When we put The Softies on the cover of chickfactor 18 back in 2018, we had no idea they would be coming back together to MAKE A NEW ALBUM and TOUR! Just a few weeks before Rose Melberg and Jen Sbragia set out to play a short Pacific Northwest tour with Tony Molina and All Girl Summer Fun Band and Mo Troper, we asked them a few questions about how this all came to happen. The split cassette tape in the images below features the Softies covering Tony’s entire album Dissed and Dismissed and Tony covering three Softies tunes, will be available at the upcoming shows and is being co-released by Slumberland Records and Alicia Vanden Heuvel’s (Poundsign, the Aislers Set) label Speakeasy Studios. Interview by Gail
Chickfactor: Why Tony Molina? Jen Sbragia: I first heard Dissed and Dismissed when Rose played it for me in her kitchen, in 2017. At the time I wasn’t listening to any new music really and was just focused on other stuff. I was blown away because of the genre-blending and was a little jealous I hadn’t thought of it first! I just thought it was a genius blend of my two favorite kinds of music—crunchy, squealy, distorted guitars and perfect pop. Not to be too dramatic, but that record changed my life. Rose Melberg: As Northern California natives, Jen and I both feel a deep connection to the California-ness of Tony’s music. It’s difficult to put a finger on what that means, it’s just a special kind of magic for us.
How did you guys and Tony M. know each other? Rose: We had been in touch as mutual fans of each other’s work but only met in person the first time when Tony played in Vancouver in 2019. He and his band stayed at my house and he and I stayed up talking until 5am on my porch talking about life, music, songs, etc. There’s nothing like watching the sun rise together to solidify a friendship forever Jen: We met in person at the Oakland Weekender, but had been texting each other about music and guitar stuff. I got his number from Mike Schulman, because Tony isn’t on any social media and I just wanted to introduce myself as a label mate, make that connection, and to gush about how much I loved his music. It was funny and weird that we were all big fans of each other. There were loose plans for me to sing with him at the Weekender during his secret/surprise set, but it didn’t work out. I joked that we should collaborate and release a split 7″ on Slumberland so we could “play this thing next year”. And weirdly, something very similar is happening.
How did this mini tour / new tape come about? Jen: He just texted me and asked if we wanted to play some PNW shows, simple as that. I wasn’t sure which band would work but then it became both Softies and AGSFB. The cassette was Mike and Alicia’s idea.
Please explain what the record is, what format, how people can get it, etc. Jen: It will be a cassette-only release, available at the merch table. Co-released by Slumberland and Speakeasy Studios.
If you are willing to say anything, what is going on with the Softies? Rose: We’re writing new songs and will be putting out a new album in 2024.
New recording? Record deal? Shows? Etc. Rose + Jen: All of the above!
How has your songwriting (style, content, tools, etc.) changed from the olden days? Jen: Attending the Oakland Weekender after so long in quarantine was huge for me. Not only just traveling again and seeing old friends and live bands, but the prep I put in beforehand of researching all the bands and listening to new music again so that I would know the songs and be extra excited to see them played live. After I came home, I felt such renewed excitement about playing music again for the first time in years and my creativity sort of exploded. I started playing guitar every day, writing little riffs and bits of lyrics and songs, and shared the more Softies-esque ones with Rose. She is the true mastermind IMHO. She took those ideas and we made whole songs. She’s writing too, of course. So these new songs are more collaborative than ever before.
We have had several songwriting trips over the past year where we traveled here and there to work on music. Often we would meet in Seattle because it’s a pretty good halfway point between Vancouver and Portland. We have been recording our new songs in demo format so we can each work remotely using Garageband, but we have time booked at Anacortes Unknown over the summer to record our new record.
Can we expect to hear new stuff at the shows? Jen: There are definitely some new ones on the set list.
What else is happening? Jen: Mostly practice! I agreed to do double duty, (which I have done before, Softies and AGSFB toured California 24-ish years ago) It never occurred to me that it might be too much for me presently—I was too excited. So now, that equals a LOT of practice. Practice is my middle name right now. But I couldn’t be happier. CF
chickfactor 18 with the Softies on the cover is still available in our shop as well as various other outlets including Quimby’s, K Recs, Jigsaw, My Vinyl Underground, Record Grouch, Main St. Beat, Grimey’s, Atomic Books, among others.
Since Portland’s All Girl Summer Fun Band originally formed just to be a band during the summer of 1998, it’s pretty incredible that they are playing live in the summer of 2023. Now playing together as a trio (bassist Ari Douangpanya left in 2005 to focus on raising her son), AGSFB is now OGs Jen Sbragia, Kathy Foster and Kim Baxter. During the pandemic, Jen and Kim started playing together for fun, while Kathy leads a band called Roseblood and plays with Hurry Up and Slang as well. Since they kind of formed thanks to a Softies show way back when, it’s so great that the two bands will be playing together in early June (see flier below) in the Pacific Northwest! We are so excited to present a brand-new interview with AGSFB, who were featured in chickfactor 15 (2002) and played at our 10th anniversary soiree at Fez the same year. Interview by Gail O’Hara / Photos courtesy of All Girl Summer Fun Band
Chickfactor: what years were All Girl Summer Fun Band in action back then? Jen Sbragia (she/her): Summer of 1998 until our most recent show – May of 2010 at the SF Popfest (thanks, SongKick… I had no idea) Kim Baxter (she/her): It’s so crazy that it’s been 13 years since we last played! When Kathy, Jen and I recently got together to practice for these upcoming shows, it felt like no time had passed at all. It was a pretty magical feeling, I didn’t realize just how much I had missed playing with them.
What is the current AGSFB lineup? Jen: Myself, Kathy, and Kim Kim: People have been asking us why Ari isn’t playing these shows. She actually left the band in 2005 to raise her son, so AGSFB has been a 3-piece band ever since then. We are all still very good friends with her!
What was the impetus for starting up again? Jen: Kim and I have been playing together over the pandemic, outside in her covered breezeway between her house and her practice space. We were just doing it for fun, to flex those old music muscles again and chat and just interact with each other in person while taking care not to give each other any possible germs. Then Tony Molina asked us to play in June. We were excited to ask Kathy to join us, she said yes and we all got back together to practice, in the actual practice space.
How long have you been secretly playing together in recent years? Jen: Not secretly! Just spending time together in person and playing some old tunes and writing some new stuff. Seeing what happens.
How did you guys originally meet? Jen: I met Kim when her band Cherry Ice Cream Smile played with the Softies at Thee O Cafe in Portland, June 1997. She gave me her band’s cassette. Rose and I listened to it a ton as we drove across the US and back. I was like, I gotta hang out with this person and start a band. Kim: I was a huge fan of the Softies so getting to play a show with them and being able to give them a tape of my band was a big deal. But then they actually called me from the road and left me a message on my answering machine saying that they loved the tape and that I should hang out with Jen when she gets back from tour. I was over the moon! I actually still have the microcassette with that message from my answering machine. Jen & I instantly became good friends. A year later, Kathy moved to Portland from California, and we hit it off right away. The two of us recorded a couple of songs on my four track which eventually became two of the first AGSFB songs, “Broken Crown” and “Will I See You.” Ari and I both grew up in Albuquerque, NM, but didn’t become friends until she moved to Portland. I asked the 3 of them if they wanted to be in a band for the summer of 1998 and described it as an all-girl-summer-fun-band. No pressure, just a goofy & fun band. I was leaving to go to school in Russia that fall and figured it would be a project just for the summer. But we all decided to continue playing when I got home, and here we are, 85 years later, still a band! Ha! Kathy Foster (she/her): Yes Kim brought us all together. She was one of the very first people I met (and stayed with) when I moved to Portland in May of 1998. I knew her then-boyfriend/now-husband from the Bay Area. We clicked right away and became friends. Soon after, we started AGSFB. As I remember it, Kim told me I was in a new band with her, Jen and Ari. Haha. And I said OK! I, too was a huge Softies fan and was stoked to play with Jen. Even though I had just met the three of them, we all had so much fun together right from the start!
What were some highlights and memories from the old days? Jen: Spending half of practice just standing around with instruments plugged in and ready to go but then we’re just catching up, chatting, laughing. Getting to tour Europe! Kim: I love chatting at practice! We talk about anything and everything and sometimes we play a little music too. I loved all of our past shows, tours, and I absolutely love spending time in the studio with AGSFB. Kathy: Same! I always thought it was so cool and special that we could talk, laugh and be ourselves so comfortably at practice. (It’s the same now, too!) There was no pressure, no agenda, no one dominating the conversation or creative process, no egos. Just a fun, creative, supportive atmosphere, which carried through everything we did together – playing shows, recording, touring. Recording and touring were always fun adventures.
I love looking at the old photos from the first AGSFB era—lots of red, pale blue, gingham, pigtails/bunches. Did you guys have rules about stagewear? Jen: We tried to come up with color themes. We did all have gingham tops or outfits, so that happened at our first show. One time I found some deadstock Women’s uniforms in sort of an orangey color at thrift store somewhere and we wore those, I think? Also, we played a Halloween show where we all wore vintage prom dresses with zombie makeup. It was fun but then we stopped doing it after a while. It was nice to just wear whatever. Kim: Kathy is so good at doing zombie makeovers! I want to play another Halloween show just so she can do zombie makeup for us! Kathy: I love doing zombie makeup! Yeah, at first we tried to come up with a dress theme for every show. We also did a monochrome theme where we each wore a different color. Jen just posted some old show footage where we’re all wearing baseball tees. Mostly, though, we all kinda had a similar style that looked good together.
Any good stories from tour in the early days? Kim: We would often go on spring break tours down to California which I always loved because we had a lot of friends living in the Bay Area. It was also fun touring in Europe and of course we loved playing the Chickfactor show in NY in 2002. So many great memories.
Tour nightmares? Kim: Well, one night Jen, Kathy and I were driving home after playing a show in Tacoma, WA and we ran out of gas. These creepy guys pulled over and were shining lights in our van to see what we had. Luckily they didn’t try to steal anything and they finally just drove away but it was so flippin’ scary! Kathy: That was so scary! I still think about that when I drive past that area of I-5, and feel so relieved that nothing bad happened. There was also the tour down to California in my VW Vanagon where we had van trouble, and found out the van had a small gas leak. We got a fire extinguisher for the van and crossed our fingers that we’d make it back to Portland in one piece. I believe it was that same tour that Ari and I got tattoos at the parlor next door to the venue in San Pedro, CA.
What bands are you in these days? Jen: As always, The Softies and AGSFB, but also—over the quarantine times I started recording little weird outbursts or jingle-type “songs” on my phone. It was just stupid stuff like me singing Go Brush Your Teeth to my kids and stuff like that. Rose and her husband Jon heard them when we were together during a Softies songwriting sesh and they encouraged me to release them as a weird solo project. So I have a Bandcamp for it called Yreka Bakery. It’s just a handful of weirdness mostly about my cat. Kim: AGSFB & I’m also recording songs for another solo album (Kim Baxter Band) plus writing new songs with Jen but we’re not sure what they will be yet. Maybe a new project, maybe a new AGSFB album, maybe both! Kathy: AGSFB (I wanna write new stuff!), Slang, Hurry Up. I’m working on releasing a solo album under the name Roseblood.
How did the pandemic change you? How did it change Portland? Jen: Like many people, I was scared at first, then scared and bored, then scared and sick of living with my family all on top of each other. Online school was abysmal for my kids. Part of me kind of liked being a hermit. I grew a little garden, we painted rocks, I made overalls. I still wear masks a lot, but I’m dipping a toe back in here and there. Portland definitely seems different now, so many businesses that have closed. So many camps. It seems like this everywhere though. Not good.
Kim: It forced me to prioritize the things that mean the most to me, like playing music. I didn’t have a lot of energy to put toward music for a couple of years though because I was so stressed and worried most of the time. But we are lucky because we have a studio in our garage, so when I did have energy to get out there and play music, it helped me feel more grounded, nostalgic, and positive about something. ¶ Portland has been growing at a very fast pace which was already causing some issues, especially around housing. But then the pandemic hit, and it really exacerbated those problems. I’m hopeful that some positive solutions are found soon. I still love it here, but we have had our car stolen 4 times now and that just gets old after a while.
Kathy: Like Kim, I didn’t have much energy to put toward music or writing, which was disappointing. I saw a post on Instagram that stuck with me that said: the pandemic is not a residency. Even though I wasn’t working, and I was fortunately getting unemployment, it wasn’t a relaxing or productive time. It was stressful not knowing what was happening or how long it would go on. I put energy toward working on a vegetable garden which I hadn’t done much of in the past, and just dealing. I also learned a few bike maintenance skills and fixed up a few things on my bike. I’m pretty introverted, which may sound weird since I’ve played tons of shows. The pandemic made me a bit more socially anxious but I’m starting to come out of that. Portland’s problems got really magnified during the pandemic—homelessness, drugs, mental health problems all got way worse and we’re still dealing with it today and trying to figure out solutions.
What does Portland’s music scene feel like these days? Top acts? Kathy: I guess I’m the one who’s gone to shows the most in the last several years, but I still feel like I’m out of it. I don’t go to as many shows as I used to, that’s for sure, so I wouldn’t say I have my finger on the pulse. It still feels pretty much as vibrant as ever. We definitely need more all ages venues. Portland seems to have always struggled with that. There seem to be more country influenced bands these days, and not in any cheesy way. Bands I like are The Barbaras, Roselit Bone, Silver Triplets of the Rio Hondo, Fronjentress, Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, and the legend Toody Cole still plays. There are still tons of great pop and folk bands like Sunbathe, Arch Cape, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Terre Haunt; and great punk bands like The Ghost Ease, HELP, Dials, Divers, Dommengang, Love in Hell, Yuvees. A few of my top fave punk bands that are now broken up were Lithics, Mr. Wrong, and Ex-Kids. There are synth, noise, jazz and hip hop scenes too! Too many great acts to list.
What else are you guys up to in 2023? Kids, pets, jobs, etc? Jen: My other job is freelance graphic design. My kids are tweens and doing good. We have the same ancient cat (long may she reign!) and a newly adopted bearded dragon we call Tobias Jordan. Kim: My husband and I own a small film production company. We have a teenage son who is so awesome, and I love spending time with him! I’ve been trying to spend more time sewing and making art. I also play a lot of futsal and I’ve been getting into bouldering. Kathy: I’m a part-time bookkeeper. I’m the only AGSFB member without human children, but I have a dog daughter named Ronette (Ronnie) who I adore. She’s two. I’m currently in the mastering phase of my solo album (Roseblood). Slang will probably be playing more later this year. Janet Weiss, who is in Slang, has been touring a lot the last few months with Quasi but they’ll be home soon. I’m starting to DJ a little more (DJ KM Fizzy). I DJed regularly and had a radio show (Strange Babes on XRAY FM) before the pandemic but have only DJed a couple times since. I also like to sew, make beaded jewelry, and I’ve been reading more this year.
If you do have kids, what kind of music are they into? Do they know about your music past/present? What do they think? Jen: My kids’ music preferences are a mystery; they listen to and view stuff on YouTube mostly. They know how vinyl records work and how to hold ’em by the edges, so my work is done. (ha) My daughter wants me to pay for Spotify, but I just can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on that. They got to see me play a secret Softies set in Seattle (with the Umbrellas, who they loved) a few months back and they were so sweet. After each song I glanced over and they were waving and cheering, so sweet. Kim: My son loves EDM and records his own music. He’s supportive of my music but I know it’s not his favorite style. When he was 3, we brought him with us on a European tour for my solo album. Since my husband and I both play music, it’s always just been a part of his life. Kathy: Ronnie gets really relaxed when I sing to her or play music. 🙂
Got any crushes? Jen: I fall in love with people who make music I love. Always have. Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason could get it. Kim: I have crushes on everyone finding time to make music and art after being so mentally exhausted by the pandemic and the craziness of the world. I see you and I’m cheering for you all! Oh, and I also totally have a crush on Diego Luna. Kathy: Pedro Pascal like everyone else.
What are you watching? Jen: Just finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to my kids and now we are watching the 2015 miniseries. Also burning through Succession and Perry Mason. Kim: I’m re-watching My So Called Life and Freaks and Geeks. Kathy: The last show I was excited about was The Last of Us (hence the crush). I’m excited for the second season.
What are you reading? Jen: Just started the His Dark Materials series with the kids. Kim: I’ve been on a big Steinbeck kick lately. I read 8 Steinbeck novels back to back. I recently switched gears though and now I’m reading the Mötley Crüe book, The Dirt. Kathy: I recently read two books by Kristin Hannah – The Four Winds and The Great Alone. Both were incredible. She was recommended to me by a friend. She has a long bibliography so I’m excited to read more by her. I’m currently reading Good Neighbors by Sarah Lanagan. I like it so far.
What are you eating? Fave food carts? Jen: Just started going out for food again, so EVERYTHING is exciting. Our fave sushi is Kashiwagi PDX. I didn’t get the appeal of La Croix for the longest time but now I’m fully in the cult. Also I love diet coke. Kim: There’s a food cart by my house that makes delicious food from Guam. It’s so good but they’re rarely open. Kathy: I get overwhelmed by the amount of food carts in Portland. There are so many that it’s hard to choose so I just freeze. Plus, I don’t eat out a ton. There’s a good Mexican & Yucatecan cart near me called Loncheria Los Mayas. I also go to the taqueria down the street from there called Santo Domingo. I’ve been on a protein smoothie kick lately. I make one most mornings. Other than, it’s kind of all over the place. I love all kinds of food.
What are you most excited about doing on the upcoming tour? Jen: I hope I smile so much my face hurts. I miss playing shows so much! Kim: Spending time with Jen & Kathy, seeing old friends, making new friends, putting smiles on other people’s faces. Kathy: Yeah, same. Just playing again, hanging out together, having fun, seeing friends, lots of smiles all around, and seeing The Softies! Omg.
Any special gear you are using these days to record? Learning new tricks? Jen: I got an EVO 4 interface so that I can record straight into an iPad using Garage Band. It’s been really helpful writing music remotely. I also got a BOSS loop pedal for experimenting with, and a Blues Driver pedal that seems perfect for beefing up those old clean-guitar songs a bit. Kim: I recently got the Data Corruptor pedal from Earthquaker for bass. I’m still learning to use it, it’s a beast. I currently just step on it at random moments during practice to make Jen & Kathy laugh. I also have been recording songs using a Poly D Analog Synth which I love! Kathy: I been recording with Logic for the past few years. I recorded the Roseblood demos and album in Logic. When I made the demos, I was new to Logic and I found it to be a cool tool for songwriting. It helped me write songs in new ways by being able to mess around with all the different sounds it comes with – amps, instruments, effects and beats.
What can we expect at the upcoming shows? Jen: Maybe matching WILDFANG coveralls? And some new pedals. A mix of old songs. Not sure we have the time to get anything new together in time. Kim: Giggles, nerves & pure happiness! Kathy: What Kim said!
Please tell us about what music you are recording / making / practicing / selling for this tour. Jen: Kim and I were writing some new songs when it was just the two of us. Now that Kathy is practicing with us, those songs might become new AGSFB songs. Mostly we are just trying to practice a set list of established songs, but who knows? Mike Schulman from Slumberland and Alicia Vanden Heuvel from Speakeasy Studios were talking about co-releasing a cassette of Tony and the Softies covering a few of each other’s songs just for this tour. A fun little limited edition gem. Well, Rose loves doing covers (if you haven’t heard her September cassette it’s incredible). So she learned ALL the songs on Tony’s Dissed and Dismissed. She laid down the guitar tracks and her vocals on her own, we recorded my vocals together during one of our many practice sessions, and then I did my guitar parts in my little office with my iPad. Tony did three Softies songs. We put so much of our hearts into covering his songs because we love him so much. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it. Kim: I think we are close to finalizing our set for the upcoming shows. The bulk of it consists of songs from our album, 2. Plus some from the s/t album, some from “Looking Into It”, and maybe one from our first 7-inch. Kathy: Not music, but we’ll have new t-shirts and buttons!
What’s on the turntable, er, bandcamp right now? Jen: The Lost Days – In The Store Chime School – s/t Lisa Prank – Perfect Love Song Black Belt Eagle Scout – The Land, The Water, The Sky OVENS – s/t Weedrat – The Rat Cometh Julia Jacklin – Crushing
Kathy: Ribbon Stage – Hit With The Most Various artists – Strange World (compilation of “cosmic and earthly Doo Wop and R and B from America and Jamaica released by Mississippi Records) Quasi – Breaking The Balls Of History Dateline podcast Tig & Cheryl: True Story podcast
Like this zine’s founders, Richard Houghton knows a thing or two about being a fan of the Wedding Present. Published last Friday, The Wedding Present: All the Songs Sound the Same collects more than 300 stories from fans, friends and current/former members of TWP, all of whom discuss favorite recordings, along with loads of previously unseen images from bandleader David Gedge’s archive. Gedge even coedited the 336-page hardcover book along with Houghton.
Gedge says: ‘When I’m asked to choose my favourite of the songs I’ve written, I never know what to say. It’s like asking who your favourite child is! How could I pick just one? However, I did think it would be interesting to see which songs fans would select, and why. There’s quite a few from which to choose … When an audience member requests one of the 280-plus songs that we haven’t rehearsed for that particular evening’s set I usually sympathise with them by saying, “I know, I know… there are just too many classics, aren’t there?!”’
The songs are discussed, explicated and championed by all the superfans in the book, including Sir Keir Starmer, Peter Solowka, and Mark Beaumont, along with CF editor me (Gail), who discusses the origins of the Pavement Boy comic (it’s Wedding Present related) and road trips to NYC with Pam Berry, Mike Slumberland and Dan Searing where we were listening to Seamonsters. We asked Richard a few questions about the new book.
How did this book come about? David Gedge and I worked together on a book called Sometimes These Words Just Don’t Have To Be Said which was published in 2017. That was fans talking about seeing The Wedding Present in concert. But lots of people mentioned songs that were favourites of theirs, and I thought a book of people writing about their favourite Wedding Present songs would be a fun idea. I pitched it to David and he agreed to give it a go.
How long has it taken to get made? I started compiling the book in 2018, so it’s been five years. It took a while to gather together all the material. I also had access to David’s personal archive and scanning in images and getting clearance to use some of those (including David deciding which ones he was happy to see in print) also took a while. And then we had to find a slot in David’s busy schedule, as he’s been publishing his autobiography in comic strip form, and we needed to avoid launching the book when it might clash with the release of one of those volumes.
Where can people get it? In the US? Europe/rest of world? The book is available in hardback via Amazon and also via Spenwood Books (who ship worldwide). The hardback is also available in the UK and Ireland via your local bookshop, although you may have to ask them to order it in for you. But the book is also available in paperback via Barnes & Noble in the US, meaning fans only have to pay domestic shipping.
Will there be any book events? David and his bass player, Melanie Howard, are doing a semi-acoustic gig at Resident Music in Brighton on Friday May 5 at 6.30pm BST. More details are available here:
All The Songs Sound The Same is published on 28 April 2023 and available to order now from Spenwood Books.
David Lewis Gedge lives in Brighton and is the founding member, lead singer and guitarist for the semi-legendary indie band The Wedding Present, who were founded in 1985, and his ‘other’ band, Cinerama. He is also the author of several books, including two volumes (so far) of his illustrated autobiography, Tales from the Wedding Present.
Richard Houghton lives in Manchester and is the author of 20 music books, including authorised titles on The Wedding Present, The Stranglers, Simple Minds, OMD, Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention. His People’s History series of music books is published by Spenwood Books.
When I first listened to I Am Not There Anymore, the brand-new The Clientele LP coming out July 28, 2023, on Merge worldwide, I was a bit shocked. As you probably know by now, it feels different. The strings, the spooky goth vibe, the odd beats. It may not have the flow of a cohesive album, but the pop lovers among us will have more than enough to fall in love with, despite the dark undertones. In case that makes no sense, I’ll just say it: I love this album but it took a few go-rounds to get used to it all. I mean, it’s not that radical. It sounds like a band taking their time and flexing their creative muscles in the recording process. It sounds like one of the greatest living bands because it is. We caught up with Alasdair about what was going through their minds making the record. Scroll down for their U.S. tour dates; and hopefully more countries too since the UK seems to have finally noticed that these pop gods walk among them.
The album was recorded at Bark, Snap and Klank Studios, London from 2019–2022 with assistance from Brian O’Shaughnessy, Marco Pasquariello and Simon Nelson. All time greats Alasdair MacLean on vocals, guitars, tapes, beats, bouzouki, Mellotron, organ; James Hornsey on bass, piano; and Mark Keen on drums, percussion, piano, celesta. Additional parts played by Daniel Evans – extra drums on ‘Blue Over Blue’; Sarah Field – trumpet; Dave Oxley – horn; Ruth Elder – violin; Non Peters – violin; Stella Page – viola; Sebastian Millett – cello. The strings and horns were arranged by Alasdair MacLean and Mark Keen; ‘Through the Roses’ arranged by James Hornsey and Alicia Macanás, who also cowrote and sings on the lead track, ‘Fables of the Silverlink.’ That’s Jessica Griffin from the Would-Be-Goods doing the English spoken bits as well. Interview by Gail O’Hara / Thanks to James Clientele for the studio shots (even tho he didn’t take any of Mark Keen)
Chickfactor: How long has this one been in the making? Alasdair MacLean: Three centuries.
If this one has a theme, what is it? Beautiful complexities (I hope). Above all, the feeling of not being real, of being outside yourself. I like to think of it as a kind of emotional autobiography set to music, but where all the details have been blurred and edited out, there’s just fragments and moods.
The first time I listened, it felt *different* from previous stuff. What kind of record did you want to make here? We always tried different stuff in the studio before, but it was always a catastrophe. We tried to make a dub version of ‘House on Fire’ in a studio in rural Kent once, it was one of the most embarrassing episodes of my life. We did some jungle/drum and bass recordings with a live drummer when we were recording ‘Suburban Light’ but I had no idea what to add to them – it ended up with backwards tenor recorder and tritone chords on the guitar – horrible.
This time round we had a computer, so we could record in a studio and take tracks away to edit and add to, then bring back again, and slowly I worked out ideas which could bring in things I loved – flamenco rhythms, modal scales etc. which didn’t feel awful. It wasn’t like there was a band and a producer sitting there, looking at their watches and saying “er, where are you going with this?”
I joked that this was a goth record; but it is spooky and vintage sounding at times. What mood were you trying to conjure with Mark’s Radials and Alicia and Jessica? Mark has been writing spooky piano tunes for us since 2001 I think. So that’s nothing new – we got him a celesta to play on this time, which is an innately spooky instrument. Alicia sang notes I couldn’t reach in the Phrygian mode, and Jessica has such a lovely speaking voice. I was so glad when she agreed to help – it was like her voice was another of the instruments we could put together in harmony.
How is what you listen to informing what you do? I like some electronic music and jazz and Spanish guitar music. I love this small group of artists from California, they are mostly released on the Cold Blue Music label. At the moment I’ve been playing Phillip Schroeder – ‘Passage through a Dream’ loads – it sounds a bit like Mark’s Radial pieces.
Where does the songwriting process begin? Somewhere I have no access to.
How do you capture lyrics? A pen? A smart phone app? It always used to be a pen and a piece of paper. I’ve now changed to notes on iphone. Tragically, I also use a Trello board to swap things around and see if they look different in a different order. Quite often ideas come from quotes or images from books I read, so I take photos of the page too.
Is your lyric book still available? I think there are a few left, somewhere at the back of my storage lockup.
How did the pandemic change The Clientele? How did it change London? It didn’t really change the band; in some ways it made London better, less crowded. But it probably finished the arc which started in the late ’90s, where small businesses were made uneconomical, and everything became a chain store. Now the chain stores are going bust too.
You seem bigger in the UK than you were; true/false? True, among gentlemen of a certain age.
Brexit WTF? I’m tired of thinking about it, but I expect in some future time we’ll look back and realise just how truly sinister the consortium of people who took over the country were.
If any good comes of it, it will be a general awareness of the obscenity of class privilege. Boris Johnson is a useful idiot in this regard – a very public symbol of unjust rewards.
How is fatherhood impacting the music-making process? It changes month by month. I’m happy to sit back and learn.
If London has a sound/smell/taste, what is it? Fermented fruit on the top deck of buses.
What is nature giving you that you desperately need? At the moment, mud.
Who are the 5 most underappreciated musicians in London? Musicians can’t afford to live in London anymore.
Got any recurring dreams you want us to explicate? Not of my own – I enjoyed reading one of T.H. White’s recently though – in the dream he was very anxious to hide his shotgun in the trunk of his mother’s car to avoid it being struck by lightning. It made me laugh a lot.
Best pub in town? I like the Flask in Highgate, or the Swimmer at the Grafton Arms in Holloway. The Great Northern Railway Tavern in Hornsey is a perennial favourite.
If you have to make food for friends, what is your star dish? Tortilla soup
What’s wrong with 2023? Music streaming, newspaper owners
Who is the comedian in the band? Mark and James are both naturally funny, I have to try harder. I’m sort of the annoying one who tries to get a quip in every sentence, which is why I tend to dominate the interviews.
Do you have any band rules? Dress code? Absolutely no ukuleles under any circumstances.
What are you reading? I love Anne Serre and Marie N’Diaye
‘26 views of the Starburst World’ by Ross Gibson is a wonderful, reflective book, it was recommended to me by Anwen Crawford who also wrote a beautiful book last year called ‘No Document’
There’s a forgotten English writer from the early 20th century called Mary Webb who I’m tracking down slowly.
Perhaps because I’m getting old, I’m revisiting a lot of classic British children’s literature: The Dark is Rising, The Box of Delights, Ursula LeGuin and Diana Wynne Jones
What are you watching? I haven’t been watching much of anything. I need film recommendations.
What is your advice to fans when it comes to supporting you? Buy records, use bandcamp, book tickets.
On behalf of all CLIENTELE fans, why can’t you just put out one album per year? We used to put them out once every 2 years, and that nearly killed us. We were told we had to, or people would forget us. But when we stopped, we got more popular! I guess there are enough records in the world already without releasing more just for the sake of it.
What’s on the turntable these days? Pharaoh Sanders- Floating Points Arthur Verocai Idris Ackamoor and the Pyramids Jimmy Campbell – Half Baked I’ve also been listening to a lot of Tom Verlaine since he died. A lot of what he did beyond the guitar playing – the approaches he took – really fascinates me.
btw, of course we interviewed the Clientele in our paper zine chickfactor 13, Y2K, still available in our shop. Get the new album here.
If you’re reading this, you probably already know who Michael Galinsky is. We interviewed him back in 2021 (and also in our paper zine) when he was putting together an art show, and he posts zillions of photos of all your favorite bands from the olden days in NYC and Hoboken on his socials. He makes films and TV shows and was in Sleepyhead. He was 20 years old when he drove across the U.S. making these images. He originally made a book called Malls Across America (Steidl, 2010), which is out of print. So he made his own new mall book, The Decline of Mall Civilization, in 2011. He is in the midst of crowdfunding the second edition of The Decline of Mall Civilization, so we wanted to share some of his 1989 photographs shot in malls across America, which have gone viral umpteen times. Interview by Gail / Photos by Michael Galinsky
Chickfactor: Let’s start with the basics about the book(s). Michael Galinsky: I created this project when I took a color printing class in 1989. It was at NYU, but it was not in the art school. It was in the education school. I didn’t feel like I was an art student. I had this idea that I wasn’t that kind of creative person and the way that I took photos was more observational, which didn’t seem like art, but it also didn’t feel like journalism. I was going to a photo bookstore a few times a week, going through all these books and figuring out what I liked. What I found I liked was mostly stuff that was documentary in style but wasn’t really a documentary—so it was folks like Robert Frank, Lee Friedlander or Garry Winogrand. People who were observing the world, but from kind of a specific and interesting point of view that wasn’t so specific and interesting that it drew attention to their prowess as a technical shooter. I was really annoyed by technical stuff. It almost always ended up feeling like advertising copy or something, or drawing attention to this precision stuff that I wasn’t interested in. There was this connection between photography and music, and what I was mostly photographing at the time was shows. I was just trying to figure out what it was to be a photographer. a friend who was a photo student looked my photos, and he was like, “you should be trying to figure out what you’re shooting.” That was such great advice, to be thinking of the frame as a frame. My photo education was this bookstore where I looked at stuff, and then the first class I had was this color photography class and the teacher was awesome. Her first assignment was to watch River’s Edge and think about the color, the way it’s used and what it’s trying to say. Keanu’s best work probably. By far. It’s just a weird, crazy movie but it made me think, how are the images being used, and how is the camera being used? So even in photography, it started making me think about storytelling. I had to have a project. My girlfriend went to college on Long Island. I was visiting her, and we went to the mall, and I was like, “Oh my God, I have my project.” I shot like a roll that week. I went back the next week. My teacher was like, “this is great, you should continue this project.” So, I drove across the country, I took pictures all over the place. No idea what the fuck I was doing.
Which route did you take? I went with my friend Sebastian; first we drove from Chapel Hill to Columbus, OH, because my aunt lived there. Then we went to Chicago, where we stayed with Gene Booth, and he took us to some malls and then we went to Detroit, where we met my friend Tom, and he took us to some malls. Then we just hightailed it across the country. I think we stopped in Wisconsin, but we didn’t find a mall. We just kind of stumbled upon places. We got to San Francisco after going up through Seattle and down and then our car got broken into; thankfully, we’d camped on the side of the road the night before and the car was a fucking mess. I had a bag with the film in it and the ones that were shot had not been separated from the unshot ones. That night I separated them out and I stuck that (shot) bag under the front seat. The other film got stolen. My friend was like, “I’m done.” It’s hard to travel, so we drove from San Francisco 40 hours straight to Saint Louis, shot a couple malls there. We did stop once near Denver, in a mall in Aurora, Colorado, but literally didn’t sleep. One of us slept, the other drove. What kind of chemicals were in your body to be able to do that? Just caffeine? A lot of coffee and cokes. When you got tired of driving, you just switch seats. If you can’t keep your eyes open, you can’t keep your eyes open. Originally there was no interest in the project. I had no concept of how you do something with work when you have it. I went to one gallery where they literally laughed at me. They’re like, “these are pictures of people in malls. Yeah, it’s not really for us.” I just felt ashamed and weird, and I never did anything with them. I showed them once when we (Sleepyhead) played with Guided By Voices at Threadwaxing. I set up a projector and I projected them on the back wall. And then they went back into the box.
In 2010 I put them online and they went crazy. I found a box of the slides. I had two boxes, which I thought were the best ones. I started scanning those. Some of the other ones, all the rejects, are the best ones. They didn’t used to mean anything, but now they do. They’re the wide shots and stuff. I didn’t think those were important at the time. I brought them back to New York. I did a Kickstarter and that ended up being a book called Malls Across America, which went viral again when it came out and sold out. It’s hard to get now and what happened was because they didn’t reprint it. When it was going viral, this designer came to me and said, “hey, I have this imprint on Steidl or Rizzoli, would you like to do one of those?” He wanted to look at the slides. He wasn’t even a guy who’s ever on the Internet, but so many people contacted him. He was like, “OK, let’s do a book.” We could do it on Rizzoli. It will be in the malls, or we could do it on Steidl and then you could make this amazing book. You probably won’t get paid, but it’ll be the most beautiful book ever. I knew who Steidl was because I’d filmed a conversation between him and Robert Frank at the New York Public Library. So I was like Rizzoli, it should be in the malls. He’s like, OK. The next day I was at Hot Docs film festival and this guy I was with says, “let’s go see this movie: How to Make a Book with Steidl.” I was like, “you’re kidding.” The first movie there was him making books with Robert Frank. I was like, “OK, let’s do it on Steidl,” which ended up being a nightmare. They took forever; they printed a beautiful book. They didn’t see me as the artist, they saw the designer, Peter Miles, as the artist. It was his project to them. So, they didn’t let me come to help make it. Then I had 300 books to send to backers, and they charged me like $25 a book. But at that point, Kickstarter, you didn’t add in shipping. So, I had to ship these books all over the world. It cost me more to do this than I raised for making the books. So, it was kind of a nightmare.
Malls Across America was all double page spreads and it was meant to be lay flat, but they didn’t. The printing itself is unbelievable. You can’t believe that this is a printed book. I mean, it looks so beautiful. The paper is so thick. I was told it was going to lay flat. I wasn’t there and it didn’t happen. People still appreciate that book. It was like The Times top ten list and stuff like that. It’s out of print. And if they want to reprint it, I will let them. But they did also destroy a bunch of my slides because they wet plate scanned them, and I was like, it’s Steidl, I don’t need to check them. And then when I replied to rescan them for this book, I found some of them are all covered in mold. Steidl wouldn’t give me their scans until I explained that to them. They did it as a wet plate scan, meaning they got wet and then didn’t dry them properly so when they put them back in, they were moldy. I would have them do the book again if they wanted to because I’d like it to be out. I’d like them to do a second printing. But they didn’t and it’s fine. What I’m going to do next is make a book that combines the best of both books.
I didn’t feel like I had the agency to like kind of reprint the book that they designed. So I made an entirely new book with entirely new images, and that book was called The Decline of Mall Civilization, which, as anybody in your audience knows, is a reference to the Penelope Spheeris series. I was really into those movies. It made sense that I was documenting in the same way as maybe she did, in an observational way that wasn’t judgmental and was open to whatever it was, even if some of it seemed a little silly. And so I made that book, I did a Kickstarter and that sold out immediately. So that book now goes for $500 like the first one. Then I met with a publicist in Brooklyn, and I was like, “listen, I’m going to make this go viral.” And she was like, “Yes, everybody believes that.” I’m like, no, no, really. I was like, please make sure they print enough. She was like, “OK.” The Kickstarter was 2011 and this was 2013, so I had a bunch of really angry backers, and I got them to all them. But here’s the thing: The book also, because it was priced pretty cheap, actually they priced it at like $36, even though they charged me $25. One article in Gizmodo had a like an Amazon clicker, it sold well over 600 copies. It also talked about The Americans; it sold 75 copies of that. It sold out so fast that it didn’t even go to stores. It never went to stores in the US, like no stores were able to get it. And then they said, “OK, yeah, yeah, we’ll reprint it but then they didn’t.” So that’s why it costs so much now (from $500 to $4000). A few years later, I made a new book, which is entirely my own. All new images, laid out differently, Tae (Won Yu) designed it.
Recently, this website called Chasing the 80s made a reel of the book, and it just went crazy. It got like 600,000 views. So, I was getting crushed with requests for The Decline, and I don’t have it. And the price was going up even more. I was like, OK, I already have the printer, I already have the drop shipper. I’m just going to do another Kickstarter because these people want it so badly and it doesn’t seem fair to kind of be like “you can’t have it.” I spent a lot of time looking at older books of older photos that resonated with me, even though I hadn’t been in that time. I was really into music at the time and reading about old music. I was aware that if you’re looking at Television pictures, someone was there, and they were taking those pictures and nobody else was. I started to go to shows and take pictures of bands that I liked but I wouldn’t do it if anybody else was taking pictures because film was expensive and I was in my head, it was like, this is important, it needs to be documented. That’s how I felt about the malls. You never saw anybody in the mall with a camera and I knew they would go away, and I thought, this is going to be interesting in a while. Now, 30 years later, it has a much deeper resonance.
What was it about that original mall that made you think this was a good idea? Generally, people didn’t know you were photographing them. Right. I was shooting from the hip, and I was doing it like as if I was … quite immediately it felt like this is what America is. I was thinking about Robert Frank’s The Americans and he shot so much in diners and honkytonks, like if he was going across America now he would be shooting in malls. But I also thought of William Eggleston, if he was doing it in malls, he would be doing it in color like William Eggleston because photography expands, and color had become possible and had become an art form. I was kind of combining those two elements in my head and I didn’t have a lot of great technical prowess, but I was also taking a lot of anthropology, religious studies classes, sociology. So, I was thinking like the way you want to do this is without judgment, even though was a judgmental punk rock motherfucker and I hated the mall, I was like, that’s not the way to make this work.
A lot of people in places with malls didn’t have other options. They don’t live near cafes or pubs. It’s where I worked as a teenager. Has anyone in the photos contacted you? Tell us a story about any of those people. There’s a picture of two couples, like an old couple looking one way and a young couple looking another way on a bench. And it’s almost like kind of mirror images of these couples. And I was like, oh, that’s great. I was on my Facebook page for 10 years and just before the book came out, someone was like, “hey, that’s me.” She came to the opening and we started talking at a signing at Dashwood Books in New York. Mike McGonigal was there. Tae was there. My friend Jimmy was there. Suki was there. The woman I had photographed was like “Oh my God, like two years before that, I had a pink liberty Mohawk.” She said her favorite band was the Butthole Surfers, and half the people at the opening realized we had all been at the same Butthole Surfers show at the Ritz in 1987.
Once I studied all the Top 40s and Billboard 100s from every year of my lifetime and the late 80s had the worst popular music. What did these malls had in common, what was the vibe? The malls all had a sense of placelessness. I took a couple pictures outside a mall, but they all look the same outside and they all look the same inside. When I got back, I tried to write down the names of all the malls. Like I could kind of tell from a set where it was. Sometimes I couldn’t even and so I’d write that. But then when I had to scan them, I had to take all the images out. So now I don’t know where they’re from, but I can usually tell by the floors is the most telling sign. Woodfield Mall had amazing architecture. Southdale Mall in Minneapolis was one of the very first malls. So that was kind of lucky. I stumbled upon that, and it was designed by Victor Gruen, who designed the first malls. But also, what was weird is there’s a mall in Vancouver, WA, looked just like one in Columbia, MO, it was literally the same with all the same places in the food court. It was such a weird, shocking thing.
Have you ever had a problem with somebody you photographed asking you to remove it? Once or twice, someone didn’t like the way they looked. Most people are happy to have it documented. I haven’t had any issues with this project, but I’ve had it with other things. It’s confusing because one of the important aspects of a free culture is that we should be free to make images in a public space. I mean, that’s the law. No one has the right to say “you can’t take my picture” if you’re out in public. You can’t then turn around and like use it to sell something, but you can make art out of it. And that’s important. But it’s also important to be respectful of what other people desire but trying to balance that out with public needs. there are people who do it problematically. At the same time, if you look at what’s so important to our culture, if we didn’t have Vivian Maier and Robert Frank, these things are important for understanding our culture in the future.
Things are so much more politicized now. People have often said to me, “hey, don’t take my picture” and I’ll try to honor that. But when it’s violent and they grab your camera, they get in the way of you photographing or talking to someone else, and they’ll disrupt it, they also don’t want to be seen. It’s complicated and important for the free flow of information that we allow these things to happen. We are in such a weirdly politicized moment that I’m less interested in doing anything political anymore, and it’s hard to find the value in a lot of this stuff.
Do you have any tips for photographers who want to make their own book or crowdfund? Number one, be patient. Shoot a lot. Be Organized. Double back everything up and take the time to put them in a folder with a date and some keywords so that you can find stuff later, which I didn’t do. I did kind of organize my negatives back in the day, but not that well. The main power of photography is it captures something that will be gone. It captures a moment that will not be repeated. Don’t launch until you’ve already created a lot of connectivity, so people who will share it, websites that will share it because without networks, without people sharing the work, it’s difficult. There was so much demand for this that I set up a sign up for an e-mail. So, the first day of this campaign we already made 50% of the money. So, it relies on having people willing to share and want to back what you’re doing. Someone will share it; I’ll see it get shared and then there’s two sales. So, it really does impact it. So, make sure that the people you have as allies are going to step up and be an ally.
Certain artists take up too much space in the world, and some don’t take up enough. Baltimore’s Linda Smith falls into the latter camp. Keeping a low profile for decades, she started experimenting with a 4-track and putting down gentle home recordings in the early 1980s. Despite being on Slumberland, Shrimper, Feel Good All Over and Harriet, she didn’t capture (enough of) the public’s attention until releasing a comp called Till Another Time (1988-1996) on Captured Tracks in 2021. She’s also played in Silly Pillows and the Woods and was closely associated with the Magnetic Fields 30 years ago.
Folks who document discographies suggest she occupies similar territory to the Cannanes, Dump, Sentridoh, and the Marine Girls, so yeah, her music is right up (y)our alley. Now she has a great new record out with her old friend Nancy Andrews titled A Passing Cloud (2023). We caught up with her recently to see what’s happening in Charm City these days. (Listen to her music here.) Interview by Gail O / Images courtesy of Linda
chickfactor: How did your life change during the pandemic/lockdown? Linda Smith: I had a year off of work. During this time, Captured Tracks released “Till Another Time”, a compilation of my old songs. I also started recording again after many years. How did Baltimore change? Like most cities, it became very quiet and deserted, with very little traffic on the streets. What kind of impact did The Wire have on the city? Good or bad? I never watched The Wire but it seems that people outside the city were influenced by it and took it as a realistic portrayal of the city. It reminds me of how people used to think of Baltimore as being like a John Waters movie. Certainly, there are aspects of truth in both but neither gives a complete picture. How long have you lived there? Where else have you lived? I was born here but I did live in NY City for 3 ½ years in the 1980s. When I moved to NY, it seemed to provide more action and excitement than Baltimore did. When I moved back, though, I was glad for the relative lack of excitement. Were you musical as a child? No, but after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I wanted to be.
Were you from a musical family? No, but we heard records frequently and I was given a transistor radio at the height of the 60’s pop music era. What were you like as a teen? I spent most of that phase listening to classical music and watching old movies, waiting for high school to end. While I loved AM radio in the 60’s, most of the music of the early 70’s seemed lackluster in comparison. It wasn’t until the late 70’s punk and New Wave period that I wanted to listen to rock and pop again. I think I first heard your music on a cassette comp in about 1993 made by Keith Darcy. When did you first start making music? Probably around 1979-80. I was buying a lot of records and became inspired by the Raincoats and Young Marble Giants, among others. I decided I wanted to be in a band like that and put an ad in the local free paper seeking other unschooled players. Many of those I met came from the art school (MICA), of course!
What have you learned about recording over the years? How has your process changed? There are lots of technical aspects of recording that I have no idea about, but I learned enough to get individual tracks down on tape. For me, it was about keeping things simple. The recording process changed most recently when I started recording on my laptop. I thought it would be more difficult but it’s actually easier! In this case, I use the simplest program, Audacity. What was the Baltimore music scene like when you were making music in the ’90s? And what’s it like now? The music scene back then was more live performance and rock based, not so much about releasing recordings. These days, the scene is far more diverse. Musicians still play live but recorded music is very important to what they do. Bandcamp has allowed that to happen. A couple of years ago I put together a selection of current Baltimore music for The Lot radio in Brooklyn. There is so much going on that I wanted to include but couldn’t get everything in. It can be heard here: Listen to Baltimore to Brooklyn: Captured Tracks with Linda Smith @ The Lot Radio 06 – 17 – 2021 by The Lot Radio on #SoundCloud You were working in the art world, yes? What is the art world like in Baltimore? I worked in the security dept at the Baltimore Museum of Art for 15 years. The art world of the museum is a bit different from the art world on the outside of it. I was more involved with the former than the latter. In the security dept. one is somewhat invisible on a certain level but also privy to many things others never see. I could write a book.
Can you tell us some good stories about events that happened at the 14 Carat Cabaret? Back in the 90’s, the 14K Cabaret was THE art scene in Baltimore. I did sound there for a year and saw many of the early shows. Laure Drogoul ran the Cabaret and always scheduled a mix of performance, music, and film. She booked many local artists as well as groups like Beat Happening, Scrawl, and the Magnetic Fields. The one night that really sticks out in my memory is the Annie Sprinkle performance. Packed house.
If I came to Baltimore for the day, what should I absolutely do? Visit the art museums! Also, don’t miss Normals Books and Records for your music and literature needs. For small locally run shops and restaurants, I suggest Hampden. Do you see John Waters around town much? Not in general, but the museum where I worked had a show of his work a few years ago. We got to see him quite a bit then. How does your songwriting process happen? Where do you write? What tools do you use? My process is very tied to the recording process. Songs are often created while laying down tracks rather than fully written out beforehand. I’ve gotten more into making instrumental music, too. Writing lyrics has been of less interest to me recently but that could be old age. Do you perform live much these days? I’ve never performed all that often over the years but recently have received more requests to do so. With the release of my new album with Nancy Andrews, “A Passing Cloud” (Grapefruit/Gertude co-release), I’m thinking of becoming more involved in that aspect of music. We did a show last week at Normals Red Room, which was actually fun and not too nerve wracking!
Please tell us about the LD tribute record you have been working on. One of the recording projects I started during the pandemic was prompted by LD Beghtol not long before he died suddenly. Though I did not know LD as well as those at Chickfactor (and elsewhere), we had communicated off and on since the 90’s, always with the idea of working on this or that project. In 2018, he created the cover for the Lost Sound Tapes Linda Smith tribute cassette, and also recorded a wonderful version of my song “Brightside”. When the shutdown happened in 2020, we were again in touch, this time about having me record one of his songs. He chose “Lack of Better”. I did my recording, which he was to add a vocal and acoustic guitar to but did not get the chance to do. Since then, the idea of an LD Beghtol tribute album has been germinating. He made so many connections with other musicians and wrote so many great songs, that it seems the best way to honor him. Many of the artists with whom he worked will be contributing tracks and Charles Newman at Motherwest is helping to organize it. (Thanks to Gail for the inside connections!) What’s in your fridge? Can you cook? What is your specialty? I like food that can be easily microwaved. 365 Plant based nuggets are a favorite. Other than that, I prefer to eat in restaurants but that gets expensive. Do you have pets? Hobbies? Day job? No pets, no day job (retired). Painting might be considered my hobby at this point; it has taken a back seat to music these days. I can only do one thing at a time, it seems.
What are you reading? Watching? Too many books lying around here that need to be read but I just finished Celia Paul’s “Letters to Gwen John”, a collection of messages from a living painter to a long dead one. As for watching, I really like a good disaster movie, among other things. ☺ What’s on the turntable these days? Since restarting my long dormant vinyl habit, there are brand new records along with interesting reissues of old music. *Dottie Holmberg: Sometimes Happy Times (Sundazed) *Wheatie Mattiasich: Old Glow (Open Mouth Records) *Doug McKechnie: San Francisco Moog 1968-1972 (VG+ Records) *The Smashing Times: Bloom (Meritorio Records) *Tetsu Mineta: Early Scenes (Ditch Lily/Unread/Union Pole/Almost Halloween Time) *Andre Previn: Dead Ringer Soundtrack (Warner Bros) *Twink, The Best of: You Reached for the Stars (Sundazed) *Josephine Foster: Godmother (Fire Records) *Sarah La Puerta: Strange Paradise (Perpetual Doom)
Anything else you’d like to tell us about? Besides the LD Beghtol tribute, I hope to do a vinyl re-release of the 1998 album I did with Paul Baroody, “Domesticated” (great pop songs with memorable melodies!), and a new album of poems by Baltimore writers set to music. Coming in 2023, there will be a full length album of old recordings by The Woods, my NY band in the 80’s, on Dot Matrix (a subsidiary of Sundazed/Modern Harmonic). In addition, Shrimper will be re-releasing my old Woods bandmate Brian Bendlin’s 1987 album, “13 Groves”, with artwork by me. Along the way, there are other various collaborations possible.
Records Linda Smith cannot live without *The Dionne Warwick Collection (Rhino) *Lesley Gore: It’s My Party, The Mercury Anthology *Sam Phillips: Martinis and Bikinis *Brenda Holloway: The Motown Anthology *The Shangri-Las: Shangri-Las 65 *Game Theory: Lolita Nation *Young Marble Giants: Colossal Youth *Four Tops Anthology *Dolly Mixture Demo Tapes *Sandy Denny: Who Knows Where the Time Goes? Collection
Our final chickfactor 30 party in London was an afternoon Hangover Lounge affair at the Betsey Trotwood and had kind of a chill vibe that was welcome after two nights at the packed Lexington! Marlody is a new signing on Rob and Amelia’s Skep Wax label and her moody, intimate songs were quiet and poignant at a time when finally coming together after so long was so needed. Her music was a reminder that we all need to share our stories. The Catenary Wires are of course pop legends: Amelia Fletcher, Rob Pursey, Ian Button and Andy Lewis. They played stellar songs from their latest, Birling Gap, which you should snap up if you haven’t got it, and even thrilled the audience with a Heavenly song, “Cool Guitar Boy,” in advance of their couple of Bush Hall shows next spring, which was so so fun.
London is a place I was lucky to call home for half a decade and I miss it like crazy. chickfactor’s cofounder Pam Berry has lived there since the late ’90s and I love being able to go back and see people at these events in these places that miraculously are still open. I wish we could do it every year! Thanks again to the musicians, bands, venues, Paul Kelly for backline wrangling, the sound people, Hangover Lounge, Tae Won Yu, the folks who put me and others up, the documenters, readers, fans, friends, strangers, and pop lovers who make up this incredible community.
Tonight from the stage, Morgan from the Umbrellas said that her face was hurting from smiling so much and we could all relate! The London CF30 shows were like a big loveliest full of fantastic pop music! The show kicked off tonight with the Bay Area pop group Seablite, making their London debut in the most stylish and melodious way!
Birdie played next and our hearts melted because they are so damn charming and just effortlessly generate classic-sounding pop music that could have come from the 1960s. Their set list is below, but we know how lucky we are to have heard a few Dolly Mixture songs on Friday during Rachel’s set and some on Saturday with Birdie! Unbelievable joy.
The final act tonight was the Bay Area Slumberland band The Umbrellas, who are so young and yet so good at making classic but fresh indie pop in the best possible way. Such energy! Such positivity! If there were any justice in the world, we would take these shows on the road and fill the world with joy and melody! I’m sure these US bands will be back soon, but for now London + California = love.
Just a note: In case you wondered why the shows started so early and they had no real breaks between bands, it’s because the Lexington has another dance party event that starts roughly an hour after our thing ended. We left a time cushion between our show and theirs because our experience at CF25 was a bit difficult to deal with, the Pastels could hardly load out or relax and have a post-show beer before the late-night dance party people rushed the room.
(Personally, I was perched on a bench in the back because I had recently rolled my ankle and couldn’t manage the pain being on my feet all night or I would have been dancing like a dervish right up front as per usual! I was on so much paracetamol that I felt I couldn’t drink much cider, and I was a bit limited in my movements as host! But it was pretty crazy to see three of my former coworkers from SPIN magazine in the house! Daisy and Sarah, shoutouts to you for being so fun. )
Thanks again to all the bands who played and all the fans who came from afar and the Lexington. Special thanks to Gaylord Fields and Rachel Love (to whom I apologize for my grumpiness) for helping me wrangle the right lager and snacks from the local Tesco. The overall vibe this weekend was very much a lovefest, a total all-hands-on-deck, walking around the neighborhood and running into each other funfest with some of the greatest people. MC Gaylord did an amazing job of waxing loudly and lovingly about the bands to get everyone’s attention back to the stage. Many thanks to Paul Kelly and the Betsey Trotwood for wrangling the backline for the whole weekend. Thanks to the Hangover Lounge gents—Tim, John, Ben and Steve—for handling merch and being the generally wonderful humans that they are.
chickfactor anniversary parties are sometimes characterized as events where we bring bands back from retirement or as total nostagia-fests. While it is true that they are basically the best kind of friend reunion, this year’s London shows had little to do with nostalgia (though there was a wee Dolly Mixture vibe and a Heavenly song!). Our three-day festival featured five bands that were just interviewed in our latest issue, chickfactor 19 (Sacred Paws, Rachel Love and three Bay Area pop bands mentioned below), and two bands whose members (Paul Kelly and Debsey Wykes and the Catenary Wires) have been interviewed on our site in mostly recent times. The Lexington shows also featured three bands making their London debut: Seablite, Artsick and The Umbrellas flew across the world to play in London!
Tonight I was dead excited to see Sacred Paws for the first time, and they did not disappoint! (They toured the U.S. a while back but only the East Coast and I was West Coast then.) Rachel Aggs’ dance moves are a joy to watch and the whole band generates goodness. Their sound is rooted in the ESG-influenced past, but completely fresh and modern. We are so grateful they came down from Glasgow to play!
It was also amazing to see Rachel Love solo for the first time! She brought her kids and their friends to play many of the wonderful songs from her 2021 solo album that deserved more attention. We heard a few Dolly Mixture songs during Rachel’s set (“Down The Line,” “Miss Candy Twist,” “How Come You’re Such a Hit With the Boys, Jane?”), some with Debsey Wykes as a guest! Unbelievable joy. Plus, tonight was the first time Artsick has ever played in London and they were killing it with fizzy pop punk energy!
Thanks to the bands who played and traveled from afar, MC Gaylord Fields, the fans who came out, the Lexington, the soundpeople and especially the Betsey Trotwood and Paul Kelly for sorting out the backline for the whole weekend. Tonight was epic!
Night three at Union Pool was a blast! I was so excited to be seeing ARTSICK for the first time, and it was a NYC/East Coast debut for both them and SEABLITE! Both bands gave it everything and the crowd loved it. NYC’s JEANINES (now more of a Western Mass. combo I believe) and GARY OLSON (with a bit of LADYBUG TRANSISTOR!) brought it too! It was a magical night of old friends, fantastic music and general stardust. Thanks to DJ Sukhdev Sandhu, MC Gaylord Fields, Tae Won Yu for the gorgeous posters and graphics, our wonderful sound person Beck and the folks at Union Pool, along with everyone who played, came out and enjoyed the night! See more of Dean Keim’s photos here.