Lately, as she's driving around town, Agent M plays a game where she comes up with a Tsunami Bomb song and then tries to recall the lyrics.
"It's not easy," she says. "Some of them I can remember, but most of them I can't. It's weird to not remember lyrics. When I look at them it's almost like reading a poem someone else wrote."
Her big test arrives Jan. 17 when Tsunami Bomb plugs in for the first time in three years at the Phoenix Theater. The globe-trotting Petaluma pop-punk band that broke up abruptly in a Dear John online letter to fans is succumbing to the classic "Dude, we're getting the band back together!" moment -- but only for a one-off reunion benefit to raise money for Luckie Strike drummer Liz Beidelman, who has brain cancer.
Meeting for coffee at The Apple Box along the waterfront in Petaluma, M arrives in a white-knit hat and long red wool winter coat. It would be hard to pick her out of a lineup if you'd been at the Phoenix show back in 2002 when the magnetic punk singer bounced around the stage in a cut-off Smiths T-shirt as the band rolled through their home town one hot September night on "The Ultimate Escape" tour.
The four-piece had just logged their second Vans Warped tour and scored a prized photo in Rolling Stone magazine.
"In case you didn't know, we're Tsunami Bomb," the singer told the crowd with all the naivete of someone's little sister who hijacked the mike while the band left for a smoke break (no surprise: she's the little sister of the late Velvet Teen drummer Logan Whitehurst). Later that night she would announce, "Tonight we've set a new Guinness Book of World Records record for the band. This is the longest show we've ever played."
These days, even though she still pops up on MySpace pages under the "who I'd like to meet" section, she's not really Agent M anymore (although her email address still plays off the sub rosa spy theme). It's more like "M," as in short for Emily Whitehurst.
Gone is the trademark dyed blue swath of hair that used to hang down in her eyes.
"Actually I had a purple streak, but it just faded out," she says.
By day, she runs the Petaluma screen-printing company Loud and Clear Printing. Coming off yet another Warped tour this past summer, she's the singer for The Action Design, a more melodic, dance-rhythm indie band she formed with Tsunami Bomb bassist Matt McKenzie. Tsunami Bomb drummer Gabe Lindeman splintered off into the band Nothington with guitarist Jay Northington who replaced guitarist Mike Griffen (who works as an Apple Store technician in Los Angeles these days) when he left the band in 2004.
Looking back, she says, "I never really expected it to go as far as it did. It was a just a silly local band that sang about Halloween and stuff like that."
Among the highlights: Their first major tour with The Living End and Flogging Molly. A tour of Japan and European tours with The Vandals, Hopesfall and The Bouncing Souls. The night they sold out a headlining show at The Metro in Chicago. Those random days, on blazing cross-country Warped tours, when the promoter would throw them on the main stage and suddenly they'd be playing for 10,000 sweaty fans.