The L.A. Times takes a look at The Distillers

Playing from the core of punk: Brody Armstrong and the Distillers reach back to the core and clarity of early punk.

By Steve Appleford, Special to The Times

Brody Armstrong discovered punk rock when she was 13. It was a sound well-established by then, born a few years before she was, but punk could still feed and soothe the rage and confusion of a teenager in Melbourne, Australia.

What she heard then were core punk bands like Discharge GBH, the Clash and the Damned. "It was exactly how I felt," says Armstrong, now 23. "It was a language I could understand."

As the tattooed singer-guitarist for the Distillers, Armstrong leads a three-piece unit that reaches back to the core and clarity of early punk, spewing anger with her gritty Courtney Love-like delivery. The band's breakout single, "Seneca Falls," has recently awakened audiences far beyond the punk underground, with the band on the radio, on MTV and now on tour with No Doubt.

On the Distillers' second album, "Sing Sing Death House," songs rush together, militant and anthem-like. Her raspy snarl is as convincing as any of her old punk heroes, singing lyrics that are a tough blend of anger and humor since the days of her first band, Sourpuss.

"My mother did not want me to do it, so I dropped out of school for it," Armstrong says now. "I never went back. I did know I could do something with it."

She came to Los Angeles in 1997 to be with her future husband, singer Tim Armstrong of Rancid, after meeting him at an Australian rock festival. Now signed to a major label, she's ready for a new struggle.

"When we first made a video, kids were up in arms," Armstrong says. "I don't think we're sellouts. We're not here to sacrifice what we do for the music elite.

"I want longevity. I'm not in this for the money. I want to be an artist, I don't want to be a flash in the pan."

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