elinor blake is…april march
chickfactor: when did you live over phebe’s [goofy bar at 4th & bowery that we’re across the street from]?
elinor blake: that was my first apartment in new york.
cf: did you grow up here?
elinor: till I was five and then we moved to new haven and then I came back here when I was 16 and lived above phebe’s.
cf: then you lived on the lower east side?
elinor: then from there, I went to the lower east side. from there to hoboken. from there I went to hell’s kitchen.
cf: when did the pussywillows start?
elinor: I guess I was 19 or 20.
cf: do you have any good stories about those days? did you play many shows?
elinor: well, we did shows with ronnie spector as ronettes. when we played at madison square garden, there was a big dinner for all the acts. the acts were ronnie spector, chuck berry, bo diddley, johnny maestro. so ronnie took us into the dining room over to bo diddley’s table and he was sitting at this table with this huge plate of chicken up to his nose, and ronnie was like “hey bo, I want you to meet my girls, this is elinor and lisa and lisa” and he said “welcome to rock & roll, girls.”
cf: and then you were in the shitbirds. was that in new york too?
elinor: it overlapped. I was an animator back in new york and I was working at a studio with this guy who was the drummer and the leader of the shitbirds [steve savitsky], and it was kind of a slow period and we didn’t have a job at the time so we were like, “let’s do some recording.” so we put together the shitbirds and recorded the first album and then he moved out to los angeles too.
cf: did you decide early on in life you were going to be an animator?
elinor: yeah, I did. I grew up in a pretty academic family. I watched tv all afternoon. but I was studying the cartoons! I was. it’s a joke in my family.
cf: what was your favorite toon as a child?
elinor: probably the warner bros. cartoons. and popeye, I loved popeye. it was kind of a joke in my family because my mom and dad were like. “you can’t watch tv all day.” and later on it’s like “see?! I got something out of it. that was my training.”
cf: are there any shows on now that you worked on? or that you didn¹t work on but think are really good?
elinor: I got so burnt out after working on ren & stimpy, that I kind of switched over to painting and I don’t even follow the new cartoons. I have no idea what’s out there.
cf: has it changed a lot with computers?
elinor: yeah, computers have changed it. it¹s just the exact same thing that it’s done to music. it makes it colder sounding. drawings just breathe a little bit more.
cf: I went to moma last year for the hubley family exhibition [john and faith hubley and daughter emily — all animators].
elinor: georgia is why I moved to hoboken. she was like “you should move to hoboken, it’s really cool out here.” and they lived down the block. I love georgia.
cf: me too. do you know emily too?
elinor: yeah. I got to know those guys because she was an animator and I was an animator so it was kind of, you know. but it was cool too cause georgia gave me some really cool pieces of artwork of her dad’s that I treasure. I totally admire him. he was part of the golden age. he made such cool stuff.
cf: you said your mom was a francophile. so did you just grow up listening to piaf records?
elinor: she wasn’t as much as a francophile as me but she was in a different way. she was just more into the culture and her best friend, they lived in paris and my mom went to the sorbonne and she was always telling me about it. I was a little girl and it was this magical thing to me.
cf: what french artists do you like?
elinor: there’s a writer that I really like called michel houellebecq. he’s getting some press over here because his book just got translated. in english it¹s called whatever. there’s some other young writers — there seems to be a little movement happening. bertrand [burgalat] is doing an album with michel houellebecq which I’m so excited for. I don’t know what it will be. I mean, I guess it will be bertrand’s music and michel’s reading, it’s going to be fucking great.
cf: how did you and bertrand hook up?
elinor: I did this record called gainsbourgsion on a tiny, tiny french label and I went over to france to do some stuff for them and they were like, “well, you’re here, why don’t you send a copy of the record and also chick habit to bertrand because he might like it.” and I sent it to him and literally the next day he called up and he was completely baffled. he said “what are you doing? this is great. why are you into this music?” because in france, this was six or seven years ago, it was always the reaction of french people because they’re ashamed of this music. not all of it. but they were just so baffled and once they got over that point, then they were really excited and warmed to me. they were like, “wow! an american that’s really into our culture and this music.”
cf: do you have any scopitones?
elinor: I used to have some of those. it’s so funny. I feel like I’m the yé-y&eactue; receptor. I discovered this stuff when I was 16 and I literally spent 10 years looking for stuff and I could never find anything. and now, I go to my post office box and there will be a package with like three original gainsbourg albums and soundtracks and all this stuff.
cf: are there other people in l.a. who like that music?
elinor: I’m discovering, yeah. this guy brian who is touring with air, playing keyboards, I started talking to him and he said there’s a little pocket there. I think it’s great. it’s just going to improve the music scene.
cf: what was your first concert?
elinor: fleetwood mac, rumours tour. I went with my best friend and her dad. and it was really cool cause he was a total pothead and we knew it. he would sit there next to us, everyone was smoking dope and doing bong hits, it was at the hartford civic center. he was like, “they’re smoking pot over there.” and we’re like, “we know.” the only reason we’re not stoned now is because you’re here.
cf: when did you write your first song?
elinor: somebody at christmas gave the three of us — I have a brother and sister — this reel to reel kids tape recorder. you couldn’t save it. you would just tape something and then tape over it.
cf: so all your early recordings, gone?
elinor: I used to set up my record player and put on the sound of music or oliver, and I would get my little tape recorder and sing along.
cf: what do you think of the death of the musical?
elinor: I haven’t really thought about it. the last musical I went to was like 10 years ago. the beginning of the end was jesus christ superstar. it was because the whole thing about the musical was rodgers and hammerstein and they’re writing great songs. and then when they introduced the whole rock cool thing, it was not cutting it.
cf: I loved chitty chitty bang bang.
elinor: oh yeah. I love that.
cf: there’s some good numbers in willy wonka too. it doesn’t seem like they’re making good movies now for kids. they remake all the good ones like the parent trap that don’t need to be remade.
elinor: I think we’ve gotten into these weird — cause the times are so harsh now — there’s just this ultraconservatism and protective mechanism. like how can you make anything cool for a kid because everyone’s so afraid of offending. that’s why we were fired from ren & stimpy, they thought we were out of control. and it’s like, we were giving the kids what they need and what they want. we weren’t doing anything naughty. it’s naughty to make people think.
cf: everyone’s too PC now.
elinor: I think PC is such horseshit. you’ve got to not be PC because you need to have people to think and react and form opinions. this whole pc thing is just generic, mundane shit.
cf: do you make videos for your music?
elinor: I don’t. there’s two april march videos.
cf: but not that you animated?
elinor: I animated a pussywillows video.
cf: when I start my cable channel…
elinor: you know what else you’ve got to run? I have the funniest tape of the pussywillows on uncle floyd. it’s insane. if someone was really smart, they’d put out an uncle floyd tape. he had everybody on the show.
cf: are you happy that you’re moving away from l.a.?
elinor: yes. I’m a really staunch new englander. my family is here. every time I come to visit, everything feels easier. when I go back home, I feel like I’m living in a fluorescent lightbulb or something. I really liked it for a long time.
cf: what’s your favorite thing to do in paris?
elinor: um, I just walk. wherever I walk, whatever I look at just completely entertains me. I love the balzac museum. it’s so great. I love the rodan museum. I’ll go in the louvre and draw sculptures, but I have a hard time looking at the collection cause it’s just too much. I like the smaller museums. and I like to eat of course. my routine all day long is to just buy demi-baguette after demi-baguette. and I sample them and I found the best ones are the ones that say retrodor. it’s the oldest way they make the baguettes and they’re incredible. I’m a baguette connoisseur.
cf: do you watch the power puff girls?
elinor: no, but I know people that work on that.
cf: that band bis do the music.
elinor: oh really? that’s funny because it’s the same company that did this cartoon that I did the music for. it’s this cartoon called the cow and chicken show, and the theme is called “I am weasel.”
cf: have you met valérie lemercier?
elinor: yeah. she’s a huge star in france. tabloids, can’t walk down the street, etc. I love that record.
cf: I’m glad we came here cause I’ve never been in here. it’s scary.
elinor: I like to just go anywhere. when we were rehearsing in chicago, we were staying in this fancy area for some reason and there’s a prada store there. and it’s weird when you realize that it’s all exactly the same: sears and prada. and it’s the same with these restaurants. it’s all just consumerism. it’s extreme to say prada’s exactly like sears, but it’s a dress. you buy it to feel good and you don’t need to spend that much money on it. I can get the same kick — actually I get a better kick from getting a bargain because I’m a true american.
cf: the fun part of shopping for vintage clothes is that, even if there is another one like that, you’re not going to run into the girl wearing it at the bar. but with the trendy downtown designers, there’s always two or three girls with the same jacket in the same neighborhood.
elinor: some of it’s fun though. cynthia rowley has given me all these clothes to wear and I love it. I went to their showroom and it was so mellow. I didn’t feel like I was in a weird fashion thing. they were totally nice.
cf: well, you’re going to be walking around paris in their clothes. they should be nice.
elinor: oh my god! I’m going to paris to do all this press, which is okay, whatever. but I’m doing this photo shoot with this photographer jean-michel perrier, he was françoise hardy’s first boyfriend. all the photos that you see of françoise hardy from that early period, he took all of those. and I’m doing a photo shoot with him! [gasps] it’s so cool.
cf: have you ever been arrested?
elinor: I’ve never been arrested but I got a ticket from the coast guard for lobster molesting. I was like 7 years old and my grandmother lived in maine, and we were out on the rowboat, I’m with my cousin who’s also like 7. and this coast guard boat drives by and it’s a guy who’s not in uniform, he’s with a girl, and he drives up to the rowboat and we were hauling up a lobster pot. lobstermen make a living hauling up these pots, and you can’t even touch their buoys but we were kids, and we were just fucking around and we pulled one. and this coast guard came by, he was obviously off duty, and he was trying to impress this girl, and he wrote us a ticket and it said “lobster molesting.” cf