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Violent Femmes are an American folk punk band from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States. The band consists of singer, guitarist and songwriter Gordon Gano, bassist Brian Ritchie, saxophonist and keyboardist Blaise Garza, and current drummer John Sparrow.
Violent Femmes have released ten studio albums and 15 singles during the course of their career. The band found immediate success with the release of their self-titled debut album in early 1983. Featuring many of their well-known songs, including "Blister in the Sun", "Kiss Off", "Add It Up" and "Gone Daddy Gone", Violent Femmes became the band's biggest-selling album and was eventually certified platinum by the RIAA. Violent Femmes went on to become one of the most successful alternative rock bands of the 1980s, selling more than 9 million albums by 2005. After the release of their third album The Blind Leading the Naked (1986), the band's future was uncertain and they split up in 1987, when Gano and Ritchie went solo. However, they regrouped a year later, releasing the album 3 (1989). Since then, Violent Femmes' maintained steady popularity, especially in the United States, where the songs "Nightmares" and "American Music" cracked the top five on the Modern Rock Tracks chart.
Violent Femmes were founded by bassist Brian Ritchie and percussionist Victor DeLorenzo following the demise of the initial wave of American punk rock, and became a full-fledged band upon the arrival of lead vocalist and guitarist Gordon Gano. According to Ritchie, he came up with the name of the group as a fake band name when one of his bandmates questioned his assertion that his brother was also in a band—he and DeLorenzo liked the name, so they used it for the rhythm duo they in which they played prior to Gano joining the group. In its early days, the band frequently played coffee houses and street corners. They were discovered by James Honeyman-Scott (of the Pretenders) on August 23, 1981 when the band was busking on a street corner in front of the Oriental Theatre, the Milwaukee venue that the Pretenders would be playing later that night. Chrissie Hynde invited them to play a brief acoustic set after the opening act.
In January 2013, it was announced that Violent Femmes would be reuniting and performing at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April. They performed there, the Bottlerock Napa Valley in May and Milwaukee's Summerfest in June. The band was also on the bill for Riot Fest, which took place in Chicago in September 2013.
Drummer Victor DeLorenzo said in March 2013 that he would be open to recording new material with the Violent Femmes, but on July 15, 2013, it was announced that Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione would replace DeLorenzo as the band's drummer. In a statement, DeLorenzo said "It's always hard to write a eulogy for a lost loved one. In this case, I sadly lament the loss of a dream and an ideal that was once Violent Femmes."
The Violent Femmes played three shows in Australia as part of the 2013/2014 Falls Festival, performing at Marion Bay on December 30, Lorne on December 31 and Byron Bay on January 2. On May 11, 2014, they performed at the Shaky Knees music festival in Atlanta, Georgia.
The band played several shows in Australia around the start of 2015, including the Woodford Folk Festival, the Sydney Opera House and MONA FOMA festival. In the midst of these performances, they recorded their first new material in 15 years on New Year's Eve 2014 in Hobart, Tasmania. These four songs were released on an exclusive four-song EP on clear 180-gram vinyl on April 18, 2015 for Record Store Day. The band then joined Barenaked Ladies and Colin Hay on a two-month tour in the summer of 2015.
In January 2016, Viglione announced via his Facebook page that he had "handed in his resignation" to the band, adding that he was "grateful to have had the experience." Later that month, the band announced that its first full album in 16 years, We Can Do Anything would be released on March 22, 2016. Viglione is credited as the drummer on the album.
Drummer John Sparrow, who began playing cajón in the Femmes' backing band, the Horns of Dilemma, in August 2005, joined the band as its new drummer after Viglione's exit. On February 23, 2016, he appeared with the band on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert to promote We Can Do Anything. On April 30, 2019, the band announced a new studio album, Hotel Last Resort, released on July 26, 2019. In July of 2019, the band returned to the East Side neighborhood of Milwaukee, in and around the street art destination Black Cat Alley, to film the music video for the single “I’m Nothing”.
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