Showtime's 'Californication' goes punk rock with teenage cover band Queens of Dogtown
In the fourth season of Showtime’s hit dramedy “Californication,” the long-suffering daughter of David Duchovny’s Hank Moody did what every angst-filled teenage girl would do when her sex-and-booze addict of a father continued down a dark, spiraling path of nameless women, liquor and drugs: She joined a rock band.
Becca Moody, played by 17-year-old Madeleine Martin, had picked up the guitar early in the series, and viewers have seen the precocious, sarcastic teen improve her ax skills over the years.
After hitting the Venice boardwalk to pay her dues playing for cash (she wants to earn enough to move out on her own), she meets a gang of equally angst-ridden teen girls, fronted by Zoe Kravitz, who invite her to join their punky outfit, the Queens of Dogtown.
The show’s music supervisors, Budd Carr and Nora Felder, said Becca joining the band was a natural progression for the character –- but the addition of a band to the scripted show proved “interesting.”
“We’ve had in-camera stuff before,” Carr said. “Becca’s character plays guitar. We got a heads up that she was going to join a band. And it was, 'OK, what kind of band?' It took a little bit of a nudge to figure out, but we knew that integrity would be there.”
“The only concept we had was Zoe [Kravitz, who plays singer Pearl] is in a band. We decided to go in all directions. First we thought to cast a band, then maybe go with an existing band,” Carr said. “What ended up happening is it became more evident these musicians also needed to know how to act and how to read lines. It was more advantageous to put together a band since obviously not all musicians are actors. We had to find a great band ... and kids that could act.”
Since Kravitz fronts her own real-life band, Elevator Fight -- naturally, given her rock lineage as the daughter of Lenny Kravitz and actress Lisa Bonet -- music producer Tree Adams said he had to make a conscious effort to contend with her identity as an artist but had to make sure the songs worked within the show.
“Zoe already has this sort of punky thing to her voice, and Becca is supposed to be this metal head,” Adams said. “Just look at the cover songs they did. You have those '80s hair bands, and then you have the punk stuff.”
During the season, the girls cover a range of vintage punk and metal, including the Misfits’ “Last Caress,” Alice in Chains’ “Would?” and Skid Row’s power ballad “I Remember You” -– the girls even gig at the Whisky a Go-Go in an episode. All the songs are also featured on the soundtrack for the series.
Adams said he approached the music for the band with a different tone than the other sounds woven through Season 4, which has featured selections from Warren Zevon (whose music is a mainstay on the show), Shooter Jennings and guest star Tommy Lee.
“I had to keep an eye on the attitude, rather than making a record on an absent plain," said Adams. “It’s a funny thing trying to integrate something like a show within a show. We really didn’t want to create a cheesy band experience on the show. We wanted it to feel gritty and natural … I think we pulled it off.”
Actress Martin has had a guitar teacher for the show since the first season, and takes two guitar lessons per day during the shooting season, but to prep for her band experience she ramped up her practice time to four hours a day.
“I had to learn difficult things, and when you’re just learning how to play the guitar, things like shredding are very hard to learn,” Martin said, laughing. “It was a challenge.”
Though her own tastes differ from the grungy music she’s playing in the band, she said her highlight was hitting the stage at the Whisky –- where the girls played their slow-burning version of “Would?”
“We felt like we were really a band. We showed up with our guitars and got out the van, and out front they had Queens of Dogtown" on the marquee, she said. “We were all cheering. Plus, the director of that episode was the first female director we had on the show.”
Felder said they’ve always wanted music to come off as a main character on the show –- Showtime must agree, as the network has made it a habit to keep track of the featured music on the show’s online episode guide.
“The music has to complete the characters it stands behind in any project, but it’s hard to explain songs we pick for the show,” she said. “We’re not looking for Top 40 hits, or songs that are flavors of the moment. Like Hank, we look for songwriters with an itch they can’t scratch. We don’t care if the song has sold 1 million records, or one record. We just want the song to be damn good.”
“Californication” airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on Showtime.
-- Gerrick D. Kennedy
Top photo: Madeleine Martin (left) as Becca and Zoe Kravitz as Pearl play a set at Whisky a Go-Go as Queens of Dogtown in 'Californication.' Credit: Showtime.
Bottom photo: Madeleine Martin and David Duchovny as Hank. Credit: Jordin Althaus / Showtime.