for a while.
"We've toured the country four times in it, but we're a little nervous about coming into Canada. I guess we'll just take a shower and be honest with the Customs people."
Now touring North America for the next month, the Cherry Valence is crossing borders for the first time, something these tobacco-country thrashers never expected to do when they started out three years ago.
Kumar, who was born in India, grew up in the Bronx and now calls Raleigh, North Carolina, home, is happy about releasing their self-titled debut album. Its rough-edged rip-your-ass sound comes across like a potent mix of the energy of AC/DC combined with the funk of James Brown and the power of Ted Nugent.
The disc, which hit stores May 22, is long-awaited by south-of-the-border fans. The band didn't get around to the project until this year, after signing to indie rock label Estrus Records.
"We never really went out and made demos. We always thought the live act was more important, and definitely more fun. We figured that even if you have a record out, it doesn't mean anything," she explains, letting go of a mid-morning cough. "It definitely helps to play a lot together. Creatively, you become more of a unit and you can bounce ideas off each other more freely."
The Cherry Valence have something most punk bands don't -- a second drummer. Kumar's proud to offer the twist to audiences, and says the idea was spawned after practising a Deep Purple cover with two drum kits.
"It's a powerful sound, and it gives us so many options for each song."
Playing live is just what Kumar needs to return to the real world. When she's not tearing up stages, she spends her weekends bartending and puts in time at North Carolina State University at Raleigh doing administrative work.
"We'll be home for a couple of weekends doing our stupid jobs and paying rent," she says as she lets out a deep sigh. "Playing live is unbeatable."