chickfactor + the hangover lounge present
three of our toppest bands of all time
friday, july 11 at the lexington in london
(admission includes a split single from the clientele & birdie)
(admission includes a split single from the clientele & birdie)
what has the clientele been up to? are you back together for good or just a few shows?
I’ve been slowly and painfully writing a novel, and playing in amor de días. mark has moved into a canal boat and is tuning pianos. james has been growing chillis and playing bass for comet gain. ¶ last year I wrote a couple of songs that sounded more clientele than amor de días and it coincided with an offer for the old lineup to play a festival in denmark, which we decided to do for fun. then merge asked us to record a song or two for their 25th-anniversary 7″ singles club so we had a chance to record together again. that’s all so far.
why was it important to reissue suburban light?
again, it was merge’s decision, as part of their 25-year anniversary reissues series. I over-listened to that record when we mixed it the first time round and I got sick of the songs. james and I were talking about how frustrating that whole time was, we kept losing drummers and we wanted those songs to be on the radio but we were in a little studio trying to cut out the hiss on the tape by sliding the faders up and down. every sound engineer we met tried to make us sound like radiohead. ¶ coming back to it was really positive though—we unearthed a lot of stuff everyone had forgotten. It was weird being in a room and hearing our younger selves bantering on tape. I think the reissue does it justice, and it seems to be a lot of people’s favourite clientele record so hopefully it will be enjoyed.
how has your songwriting process changed since you were a teen?
I learnt that songs don’t need to be symmetrical—if one verse has four lines it’s okay for the second to have three. otherwise, not in any way!
how do you keep your guitar nails from chipping?
on tour you can’t keep them from chipping but once they do chip you can replace them with estee lauder press-ons and superglue. kurt wagner showed me when we toured with lambchop and since then both have become an essential piece of tour kit.
what records are you most excited about these days?
I really enjoyed gerard love’s lightships record. the new boards of canada is interesting. I’ve been catching up on old martin newell and cleaners from venus records and also listening to a lot of virginia astley.
what’s the best pub in london?
for me the pembury tavern in hackney central is OK. also the elderfield in clapton.
who is the comedian in the band?
we are all equally amusing.
what will you do in NYC when not playing?
have lunch at angelica kitchen.
best chickfactor party memory/story?
flying in to play one of the london chickfactor shows after a gig in berlin. we arrived backstage with several bottles of berentzen apfelkorn, which is a kind of schnapps which sends you completely bananas, god knows why we had picked them up but we did. we tried to get club 8 to drink it, a german guy personally interceded and warned them not to deal with us.
lois: I was in the middle of a room full of indie bands sleeping on the floor of dave auchenbach’s house after a big night at the providence pop fest in 1992. versus had arrived late, after a gig in some other town. it was probably four in the morning when I woke to see figures with guitar cases moving gingerly across the bedrolls. richard baluyut was stepping over my sleeping bag when he looked down and darkly intoned, “I heard you made brownies.” that phrase (accurate, I may add) kickstarted a long friendship with richard that soon came to include his versus bandmates fontaine and ed and patrick and james. you’d think that over the past 20 years, I would have gotten around to asking richard some of these burning questions. so thanks, gail, for assigning me to interview richard in advance of versus’ appearance at chickfactor 22 on friday, march 21 at the bell house in brooklyn.
is it true that you once got a guitar lesson from roger miller of mission of burma?
richard: I never had a lesson from roger. he did sell me his guitar from mission of burma, before they got back together. when he needed it back, I sent it back to him of course! I believe I still own it, but I haven’t held it in over a decade!
can you describe the ownership timeline of the famous black rickenbacker guitar?
richard: I bought it in 1990, and used it on our early singles. traded it to tae won yu for his SG, which became the versus guitar. tae brought the rickenbacker with him to olympia and made it the classic kicking giant guitar. but he got bored of it and sold it back to me when we were passing through on tour. I sold it to jeff cashvan, who later sold it to carrie brownstein, who made it the signature sleater-kinney guitar. quite an illustrious history! I haven’t seen carrie play it in a long time though; I hope she’s passed it on…
if you could play in any band from the past, which one would it be?
richard: I wish I’d been in the who, isle of wight-era so I would be wearing a jumpsuit…
what is your favorite sci-fi novel?
richard: invisible cities by italo calvino? I was more of a fantasy guy. I only read civil war history now…
what are your top 3 favorite things about new york city?
richard: double-features at film forum. mamoun’s falafel still standing. not living there.
chickfactor: considering the dominance of the UK in middle and long distance running in the past; sir roger bannister’s four-minute mile, sebastian coe and steve ovett’s amazing rivalry on the track, and the astonishing world record of paula radcliffe at the marathon, it was really not a very big surprise to see that you are specializing in the 10k. tell us a little about your training and how you feel it’s going. any tips for those of us who want to start running? what’s your PR (optional)?
alasdair: we have no expertise in running, or specialisms in the 10k. we both ran the new forest half marathon last year and counted ourselves lucky to be alive by the end. the only tip for a 10k run I could offer is don’t sprint the first 3k, the next 7k will not thank you.
lupe: it’s handy for catching the last tube back home after a gig, or the train to the next city on tour. that’s definitely our specialty distance.
charlotte and emily want to know if you are a couple. I assured them I would ask you.
lupe: buy our records and find out! there are hidden messages if you play the vinyl backwards.
emily and I were at an amor de días gig at the triple rock in minneapolis about 3 years ago. that gig was an introduction to your music, it made a big impression on me and I made it a goal to play with you someday. in fact, whenever we visit our friend’s house there is a poster from that gig framed on their wall. do you think that touring is worth it because you never know what impact it has, even if the audience might be small on a given night? or do you think that touring has had its day?
alasdair: what a nice thing to say! I suppose in my career the model of the small gig with a strong connection to the audience has been mostly how it’s happened, and when when that connection really works it’s amazing, nothing can beat it. opening for much bigger bands has taught me that my songs work better in a small space, chamber music rather than a nuremberg rally or a mass singalong.
lupe: touring is usually when you might get to play in front of strangers who’ve never heard your music, and see a sincere reaction. it’s probably very self-indulgent but there’s something to be said for that, whether it’s a good one or not.
living in the middle of a vast continent as we do, without any real possibility of moving anywhere exotic, we are in awe of your EU passports and your seeming ability to move anywhere you please on the continent. do you plan to stay in the UK forever? do you ever miss the sun?
alasdair: come on, minneapolis is about as exotic as it gets! prince lives there! I was born in scotland so have never known the sun. It would be nice to be an internationalist rather than stuck in the UK. I’ll have to work on it.
lupe: when we were in minneapolis a couple of years ago we talked about moving there. I’m not kidding!
tell me how you first met gail….
alasdair: outside NYU in the freezing cold. I think we had eaten polish food for the first time and were semi-comatose.
lupe: I was aware of this cool chick with retro glasses and blond braids at all the shows at fez I went to in the ’90s but I didn’t know her name (or that she’d curated the shows, and put out chickfactor). years later we met in london through our friends pam berry and mark powell—the heat broke at the place where she was staying and I told her she could squat at ours. instant family.
last year the aislers set seemed to take no offense when we changed our name to jim ruiz set. how would you feel about our recording under the name amor de ruiz `rE- ahs?
feel free. it has a classy ring to it.
the classical guitar scares the hell out of me, yet you make it sound so easy. are you self-taught players or do you have years of pumping nylon behind you at some music conservatory? who first inspired you to play classical? who do you listen to for your inspiration?
alasdair: I learnt classical guitar as a kid, my parents put me in for lessons, but I gave up around age 11, and lost a lot of my technique. the first guitarist in the clientele,innes phillips, had the same teacher as me, so we both grew up playing adagios and tangos and only came to playing pop music later—the way for instance george harrison played was a total mystery to us. ¶ my favourite guitarists: toquinho. argentinian folkloric guitarist atahualpa yupanqui. In the flamenco world, nino ricardo. rock guitarists stacey sutherland (13th floor elevators) ron morgan (west coast pop art experimental band), vini reilly (durutti column), maurice deebank (felt) and tom verlaine/richard lloyd. I also really rate ignacio aguilo (hacia dos veranos) and archer prewitt.
lupe: haha definitely self-taught and very limited in my knowledge. I bought a classical guitar for 27 pounds in hackney in 1999, with no previous musical experience or knowledge of what a chord was, etc. I really wanted a bass, or drums, but the guitar was much cheaper, portable. it’s handy as a way of noting a song down, but I definitely don’t consider myself ‘a guitarist’, I just write songs, and make it up as I go along. I think I’m actually a lot better at percussion; my dream is to tour the jazz circuit as a jazz drummer, maybe by the time I’m in my 70s. ¶ my favorite guitarists: probably alasdair, linton from the aislers set, sam prekop and my brother víctor, who taught me that crucial first bass line that started it all (it was “bela lugosi’s dead”).
what are your active or semi-active musical projects these days?
the musical projects that I have been working with for years, such as glands of external secretion, butte county free music society, and others continue to release limited releases. the newest release on which I contribute guitar and singing is from the group, this is yvonne lovejoy; a 45 on psychic encumbrance records called wolverine, an ode to one of the X-men heroes.
locally in long beach, I have been playing bass with a collective of friends and we call ourselves celebration of bad news. we improvise while recording the session so that we can hone in on the best parts for our song structures. my favorite element of celebration of bad news is our singer who reminds me of a female blend of both can singers, a bit of pauline oliveros, and a good splash of fearless punk rock. to have a group that faces in: we are all so eager to play and we look at each other as we play, music makes itself easily. I enjoy being a background singer or to not sing at all while I play. for me, playing this way is both relaxing and an adrenaline rush. however, as you say “semi-active” project, we only seem to be able to get together once a month. last week we had the cops called on us by a suburban neighbor which wrecked the session. now that I am a working stiff, I sure see how valuable time is. if I looked at a pie chart of my time spent being creative versus time working, I’d see why I feel creatively out of balance.
a very bright side to this creative conundrum is my husband, dan. he is always encouraging me to write songs or pick up my guitar. he is a producer from the early L.A. punk rock days. some of his best known work includes legal weapon and alice bag’s cambridge apostles and las tres. dan works on his music at home all the time. I feel that if I could just catch up with my work and sleep better hours, I would pick up my guitar to write again. and when that happens, dan is ready to record me.
what’s a record that means something very different to you now than it did 20 years ago? what changed?
when was 20 years ago? 1994??? good god. that doesn’t seem that long ago; does it to you? let me go back to that year in my head again. I was 29 years old, working at reckless records on haight street in san francisco. I was working on truth walks In sleepy shadows and nowhere had just come out. I felt like I finally had a productive, fun working band with melanie clarin, brently pusser, margaret murray as the sf seals. I got to travel to holland to record with james mcnew that year. I felt like musical success was around the corner….
okay I know! oasis’ first record!!! I used to love the first and second records because the music had a swagger and sound that made me feel confident and easy going. I was quite obsessed with noel gallagher during those couple of years. but, just the other week as I was driving along on highway 405, I put on oasis and the music just did nothing for me. I craved that old feeling you usually get from a well-loved song, but I did not feel it. so I put on television’s first record instead.
you’re an exceptional interpreter of other people’s songs. what’s a song you wish you could perform but can’t, for whatever reason?
thank you for your compliment! that means a lot to me, douglas! a song I continue to try to cover but never seem to get down is “stardust” by hoagy carmichael and mitchell parish. since 1927 it has become the most recorded song in the world. it happens to be my favorite song; this “song about a song about love.” I found out that it also was my grandfather, big rip’s favorite song and was played at my grandparent’s wedding. It’s a “bucket list” wish of mine to record it. but I just never seem to play it smoothly enough for my liking.
you wrote “better by bounds” with george jones in mind. what other performer, past or present, would you like to write a song for, and why?
douglas, your questions are excellent and I am finding them interesting to think about and not difficult to answer. thank you for taking your time to organize this interview.
I would really like to write a song for kendra smith to sing and record. she has been an enduring hero of mine since she influenced my singing style back in the early ’80s. especially I would like to sing behind her someday; another “bucket list” wish, but I know that she is very private and elusive. I doubt sincerely that she is aware of my existence and I don’t have any desire to disturb her.
what kinds of collaborations are you best at?
I like spontaneous collaborations, but those are impossible to plan. my mind says that I must feel comfortable with my other collaborators in order to create, but I know in my heart that isn’t necessarily an obstacle to making good music.
the album I recorded in new zealand was full of fairly spontaneous collaborations and I was not always comfortable with my collaborators. every song was recorded the day it was written, except for one I had ready to go. recording those songs was utterly terrifying because I had so much fan-admiration for the artists I worked with (graeme downes, chris knox, denise roughan and david mitchell, robert scott, david kilgour) that I was determined to make good use of their time. I did my best to connect to my musical muse so that what I contributed was open-minded and high quality. I can still listen to the songs on the album, in new zealand, and feel proud of our results.
gail tells me you’re teaching chemistry in high school these days. what are you like as a teacher? how does teaching relate to performing for you (or does it)?
wow, douglas. you are very perceptive because teaching certainly is performing and there is no worse audience than 36 bored teenagers. as a teacher I am loud, funny, informative, compassionate, caring, annoyed, fierce and sometimes inappropriate. I have a lot to learn to get where I want to be as a teacher. one important thing I have learned within the past months is that teaching requires putting on a show, a new one, every day; and if that show bombs there is no way to close the curtain and ask the ushers to see the audience out for their refund.
what’s the most fruitful piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
to view everyone as though they are wearing a shirt that says, “please help me feel good about myself.”
barbara will play night two of chickfactor 22 at the bell house, brooklyn, on march 21.
Doors 7pm, showtime 8pm. $20 advance; $25 at the door; advance two-day pass $40.
Tickets on sale at noon EST Monday, Feb 3!
Also will be available at Other Music.
Thursday, March 20
WITHERED HAND From Edinburgh and led by Dan Willson, the ace band has a brand-new second album, New Gods, coming out March 25 on Slumberland Records. It was produced by Tony Doogan (Mountain Goats, Belle & Sebastian, Mogwai, The Pastels) and features a stellar array of guests including members of Belle & Sebastian, Frightened Rabbit, Black Tambourine and The Vaselines. New Gods also features CF cofounder Pam Berry and a song called “Black Tambourine”! New single.
JIM RUIZ SET Hailing from Minneapolis, the legendary Jim Ruiz & Co. often play at CF parties. They released Mount Curve Avenue, their third LP, in 2012 and on vinyl in 2013 on Shelflife Records. Their jazzy Max Eider-influenced pop has always made us swoon. Tonight’s lineup is Jim Ruiz, Emily Ruiz on drums, Allison Labonne on bass, and Kim Serene on marimba and accordian. (Interview in CF9)
LILYS / KURT HEASLEY Super-talented East Coast (mostly DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania) songwriter Kurt Heasley has been putting out records as Lilys since 1991 that feature a noisy brand of pop we love. He has been working on some new material and will play some of that tonight.
AMOR DE DÍAS The London-based duo featuring Lupe Núñez-Fernández (Pipas) and Alasdair Maclean (see The Clientele) hasn’t toured in the US since 2011. They released a brilliant second album called The House at Sea on Merge Records in January 2013. The combination of Spanish guitar, English melancholy, the spirit of Gal Costa and a touch of cinematic magic makes them one of the most intriguing songwriting pairs working today. They’re currently making their third album. Recent track!
Friday, March 21
THE CLIENTELE Originally from Hampshire and now London, the Clientele is one of our fave pop acts of all time. This lineup featuring Alasdair Maclean, James Hornsey on bass and Mark Keen on drums hasn’t played together since 2005. The group hasn’t played in the US since 2010. These three got back in the studio for the first time since 2010 to record a new 7″ single for the Merge Records Thousands of Prizes thing, which is their first new material in 4 years. (interviewed in CF13)
VERSUS Many associate this band with ’90s indie rock but they put out a pretty bad-ass LP on Merge Records in 2010 titled On the Ones and Threes. Another “chickfactor house band,” Versus has switched off members over the years but this year will be the handsome Baluyut brothers Richard and Ed and foxy Fontaine Toups (CF Cover Girl issue 6).
BARBARA MANNING Barbara Manning used to be the poster girl for San Francisco, and has participated in some of the best pop music ever (with 28th Day, World of Pooh, SF Seals) and especially as a solo artist. She’s currently living in Long Beach and is a high-school chemistry teacher! We are very happy to have her on the lineup. CF Cover Girl issue 4.
THE SATURDAY PEOPLE This fab DC pop group hasn’t played in a while! Featuring the original lineup, which was Terry Banks (Dot Dash, Tree Fort Angst, glo-worm); Dan Searing (glo-worm); Greg Pavlovcak (Ropers); and Ara Hacopian. Interviewed in CF15.
chickfactor fanzine was started in 1992 by pam berry and gail o’hara in d.c./nyc.
Irving Berlin Merritt was a wee six-month-old pup back in 1999 when the Magnetic Fields’ epic triple album 69 Love Songs was released and when we started filming. In those days songwriter Stephin Merritt would carry Irving everywhere with him in a red felt tote bag. Merritt kept him in the bag during a meal in Boston once (around the time he was in this photo), feeding Irving barbecued ribs one by one, while Irv never let out a single peep that would alert restaurant staff and have us all removed. I spent some time backstage with Irving at the Middle East in Boston — not a very charming room. If I let Irving alone back there, he would bark loud enough to disrupt the whole show (why we didn’t leave him back at Chris Ewen’s Cambridge apartment with other chihuahuas I will never know; oh yes, it was because Stephin wanted to bring him to the show). Luckily Claudia’s sister JJ came to my relief so I didn’t have to spend the entire evening *not* watching the show.
Back in New York, Irving accompanied Stephin almost everywhere. He could be seen at Dick’s Bar (where, as Stephin points out in Strange Powers, half of 69 Love Songs was written) barking at most everyone who came in (especially gents in hats and those with beards) and listening to the new wave jukebox or watching Xanadu (or porn) with the rest of the gay men. He could be seen at chickfactor parties at Fez—I remember watching Irving lick the plate on which a “Sorbet Sampler” (a typical Merritt dish) had been served and praying that the health department would not close down the venue. Irving came with Stephin, in the bag, to a Tibetan restaurant in the East Village once but was discovered and asked to leave well before mealtime commenced. And he spent many hours at St. Dymphna’s, the Irish bar where Merritt used to meet with Daniel Handler to brainstorm over pots of green tea and full Irish breakfast (mostly consumed by, yes, you guessed it, the wee Irving).
Irving was one of those chihuahuas who probably needed to get out and race around like a madman, to get those ya-yas out, which is hard to do in Manhattan (though in recent years he had a yard, where Irving got to spend much time chewing on his chicken). He also loved riding around in the Mini Cooper. How Stephin has managed to do so much recording in his apartments and houses without having Irving disrupt the proceedings is a mystery. One has to wonder if Irving could hear at all, after all the gay bar crowd noise and soundcheck shenanigans he has been exposed to. He was Stephin’s primary companion for the past 14 years and will be missed, especially by those who knew him over time.
Irving Berlin Merritt passed away August 2013. RIP little buddy.
Edited by S.S. Sandhu, Nothing’s Too Good For The Common People: The Films of Paul Kelly is a very limited-edition Risograph book—published by Texte und Töne in collaboration with the Colloquium for Unpopular Culture—to mark the first ever retrospective of Kelly’s work, held in association with chickfactor magazine, in New York, June 2013. The book was designed by Rob Carmichael, SEEN and was printed by Keegan Cooke at Circadian Press.
Contributors include: Jon Dale, Travis Elborough, Alistair Fitchett, Dan Fox, Joe Kerr, Stephin Merritt, Jude Rogers, Sukhdev Sandhu, Peter Terzian.
The book comes with a free poster and a postcard-pack of all five of Paul Kelly’s films. Ten random copies of the book will also come with signed (by Kelly and Debsey Wykes) copies of Birdie’s out-of-print Folk Singer 7-inch single.
Initial copies of the book and poster have been signed by Kelly. Price: $30 (inc. postage).
Additionally, for $35 (inc. postage): all of the above, plus—sent separately sent in a cardboard tube—a signed print of the event poster.
The print is also available for sale separately for $10 (inc. postage).
We cannot wait to read Bob Stanley’s new book! Go to these events if you can.