thalia zedek: chickfactor interview

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thalia zedek is kind of an indie-rock bad-ass. before she formed come with chris brokaw, she was in uzi, live skull and dangerous birds. this spring, she is touring solo to support her new thrill jockey release via, and then touring with come as matador gets ready to reissue 11: 11 in may. gilmore tamny (from wiglet/the yips) managed to ask thalia a few questions to get the dirt.

chickfactor: any opinions on the “roadrunner” official song for massachusetts?

thalia: I’m all for it. I think that jonathan richman is an american icon right up there with woody guthrie and massachusetts should take advantage of the bragging rights

cf: touring for via with low (portland, san francisco, etc.) coming up and then I think with the come reissue—sounds like a great lineup. Any plans beyond the spring or later with come?

I have got some new material that I’m really excited about working on and hopefully recording in the near future. I don’t want to wait 4 years this time!

cf: what do you like/love/find not awesome/hate about touring?

I love traveling and looking out the window from a van, meeting new cool people and exploring new cities. and reconnecting with old friends. what I don’t like is flying and club promoters who don’t appreciate musicians and the effort that it takes to tour.

cf: writers like to talk about their writerly routines and I’m curious if you have a particular sort with song-writing or practicing. is it cyclic? daily? inspiration based? do you work better under looming deadlines or slogging along day-in/day-out (etc.)?

I’m definitely inspiration based but looming deadlines definitely speed up my process. I find that sitting down and just noodling around on my guitar is how most of my songs start out. sometimes finishing them is a problem for me!

cf: how do you write the lyrics for your songs? go they come first/second or hatch as the song does? who are some of your favorite lyricists?

lyrics pretty much always come last for me, but on the rare occasion that the music and words come at the same time, that is truly magic and those songs are my favorite. some of my favorite lyricists are nick cave, leonard cohen, vic chesnutt.

cf: first few favorite-favorite songs as kid/young person?

“the boxer” by simon and garfunkel. I used to sing the La Di Li part over and over again!

cf: are there any artists–books, painters, dancers, whatever–that you would say have influenced you a lot in last 10 years?

carla bozulich is doing some really cool things these days. she used to be in geraldine fibbers but has a new project now called evangelista that has put out a lot of cool records on constellation records. I find her music and her work ethic really inspiring!

cf: tell us a little about the recording process for via. I imagine you are pretty technically conversant at this point with so much recording under your belt. what sort of sound were you looking for, if you had an idea ahead of time, and then how you went about executing it?

we worked with andrew schneider again as the engineer and producer. I personally think he is a genius. he just makes us sound like us and sounding natural in the studio is actually no mean feat. I wanted the record to sound warm and deep, but I don’t really like getting into the technical aspects of it. it’s just not my thing so  I just try and record with really talented engineers.

cf: is there any show you were dying to see that you are still kicking yourself for having missed?

I had the chance to see rowland howard perform in melbourne in 2005 but I was too jetlagged and exhausted from touring to make the show. he has since passed away , and I really really regret not seeing him that night. he was a big influence on my guitar playing.

cf: how many guitars do you own? What are some of your favorites?

4 electric guitars and 1 acoustic. I have a tele deluxe that I used on the early come records and two black hagstrom I guitars. also a pale blue kalamazoo. my first hagstrom which I got as a birthday gift from a bunch of my friends in the ’90s is my favorite. they knew that I had put a down payment on it and they pooled together the rest and gave it to me for my birthday. it was amazing!

cf: is there any folk music from a region or tradition you particularly dig?

rebetica, which are greek “hash songs,” indian music, as well turkish and romanian music too.

cf: what are some things you do outside of playing music that best ‘feed’ your music? I mean, like: biking? reading? watching bad TV? cooking? etc.

I love cooking, especially BBQ in the summer and biking around!

cf: I know you’ve done some volunteering with girls rock camp boston. could you talk a bit about your experience?

it was great. I volunteered at the first boston rock camp for girls as a guitar instructor and band coach and also at a ladies rock camp as a band coach. kids love making noise so it was a lot of fun to encourage them to thrash away and see them just break out with these huge smiles! I also discovered what I had already suspected, that I’m not that great at teaching people instruments. I’m a great band coach though!

cf: short list of places you’d like to travel, either touring or not?

lithuania, latvia, indonesia, new zealand, israel for a start. china and japan too!

cf: I’ve always thought you were a very stylish gal. any influences in that area? anyone whose style you admire?

thanks! ’70s-era mick jagger meets goodwill is what I’m going for. not sure if I’ve achieved it or not.

cf: do you have any animal cam weaknesses?

I love to watch baby seals frolic!
photograph by lana caplan


the chickfactor cocktail

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“the chickfactor”

our 20th-anniversary cocktail invented by daniel a searing jr

“this one is bittersweet, international and sparkling, just like chickfactor!”

1 oz gin*
0.5 oz maraschino liqueur
0.25 oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz champagne**

*I think an american craft gin like breuckelen from new york or small’s from oregon work particularly well.
**or use any dry traditional method sparkling wine such as cava from spain.

stir first three ingredients with ice. strain into a champagne flute or coupe. top with sparkling wine and garnish with a lemon twist.

to serve as a punch chill all ingredients well. in a punch bowl combine one 750 ml bottle of gin, half a bottle of maraschino liqueur and 6 oz plus 2 tsp lemon juice and the same amount of cold water. gently add 3 bottles of sparkling wine. float lemon slices in the bowl and add a large chunk of ice. serve in punch cups, tumblers or coupes.

to make ice chunk freeze water in a bundt or loaf pan overnight. release by dipping or rinsing with warm water. alternatively, fill a well rinsed paper quart container with water and freeze. peel away container to use.

chickfactor parties: the early years

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chickfactor #1 was given out for free at a heavenly gig at maxwell’s in hoboken (sept 1992).

chickfactor #2 was given out for free at gail’s manhattan penthouse in late january 1993.

chickfactor #3 was given out for free at gail’s manhattan penthouse in june 1993.

chickfactor #4: september 9, 1993: first chickfactor gig was at under acme and featured lovefish (douglas wolk’s band—they did a tune called “bridget cross”), purple ivy shadows, the mad scene, lois, glo-worm, tree fort angst, lilys, heavenly, containe (first performance ever, though they were billed as versus), honeybunch, and small factory. there was a surprise performance by franklin bruno, who covered joe jackson’s “different for girls” while small factory were setting up. this party was pure fucking magic and the night would have been perfect except that alex small factory was mad at me for the review of their debut album in the new issue. they played an all-dave-songs set and nothing off the i do not love you (“because it’s so poor”). I was in heaven. alex made me cry while heavenly were playing while dave auchenbach and erin smith were joining them onstage.

chickfactor #5: february 9, 1994: this was the second chickfactor gig, also at under acme. three of the nine scheduled acts couldn’t make it on account of the blizzard (three feet of snow). I was home all day answering the phone (“of course the party’s still on, this is new york fucking city”). the party was remarkably well attended and again had that special magic. who played? containe, barbara manning, cobalt, mary timony from helium played just with joan wasser from dambuilders on violin, and the magnetic fields (who performed “san diego zoo” with barbara for the first time), and the ropers who win the indie spirit prize for driving to and from washington, d.c., in the blizzard in the same day. I was crushed for a while because you know who brought a hideous date and it nearly ruined my evening. it was the first time I met stephin and he wasn’t particularly sweet, but that’s no surprise. I also met ilsa who used to star in TMF videos.

chickfactor #6: june 18, 1994: god we were prolific in those days. this show, also at under acme, had the most bands ever (13) and was on the most godawfully hot day ever but it was a damn fine show: ivy, musical chairs, nik-l-nip (featuring mark pipas), juicy (featuring kendall mascott), salmon skin, tree fort angst’s terry banks, belmondo (featuring pam berry), glo-worm (ditto), blast off country style, yo la tengo (quiet and sans james), air miami (billed as “bridget & friends”), honeybunch, and andrew egg solo (did a most amazing cover of momus’ classic “bishonen”—wow). ivy, air miami were making their live debuts tonight. air miami were drunk and sloppy as hell. salmon skin set off fireworks (natch) and set the (borrowed from a stranger) drum kit on fire—they also cleared the room. I was sick as a dog with a cold but drinking margaritas in spite of it all. another really good show.

chickfactor cmj show: september 22, 1994: at under acme. this was our first cmj show and I had to fight like hell to get our own pure lineup, which I had been promised from the beginning, but the cmj marathon people kept trying to add bands such as milk and blonde redhead to our bill. ha! they hated me, but I stood firm, even to the point where I was ready to go have a guerrilla show down at the delancey bar. who played? the shapiros (featuring pam), the mad scene, the lois, dump (with georgia and ira as backing band), barbara manning, the magnetic fields, and eggs. what a show! it was the most full-of-good-karma and people cmj event I have ever attended. liz clayton, carrie mclaren, and all our other zine nerd pals were there. it was such a long day that began with a cmj panel on zines (organized by byron coley and featuring yours truly), followed by live performances by versus, stereolab, giant sand, and 18th dye in the hilton hotel. our show started late because eggs (bringing the one and only drum kit from d.c.) were late.

chickfactor #7: october 8, 1994: this was a fun show. also at under acme, it featured unlimited lou from d.c. (featuring my friend joanna virello with dana and nick and adam), godco duo, musical chairs, rachael and chris from sleepyhead (quiet), mary lou lord, romania (d.c. new wavers who stole the show), fire in the kitchen, and versus (with guests bob bannister and gerard cosloy, with whom they did an envelope song). “this is such a coup!” said stephin merritt about romania.

enchanté records/containe record release party: october 20, 1994: this was supposed to be a black tie affair but not all complied. it also sucked that sebadoh happened to be playing across town with versus opening but it didn’t really hurt our show that much. the lineup was first ever u.s. shows from australian pop gods nice and ashtray boy, along with kicking giant, team dresch (with complete self-defense demo beforehand), and of course containe performed. containe were awesome; so were team dresch. nice were amazing and randall from ashtray boy performed wearing a (my) dress because it was chickfactor. next night we had ashtray boy, nice, and the magnetic fields at mercury lounge as well. susannah from nice bellydanced and dragged some indie kids onstage to learn how as well.

random show: october 25, 1994: this was a chickfactor/slumberland records thing at under acme, featuring ivy, musical chairs, the ropers, and boyracer, who were fantastic despite horrific sound issues. this was the first show that fm cornog came to and he loved it. very laidback.

chickfactor tour: december 2, 1994: our first out of town cf event was in providence, r.i., at the last call, and featured romania, belmondo (who cancelled), gerard playing solo, containe, the magnetic fields, and helium. awesome. maybe the best containe show yet, and I have yet to miss one. all our providence pals came, it was ace.

chickfactor #8: april 1, 1995: no shows for a while because I was out of commission with surgery during february. we actually had chickfactor 8s since late february but we handed them out at this shindig anyway featuring stephin merritt reading his own poetry for 10 minutes (high comedy), the mad scene, tree fort angst’s terry b, glo-worm, the nonpareils, nord express, heartworms, kickstand, and the lois. it was a great show even though this asshole soundman tried to make our lives hell. this was the last ever chickfactor party at under acme.

chickfactor on tour: april 22, 1994: this was our second out of town gig at the khyber pass in philly. it was oddly divided into two shows: the first was all ages upstairs (with nik-l-nip, versus, andrew egg solo, and romania); the second was not (the mad scene, kickstand, and the magnetic fields). the bands were all great but it sucked that the khyber pass ripped us off bad. never again.

thank you, friends.

chickfactor and enchanté records (our label) just wanted to say thank you to everyone who rallied to help us clear out our storage space recently…

craig austin powell

gordon zacharias

connie lovatt, mandy lovatt, margaret lovatt

edward baluyut

fontaine toups

john lindaman

jim ruiz

low

gilmore tamny

james mcnew

david smith

merge records

slumberland records

other music

the o’hara family

I also want to thank all the folks who placed chickfactor orders — the funds allowed me to ship 8 boxes of them to my current place of “business” so we still have some back issues in stock.

& especially thanks to my amazing mom who let me store the massive back catalog in her garage all these years. she did a great job fulfilling chickfactor orders!

new pastels!

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we are pretty excited to hear today that the new album from the pastels, slow summits, will be released on may 28! when they played at our chickfactor 20 party in london in november, they sounded as ace and fresh as ever, and we are chomping at the bit waiting to hear this one! recorded in glasgow by john mcentire and bal cooke, and mixed in chicago by mcentire, it features stephen mcrobbie, katrina mitchell, tom crossley, gerard love, alison mitchell and john hogarty. guests include annabel wright and norman blake. contributions from members of to rococo rot and tenniscoats too! watch the trailer here.

molly drake.

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squirrel thing records, the same label that brought the world the amazing connie converse recordings, has finally given the molly drake music a u.s. release. yes, she was nick drake’s mom and clearly had an influence on him! recorded in the 1950s at the drake family home and restored by nick drake’s engineer john wood, these 19 tracks will be available on cd and digital download. The CD package has a letterpress sleeve, 16-page booklet with photos and bio by nick’s sister gabrielle.

 

revel in portland launch party.

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a launch party february 22 at the cleaners (ace hotel) for a new book called revel in portland, which features interviews with and city picks from locals including bridge & burn designer erik prowell, illustrator carson ellis, filmmaker-photographer lance bangs, architect jeff kovel, chef john gorham, designer tinker hatfield, photographer ray gordon, artist alicia mcdaid and chickfactor editor me (gail) — I was interviewed and photographed by the awesome shayla hason. any donation gets you in and gets you a copy of the book. I will have a table set up with some chickfactor 17s, chickfactor mixtapes and maybe some photos! come down. you can also get the book here.


cf etiquette special: requests

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under what circumstances are requests acceptable?

legendary jim ruiz
: requests are always acceptable because if you say “what do you guys want to hear?” you will get 7 different answers and you can just play what you want. it is kind of meaningless, because if you wait long enough, eventually someone will request something you want or remember how to play.

carrie sleater-kinney: I suppose they are always acceptable, whether or not they will get granted is another issue. we seem to get a lot of birthday requests, as if being born on that day gives one the inherent right to have a song played especially for them. I always feel like we are playing on a cruise ship or in a hotel lounge when we cater to requests. every time I say “this next number goes out to…..” I see my future flash before my eyes.

john true love always: requests are always acceptable in the realm of “popular music.” aren’t you lucky if people even know the name of one of your crappy songs?

sam quasi: half the time the requests are already on the set list anyway, so go ahead & scream it out. then there’s the person who screams out the most obscure song in the catalog, to show off the arcanity of their knowledge. that’s fine too.

rob tender trap: it’s not very nice, because it’s nearly always for a song you’re going to play anyway, or for a song that you really didn’t want in the setlist.

stuart moxham: not something I’ve ever had to deal with, thankfully, as I can’t remember much beyond the current set. it would be nice to know that anyone actually knew your stuff. ymg always had exactly the same set because the drum machine was on a tape. even so someone had to remind us what was next once….

john phosphene: if the request is for a much loved song, then fine. if the request is “get off: you’re crap!”, that might be different…

james +/- versus: requests are always acceptable if they are requests for your music. but when people request covers, geez louise that curdles my milk.

alan low: we usually welcome requests, but it’s nice to get through maybe a half dozen songs before people ask.

jennifer o’connor: acceptable. I don’t think that means the musician will play the song necessarily but it’s cool that someone likes it enough to ask for it to be played.

daniel handler: people who shout requests at me should understand that I’m not actually a member of the magnetic fields and so I have no decision-making power, although sometimes I also would like to hear “100,000 fireflies.”

claudia the magnetic fields: in our group there is no circumstance in which it’s acceptable.

jeff aden: they are acceptable. the band can just say “no” if they don’t wanna play something. it’s a little annoying, but you’re not gonna be able to keep lameness out of a rock venue crowded with drunk people.

clarissa cf: if it’s a song that the artist might reasonably be expected to know and be willing to play, absolutely — those can work out really well. joke requests suck, as do repeatedly bellowed demands when you know full well we heard you the first time.

ld flare: if you’re a really old has-been on a “greatest hits” package tour, perhaps, and some devout fan pleads for an obscure b-side from your italian-only ep or something… otherwise, I think not.

mike yesenosky: if the request is one of your songs or if you’re a cover band, I see no problem with it. if someone asks for another band’s music and you’re an original band, not only is the audience member rude, but you should probably look in the mirror and figure out how to make your own material more interesting.

robert tono-bungay: where people have spontaneously yelled out for songs my band has written, I’ve been very, very pleased by that. I do it myself from time to time so to me it’s ok. it’s also acceptable if you are yo la tengo, and it’s new-wave karaoke night.

david huon/driving past: requests are fine, but not requests for bullshit we hate.

ben town and country: they are always acceptable—whether the band is going to be willing to oblige the request is the real question.

 

 

cf etiquette poll: the guest list

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in what circumstances do you feel it’s okay to ask to be on a friend’s band’s guest list?

claudia the magnetic fields: dating them helps. second best is knowing that they don’t have too many people on the list already. after that, you should be very polite in asking and prepared to pay.

liz clayton: I have small means, and thus, little shame.

james +/- versus: 1. you’re poor and a good friend. 2. you don’t ask every time. 3. you helped them out in some way. 4. you’re poor.

matt shinkansen: guest-lists are un-socialist. everyone should pay.

mike yesenosky: I think you should wait until it’s offered. are you really supporting the band if you won’t pay to see them? I guess the only time it’s ok to ask is if you can’t afford to go and you know they will be allowed a large list. you know, you could offer to help if you really want to not pay. bands could always use someone to load equipment or sell merch.

carrie sleater-kinney: I ask to be on if I have repeatedly put them our guest list or if the show is sold out. I don’t ask if it’s a benefit or if my friends are on tour.

daniel handler: if I’m broke and they’re really my friends.

jennifer o’connor: I always try to pay if possible, because I think it’s important to support working musicians you like in a monetary way so they can continue to do what they do…especially if they are your friends.

david huon/driving past: it’s good anytime, because they want you there but they don’t want you to pay. I’d put the world on my guest list, if I could. if only I could.

robert tono-bungay: under the circumstance that I desperately must get in, I’m feeling brazen enough to ask, and that I have an aching need to be able to lord this singular gift of favor over everyone else at the door who’s patiently waiting on line to pay. or, if it’s any show at the bowery ballroom.

lisa cf: if you see that person’s band quite a bit and usually pay, then it’s fine to ask for a freebie. or if you’ve done them a favor recently.

isaac cf: it’s always ok, I didn’t spend the last 15 years languishing in indie squalor and subsisting on instant ramen so I can pay to see quasi. that’s right janet, I’m talking to you!

andrew eggs / talk it: I try to stay off guest lists unless I’m working or I don’t want to see the band in the first place. I usually ask my friends to take me off their lists. unless they get big, at which point all bets are off. watch your deli tray, too! me hungry!

clarissa cf: I have a job; I can pay my way. if they offer, I’ll say yes.but it is not nice to ask for a present.

jeff aden: you know, I used to be really insecure about asking to be on the guestlist. then I realized that I never get mad at people who ask to be on our list, so I’ve sort of gotten over it. if they don’t have room, they’ll say no. but it’s not like they’ll be pissed at you for asking.

dickon fosca: if it’s a small gig, the band have day jobs and the door price is cheaper than buying a couple of drinks, I think it’s fair enough to pay one’s way in. if the show is a big venue and the band are drinking nectar from the navels of brewer street rent boys between songs, I only go if I can get in free. basic robin hood tactics, really. if the show is sold out and the only way of getting in is by being on the list, then that’s fair enough too.

terry dot dash: I usually just say “look, you know I’m there for you… you know I’m out there flyin’ the flag for you guys 24-7 so how ’bout it? what’s it’s gonna take to get my name on that list? and while we’re on the subject, what dy’a think about a plus-one scenario? c’mon, don’t put me on there all by my lonesome — I got needs.”

stuart moxham: any. also always insist on free copies of new records if they have the need to tell you of them!

don smith: if it’s a local band, it’s not ok to ask to get put on the band’s guest list in most cases. the only cases where this is not true are if financial disasters preclude this or if the band owes you money. otherwise it’s up to the band to invite you on their list — it’s their list and their decision. if you have an interview with a touring band then you can ask them for plus ones. if you have an interview with a local band then you should bring them a gift rather than asking to get into their show. if you are assigned the interview by your editor then you can ask the band for a guest list, even if they are local, by explaining that it’s your editor’s idea. under no circumstances are you ever allowed to ask to get on the band’s guest list for the purpose of freelance photography. if the band is from out of town and their label has more than one paid employee you are allowed to ask the band’s label for anything, including posters and advance cassettes. if you are planning to bootleg the show, meticulously write down the songs played, take pictures and think about the show for days afterward you are permitted to ask to get on the guest list and ask the singer for a kiss. the band in turn, is allowed to press charges.

ld flare: I don’t usually—as a writer I’d rather just call the club or the pr people.

tracy dreamy: most of the time I am organizing the gig… and when I’m not, I don’t feel too bad about asking. if I feel it’s not right then I buy the ticket or I don’t go

Photograph: gail o