Interview: Rebecca Odes from Love Child and Odes

Photo courtesy of Rebecca Odes

As unofficial documenters of the New York City independent music scene, we should have interviewed Rebecca Odes long ago. Back when we started our zine, she was playing in Love Child, a trio she joined while at Vassar with Alan Licht and Will Baum (and later Brendan O’Malley), along with her band Odes. In the decades since then, she has been a prolific media creator, writing books and creating outlets such as Gurl.com, Wifey.tv and CherryPicks (a feminist-slanted improvement on Rotten Tomatoes). She’s also a multimedia artist and a parent! To celebrate the release of a just-released Love Child compilation, Never Meant to Be: 1988–1993, on 12XU Records, Rebecca chatted with chickfactor about her background, the olden days, her present and other important issues. Listen to the compilation here. (Thanks to Michael Galinsky and Michael Macioce for sharing their photographs)

Love Child. Photo: Michael Galinsky

chickfactor: Tell us a bit about your background: Where did you grow up? Was your family into music? What were you like as a kid? A teen?
Rebecca Odes: I grew up in West Orange, New Jersey. I share an alma mater with Tony and Carmela Soprano. I was a dozen years later, but the vibe tracks. It was a sports and big hair situation. I was generally considered a weirdo, sensitive and not very socially adept. I wrote poems and made art and installations with my dolls.

My father was an incredible pianist—the lore was he could have gone to Juilliard but had to take over the family electrical supply business. I was not good at practicing, but I made up songs and conceptual rock bands. When I was 12 I went to an art camp, where I discovered most artists were weirdos. It saved me. The counselors were all the coolest people I had ever met. This may still be true. The theater director was Ondine from the Factory, though he used his real name there, and I didn’t discover this until I looked him up 20 years later. He wrote a musical version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe with James Irsay, a cult classical WBAI DJ. I was Susan, and sang the song they wrote for me on the roof of a building—kind of my first public performance. The art counselor was Michael Stipe’s roommate. She did my hair and makeup for a B-52s airband, which is how I learned I liked this particular way of being on stage. I learned to play bass there, the summer after my freshman year, when I was a counselor. My boyfriend was the guitar teacher; he got the camp to rent a bass which was ostensibly for the campers, but I’d take it back to my bunk every day and play along to ’60s pop songs. We formed a conceptual band called I AM A BUNNY. It was me playing the riff to “Li’l Bit o’ Soul,” a noise box, and my friend Max shrieking the lyrics to the Richard Scarry book. We played once.

How did Love Child come together and how long did it last?
A couple of months later, fall 1987, we were all back at Vassar for Sophomore year. I had seen Alan and Will around but hadn’t met them. Some mutual friends said they were starting a band and looking for a bass player. We got together to play and they decided I was a better bet than the guy they had been playing with. I had only been playing for six weeks, so it was a steep learning curve. We started playing at school fairly soon after that (see photo of our first show below) We were a band for the next fiveish years—until 1993, though there were two incarnations. Love Child was Will Baum’s brainchild—he had come up with the name and most of the songs played at the beginning. There was a lot of instrument-switching in that lineup; Alan would play drums on Will’s songs and they’d switch when Alan sang. Alan and I slowly started filling our songs around the edges, and then that coalesced into something that didn’t fit quite as well with what Will was doing. Will went away for a semester. Brendan O’Malley filled in while he was gone, and by the time he came back we had gelled into something different.

Love Child, first show, Vassar College. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Odes

Any memorable stories about live shows, recording or touring?
We did a European tour with Codeine, which included what seemed like every single town in Germany and a few other places. I had a somewhat contrarian impulse to put Jaegermeister on our rider (I’d heard the Euro version had some kind of magical powers). This always struck people as gross because of its frat boy rep, but I realize now I was just an early Amaro adopter. Also maybe subconsciously trying to treat my nervous stomach? When we were first playing, I used to swig so much Pepto Bismol at shows, I kept a bottle on my amp.

Got any tour horror stories?
Once we played in Denver during a snowstorm. Someone came in and said a woman had been hit by a car outside. We never found out if she was okay. This kicked up some childhood car trauma which manifested in an unhealthy unlucky association with the lipstick I was wearing (MAC Viva Glam III), which, while not at all as sad as being hit by a car, is a little sad, because it’s a really good color.

What was the independent music scene like in NYC in the Love Child era?
I used to imagine the early ’90s NYC indie scene as a land of two kingdoms: Sonic Youth and Yo La Tengo. This was a made-up thing, obviously—those were not at all two sides, and they overlap in lots of ways. But it felt like there were two energies, warm and friendly, and cool and gritty. We were sort of straddling that, or maybe in many places at once, because we had so many different songs and sounds.

The scene was generally friendly and supportive all around—I don’t remember any real competitive energy. Inside CBs was the music, but the party was on the street. It definitely felt like a community, and there was a sense that we were sharing something not everyone got. I feel lucky to have been a part of it.

Love Child by Michael Galinsky

What was Love Child’s dynamic like?
Fraught, but fun. We got along pretty well personally; our sensibilities and senses of humor are very aligned. We were all into the same art, movies, obscure whatevers. There was a kind of built-in tension to having three different songwriters and styles. In the beginning, Alan and Will had a lot of knowledge and skills I didn’t have. I was learning on the fly—they were teaching me, really, with varying degrees of tolerance. Will had very strong ideas about how he wanted things to be. He was always trying to improve me, which I appreciated in theory but found annoyingly controlling in practice. He once insisted I learn the bass part of every song on Are You Experienced? in one afternoon, which may have stretched the boundaries of consent as well as the reach of my fret hand. I wrote “Willpower” as a sort of bratty reaction to that feeling. Alan was less bossy but sometimes more intimidating. It took me a long time to feel really confident in the shadow of his expertise. I had the feeling that my contribution was somehow less valid because it was less about musicianship. And there was definitely some weirdness about me being The Girl and the attention this brought.

By the second album, I was much more self-assured as a player and songwriter. But then there was a new problem: I got tinnitus. Noise was a really integral part of Alan’s guitar sound. We played loud, long noisy jams. I definitely clocked some hours on the floor with my ears close to the amp. I love noise, and have a real visceral craving for it, still. But my ears have always been sensitive, so I guess I should not have been surprised they were sensitive to damage. Volume became the subject of many fights (I remember one soundcheck in Rotterdam that got particularly ugly). This was a real factor in the band’s breakup. I think I was experiencing a kind of grief about the permanence of the injury, and it felt like the noise level had done the damage. But it was hard to imagine how this band could exist without it.

If you had a theme song, what would it be?
I feel like too many things to identify with one song, but I’ll go with “A Plan, Revised” by The Trypes.

Love Child. Photo: Michael Galinsky

What kind of bands did you play with then? What were you inspired by/listening to?
We played a lot with NYC bands: Yo La Tengo, Dust Devils, and Homestead bands like The Mad Scene and Truman’s Water. We often did shows with Antietam and Sleepyhead as we were buddies. We also played with Galaxie 500, Pavement, Sonic Youth and The Feelies in various capacities (recall being bummed that The Feelies were not at all as friendly as their music).

We were definitely nursing a Velvet Underground fixation, as well as early Modern Lovers, and drony noisy stuff like Stooges and Spacemen 3. I am also drawn to minimalist music, maybe for therapeutic reasons. But I have always loved a good sing-song situation. I listened to a lot of Shangri-Las, and then some of the bands that took some of that sound/vibe and ran with it. Young Marble Giants were a huge favorite. We were going to record a song for the YMG tribute in the early ’90s, but that fell apart for some reason.

Did you experience a lot of sexism or misogyny back then? Nasty soundmen? Stories please.
I’ve been hung up for a long time on how to answer this question. I had some profoundly disturbing experiences during this time. Yeah, there were nasty soundmen, though to be honest, mixing a loud band with a not-so-loud voice is a recipe for frustration on all sides.

The more meaningful stuff was elsewhere in the scene. There was a kind of reverence for transgression and a lack of boundaries around substances and sexuality, which felt cool and empowering…until it didn’t. I was very trusting and game. I accepted that being willing to be packaged sexually was part of “the business,” that being packaged sexually came with being perceived sexually, and that it was up to me to figure out how to manage the results of this perception. I understood this as part of being transgressive, which I was very interested in, in theory. In practice, this did not always work out well for me.

German flyer (photo: Michael Galinsky)

We had some major label interest for a second. The guy took us out to a fancy dinner, and asked us if we were “willing to do what it takes.” I thought about that whenever something happened that felt wrong. There was a very explicit Lolita thing happening in Europe (see clip below.) This was very confusing to me—I mean, Christiane F was a cool movie, but being identified with a 12-year-old girl who turned to sex work to support her heroin addiction felt super gross. There was also press playing on this teen thing, a lot of it entirely made up (even the supposed direct quotes). There were some pretty terrible interactions with men around this, on many levels.

If I were doing it again, I would have approached some things differently. I think it helps to keep some distance when you’re putting yourself out there. I was not doing that, and it made me really vulnerable. I wish I could say I would be more confident and push back when things felt weird. But while I was not at all a teenager, I was still young enough to think these people knew better—there was a part of me that believed this was how it all worked.

Tell us about the new collection: What’s on it? How did it come together?
Never Meant To Be is a double album anthology. It’s a lot of the stuff we’re proudest of, all of which hasn’t been officially available online, and some of which has never been available anywhere. There are two songs from our Peel Session, which was never released—“Greedy,” which was the last song we wrote together, and a version of “Asking For It,” the first song I ever wrote (as a too-late act of self-defense against harassment, street and otherwise). Also Erotomania,” which was on a Spanish compilation 7-inch called THIS IS ART (Love Child, Yo La Tengo, Cell, Vineland), and some stuff from live radio shows, as well as our picks from our various releases. We’ve been talking about doing this for a while, and were really happy when Gerard wanted to put it out.

What other bands/projects have you been in then and now?
After Love Child broke up, I started a band called Odes. I was excited about the idea of liberating my songs from the tyranny of two-minute guitar solos. I also wanted to play with some people who weren’t guys. Brendan had a friend named Ari Vena who played guitar. Jesse Hartman played bass at first (I had played bass in his band, Sammy, briefly). When he left, Ari suggested her friend John Gold. John had played in 9-Iron, Will Baum’s post-Love Child band. We put out a single and an EP on Merge.

I took a long break from music while breeding, etc. The idea of getting on stage and singing to people seemed absurd to me. Then it came roaring back in a new form—I didn’t want to be on stage or communicate anything—I just wanted to be near the noise. Ma’am was formed in 2010, with Charlie Gansa from Guv’ner, and Lyle Hysen, who had produced the second Love Child album (and played in Das Damen, among other bands). The name was kind of a perfect intersection of all our prior bands, post-child, female, apostrophe. We played together for a few years and actually recorded a handful of songs—a few are up on Soundcloud. I really loved that project—I was sad when it got waylaid by grown-up stuff.

Are you doing music now?
During the pandemic I re-upped my love of drone music and put together a long-distance noise collaboration with Alan, Gretchen Gonzales, and the guys from Wolf Eyes. Warren Defever (His Name Is Alive) produced it and it turned into Threshing Floor—I also made a video piece to accompany the release.

Back Pages (mixed media on silk, wood and canvas) Photo courtesy of Rebecca Odes

I know you are a visual artist as well; have you done that your whole life?
It’s taken me a while to realize what I really am is a multidisciplinary (sometimes interdisciplinary) artist. For a long time I saw different media as evidence that I was unfocused. And having many ways of working can definitely affect momentum, which can be frustrating. But I have come to see that this is just how my brain works. There are thematic threads that weave through and across the projects and media. My web projects, like gurl.com and wifey.tv, were coming from the same place that inspired the songs I wrote for Love Child, just approaching from a different angle in a different format. My paintings are exploring a lot of the same stuff as well, just visually.

What else are you up to these days? Jobs, kids, pets, hobbies?
Since co-founding gurl.com in the ’90s, I’ve been working on various media projects—From the Hips!, a pregnancy/birth/parenting book, Wifey.TV (with Joey Soloway pre-Transparent) and CherryPicks, which is still going strong, though I’m not in it day-to-day at this point. I have some other book projects brewing, and am also really trying to return to making art as much as I can. I am really painting again for the first time in many years, and doing new kinds of work as well: constructions that meld different media—painting, video, sculpture, light. Feeling really liberated about the possibilities of combination vs. choice. Also, rediscovering knitting, which makes me so much more tolerant of things I might otherwise find annoying or boring.

Are your kids into music? What do they like?
I was always told that kids rebel against their parents’ tastes, so I was prepared for that. But it hasn’t happened (yet?). My kids are about the same age I was when I was in Love Child, so we’re probably past the rebellion phase. From the beginning they’ve been pretty aligned. When they were little, we lived near Other Music, and I let them each choose an album there before it closed. My daughter got Revolution Girl Style Now. My son got Pink Moon. He plays Thurston Moore and Yo La Tengo on his college radio show. They both love Horsegirl. My daughter is into early Girlpool, Adrienne Lenker (and Taylor Swift, obviously). They both play guitar and write songs too, though haven’t done much of it in public since their own art camp experiences.

Love Child by Michael Galinsky

What are you watching, reading, listening to?
I don’t watch a lot of TV, mostly because I don’t think of it until I’m already too tired to get into anything.

I just saw Problemista, which I loved, and finally watched Kelly Reichardt’s Showing Up, which really got under my skin. I loved how she got at both the boring and shitty parts of being an artist (and a person) and the beauty and drive that compels.

I am trying really hard to get back into reading books, though I have a much easier time listening to them lately.

I just happened upon Brother of the More Famous Jack, a very fun ’80s coming of age book which was apparently well-loved in the UK but was only recently released in the US, thanks to Maria Semple, who found it in a bin somewhere. Tip: don’t read her intro. For some inexplicable (IMO inexcusable) reason, she gives away the plot.

I also love Dora: A Headcase, Lidia Yuknavitch’s punk feminist reframe of Freud’s case study. It is twisted, but incredibly compelling.

Music-wise, I’ve been leaning into my repressed dance impulses—I’m a little obsessed with Dembow. I have been doing this thing called Dance Walk, where we walk the loop in Prospect Park on weekend mornings, each listening to our own playlists on headphones. It’s kind of a crazy experience, being in your own sound world while everyone gawks at the parade of weirdos. It’s a real challenge to the impulse to feel cool and avoid being seen as a dork. But by the end of my first Ioop I was wondering why it’s so normal for everyone to work out by running in the same straight line.

Love Child by Michael Macioce

How do you find out about music these days?
I admit I’ve learned about a lot of cool shit from the algorithms. But I still prefer human curators. I am fortunate to have a partner who is a voracious music seeker, which inspires me to always go looking for new things to share. Many of my friends and people I am in touch with online are effusive about their musical findings. I’m part of a facebook group called “Now Playing” where people post LPs they’re spinning, and it’s a gold mine. Mikael Jorgensen runs a cool listening club in Ojai where people play songs they love, and everyone sits and listens like it’s church. I have definitely found some new favorites there.

Where are you living? How has NYC changed over the years?
I’m mostly in Brooklyn, and sometimes in Ojai, CA. I have been in Brooklyn for about three years. I was in various parts of downtown Manhattan before that, and after growing up dreaming of living in the center of everything, I was very hesitant to leave. But now I feel like an idiot. I like Brooklyn so much better! New York is always changing. The cost of living is insane. It does feel like the creative energy is being pushed out, or into small pockets. But it also feels like there is some fun, loose, cool stuff happening. I don’t know if this is new or reborn, or if I just wasn’t paying enough attention before. But things like the Every Woman Biennial, which I have a piece in right now, give me hope for the continuing mulch of the city for art and creative growth.

The ecosystem in terms of making money (if not a living) from music has changed; I remember seeing Love Child at the Terrace Club at Princeton, and those gigs paid pretty well. What can fans do to make sure bands get paid better? How would you change the system?
The whole system is pretty flummoxing to me at this point. I do not know why this world rewards the things it does and ignores so much of what is fundamental to human okayness. I do not know how we change this in a world that seems only interested in siphoning dollars to the top. I think the Living Wage for Musicians Act is a good start. Ideally I would like to see UBI for artists (and others). Art—of all kinds—is not bonus content to human existence. It is a necessity that is becoming increasingly hard to make. If I were changing the system, I would also do something about the fact that being an artist at this point is 10% inspiration and 90% social media promotion. Obviously, it has ever been thus—the thing itself a relatively small portion of the work. But I don’t know if there’s ever been a time when artists have been asked to continually produce public-facing material apart from their actual work. My public-facing brain is very separate from my creating brain, and I find switching back and forth to be really distracting and not very creatively constructive. I would love to see artists have more time to make art, period.

Love Child. Photo: Michael Galinsky

The folding of media outlets like Pitchfork (well, kind of) mean that there are even fewer gatekeepers controlling what music gets attention. What music do you adore that has been ignored by gatekeepers?
I’ve mostly been ignoring the gatekeepers. Is that how people find out about things now? I am not sure my kids have ever read a music magazine. I think they find everything on streaming or social. The stuff I love has always been sort of marginal- though obviously so much of what was marginal isn’t anymore. I’ve been listening to a lot of Zamrock and Krautrock, and Krautrock-adjacent stuff, like Slapp Happy. I would love to see The Shams (Sue Garner, Amy Rigby, Amanda Uprichard) back on the map. I can still sing those songs by heart even though I haven’t heard them since my cassette went missing in the ’90s.

Let’s talk about ageism. Some people are shocked that Kim Gordon could be 70 and also cool and modern, but there are loads of older people doing creative things (Yoko Ono, Bridget St John, ESG, etc.) Why is there an assumption that people stop doing things as they age? How have you experienced ageism, if you have? How can we as a culture stop allowing it to be normalized?
This is something I’ve been writing about and working through over the past few years. Ageism is pretty ubiquitous. People don’t even feel like it’s something they need to feel bad about.

This is a generalization, but it’s often the way it goes: Women spend half their youth navigating sexual attention or worrying they’re not good enough to earn it, then spend half their adult lives taking care of people. When they finally have time and confidence, people say they’re past their prime. It’s just another tool to try to get them out of the way.

On a larger scale, I don’t think there’s a lot of incentive to stop seeing older women as useless. Centering women’s power on sex and reproduction serves a lot of purposes. It keeps them busy and makes them buy things. To decide to value women outside of this swath would require knocking the whole thing down, recognizing power that’s lived instead of bought and worn like a mask. I am not super hopeful about dismantling the locked arms of patriarchy and capitalism anytime soon (though hey, there’s always the apocalypse) so it’s on us to redefine the way we see ourselves. Maybe this will lead to people seeing us differently. Maybe it won’t. Either way, it’s the best shot at an unshitty unyoung life.

I think the best way to deal is to just say fuck it. Enough already. I want to see a million old lady punk bands.

Love Child at Vassar, nicked from their FBK page

Can you cook? What’s your specialty?
I grew up cooking. My ex had some professional cooking experience and was great at it, so I detoured into desserts and drinks. I didn’t have the time or focus to make much art when my kids were little, and baking became a medium. I made elaborate pies, cakes, cupcakes, curds, and brulees. Part of my adjustment to single momhood was reconnecting with my savory skills. I am partial to stewy braisy things that don’t require me to pay attention to them. I still love baking, though since I am usually making other food as well. I am more inclined to make simple things like galettes or granola. I definitely like to go all out sometimes, though. I have a book club where we try to cook thematically. When we read Gertrude and Alice, I cooked from the Alice B. Toklas cookbook—aspic was involved. It was a lot. But I do enjoy a high-concept project.

What’s in your fridge?
Many therapeutic beverages that promise and do not deliver. Also many condiments. Coriander chutney, harissa, various hot sauces. Goat Kefir. Lacto fermented ginger carrots. Multicolored produce: fennel, lacinato kale, arugula, cilantro, parsley, chioggia beets, watermelon radishes, purple Japanese turnips, blueberries. These may or may not be rotting. I am a newish and very enthusiastic member of the Park Slope Food Coop, and sometimes fail to deliver on my shopped promises.

What’s making you really happy these days?
Color. Especially pink. Extra-especially fluorescent pink. I have a persistent obsession with pink plexiglass. I thought this was new wave damage but my daughter has it too, so it might be genetic. Or maybe just human. I have a theory about this color and why we love it so much. We think of it as so unnatural, but it’s the exact color of light when you look at it through your fingers.

Pipilotti Rist installations. I might live in one if I could.

-Flâneuring. I’ve been able to travel a bit again for the first time in a while, and it is so good to get this part of myself out of hiding.

What makes you really mad?
I am trying to get less mad, at least at things that don’t matter. But a lot of things do matter a lot and it is hard for me to compartmentalize. I can easily get upset enough to cause major interference. I try to be sparing with social media to not feed the beast.

If you were president, what would you do differently?
I should never be president. I have the wrong disposition. I am horrified by everything that is happening and have no answers.

What are you looking forward to this year? How do we stay sane in this election year?
I am eager to get on stage for sure. Alan and I played a noise show in February which was super fun, but made me want to do more, and sing some songs.

I am definitely not looking forward to the election. We are going to need some boundaries. Also reminders that the story we’re hearing is a narrative intended to freak us out. Which doesn’t mean it isn’t real. But it’s being told in the most outrage-inducing way so we are compelled to watch/read/click/give/vote. Some of those things are more important than others.

Will Love Child be playing shows?
We’re playing at Union Pool on June 9!!

Flier by Michael Galinsky

Records Rebecca Cannot Live Without
BRIAN ENO Here Come the Warm Jets
FAUST Rainy Day Sunshine Girl
CAN You Doo Right
THE BEATLES It’s All Too Much
DUMP Superpowerless
SONIC YOUTH Starpower
VELVET UNDERGROUND Heroin
RICHARD AND LINDA THOMPSON I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight FAIRPORT CONVENTION Tale in Hard Time
LEONARD COHEN Famous Blue Raincoat
IRON AND WINE Upward Over the Mountain
SPACEMEN 3 Honey (Forced Exposure Single Version)
YOUNG MARBLE GIANTS Salad Days
TALL DWARFS Think Small
THE TRYPES A Plan Revised

 

Jennifer Baron in Conversation with Hilarie Sidney

The Garment District filming the “Left on Coast” video. Photo by Nicole Czapinski. Photo courtesy of Jennifer

Jennifer Baron in Conversation with Hilarie Sidney

“I’m thrilled to be contributing a song for a compilation on Hilarie’s 6612 Tapes label with proceeds supporting Justice Democrats,” says Jennifer Baron (she/her), adding that the band she cofounded in the 1990s, The Ladybug Transistor, is excited to announce news soon, including a tour in 2024 with West Coast (U.S.) dates. In addition to exec-producing the compilation, Jennifer is the force (composer, arranger, and multi-instrumentalist) behind The Garment District, a Pittsburgh-based project she works on with her cousin, which released Flowers Telegraphed to All Parts of the World last fall on HHBTM records.

This is the second part of a two-part chat between longtime friends Jennifer and Hilarie Sidney (the High Water Marks, the Apples in Stereo), who talk about everything from skinnydipping in Sweden and living in the moment to the comforts of recording at home with friends and family. Jennifer was having her morning coffee in Pittsburgh and Hilarie was at home in Grøa, Norway. (Images courtesy of Jennifer) (Read part one)

The Ladybug Transistor at The Andy Warhol Museum in the early 2000s. (Photo courtesy of Jennifer)

Hilarie: What bands have you been in then and now?
Jennifer: Past: Saturnine, Frock, The New Alcindors
Now: The Garment District, The Ladybug Transistor

Hilarie: Was music a big part of your upbringing?
Jennifer: You already know my brother Jeff because we play in Ladybug Transistor together. When we were growing up, we would make up our own radio shows. We would record on Maxell cassettes, play the part of DJs, act out commercials and select music from our parents’ vinyl collection. Our household was filled with records, especially the Beach Boys and Beatles. We would just lie around and stare at record covers. Those records were some of our favorite toys. Donovan, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Bob Dylan. We weren’t raised with religion, so I always joke that Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young was our cultural trinity growing up. My first concert was Peter, Paul and Mary. We started going to concerts together early as a family: Richard Thompson, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Bruce Springsteen, U2, the Replacements. And then as teens were fortunate to have seen so many incredible bands (RIP the Syria Mosque!), like the Smiths, the Cure, R.E.M., New Order, the Three O’Clock, Hüsker Dü, Modern English, the Ramones, the Kinks, Camper Van Beethoven—that was absolutely pivotal for me. More recently as a family we saw Bert Jansch in a church, not long before he passed away. Music was always on around the house and in the car. We had 45s and the Fisher Price turntable so music has been a constant. My mom grew up with Bonnie McLean’s (RIP) half-sister in Philadelphia; she was one of the most amazing Fillmore poster designers. She made some of the most beautiful posters from that era. She would mail them to my mom and her friends at Penn State to decorate their dorm room and we had them framed on our walls growing up. Music (and album covers) created a place of joy and comfort for us and that created the essential foundation for me.

Jeff was always playing in bands (in what is now Pittsburgh show legend, his high school band opened for Nirvana very early on, at The Sonic Temple, which was a short-lived all ages venue inside a Masonic Temple), but then I was like, I want to play guitar too! Did you ever have that feeling where you’re like, I’m not just a music fan and you’re learning by listening and going to shows, constantly paying attention. That’s a way of learning music too. I took piano from a woman down the street when I was a child. When I was at Mount Holyoke College, I took lessons from a guy in Amherst here and there, which was kind of awkward because I had my binder of songs I wanted to learn, and he wanted me to strum along to his songs. So I really learned to play by joining a band. I first started playing guitar in Saturnine in Brooklyn. When we were forming Ladybug, Sportsguitar invited us to go on tour with them in Switzerland around 1995-1996, so that’s when I also started playing bass.

Jennifer leads the Garment District / Photo by John Colombo

Hilarie: That’s how you do it. It’s like, I want to be part of this. And maybe I can’t do this, but I will do this because I want to.
Jennifer: You learn from being with others and from listening and doing. It teaches you to really listen and learn to play with other people.

Hilarie: Tell us what you’ve been up to in Pittsburgh.
Jennifer: Before creating music at The Garment District, I was focusing my creative energies in other realms. First, I worked as education director at the Mattress Factory, an incredible contemporary art museum here, and created educational programming, including for our James Turrell retrospective exhibition. That was a huge draw for me to take the job when I moved here and worked with artists from Cuba at a time where there was political turmoil with Bush as far as Cuban artists not being able to come to the U.S. So there was a long-distance collaboration, long before the times of lockdown. In that position, I worked with incredible contemporary living artists and created educational and public programs and materials. So, it was very much a creative job. I had worked in museums in New York, including the Brooklyn Museum, and also worked here at SLB Radio Productions, which produces a public radio show and radio-based programs for kids and families based out of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh. I was also was one of the longtime co-organizers of Handmade Arcade in Pittsburgh, the city’s first independent craft fair. I had cofounded an online craft business with Christine Lee and Danielle Fee when I lived in New York, just at the beginning of websites. We were vendors the first Renegade Craft fairs at McCarren Park in Brooklyn and Wicker Park in Chicago. After moving back to Pittsburgh, I remember seeing a flyer announcing Handmade Arcade applications. It was the first event, with like 30 vendors and 1,000 attendees in a small gallery space. I became one of the organizers and a longtime vendor and then the marketing director. We ran that for 15 years and it grew to 200 vendors and 10,000 attendees.

So, I was working creatively in those realms and also I co-published the Pittsburgh Signs Project photography book. We received a grant from the Sprout Fund, which we had applied for. It was a competitive process, and it was during the city of Pittsburgh’s 250th anniversary. There were projects that were funded that involved the community and this was the early days of crowdsourcing. It’s a 200-page color book, so we had 250 signs from all over Western Pennsylvania, not just from Pittsburgh and photographers were children all the way up to people in their 80s. Professionals, hobbyists, amateurs, designers, a whole range. Being on tour in the ’90s, I was always one of the ones who had a camera, and I was always taking photos and I’d get teased. I would always say stop the van, stop the van, let’s jump out. I was taking photos of these cool neon signs mainly out west. A lot of them are still there out west because the weather’s so much drier. Our book had a limited boutique run through Carnegie Mellon University Press and sold out quickly, so I’ve always daydreamed about doing a second printing because most of the things in the book are either destroyed, demolished, ended up in dumpsters in gentrified neighborhoods, etc. and it’s a visual recording of the built environment of Pittsburgh. It’s available online and in some bookstores still. We created an exhibition, posters and postcards and it was great to have people submit their images to us from all over Western PA and to curate that book. It was two couples working together and we all lived near each other. So it was kind of like a band but for a book.

Jennifer Baron with her Pittsburgh Signs Project book. Photo courtesy of Keith Srakocic / AP

Hilarie: Tell us about the origins of the Garment District.
Jennifer: We were talking about how starting a new project can happen organically. While I was working on the PSP book, I started getting back into writing music. You know, you can’t not do it. I started recording demos at home using our digital Boss 8-track with my laptop and phone. I have a lot of vintage instruments, including a Hammond M3 organ we got for $40 at Goodwill. One of the keys is still chipped, which is frustrating. One night I went to see this amazing band Wet Hair … at the time Shawn Reed lived in Iowa City and had run an experimental/noise label before that (Raccoo-oo-oon). He’s also an incredible printmaker and visual artist. When you go see a band you’ve never heard of and you’re inspired and excited, I need that in my life. It doesn’t happen as often now because of social media and finding out about things too much before you experience them. So I saw Wet Hair and was blown away by the merch table: all handmade silk-screens, collages, cassettes, 45s. I struck up a friendship with Shawn, who was running Night People (label). I sent him some of my Garment District demos and he wrote back in the middle of the night asking, “do you want to do a cassette?” And I was like, “of course!” It just started taking off organically. There was the motivation and there was an investment where I was like, OK, now this is real.

I was also starting to play live with friends in Pittsburgh. My cousin Lucy Blehar was in high school at the time, and I’d always go to see her musicals. I felt that her voice would be a great addition to the music I was writing. I was always in theater company growing up. I don’t sing, but I write all the music and the lyrics. We started recording with my friend Kevin Smith in his attic studio, which led to the cassette Melody Elder on Night People. Then Shawn asked me if I wanted to do a vinyl release. He didn’t do full-length vinyl that often, but my next album, If You Take Your Magic Slow, also came out on Night People. I really thank Shawn, and felt so encouraged and supported, that brought my music into this whole scene of more contemporary underground stuff in the world of the releases he was doing. Check out Wet Hair, they remind me of Spacemen 3 meets New Order combined, plus their own sound. He loves a lot of the same bands we love from Australia and New Zealand and has also done some reissues. So I continued the concept I had for The Garment District and played a few shows with some women in Pittsburgh. We did a Nuggets Night ’60s covers. If we lived in the same city, I’d be like, “Hilarie has to be our drummer.”

Jennifer and Lucy = the Garment District

Hilarie: I would love that.
Jennifer: I always wanted to make music with more women and that just was part of that as well.

Hilarie: I didn’t know that and I don’t think I knew that that first album is on cassette.
Jennifer: Yes, my first Garment District release Melody Elder came out on cassette and I always daydreamed about it coming out on vinyl. I love recording in houses like Ladybug has always done with Marlborough Farms. That was my beginning in music. I love recording in home environments and taking time and just that whole vibe. And Melody Elder is named after my favorite childhood babysitter.

Hilarie: That’s her actual name? How cool is that?
Jennifer: If I have a side project, I want to name it that. I don’t even know where she lives now. But like being aGeneration X latch-key kid, typical, we had tons of babysitters and we loved them.

Hilarie: Me too. We kind of raised ourselves but we had babysitters, and our parents went out. My parents were really into partying, so I was left to my own devices quite a bit.
Jennifer: There were a lot of parties. There were Steak-umms for dinner.

The Ladybug Transistor on a ferry while on tour in Canada, 1990s (Image courtesy of Jennifer)

Hilarie: How was the Ladybug reunion last fall?
Jennifer: I picked up Derek (Almstead) in Bedford, PA and we all met up in advance, coming from four different states, in Brooklyn to rehearse at Marlborough Farms, where several of us used to live. It was incredibly special to spend that focused quality time in the house and the neighborhood for about one week before the tour. The first show was in Brooklyn, which was fantastic—it was like a wedding reception with so many old and new friends and people I’d been connecting with for the Garment District and old-school Ladybug fans. It was just amazing to see everyone in one place. I love that venue Public Records in Brooklyn, which is close to our old house. The tour was a dreamy magical whirlwind on a lot of different levels, and for me, I felt instantly back in the on tour mode the second I jumped in the van. We have a lot going on with our live sets, with instrument switches, and being in Norway last July helped prepare us. I can’t wait to do it again! It all clicked back into place and it went really well, especially the show at Public Records in New York and the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh and being back at Schubas in Chicago. And Kalamazoo, the Bells Brewery, they have this massive space, a huge outdoor garden, a home brewing market and beautiful venue. The sound system was probably one of the best, most professional sound systems we’ve ever played in. Wow, this sounds the sound person with such a sweetheart. The way they treated the band, it felt like being in Europe. I highly recommend that venue.

Hilarie: Who is the biggest comedian in Ladybug?
Jennifer: Really, all of us in our own individual ways. A regular traveling comedy troupe in the van. Party of 6—audience of 6. If pressured to select one, I would probably say my brother Jeff.

Hilarie: Who is the coolest in a crisis?
Jennifer: Gary. However, our forever drummer San met both criteria, cool in a crisis, plus a hilarious and biting and sharp wit. Rest in power forever to the best drummer ever and an incredible human.

Hilarie: If Ladybug Transistor had a theme song, what would it be?
Non Ladybug song: “Joy of a Toy Continued,” Kevin Ayers
“Jackson,” Lee Hazlewood & Nancy Sinatra
Ladybug: “The Great British Spring”

The Ladybug Transistor on tour with the Lucksmiths and the Aislers Set, SF, circa 1999-2000

Hilarie: Do you have any funny/odd tour stories?
Jennifer: When Ladybug Transistor was on tour in Spain (Barcelona), it was like a typical Spanish night. We played the show, and you have dinner at midnight and we were sitting outside with Unai, he was our amazing booking agent and tour manager and also drove our van. Mike Galinsky has a documentary film about him, Radiation. I love Spain, it was one of my favorite places to tour. Barcelona is probably my favorite city I’ve been to. And every place you play is such a different geography, different architecture, just so much to do there and we had an incredible time in Barcelona like we climbed to the top of Sagrada Familia, went to the beach; it was just fantastic. We went to the Alhambra, southern Spain, northern Spain. So, we’re in Barcelona, having dinner after the show at this huge round table, all sitting together. The band, other bands, promoter, it was a big group. In the center of the table Jeff and Sasha had their passports, cards and money in a cross-body bag. It was late. Well, someone grabbed their bag, just reached right through all the people around the table, snatched it, and ran off into the night. Everyone started running after this person screaming. My brother Jeff ended up barefoot, I don’t know if he was wearing sandals or flipflops. Everyone was yelling after the person, and they dropped the pack somewhere in the middle of the street.

The Ladybug Transistor live at The Andy Warhol Museum November 9, 2023. Photo courtesy of Jennifer

Another logistical craziness story was around the time of The Albemarle Sound tour. We were doing a U.S. tour with Of Montreal when we were also playing the Bowlie Weekender in England, Belle and Sebastian invited us to play, which is which is hands-down one of my favorite experiences ever performing live. This is the day of message boards and pre social media, so it was just so incredible to arrive there. When you’re seeing people, you’re seeing them for the first time. It’s so direct. Yeah, you just arrived, and you experience everything firsthand as it’s happening, which is it’s hard to explain to people who don’t have that and why that’s so important.

So, we already knew we were doing like a monthlong tour with Of Montreal, but we were then invited to do the Bowlie and this was in April 1999. At that point in the tour, we were playing in Norman (OK), so we had to figure out the logistics. So basically, we’re on the tour, but we then had to fly to London and take the train to Camber Sands, to play Bowlie. So Of Montreal agreed to drive our van for us with all of our stuff. We played the show in Norman and then Anne Cunningham and Ron, the amazing original guitar player for The Flaming Lips, had some all-night party BBQ. I love his guitar playing. You probably went to one of those parties or stayed in those big old houses near Oklahoma City. We played that show, stayed up all night, drove the van to the Dallas airport, and left handwritten notes for Of Montreal. I don’t even know if we had cell phones. Everything was like you made a plan and you stuck to it. It wasn’t like you text everyone “I’m almost there. I’m parking. I’m here.” You just made a plan, wrote notes. We made an extra set of keys for them. We flew to London mid-tour and wanted to stay for the festival, so we were gone for a couple of days, and had to miss a few U.S. shows. And then we flew back to rejoin them in San Diego. But it was such an amazing experience, showing up at Bowlie, everyone waiting in line. Meeting these bands, some of them for the first time. You might not even have any idea of who they are. It was such an incredible time being able to play on the same night with Belle and Sebastian. We were so grateful to that Of Montreal was willing to do that.

The Ladybug Transistor at the Emmaboda Festival in Sweden with Ulf Ekerot, 1999. (photo courtesy of Jennifer)

Hilarie: Tell us about some other memorable live experiences.
Jennifer: The first time we played Emmaboda in Sweden with the Lucksmiths was magical. The Olivia Tremor Control and Neutral Milk Hotel regaled us with tales about their experiences playing there. They even gave us a handwritten note containing advice about “breaking into” the Hotel Amigo pool and something about a “mystery drink.” Sure enough, one night in the woods, the pool was, um, populated. Immediately most Swedes naturally started skinnydipping and well, many but not all the Americans joined in. Also, the Ladybug Transistor performing with Mayo Thompson and Ghost at Spaceland in L.A.; seeing Lee Perry and Oasis (diva helicopter arrival) in Sweden; playing at our friends’ wedding at a biker bar in Flekkefjord, Norway; in 2019, staying at the Vibberodden Lighthouse during the Egersund Visefestival in Norway; getting to play live with Peter Buck and Scott McCaughey’s the No Ones, when we returned to Egersund in 2023. With the Garment District, opening for Julia Holter at the VIA New Music & Media Festival; opening for Parquet Courts; filming a Silver Studio Session for the Andy Warhol Museum; performing at the Carrie Furnaces Rivers of Steel National Historic Landmark (giant steel mill remnants along the Monongahela River); participating in artist Doug Aitken’s Station-to-Station video project; and performing in an abandoned 1900s-era Czech Church on the Allegheny River for the SYNC’D film and music series.

Hilarie: What is the best food you’ve ever eaten on tour?
Jennifer: Tacos, burritos and brunch in the Mission District in San Francisco. The vegan Uchepo Tamal at Public Records in Brooklyn during our recent Ladybug Transistor tour. The first time we tasted (devoured) Brunost, brown Norwegian cheese. Addicting. Hilarie might chuckle since it’s so common there! Breakfasts at the Grand Hotel in Egersund, Norway during the Visefestival, with the sublime simplicity of bread, yogurt and granola … everything leads back to Norway which is appropriate for this interview.

The Garment District filming the “Left on Coast” video. Photo by Nicole Czapinski. Photo courtesy of Jennifer

Hilarie: What’s in your fridge?
Jennifer: Vegan contents. Seltzer, hummus, leftovers, almond milk, garlic, ginger, pickles, carrots, tempeh, all manner of hot sauces, Fly By Jing Sichuan chili sauce, tahini, lots of fruit, Earth Balance.

Hilarie: What is the last thing you cooked at home?
Jennifer: Recently: Vegan chili and banana bread

Hilarie: What’s on your nightstand?
Jennifer: Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain’s Visionary Music by Rob Young; Jane by Maggie Nelson; The Modern Utopian by Richard Fairfield; Amity and Prosperity by Eliza Griswold; Dog Songs by Mary Oliver; the new issue of Maggot Brain.

Hilarie: What are some of your hobbies?
Jennifer: Observing the world around me through photography; sewing and crafting; swimming laps; gardening (work in progress!); adventures with our Black Lab Casper; thrift shopping; record shopping; museums; watching documentaries.

Hilarie: Do you collect anything?
Jennifer: I am a lifer when it comes to thrift shopping and hand-me-downs, and I prefer the organic discovery process of physically going out into the world to discover things, especially when visiting new places or having special pieces passed down from family members or shared between friends. Vintage dishware, housewares and design, paint by numbers, found ephemera, records.

Shivika Asthana recording with The Garment District at Madeleine Campbell’s Accessible Recording Studio.

Hilarie: Do you have any favorite stagewear or stage design?
Jennifer: Vintage clothing and thrift scores from over the many years; something given to me by my Grammy Kay. I love finding gems from my friend’s fabulous new shop, Jackie Whoa Vintage and my other friend’s event, the Pittsburgh Vintage Mixer. On our recent Ladybug Transistor tour, we brought along our original handmade paintings from “The Albemarle Sound” as stage decor. In December, The Garment District performed as part of a SYNC’D Presents showcase, which featured a live liquid light show by SOS Lightshow from Dayton, Ohio, and it was so fantastic. Very comforting to be bathed in that kind of warm light, shape and texture. So much the opposite of the ubiquitous artificial LED lighting we see all around us now that I find to be so harsh. Last month we opened for William Tyler & The Impossible Truth and the show featured DIY visuals from Michi Tapes, including live projection manipulation, VHS/8mm videos and found footage, and I cannot wait to have them at our next show.

Hilarie: What musician would you love to interview?
Jennifer: Robert Wyatt.

What is your sign?
Jennifer:
Leo

Rehearsing at Marlborough Farms in November 2023 / Photo courtesy of The Ladybug Transistor

Hilarie: What musical collaborations have really impacted you?
Jennifer: With The Ladybug Transistor, we had the remarkable opportunity to work with Kevin Ayers. We recorded a cover of his song, “Puis-Je?” for the Pop Romantique: French Pop Classics compilation (Emperor Norton), and he added the vocals remotely from a studio in London. All organized initially via phone! The Garment District collaborated with artist Nicole Czapinski on the music video she made for “Left on Coast,’ which we filmed at an abandoned Nike Missile Site in Western Pennsylvania. Composing original music for the Pittsburgh-based SYNC’D series, which pairs musicians with filmmakers and video artists.

Spending time together in the studio and sharing a creative process with my cousin Lucy Blehar, who sings on the Garment District record. I’ve always been drawn to the concept of family bands (I play in The Ladybug Transistor with my brother Jeff) and what exists between relatives who collaborate on creative endeavors. We sing backups and harmonies and double certain melody lines together. It’s a very close bond, and an organic way of enjoying the studio environment together, extremely rewarding and such a blast. This continues my family’s music-making heritage, as my grandfather, great-aunt and great-uncles performed in tamburitza orchestra family bands in the Monongahela Valley towns Braddock and Rankin, and in Benwood, West Virginia, often for boarders who worked in area steel mills. Also, “Nature-Nurture,” from Melody Elder, was remixed by Sonic Boom (Spacemen 3, Spectrum). “Bird or Bat” features bass guitar by Jowe Head (Swell Maps, Television Personalities), who I recorded with years ago in Brooklyn when we were stuck inside at our house Marlborough Farms during an epic NYC blizzard (look for those to resurface soon!). Last year I DJed at the opening celebration of “The Velvet Underground & Nico: Scepter Studio Sessions” exhibition at The Andy Warhol Museum. What a dream.

Hilarie: Tell us about your latest album. How did it come together?
Jennifer: I’m ecstatic to have my brand-new full-length album, Flowers Telegraphed to All Parts of the World, out now on Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records after knowing Mike Turner through Athens, Georgia and Elephant 6 bands, for many years. It’s been wonderful to reconnect with Mike on a personal level too, and a deep honor to be label mates with bands I admire like the Primitives, the Wedding Present, Great Lakes, Fred Schneider, Outer World, Swansea Sound, Katie Lass, and many others. He is so supportive and thoughtful and I’m so grateful for that support and for his enthusiasm. When he said, “What color vinyl do you want to do?”, that was meaningful (orange, of course!), because there is nothing like the tactile and visceral experience of listening to an album on vinyl from start to finish over a space of time. And it was a dream come true to get to talk to Warren Defever (His Name Is Alive), who cut the lacquers for my new LP at Third Man in Detroit, and have his expertise at the pressing plant.

Before this new album, I put out an all solo, all instrumental album called Luminous Toxin, released on Bill Shute’s Kendra Steiner Editions label. I wanted to do something more in the realm of sound collage, found sounds and field recordings and ambient music. I love instrumental music, and I found myself with this body of material that fit together. It’s liberating to sometimes do it all myself, record at home, have all instrumental, interstitial, soundtracky type music that I’m drawn to for a cohesive release. I was able to do like some final mixing at my friend’s basement studio called Yellow Couch Studio. I also did a 45 that has a remix that Sonic Boom did of one of my songs. That was all long distance like you’ve done sending files back and forth. I rerecorded a few of the synth parts at the end, but I love that his remix is very respectful of the original. Pete Kember’s way of making physical space out of sound is how I describe it.

The Ladybug Transistor on tour in Paris, late 1990s

After that I started creating new demos at home that would become my new album and I started working with my friend David Klug at his studio in Mount Washington here in Pittsburgh. Dave’s studio is very close to where we live so it is convenient and flexible if I want to try something new, add more layers, redo a part. There is a comfort level there and it has been an empowering space for creativity and experimentation and where I have been able to challenge myself and grow musically. I already had a lot of the new songs almost fully ready as far as arrangements. But other times I was able to keep that process open and flexible because I was working in his home studio and it’s a laidback, comfortable setting to be in. I still have some other things started waiting for a future release. I used a lot of great vintage synthesizers, including my own: I have a Roland JX3P I love. The Vox Super Continental and also my Wurlitzer electric piano I’ve had for years. And then for certain songs like “Left on Coast” and “Following Me,” I was really going for a specific fuzz guitar sound that you can’t get from some of the digital plug-ins … I mean, there are so many amazing people are making cool pedals now, including our friend Åke Strömer in Brooklyn. I got to borrow a bunch of ’60s and ’70s guitar pedals from Gregg Kostelich of the Cynics, they’re a fantastic garage rock band from Pittsburgh. And again, he was generous with them, basically he gave me this box of his vintage pedals, really rare ones. He was like you can borrow them for like a year. I love vintage pedals that have like 1 button or one knob.

Hilarie: That’s the best. I’m not super hung up about stuff, but I just want two buttons.
Jennifer: All the digital displays and things that are programmed, I’m not oriented that way either. It’s like how can this equipment be in service to the song? It can’t make you have a great song. It can’t make you have the final piece of music. But it can bring things out and highlight things and it’s part of the language of whatever that song is. I felt so lucky to be able to have these great vintage and analog instruments because that’s part of my sound, to be able to see them and feel them and touch them, it’s very visceral. During the pandemic, there were obstacles and interruptions. I could do the mixing in person but we also did zoom, we did online. Lots of back and forth because being very involved in that process from the very beginning, from writing the demos, arranging everything through the mixing and the mastering, I was constantly there.
I’ve always been fascinated by bands made up of siblings or family members or couples and being in The Ladybug Transistor with my brother and two couples. Working with Lucy is so organic because she’s my first cousin. We’re really close and we love being in the studio together and just being around each other, so it was just an added layer to our personal bonding to be able to share that. I’m not a singer, but I sing a lot of backups, and I can do it with her because we’re related. And there’s something about voices that are related that like merge and overlap, where they kind of come together in that way. It’s also just a positive environment. The story of the new album includes this incredible group of friends, who all contributed their talents, several of whom perform live as part of The Garment District. You know Shivika (Asthana) from Papas Fritas.

Hilarie: I was going to ask you about her because I always admired her so much. We played a lot with Papas Fritas.
Jennifer: I kind of get goosebumps. We reconnected after she moved here with her family from Charleston. Coincidentally, she had applied to Handmade Arcade, the event I was running. This is how we became reunited. I’m in love with her drumming. She has an amazing feel.

The Garment District live at Spirit, December 14, 2023

Hilarie: And a pretty voice too.
Jennifer: She has a great voice, and we have played shows together. She has two kids, is really busy, makes her own jewelry and has a full-time job. I love that she’s on the new album. She should be playing music all the time. She’s got this natural touch. Sean Finn is the other drummer who plays on the new album and live with me, and he’s also incredible. Then Dave, who recorded the new album, plays on “Seldom Seen Arch” and he’s also an amazing drummer. He’s mainly been in metal bands, but if you tell him what you’re going for, he’s like a metronome with a cool feel. With arranging and producing the music and thinking about who’s the best person to play on a particular song, which are the best instruments to use, and the flow of things, I feel so fortunate to work in Dave’s studio and with friends and relatives on the album.

Hilarie: What are some of your favorite instruments and gear you used on the latest album?
Jennifer: Two beloved instruments I always use that have been with me during my entire music-making journey are my Fender Vibrolux Reverb amp (beloved amp I got years ago from a friend I worked with at The Brooklyn Museum before there were things called eBay and Reverb.com!)—and my Rickenbacker 360 Fireglo, a generous gift from my parents years ago. Right now I am in love with a 1970 dark red Guild Polara electric guitar that a dear friend of mine is generously sharing with me. I got to use it on the Ladybug tour in November and I cannot wait to get to know it better and use it on new recordings! I am inspired by analog instruments and the characteristics of their physicality, and I love having them around the house to encourage the writing and demo process to be spontaneous in terms of where an instrument might lead you. Not in the sense of viewing equipment and gear as precious but as elements that are part of a song or piece of music to inform the creative process. Some of my favorite instruments that help give the new Garment District album its sound include our 1960s Vox Super Continental organ, Wurlitzer electric piano, Korg CX-3 organ, 1980s Casios.

Jennifer recording the new album at David Klug Studio

For the new album, I am so fortunate that I could borrow several synthesizers I consider to be the holy grail in terms of the golden age of the analog synth universe: a 1970s Roland 505 Paraphonic, Roland System 100, Farfisa Syntorchestra and a Sequential Pro One—along with effects like a Roland Dimension D. In terms of achieving specific guitar sounds, I loved experimenting with a few 1960s and early 1970s fuzz pedals I borrowed from my friend Gregg Kostelich (of the iconic Pittsburgh garage band the Cynics and Get Hip Records), including a UMI Buzz Tone & Volume Expander and Foxx Fuzz & Wa & Volume, plus my own Fuzz Face.

I love the story behind one of the drum kits we used for a few of the new songs—a beautiful-sounding 1966 Slingerland kit belonging to Laura Rogers (The Rogers Sisters). Our first bands played shows together in NYC (Ruby Falls and Saturnine) in the 1990s. Though its provenance has not been confirmed, Laura was told that the kit, which she bought from a collector in Detroit, was used on the Nirvana Unplugged recordings. Woven into this story is the fact that the brilliant Shivika played Laura’s kit on “The Starfish Song” and “The Instrument That Plays Itself.” I love the intuitive feel of Shiv’s playing, sometimes slightly behind the beat, perfect for the groove needed. She has performed live with us a few times and I think those two songs highlight her style. Papas Fritas and the Ladybug Transistor also used to play shows together, including at the Knitting Factory in NYC. Not long ago, we reconnected here in Pittsburgh (through another mutual friend!) and it has been such a joy to reconnect through both music and crafting. It was incredibly special having my longtime friend and Ladybug mate Gary Olson on trumpet along with and Kyle Forester on saxophone. And having Nathan Musser, who I hope to work with again, on violin and cello. I also really enjoyed playing melodica and glockenspiel on the album as well. These seemingly minor details are the kinds of experiences I love about the recording process and making a permanent document in sound. They help tell the story of an album and I love that our lives have intersected in these ways.

Jennifer and Casper on the Panhandle Trail

Hilarie: When we come to Pittsburgh, what should we do?
Jennifer: I’d love to take you to the Mattress Factory museum, where I used to work. You could see permanent installations by Yayoi Kusama, Greer Lankton, James Turrell, Ann Hamilton, so many remarkable artists. Also the Andy Warhol Museum of course, and the Teenie Harris photography collection at Carnegie Museum of Art. Andy Warhol’s grave is right near where we grew up—people love to leave gifts at the site. We would walk through the Troy Hill Art Houses, which are installations in row houses that have been transformed as public art. The best vegan food ever is at Apteka (plant-based Eastern European), where we would go to eat and drink often. Las Palmas for street tacos and Udipi for Indian food. We would visit the birthplaces of August Wilson and Gertrude Stein and ride the incline up to Mount Washington (very Scandinavian!). We have good vintage shopping and some of the best record stores in the country. We’d go to Jerrys, the Attic and the Government Center. And nature is a huge part of Western Pennsylvania. When people come to Pittsburgh, they are shocked by how green it is. You can go hiking within 10 or 15 minutes in the city for the Rails to Trails program. The Gap Trail goes all the way to D.C. and there are so many great state parks all across Pennsylvania and rivers and streams.

Hilarie: You’ve made me homesick. Now I want to go to record stores and eat good food and I’m here in the middle of nowhere.
Jennifer: You have the astounding nature and the Pagan culture and the fascinating traditions that go way, way back, plus a society that actually cares about taking care of people. Pittsburgh has a history of innovation and resilience. There’s still a lot of issues here, a lot of struggles and challenges, like with every city, especially with affordable housing. It’s a crisis all across the U.S.

Hilarie: What are you watching these days?
Jennifer: We’re pretty addicted to documentaries. 1970s British television and horror films. Night Gallery. I love the soundtracks to them too. Always revisiting I’m Alan Partridge. One of my favorite new shows is Beef.

Jennifer at Marlborough Farms in Brooklyn where she lived in the 1990s with Steve Keene painting / Photo courtesy of Jennifer

Hilarie: What newish and current music you are loving?
Jennifer: New and slightly newish music that’s often on my turntable and in my ears: Surface to Air Missive, Carl Didur, Zacht Automaat, The Frowning Clouds, Traffik Island, ORB, Locate S,1, Gloria, Etran de L’Air, Paint, Large Plants, Emma Anderson, Heather Trost, flypaper, Colored Lights, Cindy Lee, Brigid Dawson & The Mothers Network, The Murlocs, Cindy, Jacco Gardner, Tim Presley, The Cromagnon Band, Licorice Root Orchestra, Bong Wish, The Orange Alabaster Mushroom, Cut Worms, Hot Apple Band, Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, Liam Hayes, Belbury Poly, Samantha Glass, Jackie McDowell, Golden Apples, The David Tattersall Group, Mike Donovan, Flash Hits, False Tracks …

Hilarie: What are you looking forward to this year?
Jennifer: Performing live more and celebrating the new LP and hope to tour. DJing at the grand opening of The Government Center Outpost record shop in my neighborhood on March 9. We are organizing a show on April 19 with our friends in Pittsburgh, Chariot Fade, DJ BusCrates and Jackson Scott, plus live visuals by Michi Tapes. On April 28, I am so excited to participate in the Maxo Vanka Community Block Party. I will be playing 78s from my grandparents’ collection of tamburitza music surrounded by the magnificent murals of Croatian artist Maxo Vanka at St. Nicholas Croatian Catholic Church in Millvale, Pennsylvania. Vanka painted the murals in 1937 and 1941 and his subject matter explores a combination of religious imagery and iconography and progressive social themes including the horrors of war, injustice and the exploitation of workers. I have some new demos started and hope to be back in the studio soon! Working on new music videos in collaboration with several artists (Johnny Arlett, Sandy Loaf, Michi Tapes, Peter Speer, Cosmo Graff).

Records Jennifer cannot live without
John Cale, Paris 1919
Mayo Thompson, Corky’s Debt to His Father
New Order, Power Corruption & Lies
Donovan, A Gift From a Flower to a Garden
Kaleidoscope, Tangerine Dream
Kevin Ayers, Joy of a Toy
Soft Machine, The Soft Machine
Love, Forever Changes
Lee Hazlewood, Cowboy in Sweden
Alice Coltrane, Journey in Satchidananda
King Tubby Meets the Rockers Uptown
Hans-Joachim Roedelius, Jardin Au Fou
Brian Eno, Here Come the Warm Jets
Ethiopiques, Vol. 3-4: Golden Years of Modern Ethiopian Music

Listen to the Garment District
Listen to the Ladybug Transistor
Read part one: Jennifer interviews Hilarie

Read our interview with Gary Olson
Preorder the new benefit cassette for Justice Democrats

Saturnine at The Beachcomber in Wellfleet MA

The Ladybug Transistor on tour with Superchunk with Laura Ballance in Florida
Saturnine at The Middle East in Boston / Photo by Michael Galinsky
The Ladybug Transistor in Prospect Park Brooklyn / Photo by Erick Schonfeld

Hilarie Sidney in Conversation with Jennifer Baron

Hilarie and Per Ole from the High Water Marks (images courtesy of Hilarie)

Hilarie and Jennifer in conversation, part one
“My own happiness and well-being are strongly correlated with my ability to create something,” Hilarie Sidney told 15 Questions. (We can relate!) Hilarie (she/her) is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter who was the drummer from the Apples in Stereo (through 2006), a cofounder of the Elephant 6 collective, a member of Von Hemmling and Secret Square, and currently in the High Water Marks (along with her hubby, Per Ole Bratset, Logan Miller & Øystein Megård), whose latest album, Your Next Wolf, came out last summer. Hilarie also runs a cassette label called 6612 Tapes that will release So Many Things at Once, a benefit compilation for Justice Democrats featuring HWMs, Rose Melberg, the Garment District, the Ladybug Transistor, the Natvral, Dressy Bessy and others, out April 5.

This interview is part one of a two-part series that is a result of longtime friends Hilarie and Jennifer Baron (the Garment District, the Ladybug Transistor) having a conversation about everything from fertility cults and Norwegian pizza to body shaming and airport jail. Hilarie was at home in Grøa, Norway, and Jennifer was in Pittsburgh. (Images courtesy of Hilarie) Read part two.

Hilarie in Denver (images courtesy of Hilarie)

Jennifer: Was music a big part of your upbringing?
Hilarie: My parents were really into music. They loved The Beatles. My siblings are older, they were born in the ’50s and ’60s. The whole family listened to The Beatles and the Beach Boys. My sister was 13 years older than me and she loved Black Sabbath, KISS, Alice Cooper and Grand Funk Railroad. My brother Roger was into stuff like Yes, Genesis with Peter Gabriel, Emerson, Lake and Palmer. More mellow kind of proggy stuff. My brother who’s 9 years older than me was into Devo and the Cars and ’80s pop. So I heard all sorts of different music coming from all the different bedrooms. I would go in their rooms when they weren’t home and look through their albums. My sister had a Grand Funk Railroad album and they’re all naked on the inside and I would always go in there and look at it like, oh my god, their penises. My dad was in a barbershop quartet. I played clarinet—I started at the end of grade school until middle school, and then I switched to guitar. Then I picked up drums when I asked if I could be the drummer for the Apples. Music was always on. It was always important. I always liked the boys in school who liked music and were like guitar players.
Jennifer: That’s our downfall, isn’t it. We share that. How did the High Water Marks get started as a band?
Hilarie: I met Per Ole, who’s now my husband, on an Apples tour in Oslo. He gave me some songs that he had with his band. We started talking on e-mail and we decided to do an album. We were like, let’s send songs back and forth. The thing that was super funny is first he sent his 4-track tapes and didn’t send a return address and he had my name wrong. It came eventually to my brother’s house in Lexington, KY.
Where were you?
Hilarie: I was in Lexington too, but it was just bizarre because he’s like “I have a package for you from Norway.” I was like, really? Oh my god, that’s so weird.” So I got the tapes. But they could have been lost and there was no backup.
Jennifer: That’s a great origin story. We’ve been talking a lot about physical mail and the sense of waiting and anticipation and that it could have been lost and that it was 4-track tapes. How did you continue your long-distance creative process?
Hilarie: I recorded them on to his tracks, I added to them. I sent a couple of tracks that I wanted him to add to, which he did. Eventually we just decided … I was on tour, I’d made a little bit of money. Flights were really cheap so I was like, I’m going to come out there and we’re going to just do this. We’ll knock it out really quick. I’d just started recording on a computer. It was exciting to have a huge audio interface that looks like a rack mount thing in my backpack and some nice microphones.
Jennifer: You traveled thousands of miles to make music. That’s so endearing.
Hilarie: It was really cool. We became best friends right away. We really clicked and it’s so weird. All of it happened so organically and innocently. And then bam, We’re like in love. We were like, we have to be together. We can’t go back.
Jennifer: How did you come up with the name?
Hilarie: It was the name of one of the songs that he recorded. Songs About the Ocean came out in 2004, this year is the 20th anniversary. A couple years later, Polar came out, and then we didn’t do anything for like 13 years. In 2020, we put out Ecstasy Rhymes, in 2022, we put out Proclaimer of Things. In 2023, we put out Your Next Wolf.
Jennifer: Do you still have the 4-track cassettes?
Hilarie: We don’t. We can’t find them anywhere. We lost some weird and important stuff when we moved. We had a moving company and a shipping container and some of the boxes just didn’t show up and the company didn’t take any responsibility for it and it was a huge hassle. I don’t think we’re ever going to find them.

Jennifer: Your label is putting out a new compilation. I’d love to hear about the tape label in general. I’m honored to be on it.
Hilarie: 6612 Tapes started because we wanted to put out our new album on cassette. It’s such a cool format. I love what you can do with it. How compact it is. We just decided to do a tape label and all eco packaging. No shrink wrap. It’s also going to have a homemade vibe where we’re going to put inserts and stickers and stuff. We’re putting out a new compilation tape called So Many Things at Once, it’s a benefit for Justice Democrats, coming out April 5. We’re doing it because democracy is in peril. So many things are so fucked up right now with Palestine and Ukraine. Now there’s bombing going on in the Red Sea. We’ve got to take care of this election because it’s going to have an impact on everybody. It will not be on streaming because we want to get money for the donations.
Jennifer: Are you planning other cassette releases?
Hilarie: Because we have a 20-year anniversary coming of our first album, we’re going to do some fun things, like we have some old recordings that we did on the radio here in 2004 so we’re going to put those on the tape; we’re doing something really cool with our bandmates where they’re reimagining a couple of the songs from the record. We’re going to put out some unreleased stuff as a way to celebrate it. That and our next record will be on the cassette label later this year or early 2025.
Jennifer: You’ve been so incredibly productive. It’s so inspiring.
Hilarie: It must be that fertility cult.

The Apples in Stereo with Kurt Heasley

Jennifer: Tell us about the Elephant 6 documentary. Has it reconnected people?
Hilarie: It made us remember how much we cared about each other and how stupid it is that we haven’t been in touch, especially when it’s so easy to be in touch. It’s never been easier. For my part, after Robert and I got divorced, a lot of people … I don’t want to say they chose him over me, but they chose him over me. That’s just the way it goes. He’s a talented, popular guy. A lot of people lost touch with me or I lost touch with them and it’s been fun getting to know everybody again. We’re all the same, but we’re so different.
Jennifer: I’ve loved seeing it multiple times and have been so inspired by all of you. It’s been great reconnecting with people as well. Derek and I did two Q&As after the Pittsburgh premiere. The audiences were so different the two nights. The first was our generation, in-depth questions, like uberfans, rabid fans, like so many deep things. Just people reminiscing and wanting to know every little detail and talk about all the bands that weren’t in it and who were. We had to kick people out or we would have been there for 5 hours. The next night was all these new fans, younger audience. It was so cool to be able to have that mix. It speaks to the timelessness of the music and that communal culture and that sharing and that hands-on DIY aesthetic that people are craving. And also over the summer having everyone come together in Norway.
Hilarie: Yeah, that was so amazing. Circling back to the tape label, when we talked about the spirit of Elephant 6, 6612 reminds me of when we started Elephant 6, because it’s all about handmade and having personal things in the release as possible and connecting on a personal level and that was one of the greatest things about what we did. I’m so proud of that, but I’m also in awe that we did that too.
Jennifer: And there’s so much more beyond the parameters of the film that went on.
Hilarie: The film is just a really good tip of the iceberg there. It was really well put together.
Jennifer: How does how does it impact your working today? Also, could that happen today?
Hilarie: I don’t think it could. I mean, I’d love to think it could, but I don’t think it could. That whole instant gratification thing that we’re talking about. And like, if I can’t get it now, I’m going to kind of freak out. I need to hear it first.
Jennifer: There’s this whole mentality of having to create music for a film or show or streaming or video. I don’t create music that way. Truly living in the moment, it sounds so cliche, but it’s harder and harder to do that.
Hilarie: People don’t do that anymore. It’s too hard. We were so lucky back then because we didn’t have all these distractions. I lived in this tiny little apartment with Will and Jeff and me and Robert, we’re talking about music all day and all night because we didn’t have a TV, we couldn’t afford one.
Jennifer: If you watched a show, like Freaks and Geeks, you did while it was on, then it was over and you missed it.
Hilarie: There were no mobile telephones so if you wanted to see somebody, you were really immersed in it. We were so immersed in everything we did. We were just sitting there brainstorming and writing things out and drawing and coloring. We watch a lot of TV now, but we’re always drawing and tonight we’re going to do some lino cutting and we’re recording and I’m trying to keep that going. Back to the E6 documentary, it was the very end of that era between no technology and technology where everything was really free.

The High Water Marks: Øystein, Per Ole, Hilarie and Logan in Egersund (images courtesy of Hilarie)

Jennifer: When did you start speaking Norwegian?
Hilarie: Well, it is hard. I studied it a little bit at university after we met, I was going back for my bachelor’s and I switched to Norwegian studies from sociology. I finished my degree and I still couldn’t really speak Norwegian though. I don’t know if all people are like this, but I couldn’t pick it up until I started using it every day. I’m good with the grammar. I knew how things went together, but I couldn’t get it out quick enough; it just took some time. Working with kids helps because they’re honest. They’re like “what are you trying to say?” You’re formulating sentences in your head like you would if you’re going to write them down, but that doesn’t work.
Jennifer: Let’s talk about gender roles in bands. In the ’90s, it was so great to meet you, meet Shivika (Asthana, from Papas Fritas), we toured with a lot of bands that had women I love and am still in touch with. It felt like a tightknit community. That was the positive side of it.
Hilarie: I was thinking about how we would tour; we’d be in New York or whatever, and there’s all these women and men and everybody’s integrated and doing things together. And then suddenly, you’re in Nebraska and you’ve got this guy who’s like, “you’re not in the band.” I had that happen to me before. “I’m in the band, I need to come in.” “No, you’re not in the band.”
Jennifer: “Who are you with?”
Hilarie: “Who are you trying to see?” “Well, I’m the drummer in the Apples in Stereo. I need to come in.” “Yeah, right.” Finally, after arguing, he goes and gets John or Eric or somebody. They’re like, yeah, she is in the band.
Jennifer: This wasn’t even that long ago. I totally agree about New York almost being another world. I always have this thing that still happens: “Oh, you’re in a band. Are you the singer?”
Hilarie: Yes.
Jennifer: Nothing against singing, it’s an amazing talent. But it’s this kneejerk reaction that still constantly happens. Also “woman-fronted band,” hate that term. What does that even mean? Can you imagine discussing the Kinks and said “male-fronted band”?
Hilarie: Exactly. It’s so stupid.
Jennifer: Let’s talk about the music we’re making. It’s so hard for people to even describe and talk about music and most art forms but mostly music because we can’t touch it, we can’t see it. It’s constantly in the background. It’s in all these videos. Social media has made music this background thing where people are numb to the art form so if you have to work to listen to something and figure it out, you have to be challenged to think about it, people’s minds can’t do it if they’re born into the digital age.
Hilarie: No, they can’t.
Jennifer: I still have a lot of difficult feelings about gender roles and music. It’s hard to even process.
Hilarie: Well, outside of even like the instrumentation aspect of music, I had a lot of problems being a female in a band who’s overweight, because I was criticized. Jeff Price from SpinArt, he told me that I was holding the band back from success because I was too fat.
Jennifer: No, Hilarie.
Hilarie: Yeah, he did. I was crushed. He’s like, if you’re going to be in a band and if you’re a girl, you need to dress like really cute and you need to be really thin. Sure, whatever, dude. I acted like it didn’t bother me, but it still really bothers me to this day.
Jennifer: It’s horrifying, it’s traumatic, it’s harmful. The body shaming and the awareness about it now, we didn’t have during our time. Or reviews would be written, and someone would describe what Sasha and I were wearing, but they wouldn’t describe what the guys were wearing. Why would you describe our hair or our clothing?
Hilarie: Jeff never would have said that any of the guys are fat or too bald or whatever.
Jennifer: That’s horrifying. When people who are running labels or in leadership or power positions are saying these things, it’s so harmful. With openness and inclusivity and queer music and culture and gender affirmation and body awareness and fighting body shaming is much as it is today, that didn’t exist in the ’90s when we were starting our bands and way before that.
Hilarie: It is still there. And we came up with really amazing female figures to look up to, like all the K Records and Kill Rock Stars, like Heather from Beat Happening, she was like my hero.

Early High Water Marks

Jennifer: I got to see them play. Even going back, the Go-Betweens, New Order, like there are so many incredible women who are part of bands writing music, adding to the music, part of the arrangements, like adding to the sound, but why do we only talk about the singer?
Hilarie: Yeah, exactly, it’s not the only part. There were so many amazing women when we were coming up and you still don’t really hear about them like you hear about others.
Jennifer: Incredible composers too. Do you know about the Women in Sound zine? You would love it. It’s an incredible zine that my friend Madeline Campbell started and it’s really inspiring. It’s a great resource and a fantastic publication. … That experience horrifies me that that happened and I’m so sorry.
Hilarie: That’s just the way stuff was back then. I took it to heart. I acted like, oh whatever, but and I actually stopped eating and I lost weight, and I got like really freaked out. Yeah, it still bothers me today. Sometimes when I think about it, I still get really mad.
Jennifer: Understandable. If we thought about this topic, we would have so many examples.
Hilarie: So many.
Jennifer: So many of them were subtle and manipulative back then and we were really young and our brains weren’t even trained to process it and interpret it as sexism or chauvinism or misogyny at the time.
Hilarie: Yeah, I didn’t know those words back then. I mean, I knew them, but I didn’t really know them.
Jennifer: Yeah, we just brushed it off.
Hilarie: Yeah, it’s just like, oh, well, whatever, that guy’s a dick. But in the meantime, it’s sitting back there in your head and you’re playing it over and over.
Jennifer: Yeah. When you’re in your own cocoon of women in your band, women are in all the bands you’re on bills with then you go into some of these places like Panama City…
Hilarie: …and you’ve got the metal guy who’s doing sound and he doesn’t get what you’re doing and he’s like, “why do you have this stuff?” He has no idea what to do with you.
Jennifer: If we were to visit you in Grøa, what should do and see?
Hilarie: It would all be outdoors. We don’t really have anything else to do here. We have a mall and it’s very boring and the restaurants are all pizza I feel like and it’s terrible pizza.
Jennifer: Norwegian pizza!
Hilarie: I would take you guys … about a 15-minute walk from my house is one of the oldest Viking graveyards in the western part of Norway. Where we live right now, it was a special gathering place in the Iron Age, where they came to pray to the fertility God Freyr. There are fertility cults here and they’ve excavated a lot of fertility pits, like fire pits where they did sacrifice. There are a lot of graves here that were excavated and there are some important women who were buried as well as like families. It’s a cool place. Being in there, it feels mystical and magical. It dates back to the 900s, right in the middle of the early Viking age.
Jennifer: Tell us about the latest High Water Marks album Your Next Wolf.
Hilarie: We’ve just been on such a roll with recording. Ecstasy Rhymes is a really mellow like pop record and the next one, Proclaimer of Things, was a bit of that, but also a bit more rock. Then we took it all more fuzzy pop on this last one. We’ve just been recording and writing so much and we just kept going. It’s not like we just sat down and said “we’re making this record.” We just kept working. We record our parts here at our house. And then we send the tracks to Øystein and Logan. We have a shared Google Drive where we all put our parts and we put our all of our information. As we get closer to being done, we have Google Keep and we keep each other on task, like Hilarie needs to do this, this, this, Per Ole needs to do this, this, this, and so on. Then we can cross it off. It’s really organized. It’s not my idea; Øystein is so organized, he’s the one who introduced us to that.
Jennifer: Where do you record in your house, different rooms?
Hilarie: We have a tiny little bedroom that we record in that we’ve made into a studio, it has a desk and a big bookshelf and a little vintage cabinet and then all of our guitars are on the wall. We record on a Mac Mini. We just recorded in there but when I record drums, we have to do it in the hallway because they won’t fit in there. I can’t do it any other way. I’ve had bad experiences in studios, I don’t like recording in studios.
Jennifer: I didn’t know if you had ever recorded in a studio in Norway.
Hilarie: I got to help mix and kind of produce some songs that Per Ole’s band was doing when I first came over to record. That was fun. But that wasn’t my project, and it wasn’t my time, so it was pleasant.
Jennifer: Recording in a home, whether it’s your home or it’s close to where you live, or your friend is what I’ve tried to do. Just the organic nature or that comfort feeling and not constantly staring at the clock.
Hilarie: That’s a real creative killer.
Jennifer: It is so difficult. I try to strike this balance of I’m recording with people who also have become friends because I have to feel really comfortable with the person.
Hilarie: Yeah, me too.
Jennifer: You guys are recording your own music and that’s amazing. But I like to work with like an engineer to oversee it all and produce it. I like to have someone else worrying about being the technical expert, because I’m not that as far as the engineering side and I don’t really want to be. I love focusing on the creativity of the songwriting and the recording. I love all these processes. I know that that’s not my skill, my strong point, but it is a balance that you have to strike. I’ve recorded in studios and had positive experiences, but I much prefer when it’s a home-based experience. It can be stressful and difficult. It can hinder your creativity or experimentation to just be like, OK, we’ll book you on these dates in and out.
Hilarie: It doesn’t always work out that you feel at your best at those moments. We’re busy and older too. I can’t be bothered. I can’t spend that much money either because we pay for so much of these records ourselves.
Jennifer: Before I started recording my new album, I visited some incredible studios and they’re doing wonderful work and they’re beautiful spaces, but I can’t afford them, I’m in the same situation. So, if I’m going to be putting my own investment into it, which I am because I’m paying for studios and engineering, I love that I can put it toward like an independent person who is incredible to work with. I worked with someone whose personality is very chill and laidback, great listener, great rapport. We’ve become good friends and he’s been incredibly generous with his time so I feel really fortunate. It feels comfortable. Some of the experimentation or the parts of the directions you go in in the studio, you wouldn’t be able to do in a different kind of setting.
Hilarie: That’s a really perfect scenario.
Jennifer: It still doesn’t mean that it’s not expensive and it should be paid for. What was the mixing like?
Hilarie: We mixed this time with Justin Pizzoferrato, who is J Mascis’ engineer who works with the Lou Barlow and Speedy Ortiz and lots of different artists. He would basically do a mix and send it to us and we would say what we thought, and then he’d do another one and send it and it kind of went like that. But he was so good. We weren’t arguing about anything really. He was such a pro, so great to work with. Really nice, talented guy. We’re also lucky because Øystein has worked at a studio and he has so much equipment. He has two Mellotrons and Hammond B3s. Tons of keyboards. He’s got like several drum sets, so many amps, they rent out some of their stuff. He does a lot of the technical stuff and Logan also is very like good and interested in recording.

Hilarie and Per Ole

Jennifer: Do they bring their equipment to your house ever or do they all record in their houses?
Hilarie: Everybody records in their houses. Your Next Wolf was the first time we recorded all together. We went to Kentucky and recorded the basic tracks of 4 of them. It was a fun bonding experience. We had a great time. We recorded at Logan’s house.
Jennifer: Was it the first time that some of them coming to Kentucky? Hilarie: It was Øystein’s first time in Kentucky and I think in the U.S. That was fun, we went to Cincinnati and showed them around. There’s not a lot to do around Lexington, but I think they had a great time. It was just really chill.
Jennifer: Who pressed your latest vinyl?
Hilarie: We did it at a place in Paris. We paid for it ourselves. It was so hard to decide because we had to ship most of them to Red Eye anyway in the U.S. I don’t know if we did the right thing, but it was cheap. They have a like a two-month turnaround, which was really quick. They don’t use the stamper, they use the original lathe cutting, the lacquer. It doesn’t feel real if it’s not on vinyl. I’m really into cassettes right now.
Jennifer: Me too. It’s interesting how many people on our most recent Ladybug tour wanted CDs. What do you enjoy most about recording, performing, and or touring? Do you prefer one or the other? Do you dislike any of them?
Hilarie: I prefer recording to touring. I like playing shows, but I get terrible anxiety but then while I’m doing it, it’s always really fun and I’m like, why don’t we do this all the time? And then the next time it’s like, oh my god, we have a show. I can’t do this. And then we do it and it’s fun. It’s this weird cycle of anxiety and then elation. I have so much fun whenever we play live. But it’s just like the whole getting there is like… Øystein’s in Trondheim, Logan’s in Kentucky, so this summer we played shows and Logan came over from Kentucky for just these few shows that we did. We had like three days to practice here. Thinking about doing it is really daunting, but once we do it, it’s really amazing. And Logan’s lucky because his wife is a pilot. She’s my best friend. She’s a pilot for Southwest and she can get them on flights pretty cheap sometimes. Her dad was also a pilot, so she has United tickets and stuff like that.
Jennifer: She’s such a trailblazer because there are so few female pilots working for the major airlines. There are more than there used to be.
Hilarie: She has cooler clothes now. When she first started out, she wore the stupidest outfit and she used to call it her birth control suit.
Jennifer: That’s amazing. That would be a good band name. It is a lot of logistics as you get older.
Hilarie: Yeah, some places have backlines, some places don’t. Living in Norway is great and playing shows here is not so great. The music scene is pretty generic or maybe I haven’t found the right thing. They play us on the radio here. We have a lot of streams coming from here, from Norway, a lot of streams. It seems like people like us, but we can’t get people out to the shows. It’s frustrating, but a lot of venues say that people just don’t go to shows anymore, so they’re having a hard time promoting and getting people to come out. We wonder if it’s worth it.

Jennifer: Is that true in Bergen and Oslo as well?
Hilarie: Yeah, everywhere. Everything is just so expensive and it hasn’t really come down, especially since the pandemic. Norwegians were more reserved and homebodies and maybe the pandemic has made everybody feel like it’s OK to stay home.
Jennifer: I need social interaction, playing off the energy of people and the chemistry. Got any good tour stories?
Hilarie: I have a few. One I was thinking about was: OK, first of all, Apples in Stereo used to drive around with the Bible on our dashboard because we have this whole schtick where we’re this religious band in case we ever get pulled over because the boys had a lot of weed on them all the time. We’re driving around with this bible, we have this whole backstory. We played at Oberlin College and we had a great show. But it was over pretty early, as college shows are sometimes, and we say goodbye to everybody, we go back to the hotel and we’re hanging out. The boys are smoking bowls. Eric and I are sitting there counting money and what have you. We wake up the next day and we go to Denny’s, which is right outside the hotel. And then suddenly we see cop cars pull up to the hotel. We were all just kind of looking and then Robert was like, “Oh my God, my backpack’s in the lobby and it’s got all the pot in it.” We got in the car and started driving to Wendy’s. Robert goes into the Wendy’s. John was driving and he didn’t have a license. I switched seats with him, and I got in the driver’s seat and then Robert ran into Wendy’s, threw the pot away in the garbage can in the bathroom, and came out with a Big Gulp type thing.
These cops pull us over and they’re like, “Hey, who does this backpack belong to?” Robert’s like, “that’s my backpack.” The cops are like, “Do you realize that there’s marijuana in this backpack?” Robert’s like, “No! What? Are you kidding me?” We made a story first before the cops started talking to us. Robert is taken to the cop car and they talk to him and us separately. But we all say the same thing: We have no idea whether it’s pot in that bag. The cops are like, what are you talking about? We’re like, “we’re just a Christian rock band, we played at this college last night and everybody was doing drugs and stuff. We had no idea and we think somebody put that in our bag as a joke.” Robert had had picked up all these religious pamphlets and pulled them out and he was like, “Yeah, I was just giving people these and trying to get people to recognize Jesus as their lord and savior.” And by the end of the whole thing, the main cop and Robert were hugging and like they were best friends. Isn’t that insane?
Jennifer: Do you have any wild High Water Marks tour stories to share?
Hilarie: When we were touring in Europe, we had like 5 shows in England and the people who have booked the shows wanted to try to bypass getting a work permit. Per Ole didn’t need one because he was a Norwegian citizen at the time. So it’s just me and the other two guys that needed work permits and we talked about how we’d say we’re just going over to hang out and do a little studio recording. Our bass player was asleep when we were talking about it, I guess, and we didn’t realize it. So, we get to England, we go through customs, and we’re all through. And we see he’s talking and waving his hands and suddenly they’re looking at a computer. And he’s like, “We have shows. We’re in a band called the High Water Marks. Look at our website.” His phone got stolen on that tour too, because a guy came up and said, “can I borrow your phone?” And he said, “it’s from America but sure, go ahead!” And the guy just ran. He’s so gullible, but anyway, so we got marched off into jail in the airport. So, we’re sitting in jail and we have to be deported back to Sweden. We were in jail all day. They were nice, but it was embarrassing. They looked through all my stuff, they read my lyrics …. awful. There were people in there that were traffickers, a lady who tried to smuggle herself in, and then we’re just like a little indie band. It’s like a lockup room. At the end of the day, we had to get on the last flight. They had to march us on the flight, like with a great ceremony. It was really embarrassing, but it’s also funny now in hindsight.

Jennifer: What was it like playing in Egersund this summer the festival in Norway. How did that feel?
Hilarie: I love that festival. It’s the best festival because it feels small or intimate. I love how it’s set up in such a small area so you can go from show to show, and you have the hotel setup so if you get exhausted, you can go rest. It’s not the kind of festival where you’re like, “where am I going to get water?”
Jennifer: “Where am I going to wash my hands?”
Hilarie: Exactly. It’s really cozy. And I think Froda does such a nice job.
Jennifer: It’s like a family. Being able to do that before the pandemic, when Froda and Steven did this special deluxe reissue of Albemarle Sound and then meeting everyone and being a part of that community and making lifelong or new friends. After that whole experience of lockdown for us to all be together and reunite with you guys and have Elf Power and have the Elephant 6 documentary and Froda’s new band and No Ones and Minus Five just this past summer there was something so magical and so like necessary. People were just so desperate to be together and missed each other. It’s so important the way that they treat the bands and you can go take your break.
Hilarie: You feel so welcome. There’s no stress there. I didn’t feel any stress. I didn’t feel any of that hurry up and get on the stage. Hurry up and get off the stage. Hurry up and move your equipment.
Jennifer: We had to get a substitute drummer the same week of our show. So we had probably the biggest wild marathon of our musical careers, which then prepared us for the tour in November. So next to the hotel we were staying in that incredible historic building that was so cool. It was one of the most gorgeous buildings I’ve been in. Taking breaks to go swimming and walk around the town. Last time we got to stay in the lighthouse with Elf Power. It was a dream come true. It’s such a wonderful festival. So welcoming, like the way the whole town is waiting for it all year.
Hilarie: Everybody’s involved. There’s another festival in Norway that you guys should play sometime if you haven’t already. Indiefjord.
Jennifer: Gary has played it.
Hilarie: Yeah, it’s amazing. We actually played with Gary there.
Jennifer: Yes, I would love for the Garment District to play in Norway. Those experiences have been some of my favorite live music experiences.
Hilarie: The Norwegian summer is really magical.
Jennifer: What a beautiful landscape too, the Fjords.
Hilarie: You have to come up here where we are because it’s way more dramatic. It’s so much more beautiful up here.
Jennifer: I live vicariously through your photos on Instagram and I would love to visit. It looks like something out of a movie.
Hilarie: Right now it’s dark but in the summer I’m looking out the window and I see Europe’s tallest waterfall right out my window.
Jennifer: Even if you’re just there for a short time, you feel like you’re integrated into the community and the town and you’re just welcomed with open arms. There’s such a respect for the music and for artists and creativity.
Hilarie: There is. That’s one of the things I love about it.
Jennifer: What are some musical collaborations that have really impacted you?
Hilarie: One of the most fun collaborations for me was going to Japan to record with Cornelius. The entire experience was really fun both in the studio, and outside. Another fun collaboration was singing a song on the new The Go! Team record. It’s a song called “Sock it to me.” Although I didn’t collaborate in person and I did it from my home studio, it was still really fun. I think Ian is a super talented songwriter and arranger.

Hilarie in the Apples in Stereo 1995 Tidal Wave video

Jennifer: What is the best food you’ve ever eaten on tour?
Hilarie: Right now, at this point in my life most of the food I ate on tour I remember as being the best. I live in a place where we don’t have any good restaurants, and even if we did it is so expensive to eat out here. Many of my most memorable are probably some of the Ethiopian restaurants in D.C.
Jennifer: What’s your favorite thing to make?
Hilarie: I like to try new stuff. Everybody loves my quiche and my quiche crust that I make from scratch. I make enchiladas and things like that. I don’t use recipes because I’m really good at figuring stuff out without recipes. I take all the elements that I like from it. My downfall is that I never write it down. So sometimes it’s not super consistent. I make this like creamy pasta dish everybody loves but the consistency is different.
Jennifer: I’m glad I’m married to someone who’s a really good cook and I enjoy it. I often feel short on time. We always cook vegan because we’re vegan at home, but I would love to receive some of your recipes. I can always adapt them. We’ve been making a lot of dal and chana masala and I’m trying to experiment and use the Instant Pot more for Indian food. We’re also lucky to have a growing vegan scene here.
Hilarie: You guys can order food and have it delivered to your house too. I make my own vanilla and everything because you can’t buy vanilla extract here. I make my own dill pickles. But I have to make it.
Jennifer: I did the cliche thing during lockdown and learned how to make kombucha. I love baking bread. I really like cooking and I love baking. We’re lucky because we have a Lebanese market right around the corner that’s been there since the ’60s. They make their own pitas next door. They come down a conveyor belt and give you these piping hot pitas. What are you watching these days?
Hilarie: Crime shows are big here in Norway and like we watch British crime and we’ll pretty much literally watch anything. We’re not like super discerning sometimes.
Jennifer: What can always be found in your fridge?
Hilarie: Sadly, mostly leftovers that everyone will forget to take to work and nobody will end up eating. I try to always have green olives and green olive tapenade. We tend to buy what we need day by day.

The Apples in Stereo, 1995, Tidal Wave video (image courtesy of Hilarie)

Jennifer: What books or magazines are on your nightstand?
Hilarie: I just finished Bright Young Women by Jessica Knoll. I am currently reading Poor Things by Alasdair Gray. I just saw the movie and it blew my mind! Yorgos Lanthimos has made some of my favorite movies, but this one is incredible, from the camera work, the art, costumes, and music, the entire feel is completely insane.
Jennifer: What are some of your hobbies?
Hilarie: I like sewing; we do a lot of drawing over here, and I am learning lino cutting. Of course, playing guitar, making songs, reading, making earrings (that I can’t even wear because I am allergic, haha), and building things/making things for our van. We got really into our camper van, so we made a headboard out of Moroccan tiles, curtains. I like to sew practical things. I’m going to start on a quilt soon. I love drawing with Per Ole; it can be intimating because he’s so good and I’m so bad.
Jennifer: I love your vehicle.
Hilarie: It’s all I can think about sometimes; it’s like, “I can’t wait to get in the van.” We just put a power converter in it so we can use an electric blanket.
Jennifer: Do you collect anything?
Hilarie: After emptying my mom’s house before she moved into a nursing home and seeing all of the things she collected, I was overwhelmed. It was a nightmare. She had boxes upon boxes of things. I decided then and there that I would not collect anything other than records. Even books. I adore books, but I rarely go back and read any of them unless they are my favorites. Now I only buy/keep the books that are exceptionally great to me. I kept photographs, artwork, letters, my grandmother’s life’s writing, my great-grandfather’s handwritten memoir, my mom’s wedding rings, my grandma’s wedding rings art deco jewelry, and other small mementos. Part of living in Norway has also been an exercise in learning quality vs. quantity, things vs. experiences, etc. It was hard to decide what to bring from the U.S. after we moved.  

Hil recording on Ecstasy Rhymes

Jennifer: What are the biggest differences about living in Norway and the U.S. and what has it made you appreciate most about each locale?
Hilarie: The biggest differences about living in Norway vs the U.S. are things like consumerism, free time, freedom, and safety in my opinion. I realized a year or so after living in Norway some of the things I missed were heavily based in consumerism. Like, I missed being able to pop in to a store and browse or buy something, or choose from a million different restaurants. Here in Norway everything is closed on Sunday. We have a tiny little part of the grocery store that’s allowed to be open on Sundays for necessities. We get at least 5 weeks of vacation every year and are strongly urged to take at the very least three of them in a row. In Norway you haven’t relaxed enough if you haven’t forgotten what day of the week it is on vacation. We also get feriepenger “vacation money.” We get an extra percentage taken out of our pay each payday and that money is given back to us in June to use on vacation, or whatever we want.
I worked at a university in the U.S. and we had a very liberal vacation policy. 4 weeks. But, getting 3 weeks in a row was supremely challenging. Also, there is a misconception about the taxes we pay. In the U.S. I paid around 24% of my income in taxes. As far as I could tell, I was paying for wars, because my roads were shit, I had to buy more than $100 worth of school supplies for each kid each year, plus a list of things teachers need because they don’t have the funding. Day care was crazy expensive, etc. Here I pay 34%. Both December and June we pay half tax 17% ish so that we have extra money for Christmas and for summer. Included in that 34% is our national health insurance, along with a lot of other great perks like barnetrygd, which gives every single child in Norway $100 per month from the time they’re born until they are 18. That gives families who struggle the money to l buy clothes, pay for activities, etc. to level the playing field and make things more equal. If you don’t need the money, you can just save it. We did that and gave our son Anders a lump sum on his 18th birthday. Because I don’t have to worry about health insurance, I don’t worry about losing my job. Not having to worry about health insurance opens people up to be able to try small businesses and endeavors that they would be afraid to try in the US due to healthcare for example. I love that my youngest son grew up riding his bike to school, playing all over the neighborhood for hours while I didn’t know where he was. I love that he didn’t have active shooter drills. Kids are encouraged to climb up high in trees at school here and to trust and rely on their bodies and motor skills. They learn how to use knives from pre-school, make fires, and really practical things. If we did any of that in the U.S. we might have had a visit from CPS. I miss the openness and friendliness of the U.S. I miss my friends. It’s hard to make close friends here. I miss seeing great bands and eating out a lot. Oddly, there are fewer women in the music scene here. Especially Trondheim, which is the city I’m closest to. I refer to it as “dude rock city.” Oh boy, have I had men explain music, equipment, bands, etc. to me. It’s weird because in most other fields we’re pretty equal.
Jennifer: What are some of your favorite instruments and gear you used on Your Next Wolf?
Hilarie: My favorite is my new Gretsch guitar I bought myself for my birthday last year. It only made it on a couple of tracks, but it is an absolute dream to play, and I love the sound of it. I have a 1964 Roger’s Holiday model drum kit. I had a similar bass drum and rack tom of the same year, but I really wanted this whole kit. It was red sparkle, 20″ bass drum, mounted rack tom, perfect condition, and it came with all the hardware and cymbals, one of which was a staple I used back then, a 24″ Zildjian sizzle cymbal. I went on to buy up as many of those as I could find because they were cheap, and had such a special sound, but I frequently cracked them. Back in the ’90s you found stuff like and it was so cheap because nobody wanted it. Anyway, Kurt Heasley was living with us at the time and he had gotten some publishing money or something, and he actually bought it for me. That is how sweet and generous he is. I am forever grateful. This drumset has been featured on a lot of the early E6 records, including both the Neutral Milk Hotel Records, the Olivia Tremor Control, and The Minders, of course, the Apples, and many others. I’m not as interested in equipment as I was in the past. At this point, I just want reliable things that sound amazing to me and will work when I sit down so I can keep up my momentum while I’m in the mode. 

What is your sign?
Hilarie: Capricorn
Jennifer: Do you have any crushes?
Hilarie: I would say now, no, but maybe I’m too old for that. Everybody loves Paul Rudd.
Jennifer: I heard you had a tradition in the past…
Hilarie: Yes, Lisa Janssen and I, she’s from Secret Square, would come up with like, OK, who’s your celebrity dream date this week. It was typically David Berman or Bill Callahan or Steve Malkmus. And then we would decide what we’d do on our dream date.
Jennifer: What musician would you love to interview?
Hilarie: Sun Ra
Jennifer: I have a crush on your dog Archie right now. I seriously have a crush on all big dogs. I’d to meet up with Syd Barrett and Gene Clark. Have you seen the new Syd Barrett documentary?
Hilarie: No. I love Syd Barrett so much. Lisa and I would talk about him endlessly and how we would take care of him.
Jennifer: Are we, like, lost sisters? We might be. What newish and current music are you loving?
Hilarie: I love your new record and that has been spinning quite a bit, I’ve been listening to the new Elf Power, Feeling Figures, The Beths, Aislers Set, Umbrellas, Tony Molina, Telekinesis, Santigold, Shannon Lay, Shana Cleveland, Mikal Cronin, A lot of old bossa nova stuff (Astrud, Nara Leão). Not so new, but it’s some of the stuff I’ve been listening right now.
Jennifer: What plans are you looking forward to in 2024?
Hilarie: We are currently about 9 songs deep into a new album. We have a few more to start, and so there will be a new record later this year or in early 2025. Only time will tell. We are going to start looking for a label to release it. We love Minty Fresh, but they aren’t able to help us very much besides distribution. September is the 20th anniversary of our first record, Songs About the Ocean, and we have a special release coming to celebrate that. I’m super excited about it.

Records Hilarie Cannot Live Without
The Beatles (pretty much any of them, haha)
Velvet Underground, White Light White Heat
Dinosaur Jr., You’re Living All Over Me
Guided By Voices, Alien Lanes 

Listen to the High Water Marks.
Preorder the new benefit compilation on Hilarie’s label.
Listen to the Apples in Stereo.
Watch the Elephant 6 documentary.
Read an excerpt from the Steve Keene Art Book, which Hilarie is in.
Read part two of Hilarie’s conversation with Jennifer! 

Beautiful Ringo in beautiful Sunndal, Norway

Thinking about David Cloud Berman on what should have been his 57th birthday

Photograph from our event in Portland in Jan. 2020 by Zach Selley

Four years ago on January 4, 2020, we put together a show at bunk bar in Portland, Oregon, called Bike Chain Rain where friends and fans could remember David Cloud Berman on what would have been his 53rd birthday. Today (January 4, 2024) he would have been 57, and he probably would be pretty horrified at the state of things. Here are some photographs and videos of our event. All the proceeds (save for a few expenses) went in support of Moms Demand Action and Write Around Portland. On the TV during the show the Titans stunned the Patriots

Thanks to Craig Giffen for working on the videos presented below of all the music played at the event. The Franklin Bruno ones have just been added today. 

The audience at Bike Chain Rain, January 4, 2020, photograph by Zach Selley

LINEUP Douglas Wolk (MC)

Mo Daviau read “The Charm of 5:30”

• Gail O’Hara (chickfactor) read a letter Connie Lovatt sent to her mom about David  

Kjerstin Johnson read the Loew’s monologue

Jon Raymond read “A Letter From Isaac Asimov to his Wife Janet, Written on his Deathbed?” 

Lance Bangs read “Hieroglyphics, Notebook # 5”

Sophia Shalmiyev and Kevin Sampsell read “Self-Portrait at 28”

Chelsey Johnson read “Cassette County”

• Portland guitarist Marisa Anderson played her own song “18 to 1” WATCH HERE

• Portland band A Certain Smile played “Wild Kindness” WATCH HERE

Franklin Bruno played “The Frontier Index” WATCH and “What Is Not Could Be If” WATCH 

Oed Ronne (the Ocean Blue) performed “I Loved Being My Mother’s Son” with Nancy Novotny and HK Kahng – WATCH HERE

Rebecca Gates and William Tyler gently slaying the crowd: photograph by Gail O’Hara

William Tyler performed “Tennessee” WATCH HERE

Clay Cole performed “We Might Be Looking for the Same Thing” and
“Only One for Me” with Rebecca Gates
WATCH HERE

Rebecca Gates performed “Snow Is Falling on Manhattan” (WATCH) with William Tyler; and “Albemarle Station” (WATCH)

Silver Jews and Pavement members Stephen and Bob played six songs; photograph by Zach Selley

Stephen Malkmus & Bob Nastanovich performed…
“Secret Knowledge of Back Roads”
“Buckingham Rabbit”
“Advice to the Graduate”
“Random Rules”
“Welcome To The House of the Bats”
“Trains Across the Sea”
WATCH THE FULL SET HERE

Thanks to Craig Giffen (https://12xu.com) for the audio/video

This post was originally published one year after the event; updated four years after the event. 

Photograph of Stephen Malkmus and Bob Nastanovich by Zach Selley

 

 

2023 lists: 13 images Daniel Handler found while doing research

Daniel Handler: I am spending the last chunk of 2023 and the first of 2024 spelunking my way through some haphazard research into sculpture and other visual arts.  Here are thirteen images I came across in my research.

Design for a castle, 1539:

Back view of the Great Buddha of Kamakura (built in 1252):

Brancusi, Three Penguins:

Callot’s etching of Two Pantaloons:

Claes Oldenburg’s Giant BLT:

Deakin’s portrait of Barbara Hepworth:

Designers of Lincoln Center with its scale model:

Frank Lloyd Wright’s redesign of Suite 223 at the Plaza Hotel for his own use:

Gilbert and George as the Singing Sculpture:

Illustration of Jupiter seated triumphantly on a bed of defeated giants:

A drawing Paul Klee made at ten years of age:

Mignard, Child Blowing Bubbles, 1660:

portrait of Olga Wlassics:

2023 lists: Rob Pursey’s Top 10 Christmas Tree Baubles

Rob Pursey’s (Heavenly, Swansea Sound, The Catenary Wires, Skep Wax Records) Top 10 Christmas Tree Baubles:

I’m sorry, this is probably the most sentimental top 10 list you’ve ever read.   But I have just entered that melancholy phase when, looking at our Christmas Tree, I realise it has to come down soon – and then I’ll have to confront the rest of the winter without any twinkly distractions.

Christmas is a big deal in this house. It’s got nothing to do with religion: we are all atheists and so were our parents. It’s more like an accumulation of memories of all the other times you and your family did exactly the same things, every year: parents stopping work, kids getting presents, everyone playing old board games, eating special things. The winter is transformed, briefly, into something wonderful because of the people around you. And because of the baubles and twinkly lights.

So, my first bauble was a gift from Alexandra, who is the very skilful knitter and craftswoman and partner of John, head honcho of WIAIWYA Records. It’s a felt rendition of the first record by The Catenary Wires.

Bauble Two is a strange little stretchy man. He doesn’t dangle like the other baubles do, he grips the branch of the tree like a cartoon soldier. I don’t know why he entered the canon of baubles. One of the kids put him up on the tree a few years ago, he made us laugh, and now he comes out every year.

Bauble Three is the newest one. It was a present from Bob Collins, who plays guitar with us in Swansea Sound. It’s an image of Priestfield Stadium, where Gillingham FC play.  We went there (with Bob) a couple of days ago and saw Gillingham lose  2-0 to Crawley. It was a horrible experience, but we will be back there very soon.  And the Priestfield bauble will be back on the tree next year.

Bauble Four was made many years ago by our older daughter Dora. She made a lot of items in pottery class when she was a little kid.  I have a goblet, a candlestick holder, a vase and many other chunky, colourful items. This bauble is quite fragile and I worry about it surviving through all future Christmases.

The fifth bauble is this tiny stocking which clearly belonged to Ivy (our younger daughter).  I don’t know where it came from – maybe it was part of an advent calendar, or was attached to something bigger – but it is now an essential tree item.

I like this sixth bauble a lot.   It is the most substantial decoration on the tree as it includes the entire text of the first book of Paradise Lost by John Milton, which is my favourite poem. I am not sure that Milton, a fairly austere Protestant, would have approved of this frivolous and decorative use of his major work. But he might also be pleased that his poetry is honoured, four hundred years after it was written.

Bauble Seven. Some years ago, I can’t remember when, the kids were given a set of toy germs. This one is eColi, and he has become a regular fixture. There were five or six other germs, including halitosis and the common cold, but eColi is the one who got hung on the tree.

This little robin started life as a cake decoration, but got upgraded to the tree a few years ago. He has efficient claws and so he can perch on the branch, just like a real robin. Except he is only about an inch long. He is bauble number eight.

Sorry, not  a great picture, but the fairy is right at the top and I couldn’t get close enough without knocking the whole thing over. She is the oldest bauble – she sat on top of the Christmas Tree when I was a little kid. She is a bit lopsided, but she is hanging on.

Ok, Bauble Ten takes us back to music, and it’s another one by Alexandra, with Le Jardin de Heavenly-style butterflies on a little felt square. (I have no idea why people accused our old band of being twee.)

By the time anyone reads this the baubles will be heading back into their box, and winter will have resumed.  I hope you have a happy new year.

chickfactor 2023 lists, round three

image courtesy of Kim Baxter

Kim Baxter’s (All Girl Summer Fun Band) 
Top 10 Favorite Things About Reuniting with AGSFB in 2023


  1. The amazing feeling that occurred when the 3 of us got together and started playing music again. It was like no time had passed at all. I didn’t realize just how much I had missed playing with Jen & Kathy.
  2. Having friends come to our shows that we hadn’t seen in ages!
  3. Encountering the nicest and most helpful sound people that we have ever worked with.
  4. Jen’s contagious excitement for playing shows & recording music again, her awesome playlists & podcast selections, and her ability to drive for hours on end.
  5. Figuring out that if we rent an AirBnB with a garage, we don’t have to unload our gear each night. Our favorite new tour hack!
  6. Getting to play shows with so many awesome bands & people-Tony Molina, Mo Troper, The Softies, Growing Pains, Who Is She?, Love in Hell, Tony Jay, Kids on a Crime Spree, Rose Melberg, Lunchbox, Wifey, Field Drums.
  7. Catching up, cracking up, and built-in therapy + pep talks with Jen & Kathy at band practices and on the road.
  8. Hitting all of the health food co-ops on tour (Kathy is an expert at finding them) and being instantly transported back to the 90’s by the smell of nutritional yeast and nag champa.
  9. Sitting around in our PJs after shows and watching back-to-back episodes of Selling Sunset together (so bad, yet so good).
  10. Making plans for future shows and writing & recording new music!

Out Jan. 19!

Corin Tucker (Sleater-Kinney, Filthy Friends) 2023!!

Best Portland Thai Food – Rukdiew Cafe

Best Live Album – And the wind… MJ Lenderman

Favorite Live Show – The Cure at Corona Capital

Best sport trend – Pickle Ball

Favorite Youth Slang – LFG! (In a text, it means Let’s Fucking Go)

Great albums – Black Rainbows by Corinne Bailey Rae; The Water, The Sky by Black Belt Eagle Scout

Favorite Books – My Murder by Katie Williams and The Fraud by Zadie Smith

James McNew’s Favorite songs 2023:
Staple Singers, “The Gardener” (1970)
The Cyclones with Count Ossie, “Meditation” (1973)
Thin Lizzy, “The Friendly Ranger at Clontorf Castle” (1971)
Jimmy Flemion, “Oh Babe, What Would You Say” (2022)
Little Obsessions, “Can’t See What’s Mine” (2023)
Rob Sonic, “Mink” (2023)
Dave Edmunds, “Where Or When” (1977)
Flo and Eddie, “Keep It Warm” (1976)
Ceremony, “Your Life In France” (2015)
Yozoh, “Tommy” (2022)
The Notwist, “Sans Soleil” (2021)

Evelyn Hurley (Cotton Candy): Top fave shows of 2023

I watched a lot of good television shows this year, so in no real order, here’s a list of a few or my favorite tv shows for 2023:

Slow Horses – this TV show is on a lot of peoples “Best Of” lists and there’s a good reason for that, it’s really good! The acting and stories are super suspenseful, and it’s really funny. Highly recommend!

Rain Dogs – this is a British TV show which was really touching, even though the protagonists are somewhat unlikeable and flawed. The lead actress/writer/creator, Daisy May Cooper, is super talented, and she has another show on my list, which is called…

Am I Being Unreasonable? – this is the other Daisy May Cooper show on my list, and it’s completely different from Rain Dogs. The story is so compelling and the twist at the end had me literally screaming. Definitely watch this if you can, you will not forget it.

Schmigadoon – the second season of this show was based on the musical Chicago rather than Brigadoon, and songs are catchy, the story is clever, and the singing and acting is so good. It’s a great series, watch it if you get the chance, especially if you’re old an old theater kid like me.

Afterparty – this is also the second season of this show, and it’s really so well done with clever, jokes and great acting by everyone. I did not predict the ending at all!

Physical – this was the third and final season of the show and in my opinion it’s really one of the best TV shows I’ve seen in years. Rose Byrne is so excellent, which is saying a lot because every single actor in the show is fantastic. I can see why some people are uncomfortable with this show because it might trigger some trauma people have had with an eating disorder, but the way she portrays a working business woman in the 80’s, with all the references to exercise trends, clothing, foods, is really well done without being preachy or grating. Also, big shout out to Zooey Deschanel, whose portrayal of a zany character was so great.

Big Door Prize – the show was kind of a sleeper but I thought it was really good. Chris O’Dowd is really hilarious in an understated way, and Josh Segarra was so great as the almost-successful hockey player-has been. I still can’t really figure out what is going with the plot, show but it’s a good show!

Hijack – this Idris Elba show was so good, but it’s really suspenseful, so don’t watch it if you don’t like being stressed out.

Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields – this is an amazing documentary about Brooke Shields and how she grew up in the public eye in the 70’s & 80’s. I grew up the same time as Brooke, so all the footage of her childhood was a trip down memory lane for me, only this time I realized how incredibly exploited she was by almost everyone in her life. She handled every single man, woman, TV star, movie star, interviewer, journalist, etc… with such grace and respect, even though they were all usually acting like massive creeps. (Looking at you, Bob Hope.)It’s incredible how she turned out so well adjusted, because she seems like a really cool person.

WHAM! documentary – I’m a big George Michael & Wham! fan, and this documentary  was really well done and very sweet. It showed how incredibly talented and driven George Michael and Andrew Ridgely were. I especially loved how tormented George Michael was when he knew that his song “Last Christmas” wasn’t going to be the number one Christmas song because Band Aid would knock it off of its 1st place space, even though he was also on that song. But I especially loved the sweet friendship they had, and it makes me sad that Yog died way too young.

Sukhdev Sandhu (Photo: Gail O’Hara)

Sukhdev Sandhu (English professor, critic, event creator, and CF contributor/MC)

* Chiara Ambrosio is one of the most teeming, tireless people I know. She lives in London, is a writer and an artist and a filmmaker and a puppeteer and a publisher, and champions that which deserves championing. In this year alone: a linocut response to Yannis Ritsos’s MonochordsThe Book of Raft – a companion to an upcoming film championing cultural hubs/ holdouts in London; a wonderful event at The Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury – which featured broom-dancing children, Kurdish singing and mulled wine-enhanced wassailing deep into the December night.

* I’m not sure if Mike Rubin ever sleeps. Almost every night he ranges across New York, shows in places both lofty and busted, often attending more than one event – jazz, hip hop, soul and post-soul, mangled electronica, beats from all across the world. He documents these fastidiously, making sure musicians and performers are properly credited, and flagging them up on his crucial Instagram page. It’s a wonderful resource and, in the words of the Caught by the River magazine, ”an antidote to indifference”.

* Archive Books. These days, every bookshop, big or small, cussedly individual or corporate, deserves at least two cheers. And then there’s Archive Books in Marylebone, London. It’s hard enough to get inside, far less glide down its aisles. There’s no space – except to wonder. Its shelves tower and teeter. Edwardiana for a couple of quid. Cricketing autobiographies, collected journalism of long-forgotten Fleet Strack hacks, self-published cookery books, an Aladdin’s cave of a basement crammed with music scores. Impossible to leave, most likely hours later, without a couple of bags of unknown pleasures in hand.

* There are more famous names in food journalism, but Sheila Dillon is in a league of her own. Since the late 1980s, she’s been reporting for – and later presenting – BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme. Week after week, with clarity and dry wit, she has kept listeners in the now about topics such as the baneful power of the big supermarket chains, the BSE scandal, the fall of Communism’s impact on Russian food systems. Never talking down, pretending to be our pal, or following critical fashions, she is a truly great broadcaster.

* I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. If England still exists, it’s here in this BBC Radio 4 panel show that’s been running since 1972. Its first host was jazzbo Humphrey Lyttelton, about whom Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood said, “Without his direction, we’d never have recorded/ released ‘Life in a Glasshouse.” One of the programme’s quizzes – Mornington Crescent – is as recondite as any Fall lyric. Another – ‘Uxbridge English Dictionary’ – requires contestants to supply new definitions for existing terms; among those proposed in the Christmas 2024 edition were “aspic: disgusting habit”; “jacuzzi: French for ‘I blame myself'”, and “criteria: cafe for sad people”.

* Radio – live, now, happenstance – is still a thrill. My favourites are Andres Lokko on Sveriges Radio – 2pm every Sunday. Kevin Pearce-style Modernism forever! And Jack Rollo, half of Time Is Away, helming The Early Bird Show on Fridays from 7-9am. Aching folk, glassy ambient techno, worlds of echo, a hush and a huddle for everyone who’s just about made it through another week.

* Back in March, I was lucky enough to be allowed to stage a screening, the first in North America, of Being Mavis Nicholson. How I adored the Welsh TV interviewer when I was younger. So curious, warm, intelligent. She called herself “a natural gasser”. The documentary’s director Carolynn Hitt was closer to the truth: “When a conversation is good, you’re so engrossed in it, it’s like a blanket going round you both…”

* Art galleries: take them away. Too many pious shows, lumpy wall-text, the visitors samey-same. I’ve been going, more and more, to museums. More history, sense of place, modesty. More ‘there’ there. Among my favourites this year the Stadsmuseet in Stockholm, the Franziskaner Museum in Villingen (particularly the spectacularly alarming masks and colourful costumes associated with the annual Fastnacht festivities in southern Germany), and the KattenKabinet in Amsterdam Bob Meijer founded in 1990 to celebrate feline portraiture. There are sleepy cats in some of the townhouse rooms and in the garden. Everything about the place is purr-worthy.

* Monica Zetterlund and Sivuca performing together. That scarf!

* East Broadway, New York City. When you want to get away, when you want to stay, when you want to feel like you’re somewhere: East Broadway – in the autumn, Thursday afternoons, breezes and leaf-carpeted sidewalk. Stay outside, go inside – it doesn’t matter. Carol’s Bun, Ritualarium, The House of Sages. Walk your blues, walk into blue, walk off your blues.

As always: The Style Council, ‘It’s A Very Deep Sea’; Woo, ‘This Love Affair’; Kevin Ayers, ‘May I?’; Nico Fidenco, ‘Ligados’. But also: Erlend Øye & La Comitiva, ‘Mornings and Afternoons’; The Embassy, ‘Escape’; Guy Cabay, ‘Pôve Tièsse’; Romy, ‘She’s On My Mind’.

Gail O’Hara / CF editor/photographer’s ten songs stuck in my head:

The Zombies, “This Will Be Our Year”

Gene Wilder, “Pure Imagination”

“I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”

Little River Band, “Reminiscing” (because…karaoke)

Bee Gees, “How Deep Is Your Love”

Cynthia Erivo, “Alfie”

“Fairytale of New York” (because … karaoke and RIP, Shane, my old neighbor)

She and Him, “I Thought I Saw Your Face Today”

The Clientele, “Lady Gray”

All year: Connie Lovatt with Bill Callahan, “Kid”

Things I’m looking forward to: New Softies and Umbrellas albums, Heavenly and 69LS shows

Pete Paphides (Photo: Gail O)

Pete Paphides (author, critic, Needle Mythology records)

Condiment/seasoning of 2023: Vegan Smoky Bacon Nooch by Notorious Nooch Co.

Protein shake of 2023: Milk (semi-skimmed or oat), peanut butter, whey powder, one frozen banana, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, almonds. Blend. Drink. Oh my god.

Sandwich of 2023: The simple tomato sandwich. Trust me. Nothing else. Just some buttered bread and a sliced room-temperature tomato with a dash of salt.

Various artists anthology of 2023: Disco Discharge presents Box Of Sin. A four LP soundtrack to the gay clubbing experience of the 80s.

Single artist anthology of 2023: The Teardrop Explodes: The Teardrop Explodes: Culture Bunker 1978-1982

Music memoir of of 2023: Paul Simpson: Revolutionary Spirit – A Post-Punk Exorcism

Memoir of 2023: John Niven: O Brother

Most heroic, articulate and humane corrective to toxic masculinity of 2023: Caitlin Moran: What About Men?

Late to the party TV experience of 2023 (i): Better Call Saul

Late to the party TV experience of 2023 (ii): Season one of Fargo, especially Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo

Cereal of 2023: Robert Forster’s Spring Grain muesli

Football (soccer) hero of 2023: Spurs manager Ange Postecoglou in the interview after losing to Chelsea with two men sent off and refusing, on point of principle, to adjust to a defensive formation in order to avoid being pummelled by their eleven man opponents: “It’s just who we are, mate. As long as I’m here, that’s what we’re going to do. ‘Even with five men, we’ll have a go.’”

Carb replacement of 2023: Edamame spaghetti.

Gig of 2023, not including gigs by humans I had a hand in making: The Northern Soul Proms at The Royal Albert Hall; The Soup Dragons at Electric Ballroom; The Bluebells at Glasgow St Lukes

Gig of 2023, including gigs by humans I had a hand in making: Eaves Wilder’s last-minute set on the second stage at Glastonbury (replacing the also-brilliant Japanese Breakfast, who were/was stuck in transit).

Song of 2023, not including songs by humans I had a hand in making or artists whose album was released on my label: Nadine Shah: Topless Mother

Song of 2023, including songs by humans I had a hand in making: Eaves Wilder: Freefall. Literally my most played song of the year

Song of 2023, including songs by artists whose album was released on my label: Iraina Mancini: Cannonball. Or maybe this was my most played song. It’s close.

Album of 2023, including albums released on my label: Iraina Mancini: Undo The Blue.

Album of 2023, not including albums released on my label: Grian Chatten: Chaos For The Fly; Beatowls: Marma; Mitski: The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We

Exhibition of 2023: Women In Revolt!, Tate Britain

Parental pride moments of 2023: Seeing the results of Dora Paphides’ astonishing work for The Last Dinner Party’s My Lady Of Mercy, Fred Roberts’ Say and Chinchilla’s Cut You Off; Running along Brighton seafront to a Eaves Wilder’s just-released Hookey EP and thinking my heart was about burst (in an utterly wonderful way).

Inspired musical collision of 2023: John Douglas from Trashcan Sinatras on my Soho Radio show, creating a brand new acoustic accompaniment to the vocal of Stormzy’s Firebabe.

Lazarus-style return of 2023: The Bathers: Sirenesque

Label of 2023: Last Night From Glasgow

Drink of 2023: Sainsbury’s own brand peach iced tea. And you can have as much as you want because zero calories

Meet your heroes pinch-me moment of 2023: Interviewing Chrissie Hynde for Record Collector. I was told one hour. Three hours later, I left and somehow my car hadn’t been clamped or ticketed.

Best album recommended to me by one of my heroes: When I got to Chrissie Hynde’s apartment, she played me Spooky Two by Spooky Tooth. The first thing I had to do after I left was locate a copy.

Chocolate of 2023: Snacksy Raw Chocolate with Ginger

Cake of the year: McVities Jamaica Ginger Cake with Madagascan Vanilla Custard. In a teacup or mug, eaten with a teaspoon. Whilst watching Great British Bake-Off on the sofa.

Belated realisation of 2023: Boiled eggs make great hand warmers + once you’ve warmed your hands on them, you can eat them.

Record I Didn’t Realise I Most Needed In 2023: dEUS: How To Replace It

Most perplexingly ignored album of 2023: Keaton Henson: House Party

Best Instruction Given By An Artist When Telling Their Band How To Play Their Songs During The Recording Of An Album: “Just try and channel the soundtrack of Ten Things I Hate About You” – Keaton Henson

Big-hearted, perfectly judged, very very very funny movie of 2023: No Hard Feelings. Jennifer Lawrence and Andrew Barth Feldman both just utterly perfect in it.

Andrew Bulhak (music writer, DJ) Top Songs of 2023 (not necessarily in this order):
Emma Anderson – Clusters
the bv’s – warp
Hot Coppers – Hot Coppers
Jimmy Whispers – Ice Cream Truck
Lael Neale – I Am The River
Leah Senior – The Music That I Make
Pickle Darling – Kinds of Love
Slowdive – Kisses
Spearmint – tell me about my sister
Spunsugar – Metals
Strawberry Runners – Circle Circle
yeule – dazies

Borrowed from https://www.instagram.com/macsuperchunk/

Mac McCaughan (Superchunk, Merge Records): Fave Reissue / Archival Releases of 2023
Pharoah Sanders – Pharoah (Luaka Bop)
Reissue of an album by the jazz giant we lost last year that you pretty much just had to listen to on YouTube until now unless you had hundreds of dollars for an original copy. The music (incl a bonus LP of unrelease live performances) is amazing and the package includes a booklet, photographs, flyer reproductions and other ephemera.
Chin Chin – Cry In Vain (Sealed Records)
My fault for not knowing about this incredible all-girl Swiss punk group from the 80s. Amazing songs which remind me of a slightly more aggro Look Blue Go Purple. Can’t stop listening!
Milford Graves / Arthur Doyle / Hugh Glover – Children of the Forest (The Black Editions)
The Black Editions label has uncorked a flow of powerful free jazz archival releases over the last few years and this previously unreleased home-recorded by Graves performance from 1976 is essential. The world will be catching up with Milford Graves forever i think.
Masayuki Takayanagi – Mass Hysterism In Another Situation (The Black Editions)
Electric guitar destruction from ’83 and a two-guitar & drums trio led by Takayanagi. Massive.
Milford Graves / Don Pullen – The Complete Yale Concert 1966 (Corbett Vs Dempsey)
Speaking of Milford Graves, i keep trying to imagine what the audience expected / what they got when they attended this intense performance in 1966… Long out of print and lovingly put back together by the fine people at Corbett Vs Dempsey.
Arthur Russell – Picture of Bunny Rabbit (Rough Trade)
The Arthur Russell archive may be bottomless but if it’s all as listenable as what’s been excavated so far I hope they keep it coming.
Hiroshi Yoshimura – Surround (Light In The Attic)
“Environmental music” commissioned by a home builder to play in their living spaces or something like that… recorded the same year as one my favorite ambient records ever, Yoshimura’s Green LP and never reissued before, Surround is as liquid and beautiful as the sleeve suggests.
 
John Coltrane – Evenings At The Village Gate: John Coltrane with Eric Dolphy (Impulse)
 
Minor Threat – Out of Step Outtakes 7″ (Dischord)
The titles of these two releases tell you all you need to know!

2023 chickfactor lists, round two

Photo by Harmony Reynolds

The Umbrellas’ Top 10 San Francisco Date Spots
Hey… February is right around the corner… Love is in the air… Wink wink!1. Musée Mécanique
2. Vesuvio Cafe, City Lights and an Italian dinner
3. Top of the Mark
4. Lands End/ Sutro Baths
5. Audium, and THEN Tommy’s Joynt
6. Free Gold Watch
7. Royal Cuckoo on Sundays
8. Conservatory of Flowers
9. A cable car ride with a tallcan!
10. Giants game at Oracle Park

image courtesy of Theresa Kereakes

Theresa Kereakes, punk photographer and historian
When I was a kid, I recall reading a column in TV Guide called “Cheers & Jeers,” and I think that’s what 2023 calls for….

Cheers:
The World According to Joan Didion by Evelyn McDonnell.

All my dots connected in this book – California, women writers, inadvertent movers & shakers. The intellectual rigor combined with passion for their respective subject matters from both the author and her subject make this book a must-read. I don’t want it to end. More than a biography, it is a consideration of the times, and how Didion lived and wrote in them.

Maestro – believe it or not! If you know me in real life, you know I am no fan of Bradley Cooper and a huge fan of Leonard Bernstein. With low expectations, I watched it and was not disappointed. I don’t care that Cooper is not Jewish and he wore a prosthetic nose. Movies are smoke and mirrors and if one chooses to criticize on this point, then criticize the superb Irish actor, Liam Neeson for portraying the German Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List. Bottom line: for a mainstream movie featuring the movie star as actor and director, this was most serviceable and Lenny is introduced to a whole new audience.

Tim: Let it Be Edition – The Replacements. My favorite album of 2023 is a reissue of an 80s record, remastered to sound the way it should. It’s perfect.

Eddie Izzard- The Rewind Tour. It was a delightful time hearing the old sketches and how prescient Izzard’s comedy was in the 80s. Dress to Kill is probably still my favorite stand up performance by anyone- seeing a reprise of “Tea & cake or death?” made my night.

The Algonquin Cat – best thing about Midtown Manhattan- the historic hotel has a cat. His name is Hamlet and whenever I am in NYC, I stop by the hotel JUST FOR THE CAT!

Jeers:
War
Barbie – subtle as a flying mallet
Media coverage of Taylor Swift’s dating life
For me, the overall vibe of 2023 is “hurry up 2024,” and I dream of more interesting times.

Top 8 shows Seablite went to in 2023
Sweeping Promises – The Chapel, San Francisco (LM)
Underworld – The Warfield, San Francisco (LM)
The Charlatans and Ride – The Fillmore, San Francisco (GT)
Suede – O2 Academy, Glasgow (GT)
Love and Rockets – Fox Theater, Oakland (JM)
Patti Smith – Golden State Theatre, Monterey (JM)
Mo Dotti – Permanent Records, Los Angeles (AP)

Aluminum – The Makeout Room, San Francisco (AP)

Papa Slumber (right) with Nommi and Gaylord, London, 2022 (photo: Gail O’Hara)

Papa Slumber’s Lucky 13
01 Joe Armon-Jones & Maxwell Owin – Archetype (Aquarii)
02 Autocamper – You Look Fabulous! (Discontinuous Innovation)
03 Nat Birchall – The Infinite (Ancient Archive of Sound)
04 The Clientele – I Am Not There Anymore (Merge)
05 John Haycock – Dorian Portrait (Second Thoughts Records)
06 Kode9 / Burial – Infirmary / Unknown Summer (Fabric)
07 The Lost Days – In The Store (Speakeasy Studios)
08 Malombo Jazz Makers – Down Lucky’s Way (Tapestry Works)
09 Primal Scream – Reverberations (Travelling In Time) BBC Radio Sessions & Creation Singles 1985-86 (Young Tiki)
10 The Southern University Jazz Ensemble – Goes To Africa With Love (Now Again)
11 Sam Wilkes & Jacob Mann – Perform The Compositions Of Sam Wilkes & Jacob Mann (Leaving Records)
12 Yaw Evans – The Bits (GD4YA)
13 The Oakland Weekender – great music, great friends, can’t wait to do it again!

Jennifer O’Connor’s favorite records
MeShell Ndegeocello – The Omnichord Real Book (Blue Note)
Steve Gunn & David Moore – Reflections Vol. 1: Let the Moon Be a Planet (RVNG Intl.)
Emahoy Tsege-Mariam Gebru – Jerusalem (Missippippi Records)
Armand Hammer – We Buy Diabetic Test Strips (Fat Possum)
Feist – Multitudes (Polydor)
King Krule – Space Heavy (Matador)
Meg Baird – Furling (Drag City)
Roge – Curyman (Diamond West)
Everything But The Girl – Fuse (Buzzin’ Fly/Virgin)
Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable And So Are We (Dead Oceans)

Rachel Blumberg (drummer): Top Ten Portland Area Pooches Who Have Spent Time At Our Humble Abode, The Two Fir in 2023…
1. Winnie Dean Underberg!  We adopted her in November and shortly thereafter learned she is a purebred McNab! Whoever knows what this is without googling it wins a prize. She is so sweet and super smart and we love her so much.
2. Arrow, fur child of Sarah Fennel (Night Brunch) and Matt Sheehy (Lostlander).
3. Tizate, also known as Sweet T, fur child of Joanna Bolme (many, many bands and also Reverse Cowgirl, the country cover band we both play in along with Rebecca Cole), and Gary Jarman (The Cribs). Sweet T quickly made her way to our heart with her snuggling ways and “dead bug in the sun” pose. She came to Joanna and Gary through Street Dog Hero, a great dog rescue organization based in Bend, OR.
4. Ringo, fur child of Adam Selzer (M.Ward, Norfolk & Western, Type Foundry Recording Studio). He is super smart and recently Adam discovered the most hilarious thing. Sometimes his recently baked sourdough bread would go missing. He could never find the missing bags that held said sourdough, until a few weeks ago he found a stash of  plastic bags hidden behind the cherry tree in the corner of their yard!  RIngo was hiding them there after eating the bread!
5. Sal, fur child of Sam Farrell (Fronjentress, Graves, Curly Cassettes, Family Reunion Music Festival) and Sarah Paradis ( Cush Upholstery)
6. Rankin, fur child of Rankin Renwick (Oregon Department of Kick Ass)
7. Oney, fur child of Cory Gray (Old Unconscious, Graves, Federale) and Nicky Kriara (Niko Far West Ceramics).
8. Bella, my sister’s pup, who is a golden sweetheart.
9. Sufi, my cousin’s pup. Tall elegant black poodle with sweet eyes.
10. Sparky,my father’s pup.
Cheers to these 13 wonderful  Music Related Things of 2023 that I either played  or enjoyed from the audience!
1. All Girl Summer Fun Band/Lunchbox/Field Drums summer house show in our basement!.
2. Your Heart Breaks/Matt Sheehy Magic Event/Cynthia Nelson Band house show in our courtyard!
3. Multiple shows and tours  and recording and releasing a new record (Villagers!) with Califone!
4. Friday night happy hour shows at the Laurelthirst drumming with Michael Hurley!
5. Two shows at Turn Turn Turn! with Field Drums, the first featuring Jeffrey’s songs based on Shel Silverstein poems, and the second with our new bass player!  Recording in 2024 is the goal!
6. Drumming and singing with the Cynthia Nelson Band at our house hosw and at Turn Turn Turn! on many several occasions!
7. Playing with Old Unconscious at the Curly Cassette Family Reunion Music Festival at Camp Wilkerson in August.  Playing with GSO there too!
8. Reverse Cowgirl shows and rehearsals. SO fun. Country dance covers with a band of ringers  (Joanna Bolme, Rebecca Cole, Anita Elliot and Arrin Schoedinger)
9. ESG at Polaris Hall!
10. The Papercuts at Mississippi Studios!
11. The Softies at Polaris Hall!
12. Quasi at The Doug Fir!
13. Yo La Tengo (two nights) at The Wonder Ballroom!

Michael Azerrad (author): Ten Best Vegetables of 2023
Puntarelle
Castelfranco radicchio
Salad Bowl lettuce
Sugar Snap peas
Leeks
Corn
Shishito peppers
La Ratte fingerling potatoes
Brussels sprouts
Fiddlehead ferns

CF contributor Julie Underwood’s Top 10 Albums: 

  1. boygenius – the record
  2. Olivia Rodrigo – Guts
  3. SZA – SOS
  4. Mitski – The Land Is Inhospitable and So Are We
  5. L’Rain – I Killed Your Dog
  6. Girl Ray – Prestige
  7. The Tubs – Dead Meat
  8. The Reds, Pinks and Purples – The Town That Cursed Your Name
  9. En Attendant Ana – Principia
  10. Jess Williamson – Time Ain’t Accidental

Lyle Hysen (the Royal Arctic Institute, Das Damen):

“Slow Horses”
“Showing Up”
A History Of Rock Music In 500 Songs
“Godzilla Minus One”
“Eretz Nehederet/A Wonderful County”
Bun E’s Basement Bootlegs
Dapper Goose – Buffalo restaurant
Make It Stop by Jim Ruland  
I Must Be Dreaming by Roz Chast (that is findable!)
The Adventurists by Richard Butner (ok that was 2022)

Thomas Mosher (My Lil Underground label, A Certain Smile):
Top 10 Daycare Plagues we survived this year:
1) Covid (again) [all of us]
2) RSV (all of us)
3) Hand, Foot, and Mouth (Me and Tilly)
4) Influenza A (Me and Tilly so far)
5) Ear Infection (just Tilly)
6) Sinus infection (Me from RSV)
7) double bout of Food Poisoning (Me and Justine)
8) Medication Allergy Rash (Just Tilly)
9) at least half a dozen colds (all of us)
10) there is still 4 days so we will see…

Photo via Shawn B

(OG CF cartoonist) Shawn Belschwender’s Best 2023 “New to Me” Reading discoveries:

  1. Lolly Willowes by Sylvia Townsend Warner (1926). Title character is tired of being a dependable aunt. In midlife, moves to a remote village. Joins a coven. Speaks to the Devil himself and discovers him to be rather stupid, but also, and more importantly, that he will leave her alone. From the Devil, and even the well-meaning, Lolly Willowes wishes to escape.
  2. Lynne Tillman. You’ll know whether or not you’ll like Lynne Tillman if you read her “By the Book” in the NYTimes, as I did. I thought it was one of the best of those things they’ve published. This year I picked up and read What Would Lynne Tillman Do? (a collection of her nonfiction, from 2014) and her novel Men and Apparitions (2018), in which she diagnoses us, through her ethnographer narrator, as The Picture People. Men and Apparitions is about images and their place in our lives, and men and their place in the world after/under feminism. Next Tillman book I am going to track down and read: Weird Fucks.

Some of the tracks I listened to the most in 2023:

  • “A Sleep With No Dreaming,” k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang, from their album Sing it Loud (2011). Possibly my favorite track on definitely my favorite k.d. lang album, which I think is a tour de force. I got into k.d. lang that first pandemic summer, when I was coming unglued, but it took me until this year to hook on to this album in particular, hard.
  • “If I Could Breathe Underwater (feat. Mary Lattimore), Marissa Nadler, from her album The Path of Clouds (2021). I would insist that this is objectively Marissa Nadler’s best song. That it features another of my favorite musicians, Mary Lattimore, is a bonus. I saw Mary Lattimore at The Colony in Woodstock, NY in 2022, and it is one of the concert-going highlights of my life. Anyway, I built a “Summer” playlist around this track and the k.d. lang above, I love them both so much.
  • If you want to talk masterpieces, that Purple Mountains album is one, and the death of David Berman is a tragedy, I don’t need to tell you. I listened to “Nights That Won’t Happen” from it the most.
  • I was confused when Saint Etienne was at its peak, owing to the Fox Base Alpha album cover, which made them look like they were Camera Obscura only not good (I like Camera Obscura). There was just too much knitwear for me to digest, at the moment. Finally, I downloaded all the Saint Etienne, and now I can’t get enough of “Nothing Can Stop Us.” I was then thrilled to stumble upon the Dusty Springfield track it samples from (“I Can’t Wait Until I See My Baby’s Face”).
  • “Au début c’était le début (feat. Bertrand Belin)”, The Limiñanas & Laurent Garnier, from the album De Película (2021). One day, before I die or they die, I wish to travel to France specifically to see The Limiñanas and Bertrand Belin perform, separately or together. If I could only see one, it would be Bertrand Belin. Sadly, I can’t find my fellow Belin Heads in the USA, and Limiñanas freaks are thin on the ground here, so I understand that I have to go to them.
  • “Anti-glory” by Horsegirl, from Versions of Modern Performance (2022). Wouldn’t have known about them if Gail O’Hara hadn’t alerted me to their existence. I missed a chance to meet ’em and take their picture, but it was the second pandemic spring and I was in the process of moving and falling fully apart. Are they referencing Conan O’Brien in this? Or the Barbarian? I don’t know what the lyrics mean, but I don’t care too much.
  • “Billy Jack,” Curtis Mayfield, from There’s No Place Like America Today (1975). It was written after that embarrassing movie Billy Jack, but it has nothing to do with it. “Ah, it can’t be no fun / Can’t be no fun / To be shot, shot with a handgun.” This is true. Peak Mayfield I’d known nothing about until this year.

chickfactor friends 2023 lists, round one

image courtesy of Alicia

Alicia Vanden Heuvel (Speakeasy Studios, The Aislers Set, Poundsign, Brigid Dawson and the Mothers Network):
My “2023 Top Ten Songs that Ripped by Heart Out”:
“Love is Overrated” by Lightheaded
“This Job Is Killing Me” by the Telephone Numbers
“For Today” by The Lost Days
“Shadow” by Ryan Wong
“Perfect Worlds” by Tony Jay
“Cheap Motel” by Michael James Tapscott
“Holdin’ On” by Anna Hillburg
“Cross Bay” by Meg Baird
“Here We Go Again” by Tony Molina
“Smudge Was A Fly” by Seablite

image courtesy of Kendall

Kendall Jane Meade’s Best IRL Music Experiences of 2023
Experienced the Joan Baez documentary I Am A Noise two nights in a row because she was in attendance at a Q&A after each screening. On the first night, Lana Del Rey led the Q&A and it was so great to see that Lana is a huge fan of Joan’s. She seemed to hold all of the same folk nerd facts about Joan that are also stored in my brain. Just to be in Joan’s presence was spiritual for me, and you could tell Lana felt the same way.

Saw Bonny Doon play at Golddiggers in LA. I have a lot of love for this Detroit-based band, and I loved hearing live versions of songs off of their new album Let There Be Music. Katie Crutchfield from Waxahatchee was also in the audience, and she joined them on a few tunes.

Went with my big sister Merritt to see Willie Nelson’s 90th Birthday concert at the Hollywood Bowl. It was so heartwarming to see so many people pay tribute to Willie including Beck and Keith Richards. My favorite performer of the night was Willie’s youngest son, who performs under the moniker Particle Kid.

Saw my dear old friends Mary Timony and Joan Wasser play in a backyard in Pasadena. So many friends I hadn’t seen in a while were in attendance, and it felt like no time had passed between us. Mary sounded transcendent and was joined by a quartet for a song, and Joan was so moving and entertaining—two ladies I love at the top of their game.

I did a two-week tour of the UK and Scotland, tagging along with songwriter Kris Gruen to promote our single “Heaven on a Car Ride.” We opened for Chuck Prophet and the Mission Express and completely fell in love with that band. Chuck is such a unique songwriter and the whole band are incredible performers, including Stephanie Finch who needs to be on the cover of Chickfactor as she is an incredible pop singer and songwriter in her own right.

Connie Lovatt (photo: Gail O’Hara)

Connie Lovatt’s Top 2023 things
Top Record Label: Enchanté (US)

Top devastating comment by rock critic: the one that compared my work to a viral video of baby ducks.

Top Sound: Bill Callahan going “plink” on a guitar string to bring to life the “wink” done by a character in a new song of his.

Top Coconut Mirror whisperer: Dawn Sutter Madell

Top Walk: From the White House to Georgetown with Ravi.

Top Heartbreak: Saying goodbye to St. Marks apartment.

Top Meal: A chickpea and rice soup my daughter and I love to make and eat when sick or blue.

Top Song: Mom singing anything to me over FaceTime. But she does too many country tunes. Needs to branch out.

Top Joe: Joe Wohlmuth

Top Honey: Avocado Honey. This year and every year.

Top Disgust: Canned Sardines.

Top Pain in the Ass: The leak in roof that could never get fully fixed no matter what anyone did. Have high hopes for a solve in 2024.

Top Image: Our dog in his winter puffy coat. He gets compliments from strangers. It’s that good a fit.

Top Gluten Free Sourdough: Knead Love Bakery.

Top Salad: arugula and sauerkraut. No one believes me.

Lois Maffeo (Photo: Gail O’Hara)

Lois Maffeo: 4 Radio Shows to listen to when you can’t take Marc Riley mansplaining everything on the Riley & Coe show on BBC6.

James McNew on NTS radio. I wish it was on every day.

Don Letts on BBC 6 on Saturday. It was a bit mellower when it was on Sunday, but he still hauls out 70s pop hits that “caught my imagination when I was a youth”. Contemporary dub and Stealers Wheel? Get in!

Night Tracks on BBC 3. Host Hannah Peel has a very quiet voice and faultless taste in off-piste music. Where else would I have found JJJJJerome and an ice orchestra?

And then there’s always good ol’ Gideon Coe when he flies solo on Thursdays on BBC6. Just great tunes and no fuss.

Photo by Riley Artsick

Riley from Artsick Favorites:

Tara Clerkin Trio – On The Turning Ground (music)

Anna Hillburg – Tired Girls (music)

Lightheaded – Good Good Great (music)

Mo Dotti – Blurring / Guided Imagery on Vinyl (music)

8th Day by Cindy Deachmann (art book)

Drive Here and Devastate Me by Megan Falley (poetry) (it didn’t come out in 2023, but it is one of my fav books read from this year)

Handsome Podcast with Tig Notaro, Fortune Feimster and Mae Martin

Show I watched: Rap Shit on MAX

Show I went to: All Girl Summer Fun Band, Kids On A Crime Spree and Tony Jay at Bottom Of The Hill

Show I played: Slumberland Records with Tunnel Records show – The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Chime School, Artsick with DJs Poindexter and Jessica B at The 4 Star Theatre in SF

Fav record store: Redwood Records, Santa Cruz

Award-winning music supervisor Dawn (via Agoraphone’s FBK page)

Dawn Sutter Madell’s top 15 live shows I saw in 2023

dry cleaning at pioneer works

john cale at prospect park

calexico at lpr

black duck at union pool

mosswood meltdown-oakland, ca (esg, avengers, bratmobile, le tigre, quintron and ms pussycat, 5,6,7,8s, morgan and the organ donors, etc)

plantasia at greenwood cemetery (alex zhang hungtai, angel bat dawid, laraaji, etc)

hand habits at webster hall

dromedary festival (das damen, antietam, sleepyhead, versus, etc) -catskill, ny

boygenius at msg

arca at armory

soul glo, zulu at monarch

girl ray at sultan room

frankie cosmos at warsaw

panda bear, sonic boom at knockdown center

mekons at good fork pub

Bridget at Mon Gala Papillons (a chickfactor event), Bush Hall, London, 2004. Photo: Gail O’Hara

Bridget St John: 5 things that have enriched my 2023
American Symphony
American Fiction

Candle Restaurant, NYC

30th Street Guitars
Feldenkrais – functional integration

image nicked from Glenn’s fbk

The Reds, Pinks & Purples favorite albums for 2023!
tested on multiple listens…

Vulture Feather – Liminal Fields

Parker Allen – Melon Kolly/Parker’s First Song Diary

Pumice – Phyllis

Wurld Series – The Giant’s Lawn

Ryan Davis – Dancing on the Edge

Cindy – Why Not Now?

Fortunato Durutti Marinetti – 8 Waves in Search of an Ocean

Truth Club – Running from the Chase

Outer World, from their bandcamp

Tracy and Kenny from Outer World’s list of ten music-related things that have made us very happy in 2023.
In no particular order.

1) Jane & Serge – A Family Album hardcover book from 2013, long out of print, but discovered in a local bookstore this year. It comes with so many fun bonus items: poster, sticker sheet, booklet, contact sheets, and photo prints.

2) Yogasleep Dohm Classic white noise sound machine to help with tinnitus ringing at bedtime. It is an actual small fan creating the relaxing sound of moving air so there isn’t a digital looping sample that can be troubling for musicians with a keen ear. For touring musicians – it is also relatively portable and helps to drown out snoring members.

3) Yoshitomo Nara Drumming Girl collectible figure #3

4) Apple AirPods

5) The Ekdahl Moisturizer from Knas is a spring reverb unit with exposed strings for manually manipulable sonic noise making

6) The Teenage Engineering K.O. II does it all: sample, sequence, compose, records sounds, loops, includes fun filters + stereo effects, compressor, and is super portable.

7) John Waters X Seth Bogart Pope of Trash socks from the Academy Museum exhibit in Los Angeles.

8) Custom color palette Shure SM58 microphone

9) The Buddha Box 1 2023 edition from FM3 (reissue)

10) BiLLY LiLLY’s Kate and Cindy sensational paintings on wood.

Jeffrey Underhill (right, with pals, HoneyBunch, Velvet Crush, Field Drums):
10 loosely chronological things that made my year.
1. The Island of Hawaii
2. The February 22nd snow storm.*
3. Velvet Crush Teenage Symphonies to God re-issue/Spanish tour
4. Michael Hurley & the Croakers last Friday shows at the Laurelthirst*
5. FieldDrums/Lunch Box/All Girl Summer Fun Band at The 2-Fir*
6. The 48 hour Drag-a-Thon at Darcelle XV*
7. The Family Reunion Festival July 27-29, in Rainier OR.
8. The entire month I turned 60.
9. All of the foods on and just off of 82nd Ave.*
10. Winnie Dean UnderBerg
*in Portland, OR

chickfactor’s holiday gift guide

Capitalism is evil! But you can still support artists, musicians, photographers, and small businesses by using our handy holiday (or anytime) gift guide! We want everything here and you will too. 

Great book where women get to speak! By Audrey Golden

 

Amazing looking book about some trailblazers

Preorder Mary’s new one and get a slip mat

Cool shades from a fabulous American band

Disco ball pendant from Tatty Devine

I got to visit Hatch earlier this year and I want it all. 

Book about influential New Zealand label with wonderful photo of Hamish on the cover

Memoir from a living legend! 

Memoir from another living legend!

Great looking oral history!

Get it from a great Chicago record store

Belle and Sebastian book of lyrics

Beautiful BBC Radio Sessions from Dolly Mixture

Nowhere New York gorgeous photo book by Julia Gorton

Saint Etienne hoodie

Budget gift: Clean stickers for $5

Certainly one of the most beautiful holiday records ever made.

This one really makes me sigh: Adrian Tomine Prints

Recently excerpted on our site and selling fast! 

Thom Bell was a genius and the Spinners one of my favorite bands! 

Ace looking new book from Chris Stein! 

of course zines make great gifts too!