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Violent Femmes Biography

Home > Music > V > Violent Femmes > Biography

Birth Place: Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.
Years Active: 1980-2009
Genres: Alternative Rock, Post-punk

Violent Femmes were an American alternative rock band that existed from 1980 to 2009, originally formed in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The band performed as a trio, including singer, guitarist and songwriter Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie, and two drummers, Victor DeLorenzo (1980–1993/2002–2009) and Guy Hoffman (1993–2002).

They released their debut, “Violent Femmes,” in November 1982. The music was an innovative combination of American folk music and punk rock, which would much later come to be known as "folk punk." The group quickly gained a following that never veered into mainstream commercialism. A few songs that gained recognition include "Add It Up," "Blister in the Sun," "Gone Daddy Gone," "Kiss Off," and "Please Do Not Go". The debut album went platinum nearly a decade after its release.

After their debut album they released “Hallowed Ground,” which moved the group towards a country music sound and introduced spiritual themes. Their third album, 1986’s “The Blind Leading the Naked,” produced by fellow Milwaukee native Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads, was more mainstream and pop-oriented, resulting in a minor hit with "Children of the Revolution," originally by T.Rex.

The group briefly disbanded, with Gano releasing an album in 1987, the result of a gospel side project Mercy Seat. Ritchie also released several solo LPs. The group came back together in late 1988, releasing “3,” a return to the band's earlier, stripped-down sound.

“Why Do Birds Sing?” was released in 1991 after the band signed to Reprise and featured another minor hit, "American Museric," which became a concert staple.

In 1993, DeLorenzo departed the group to act and make solo records. Guy Hoffman, formerly of the Oil Tasters and BoDeans, was brought in to tour what was to become one of their biggest-selling records, the “Add It Up (1981–1993)” collection.

Over the next nine years, the Femmes, with Hoffman, recorded five full-length albums and a handful of one-offs for motion picture soundtracks, such as "I Swear It (I Can Change)" from the “South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut” soundtrack, and other compilation projects. The first full studio album with Hoffman on drums, “New Times” (Elektra Records), was released in 1994, and the band scored another minor hit with the song "Breaking Up." “Rock!!!!!” (Mushroom Records) was released in 1995 in Australia only, though it has since become available in the United States.

“Viva Wisconsin,” a live album, was released in the United States in 1999 on the independent label Beyond, and was followed by “Freak Magnet” in 2000. “Something's Wrong” (2001), an album of unreleased studio tracks, covers, demos, and acoustic live performances was released as an MP3-only album through eMusic.

In 2002, Rhino Records repackaged the Femmes' debut 1983 album along with demos and live tracks to coincide with a 20th anniversary reissue. DeLorenzo asked to rejoin for what was to be a farewell tour, thus reinstating the original lineup.

2005 saw the release of two collections of past work—an album called “Permanent Record: The Very Best of Violent Femmes” on Slash/Rhino and a DVD, “Permanent Record – Live & Otherwise” from Rhino, which showcases a concert performance from 1991, along with many of the group's videos.

After touring in promotion of 2000’s “Freak Magnet,” primary songwriter Gano decided that they would no longer make new music, but the band would continue to play shows when booked. On New Year's Eve of 2005, and for one show in January 2006, all four Violent Femmes members played together. On June 17, 2008 the band released a cover of "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley who had previously covered "Gone Daddy Gone."

In 2009, Gano proclaimed that band had broken up, while announcing a new partnership with former Bogmen members Bill and Brendan Ryan.