Shooting Blanks: The Art of Half-Cocked

Half-Cocked photo by Michael Galinsky over Steve Keene art

1994 was a pivotal year: The art and music community on the East Coast was rocking and filmmakers Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley made a film called Half-Cocked, which featured many band people including Rodan, Slint, Freakwater and the Grifters. Now they have curated, along with Tony Kapel, a new art show called Shooting Blanks: The Art of Half-Cocked, opening Nov. 29 the Seven Seas Motel during Art Basel Miami that pulls together art, photography and ephemera related to the film and the broader community. Some call it nostalgia; others call it historic documentation. We spoke to Michael Galinsky and Suki Hawley about their work and the exhibition. Photographs by Michael Galinsky

Joan Wasser by Michael Galinsky

Chickfactor: How did the art show “Shooting Blanks: The Art of Half-Cocked” come about? 
Michael Galinsky: About this time last year Tony asked me to be on his radio show that airs in Miami and online. He wanted to discuss Half-Cocked and my mall photos. We had a great conversation, and he also had several other people involved in the film on the show in the following weeks. Part of our discussion had to do with his surprise that the film wasn’t more widely known, so it was his idea to build an event around it during Art Basel. He suggested showing my photos and the film. Since Half-Cocked was such a collaborative project, and everyone involved with the making of the film is an artist we decided to make it more of a celebration of the kind of creativity that the film was meant to document. We also wanted to loop in others who documented that world, and people like Theresa Kereakes who helped inspire that kind of documentation.

Letha Rodman Melchior by Michael Galinsky

CF: Who is Tony Kapel and how is he involved? 
Suki Hawley: Tony is a musician/artist who does curation and puts out records and cassettes. This made it a very easy collaborative effort. The other day he mentioned that he started telling everyone about this event right after we decided to do it, but that no one really believed we’d pull it off. I laughed when he said this because this was part of the secret of getting Half-Cocked made. I kind of knew that if you told people you were doing something you kind of had to do it. At the very least it puts a fire under your ass. 

Slant 6 by Michael Galinsky

CF: Please describe Half-Cocked the film. 
MG: Suki was in graduate film school and was frustrated and annoyed because it wasn’t nearly as useful as her undergraduate program had been. I was a photographer who wanted to make films. We met at her roommate Cynthia’s birthday party, and shortly after, she started to book a tour for Cynthia’s band Ruby Falls, and she used all of the contacts I’d developed in booking Sleepyhead’s first tours. So that summer, she went on the same route that we often took and met many of the people we knew. That summer she also shot listed the film Party Girl because she was the director’s assistant and the director came from theater. So, she realized she kind of knew enough to make a film. We understood that it’s best to write what you know, and since we knew all of these amazing musicians in the South, we wrote about that. We did a lot of brainstorming with our roommates Cynthia Nelson and Steve Thornton respectively and then Suki and I would write for days at a time. We got a rough script together in a month. I sent it to my dad, who panned it. “Where the fuck’s the conflict?” he scrawled on the title page. We made another pass and sent it to everyone we hoped to have in it. Jon Cook had ideas for a crazy subplot that involved murdering a pizza delivery guy. It kind of exploded what was there. I mentioned this to Sean Meadows the other day, who was also in the movie, saying there wasn’t a way to incorporate it. He asked why not? I guess he was right, we could have done that. However, we really wanted to make something that could get seen. Even in my band we weren’t exploding the boundaries of expectation, just gently pushing them a bit. I loved work that exploded them, but it wasn’t my impulse to do so. 
SH: Half-Cocked is about a bunch of kids who steal a van full of gear and pretend to be a band in order to stay out on the road. The stakes are not as high as Some Like it Hot, but it does borrow some of that kind of slapstick at times. The other inspiration was teen riot films like Over the Edge and Suburbia. There were a lot of other more serious film influences as well; The Last Picture Show and Stranger than Paradise come to mind. The idea was to write a skeleton script and have everyone fill in their roles. We wanted to document the world we were a part of without making a “documentary.” 

Exhibition prints by Michael Galinsky

CF: Who are the artists involved with the show? Tell us about a few pieces in it. 
MG: We tried to be as inclusive as possible, both directly inviting people and making it known that we wanted people to contribute. We focused on the creative community in Louisville and Chattanooga, where Rodan and Boondoggle were from; bands we met on our first tours. However, we also pulled in people like Ron Liberti, from bands like Pipe, Small 23, and Clok Lock—as well as a brilliant poster artist. We have videos from [the late] Letha Rodman (from Ruby Falls), her sitcom Apartment 6, as well as a few of her collages, and a short film we made about her work. She was a huge supporter of all of our efforts. We will also be showing a film made by Ian Svenonius and Alexandra Cabral, The Lost Record. Ian brought a great deal of wit and panache to Half-Cocked as the owner of the van that gets stolen. We have photos from Pat Graham, Theresa Kereakes, Allison Wolfe and others. We have just a growing body of art and documentation and hope to take the show on the road to other locations, and maybe make some kind of book. 

Nikki McClure by Michael Galinsky

CF: We’ve talked a lot about community and documentation. Are those central themes here? What else were you hoping to achieve by wrangling these artists together? 
MG: The most exciting thing to come from this effort is a short film that Suki cut from Andrew Bordwin’s video footage of the Ruby Falls tour. I’d never seen this stuff and it’s really funny because there’s one section where Ruby Falls has their show in Chattanooga canceled and they find out in John Moses’ record shop. Almost the same scene takes place in the film and I had no idea that it had happened on their tour. So, in the short we cut in several scenes from the film that mirror what’s going in their footage. It adds so much to the idea of documentation. There’s a performative aspect to Half-Cocked that’s different in the color video footage. Together, the short video and the film capture something so much deeper than the individual pieces do. 
SH: There’s not much wrangling going on. Everything has fallen together pretty organically. Not everyone could get their shit together to send stuff, and a lot of people don’t have much of their older stuff. However, everyone is still involved in making art in some way. I think it’s all very inspiring to look at and sit with. It’s like mini museum show and hopefully the beginning of a much larger project. 

Photograph by Michael Galinsky

CF: Michael, when did you start taking photographs? 
MG: I started making pictures in high school in a photo class. I took to it like a duck to developer bath. Really, I was the only one in the class who was obsessed right off the bat. I spent many a lunch hour in the darkroom discovering the magic of images forming in the developer tray.

Photograph by Michael Galinsky

CF: What was your first camera? 
MG: My first, and really my only 35 mm SLR camera was a Nikon FG 20 with a shit sigma 3.5 lens. I ran that thing into the ground. The lens was kind of soft, but that gave the work something of a distinctive slightly out-of-focus look, LOL.

Kurt Lilys by Michael Galinsky

CF: Tell us about some of the books you’ve published. 
MG: My first book was Scraps, and it was put out by David Simkins on his Sugar Free Records label. He was a music fan I met in Chicago I think and when he moved to NY he offered to put out a book. I had another book that is still not published, of my early music and tour photos. Scraps is a reference to what was left after I made that book, but it’s also about the scrappiness of the underground DIY world. After that I made a couple of books of my mall work. All the books are out-of-print, but I want to make some new ones. I want to make a book that combines Scraps with the unpublished one Lost. I want to make another one largely based on what I have pulled together for this show. I also want to get to work on the color stuff I shot after 1995 when I got a point-and-shoot camera.

Lori by by Michael Galinsky

CF: How many films have you made together? 
SH: Michael and I have made nine feature films and countless shorts (many of which will be playing in the gallery). We have three or four long-term doc projects in various states of disrepair. 
CF: What are some of the biggest challenges facing creative artists these days? 
MG: There is just a veritable flood of content of all types. I can see how overwhelming it is for my daughter. Everyone is competing for our eyes and ears and so much of that work is overly slick and produced, even the stuff that’s meant to be messy and fucked up. No one wants to pay for creativity or “content.” It’s a shit show.

Coney Island by Michael Galinsky

CF: How would you describe the Half-Cocked era compared with 2021? 
MG: What we wanted to document in Half-Cocked was a world that was unconcerned with the expectations of the larger world. It wanted to be separate and disconnected. Now that’s happening in a million different ways in small groups—but also wildly connected through social media, and with so much intention. I’m glad we got to do what we did then.
CF: Half-Cocked came out around the time the internet truly took over our lives. What was better before personal technology changed everything? 
Everything. And nothing. 

Stereolab by Michael Galinsky

CF: Explain what the Soundwave Art app is and how it will be used in the show. 
SH: Soundwave basically turns each image into a QR code. So when you point your phone it can bring up whatever reference we want. It makes the show so much more interactive. Michael has a lot of spoken word and music that goes with his photos. It just makes the whole thing much more interactive. We can link to videos by band, or sound pieces etc. It adds a great deal.
CF: What are your future plans? 
MG: I really want to tour with the film again so that we can see the world but also celebrate the art that went into it. So many of the acts are still making work, and hopefully this will help them get more attention
SH: me too!

Watch the trailer or rent the movie here.

Shooting Blanks : The Art of Half-Cocked will feature work by the filmmakers Suki Hawley & Michael Galinsky (RUMUR), as well as past and current work from the cast, crew and artists connected to the scene documented in the film: 

Akeo Ihara / Allison Wolfe / Amy Davis / Andrew Bordwin / Barbara Johnson / Brian Lynch / Bob Fay / Cynthia Nelson / Catherine Irwin / David Pajo / Erin Smith / Gail O’Hara / Greg King / Ian Svenonius /Janet Beveridge Bean / Jason Noble / Jon Brumit / Jon Moritsugu / Jon Moses / Kevin Corrigan / Leslie Gomez-Gonzalez / Letha Rodman Melchior / Luis Collazos / Jeff Mueller / Jennifer Rogers-Anderson / Maitejosune Urrechaga / Michael Galinsky / Ron Liberti / Pat Graham / Sean Meadows / Suki Hawley /Tara Jane O’Neil / Tara Key / Theresa Kereakes / Tim Furnish / Tim Foljahn / Thom Snively

Half-Cocked is a 1995 film that documented the DIY underground music scene in and around Louisville, Kentucky, in the early ’90s. It was a vibrant, creative community that had a powerful impact on musicians around the world. This show will celebrate the art and the artists associated with that scene, then and now.

The exhibition will include screenings of Half-Cocked, other Rumur films, and a slideshow + Q&A on Galinsky’s photo book Decline of Mall Civilization. In 1995, the Half-Cocked soundtrack was released on Matador Records. The cast included members of the bands Rodan, The Sonora Pine, June of 44, Ruby Falls, LungFish, Slint, Nation of Ulysses, Shipping News, Boondoggle, The Grifters, Sleepyhead, Freakwater and Crain.

PUBLIC HOURS
Tuesday, November 30 – Saturday, Dec 4 / 11 am — 6 pm
Sunday, Dec 5 / 11 am — 5 pm

IN THE COMMON SPACE
SATURDAY Dec. 4, 2021

4pm
The Decline of Mall Civilization
Book slide show and Q&A
with Michael Galinsky

6:30 pm
Half-Cocked
Film Screening and Q&A
with Suki Hawley & Michael Galinsky

8PM Live Music
Gown 
BORRI
Rat Bastard
Nightly Closures
Pocket of Lollipops
KC Jankem

Photo by Theresa Kereakes for the Shooting Blanks show
The location of the exhibition

label spotlight: slumberland records

All images courtesy of Slumberland Records

Slumberland Records
Label head: Mike Schulman
Location: Oakland

I first met Mike Schulman when he was recommending spot-on records (such as Juvenilia and “100,000 Fireflies”) to me at Vinyl Ink Records in Silver Spring and the other folks who were involved with early Slumberland were Pam Berry (chickfactor’s cofounder and Black Tambourine singer), Archie Moore, Brian Nelson, Kelly Young, Rob Goldrick, Berny Grindel, Bridget Cross, Dan Searing (of Black Tambourine, Velocity Girl, Whorl and other bands). I wrote a story about the label for Washington City Paper 30 years ago! before our zine was formed. They’ve been a prolific and excellent label ever since and we did a label spotlight on them even though everyone reading cf already knows all about them! Meet Mike Slumberland

What year did you start a label? Where? Why?
We started Slumberland in 1989 around Washington, DC/suburban MD. A small group of us knew each other from high school, U of MD and the MD radio station (WMUC) and were into a lot of the same music—Postcard, Creation, K, Rough Trade, C86, shoegaze, lower east side NYC noise rock, the Mary Chain, etc.—and decided to start some bands in that vein. Eventually we decided to put out a few records to document what we were doing and it just grew from there.

What has been the most fun bit about running a label?
It’s the absolute best feeling to hear some new music that you like and being able to help get it out there. It’s why we do this. Of course it’s *especially* fun when a record resonates a bit and reaches a wider audience, but even so there’s nothing like that moment when you open the box of a new album, send some to the band, send out the first mail orders… It’s great.

What have been the biggest challenges?
The biggest challenges are rather connected: a) the financial side of keeping it all going, and b) getting enough visibility for the records to create enough demand to drive enough sales to satisfy a). It’s always been hard to get press for the kind of records we put out, and without press it’s equally hard to get into the shops. While internet sales and the demise of traditional print music magazines/zine have leveled the playing field a bit for the really small labels, it’s also meant the overall sales are down which just makes everything harder. And of course we take no pleasure at all in the challenges that have beset traditional music press and record retail—in a lot of ways I wish it was 1995 again, but with the press actually liking what we do, ha ha.

How have things changed over time in terms of marketing and distribution?
The rise of digital media—downloads/streaming, online zines/blogs and social media—has changed a lot of the specifics of how we get the music out there. While it’s great that music production and distribution has been demystified and democratized by platforms like Bandcamp, it’s also true that there is more music than ever and it becomes harder and harder to capture a little bit of attention for any given band or release. There is a tangible desire for the new and novel, and albums seem to have a much shorter shelf-life now. Catalog sales are barely a fraction of what they were before downloads and the retail apocalypse, so one feels compelled to push even harder during those few weeks before and just after an album release, and we’re increasingly resigned to the fact that we’ll need to let more records go out of print sooner.

What new stuff are you working on now/soon?
We have a new album by SF project Chime School (totally classic Rickenbacker-fueled jangle) along with a new pressing of the East Village singles comp. Farther in the future we’ve got new records by The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Artsick, Kids On a Crime Spree and Jeanines all in production, plus some *super* cool reissues we’ve been working on for ages.

What other merch do you sell?
Every now and then I do a batch of shirts, but TBH I’d rather spend the label’s money on new releases than merch.

What labels have inspired you?
Creation, Postcard, Bus Stop, K, Sarah, Rough Trade, Factory, Fast, Subway.

How do you find new records (not on your label)?
I keep an eye on Twitter and Instagram to see what people are talking about. Sometimes if I have a bit of time I’ll check out the Bandcamp profile pages for people who have bought SLR stuff and see what else they’re listening to. I listen to a bit of online radio, mostly BBC 1Xtra while I’m getting Prince SLR ready for school in the AM. I’m sure I’m missing a lot of new bands that I’d like but I’m also still buying loads of jazz, soul, techno, etc. and there’s just not enough time to listen to everything.

What are some great record stores and mail orders still operating?
Monorail, Jigsaw, Norman, World of Echo, Government Center, Belltower, Dusty Groove, Sounds of The Universe, Juno, Econojam, 1-2-3-4-Go, Bleep, Boomkat, Stranded. So many!

Can people get your releases outside the U.S.?
We have worldwide distribution, but of course the records are more expensive outside the US and it’s even harder to get stores to commit some money and rack space. Unfortunately overseas postage rates skyrocketed several years ago, which all but eliminated what was until then a pretty consistent overseas mail order biz. We’ve recently been experimenting with having our friend Alvaro at the excellent Meritorio label in Spain fulfill mail orders in Europe, which helps with costs and delivery times, but since it costs a LOT to get records over to him it really only works for records that we press in Europe. Still, it’s something.

What would you like to say to Louis DeJoy?
We see you.

What bands/records are you really excited about?
There’s been so much terrific music coming out of the bay area over the past few years—The Umbrellas, The Reds, Pinks & Purples, Cindy, Tony Jay, Chime School, Blue Ocean, April Magazine, Seablite and on and on. If it wasn’t for COVID, we’d have amazing gigs to go to every week! I quite like the US Highball albums, the new Ducks Ltd album is amazing, The Boys With The Perpetual Nervousness, the new Massage LP, the Dummy LP, the new Saint Etienne LP!!

What are you drinking, eating, listening to, reading, watching these days?
Somewhat surprisingly my alcohol & food intake seemed to actually go down during lockdown, and we’ve gone mostly vegetarian at the urging of Prince SLR. I’ve always got a few books on the go—usually non-fiction science writing or political theory, but I’ve been adding in some fiction now and again too. We have a hard time scheduling blocks of time for movies so we watch a fair amount of TV. We’re watching Back To Life and Pen15 right now, recently watched and liked Don’t Forget The Driver, Motherland, The Detectorists (finally). There’s just too much to watch, I don’t know how some people seems to get through all of the prestige TV happening today!

Has the vinyl supply-chain bottleneck affected you?
YES, and it’s an ongoing nightmare. Albums are being delayed over a year, planning and budgeting is almost impossible. Getting represses in a timely fashion is impossible, so we can’t respond to demand if a record does well. It’s just a mess and TBH it could be fatal for some small labels. I’m still trying to get my head around how to make it work.

Do you have a day job? Are you in a band? Do tell.
I’m between day jobs right now, which was actually pretty helpful during lockdown and home schooling. I’m the shouter in a punk band called Hard Left that is intermittently active; we released an album in 2015 bookended by a handful of singles, and we’re (VERY) slowly working on our long-awaited (ha ha!) follow-up.

Hobbies? Interests? Pets? Kids? Fave record stores?
Leftist politics, tinkering with computer tech stuff, our two cats, my lovely family, record collecting.

Anything else you would like to add?
When SLR started over 30 years ago, I couldn’t really imagine getting past the first few releases and now we have over 250 and are still counting. Running a small label is awfully challenging right now and the rewards are quite scant, but I still love to hear new bands and help them get their music out there. Now more than ever we need beautiful music and art in our lives!

Listen to Slumberland bands here.

Lotsa Pop Losers 30 years later!

Poster by Peter Hayes

Lotsa Pop Losers was a two-day music festival that took place at the American Legion Hall in Bethesda, Maryland on October 26, 1991, and the late d.c. space on October 27, 1991. Organized by three young independent labels in D.C. (Simple Machines, Slumberland and Teen-Beat), the festival was clearly inspired by the International Pop Underground Convention while also reflecting an East Coast pop/punk/indie/etc. music scene that felt pretty damn awesome at the time. The lineup was:

Saturday: Jonny Cohen, Swirlies, Kickstand, Lois Maffeo, Kicking Giant, Flying Saucer, Tsunami, Velocity Girl, Edsel, High Back Chairs
Sunday: Lorelei, Versus, Tear Jerks, Eggs, Lilys, Linda Smith, Sexual Milkshake, Small Factory, Sleepyhead, Unrest

We checked in with the organizers (Jenny Toomey + Kristin Thomson from Simple Machines and Tsunami; Mark Robinson from Teen-Beat and Unrest) and some performers Erin Smith (who played with Unrest at the event) and Michael Galinsky (Sleepyhead) to see what they could remember about the fall festival three damn decades ago. —Compiled by Gail O’Hara

Photograph of Unrest by Michael Galinsky

Did you attend Lotsa Pop Losers? What made you want to go? 

Mark Robinson (Teen-Beat, Unrest): I did. The bands, the people, the fun.
Erin Smith (Bratmobile, Teenage Gang Debs): Of course! It was a no-brainer that I was going to go. The 3 labels involved were some of my favorites, and the scene then was relatively small and insular—it seemed like all of my friends were playing! Plus, I am from Bethesda—and it was just too cool that one entire day of the fest was going to be held there. I’m very into Bethesda punk history. It might blow people’s minds now, but there were punk shows and venues in Bethesda, and certainly plenty of punks from there. I was very proud to introduce out of town visitors like Kicking Giant to my hometown!
Michael Galinsky (Sleepyhead): Sleepyhead played and a lot of our friends were also playing. I can’t remember where we stayed, but I do remember that Otis Ball came with us. In NY we played with Kicking Giant, Versus, and Flying Saucer a lot so I think we were the NY contingent. We also played with Small Factory and I guess that made us the Northeast contingent. We had also played quite a few shows with the bands like the Swirlies and Eggs. 

Erin Smith by Michael Galinsky

Were there other festivals like this you’d been to before? How was this different?

Erin: I had been to IPU (International Pop Underground Convention), which had just happened in Olympia, WA, 2 months before, in late August, 1991, with I believe only Kicking Giant, Sleepyhead, and Lois playing both fests. This was kind of cool in that it was 20 bands condensed into 2 days—so one long day in Bethesda at the American Legion Hall, and one long day in DC at dc space. It gave us a lot of time to all hang out together in one place!
Mark: I think this was probably my first festival like this. Maybe my first music festival of any kind.
Michael: We had also played at IPU and Lollipops and booze in Cambridge. This was more akin to IPU on a somewhat smaller scale. This was a bit more intimate and it was different for us because by this point we knew a lot more people so it was more like a reunion than being overwhelmed by a ton of new people. Somehow we were given a really prime spot on the bill. This was maybe the only time we played with Unrest, a band that I had a really profound respect for, so that had some meaning. 
Kristin Thomson (Simple Machines Records / Tsunami): Yes! We’d just attended—and Tsunami had played—at the International Pop Underground in Olympia, WA in August 1991. 
Jenny Toomey (Simple Machines Records / Tsunami): I’m sure we were inspired by IPU. We’d been to festivals before, but nothing as organized, three dimensional or as delightfully weird, as IPU. I’d spent 6 weeks in Olympia the previous summer after my first band Geek had toured the US with Superchunk and Seaweed. Aaron Stauffer talked me into coming back west and Candice was traveling so I rented her apartment and was living in the heart of the scene. So I’d experienced the strange time travel of the place up close. There were ways that Olympia was a north star and felt like it was way out ahead of the rest of the world, super feminist, queer positive, everyone was an artist and there were so many folks building and experimenting together—so much possibility. It was absolutely utopic. But there was also this darker, retro backward flavor to the town as well, a bizarro element, like a sci-fi novel where you walk through a time door and everything is cherry pie on the surface and sneaky drugs and violence and grudges underneath. Beat Happening had that mix in spades, like a caramel apple with a razor blade center. I think IPU was so great because it had that depth. It wasn’t just twee “hey, let’s do something fun and pretty”; it had a combination of bands and events and happenings that stretched across all that territory. Things that were public and celebrated and joyful and things that were hidden and dark. It was also so various; it had a “choose your own adventure” element. Some of the things I remember most was the happenstance of the event and have equal weight to the shows. Like, being in line at the grocery store between a Melvin and Jad Fair. Having to pitch a tent in the Capitol Theater because the recycling room in the Martin Apartments where you thought you were going to sleep was already taken by (I think) David Lester, and the Capitol Theater was full of fleas.

Program image courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

Kristin: There were so many parts of IPU that I loved. The Melvins playing an outdoor afternoon show. The Cake Walk. The Planet of the Apes movie day. And, honestly, one of the most emotionally raw Fugazi shows I ever witnessed. I also remember the jolt of joy I got when our event passes came in the mail, cut with pinking shears and hung on fat red crafting yarn. The entire ethos of IPU, and K Records, was very inspiring.
Jenny: We had a lot of experience organizing shows because of our involvement with Positive Force and from being in a band and booking tours. At those shows, in addition to bands, there were typically speakers, tabling, and sometimes there was also a die-in, or a punk percussion protest, or a march. But Lotsa Pop Losers was very different from a Positive Force show. It was way more whimsical and it was a joint effort, and it was a moment the newer labels were finding each other, and imagining the possibilities of what we could do together. When Kristin joined the Simple Machines crew, we just egged each other on into making every little thing extra with the label. So, before a tour, we’d do things like hand silk-screen and individually monogram thrifted golf jackets for every member of our band, and for the bands we were touring with. (Wish I still had that jacket). And Mark Robinson certainly had a bit of that “extra” in how he was running Teen-Beat, with the numbering of everything and hand making record covers and with the way he followed his passions with abandon. Mike of the three of us seemed to know a lot more about what was actually going on in the broader music sphere and out in the world, likely because of everything he saw as Vinyl Ink. So we were really able to bring our fetishes together for Lotsa Pop Losers.

Program image courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

Organizers, what do you remember about putting it together? 

Mark: Jenny and Kristin from Simple Machines came up with the idea and were the ring leaders. They then generously asked me and Mike Schulman if Teen-Beat and Slumberland would be involved, respectively. They made tons of cool merch. Trading cards for all the musicians/bands, Lots of Pop Losers t-shirts, posters etc.
Kristin: It’s funny to look back now and realize that there were only eight weeks between playing IPU in Olympia, and Lotsa Pop Losers in DC. You have to remember, this is pre-internet, so all of the organizing with Mark at Teen-Beat and Mike at Slumberland happened in person or on the phone. To add to this, both Jenny and I had full-time, non-rock jobs. So, to me looking back 30 years, the fact that it happened on an eight-week timeline is astounding, just on a logistical level. How did we confirm 20 bands in time to get Peter Hayes to design and for Jeff Nelson to screen a three-color poster that included all the bands’ names? Lots of post-work Big Gulps and late nights.
Jenny: I tend to forget the things that were difficult, particularly so many years out from the event, but in my memory it seemed to come together with very little effort. We were connected to and incredibly inspired by the Dischord scene, who also had a kind of boundless energy for running at things they were curious about. Knowing them made it easy to get the beautiful posters made by Jeff Nelson and Peter Hayes. We were beginning to feel proud of the other labels in the DC area—Teen-Beat and Slumberland. I know there was a lot of mutual admiration among our labels, so it was easy to call Mark and Mike, and just delegate responsibilities for inviting all of these new bands and pulling everything together.

event flier – image courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

Kristin: Lotsa Pop Losers was an opportunity to add some handmade, community-driven extras. We designed and silkscreened “Teen Slumber Machine” t-shirts. We put together sets of “DC Treasure” baseball cards, highlighting some of the cool people and places in the scene. And the show included an indie rock scorecard, so audience members could run up to the front of the stage to get their card stamped after each band. We’d had some practice with Positive Force shows putting together booklets, and Simple Machines probably had six or eight releases by now, but I’m sure being at IPU, being on tour, reading new zines, buying new 7-inches, and working with Teen-Beat and Slumberland, we were bursting with ideas about all the fun things we could pack into a show. (A sidebar on what was also happening Sept/Oct 1991: I just noticed while looking through some archival folders for this article that we also organized a Positive Force show at the American Legion Hall in Bethesda in the same eight-week period— September 30, 1991—with the Melvins. We got a noise complaint from the police, but instead of stopping, the Melvins continued to play on volume level 1 and stage whispered their lyrics. And, of all things, the famous Nirvana show at JC Dobbs in Philly was the next day— October 1, 1991. I didn’t go up to Philly for this, but Jenny did.) 
Jenny: And it’s hard to remember that back then we were touring without (and largely living without) the internet so on the road there was little to do but read, journal and imagine the next amazing things you’d work on when you landed.

Erin Smith and Pam Berry at Lotsa Pop Losers, American Legion Hall, Bethesda. Photo by Tae Won Yu

Performers, what did it feel like to be there? What were the fans like? 

Erin: Much like with IPU, with so many bands, the venues being small, and the acts themselves being pretty obscure—the fans really were the other musicians. There was not a clear demarcation between the bands and the fans. A lot of mutual admiration society going on, with bands watching each other from the pit. Bratmobile were slated to play, but weren’t able to given that we were all in college and living on 2 different coasts. I did play 2nd guitar with Unrest at the dc space show, which was incredible— they were one of my favorite bands!  I played probably 3 or 4 songs with them—I did this twice live—the Lotsa Pop Losers show, and later in Chapel Hill.  
Mark: I seem to remember that there were almost as many performers in the audience as there were “fans.”
Michael: This felt a lot like a community event than a fan event. The audience was likely 50 percent people in bands who were playing. That made it more intimate. It made it both low pressure and high pressure at the same time. We always wanted to bring everything we had to every show, and since we were largely playing for peers, the stakes were higher in that regard, but there was also a sense that people understood us so we had less to prove.
Kristin:
I remember it being a really joyful, eager, friendly crowd. 
Jenny: …and it felt like a lot of the audience were in the other bands. It was a community event. There wasn’t that divide of performer/artist vs consumer/audience.
Kristin: …which was also cool! It was a time when most of these bands were just starting to tour, so we were all pretty excited to watch each other perform.

Event T-shirt (back); image courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

It seemed like an exciting time for the East Coast pop scene. What did the community feel like then?  

Jenny: It felt alive with possibility. It wasn’t like we didn’t love the Dischord scene—I was obsessed with the Dischord bands and wouldn’t miss a show—but the next generation of labels were also coming into their own and putting out great records and I loved them too. It felt really exciting. We were still living in the Positive Force house at that time, and there were people who didn’t think it was punk enough and who were very suspicious of the Sub Pop commercialism, which was beginning to influence so much of the independent music scene. Some of our housemates would spend hours arbitrarily deciding which of the pop groups were sufficiently punk, adding logic loopholes exempting the groups they liked. It felt like they were fighting the world’s smallest war and the unnecessary heavy atmosphere was one sign that it was getting time for us to move out into the first Simple Machines house.
Erin: In 1991, with Gen X just starting to be able to take a little tiny piece of the control of the media from Baby Boomers, it felt like everyone I knew in the local punk community was starting to get nationally recognized at the same time. Things like Sassy Magazine (for which I was the Washington Bureau Chief) started to take notice of the DC bands and give them some national press. SPIN and the Washington Post started to write about it more and more, too. This is just about the time Nirvana broke and things got really crazy.
Mark: Small. But there was definitely a connection between the DC and NY/New England bands—like we were doing something new and somehow connected to each other. My band had already been around for 8 or 9 years at this point, so it was interesting and great that we were included in this movement, scene, or whatever it was.
Michael: Having a bunch of bands that we regularly played with and saw at other shows created a pretty powerful sense of community. Everyone in bands that we played with was involved in other creative activities and that created pathways for all kinds of creative connections. I feel like that community made it possible for me to find a foundation to be creative.

LPL card set. Image courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

What performances do you remember? New artists discovered? 

Mark: Pretty sure this was the first time I saw Versus play. Not only was their set amazing, but they would quickly become my favorite band. One interesting thing about this festival that there were a lot of New York and New England bands… My band had played CBGB and other places like that in New York countless times, but in 1991 we had started playing different venues like the Spiral which was a kind of hub for bands in this new scene. 
Michael: Kicking Giant roaring through their set. Unrest being unreal. Lilys.
Jenny: I remember Jonny Cohen had a great set, and it might have been one of the first times we saw Small Factory who were a fan favorite for the VG crew. And, of course, Unrest and Versus, who to this day remain my favorite, favorite bands. 

LPL card set 2. Image courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

What was the vibe in general? 

Jenny: It felt like a new scene. It also felt established … not a beginning, but an actuality. Like “here we all are, of course we are here.” 
Kristin: There was also a really great ratio of women performing. DC had a number of women who were either in bands or played important roles in the punk scene. And even though this wasn’t a deliberate plan, it’s affirming to look back and see just how many of the bands playing at Lotsa Pop Losers had women in them. 
Mark: The vibe was just one of having fun. 
Michael: pleasant low-key calm, with some intense musical moments.

Kicking Giant at Lotsa Pop Losers. Photo courtesy of Tae Won Yu

Was it covered by mainstream media then and if so, did they get it? 

Jenny: My memory isn’t good here. I think a person from SPIN or Option came down, but we thought it was kind of weird to have mainstream interest. I have a memory that Mark (Jenkins) from the City Paper may have written something. 
Kristin: Lotsa Pop Losers might have been even a few months too early for the mainstream music press to be interested in this East Coast indie scene. I feel like the Providence Indie Rock Explosion, which happened about six months later, attracted more music press attention. I believe that was one of Belly’s first shows, and by then you could really feel the momentum building around some indie rock bands.
Michael: I recall seeing some stuff in zines but not really the media.

LPL treasure cards; images courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

Anything else you remember? 

Erin: I was not a fan of the name Lotsa Pop Losers—a play on both Lollapalooza and Sub Pop’s use of “Loser” at the time—because the fest was full of some of the most underground and amazing bands I knew, not to mention the coolest people! No way were any of these people “losers”!
Michael: I remember doing “surrender” with Otis. 
Mark: Each label got to choose approximately one-third of the bands that would perform. I also wanted to screen a film, Hippie Porn by Jon Moritsugu, so we did that on the first day at the VFW hall. There was a TV and VHS player set up in the corner and perhaps 2 or 3 people gathered around and watched it before the first band played. I remember it being kind of cold since it was the end of October, but I was still wearing shorts. It always took me a while to change my wardrobe to match the seasons. I also remember not being completely in love with the name of the festival; that it was kind of named after Lollapalooza—and that we were “losers”—ha ha.
Jenny: Looking back 30 years, I think it was just one of those moments when things came together. They happen from time to time where a lot of complementary energy just shows up in the same space. For us that was exactly when a few different labels and bands became intertwined in such a strong way. Out of it came records, tours, friendships. When I finally joined Facebook about five years after it started, someone advised me to only friend people who I would let sleep on my couch. As a couch surfing and couch sharing musician, that was a pretty long list, but when I look at my friends list today, all the LPL alumni are there. It’s awesome to see so many of them are still creating, collaborating and sharing music with the world, and if any of them are ever up in Catskill (Kristin: or near Philadelphia!) you can let them know we’ve actually got a guest room now.

Read this 2013 oral history in Washington City Paper for more quotes about the event!

LPL treasure cards; images courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

Kickstand and friends; photo courtesy of Tae Won Yu
LPL treasure cards; images courtesy Jenny + Kristin from Simple Machines

label spotlight: kiam records

Jennifer O’Connor, head of Kiam Records. Photo courtesy Kiam

Kiam Records
Label head: Jennifer O’Connor
Location: Nyack, New York

the latest installment in our new series on independent labels takes us to Kiam Records in Nyack, NY, where label head Jennifer O’Connor leads a very music-intensive life.  Jennifer is a musician who records under her own name and has an ace new album coming out on Nov. 5 called Born at the Disco! She also runs a record-book-clothing store called Main Street Beat with her wife, Amy Bezunartea, who is also a great musician and Kiam artist. Check out the artists on Kiam here. She also talked about running Kiam Records on this podcast recently. Find out more on FBK, Twitter, Insta, etc. Meet Jennifer…

JOC, boss at Kiam

chickfactor: What year did you start a label? Where? Why? 
Jennifer O’Connor: 2002. To put out my first album. I was in Florida when I started it technically, but moved back to NYC soon after.
What has been the most fun bit about running a label? 
The most fun part has been being involved in helping my friends and other people that I care about get their music out into the world.  
What have been the biggest challenges? 
I think the hardest part is that I need to be like 10 more people. Ha.
How have things changed over time in terms of marketing and distribution? 
I feel like both marketing and distro are constantly in flux. When I first started there were still actual physical publications and that is not really a thing anymore. Magazines and zines and such helped a lot with marketing to people who actually care about music. And even early on in the web… before it was all just about personalities and clicks and social media. We are all so spread thin now that I think it’s harder and harder to reach people. There was no such thing as streaming!! Which I think of as a blessing and a curse. But I also didn’t own a record store when I started, which gives me an actual physical place to sell the label’s releases and has also provided me with a trial by fire education in many things I was not super knowledgeable about before….
What are the top sellers of all time on yr label? 
Like physical records? Probably The Martha’s Vineyard Ferries, Mass. Grave. or my album I Want What You Want. Overall sales on all platforms and if you included income from licensing it would definitely be I Want What You Want.

What new stuff are you working on now/soon? 
I have a new album coming out on Nov. 5 called Born At The Disco. It’s the first label release since 2019 and my first since 2016.
What other merch do you sell? 
For the label we don’t have anything else yet. I’m thinking about getting a tote or coffee mug soon though. The store (Main Street Beat) did a tote this year—our first piece of merch—and it sold out already.
What labels have inspired you? 
So many.  Kill Rock Stars, Merge, Sub Pop, Stones Throw, Mello Music Group, Orindal, Thrill Jockey. There’s a lot.  
How do you find new records (not on your label)? 
For me personally to listen to? Mostly at my shop. I listen to a lot of old jazz and hip-hop and disco. But for new music, I listen to Sirius Radio a lot and also to WFUV and WFMU. And then I follow a few people’s playlists too. I’m trying to get better about listening to more new music. The store has helped with that for sure.

Photograph by Janette Beckman

What are some great record stores and mail orders still operating? 
I love record stores so much. And I love to order from labels directly. I think Bandcamp has been great for keeping online ordering alive, but I think people should order more directly from label websites. It doesn’t have to be Bandcamp Friday to order a record. There are too many great record stores to list. I wouldn’t know where to begin. And they just keep popping up everywhere! Just go to any near you and you will find something good, if you are curious and open.    
Can people get your releases outside your country? 
Just from us, unfortunately and I know it’s so expensive to ship overseas.  Hopefully, we will get that sorted eventually.
What bands/records are you really excited about? 
I really love the band Dry Cleaning and their record from this year.  
What are you drinking, eating, listening to, reading, watching these days? 
Coffee/water
This and that. I don’t know! 
Funk/Soul/Disco
I May Destroy You and Ted Lasso most recently. I May Destroy did in fact destroy me, but in the best way.

Has the vinyl supply chain bottleneck affected you? 
Yes, my own release has been delayed and it affects me daily at the shop. Almost nothing comes out on time. It’s a mess. We pretty much stopped participating in RSD because so much nonsense is getting pressed now and it’s truly fucking up the little guys’ (independent labels) chances at getting their records out in a timely fashion.

Main Street Beat in Nyack

Do you have a day job? Are you in a band? Do tell. 
Yes, I have several and always have.  In addition to the label (Kiam Records) and my career as a musician, I also own and operate a record/clothing/book shop with my wife and label mate Amy Bezunartea.
Hobbies? Interests? Pets? Kids? 
No kids.
Had a sweet pup named Paco who we lost on Leap Day, 2020.
I’m interested in traveling again hopefully soon. I’ve been going on a lot of long walks lately. I need more mental space in my life and I’m interested in doing more things that help me find some. 
Reading.
Anything else you would like to add!? 
Thank you for being you.

Jennifer with Kendall Meade, an artist on her label and friend, who says: “Kiam is very special to me and I had a great experience releasing my EP with them. Jennifer had always had a sharp business mind and we love to ‘TCB’ as we call it, which we have done together since she was on my label, Red Panda Records. No bullshit, no drama. all action.” (image courtesy Kiam)

A brief interview with Susan Anway (RIP)

image from her FBK page

I still remember where I was when I first heard “100,000 Fireflies” in 1991. I remember my first Magnetic Fields show at CBGB in 1992, when I was confused by the fact that Susan Anway wasn’t singing. I grew to love all the other TMF singers but there is something calming and otherworldly about those first two albums, perhaps made more mysterious by the fact that we didn’t see her perform.

I (or we) tried to interview Susan Anway a number of times for chickfactor and the documentary Strange Powers, but it never quite came together. I was more in touch with her in the 1990s, when I was the Music Editor at Time Out New York and assigned her to write reviews of Celtic albums. She never performed live with the Magnetic Fields. Susan was honored to be associated with the Magnetic Fields but was also very busy with her “powerful atmo electropop” project Diskarnate, which featured German composer-producer Armin Küster and her partner, Jack Andrews. After decades living in Arizona, she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015. She died on September 5, 2021. This brief interview is from 2011.

image from her FBK page

chickfactor: How did you first get involved with the Magnetic Fields?
Susan Anway: Claudia called me and said she and Stephin had heard my extreme psychedelipunk band V; and did I want to audition? She sent me a tape of “Crowd of Drifters”—Stephin said it was a song about vampires. First listen I thought, O NO-O, this sounds like a Kris Kristofferson song, a Kris Kristofferson song…ABOUT VAMPIRES! I actually laughed. Joke’s on me. How am I supposed to interpret this? But at the same time, it had a strange and wonderful quality I had never heard before and I fell in love with it musically. 

The audition was in Stephin’s Boston apartment. The room was pretty bare except for a lonely mic stand, keyboards, MAC, rug and HP Lovecraft book on the floor. I thought, He is going to hate what I did to his song, I sound just like a Judy Collins clone. But after the first few lines, he stopped me, and we started working on realizing the song together. Just a typical day in a studio, like we had done it for years. Kismet.

photo of Stephin back then by Susan Anway

Describe a typical day recording with Stephin back then.
When we recorded Distant Plastic Trees, Stephin seemed to be living on chocolate milk, cigarettes and bagels. I was commuting from Arizona, so we were fairly disciplined. We put in a typical eight-hour day, broken by a walk to Kenmore Square for “lunch bagels” and more chocolate milk. Sometimes we went out for supper afterward, because there are only so many bagels you can eat in a week.

In session I was always testing a variety of voices—Shirley Bassey, Debbie Harry, Aretha, Mary Travers, Mary Black, too many to list, even Sinatra. Vocalists often sing in character. There has to be some kind of back story. Stephin would say, “Don’t sing like you know how.” That was new. And it worked. But I still had to visualize. I think you can hear it most in “100,000 Fireflies,” “Candy” and “Tokyo A-Go-Go.”

Little-known secret: in one session Stephin handed me a hand-written lyric sheet for Tangerine Dream’s “(Further Reflections) In the Room of Percussion” and asked if I could sing it like Marlene Dietrich! I did. It was off da chain! Wish we had done it. “My god! the spiders are everywhere!” LOL Verzeihen Sie mir, liebe Marlene.

image from her FBK page

What is Stephin really like? 
When Ridley Scott was directing Gladiator, someone asked him if it was true that Russell Crowe was difficult to work with. He laughed and said: “The good ones always are.” Stephin is not difficult; he is simply a maestro. When you work with a maestro, you must view yourself as an instrument. The mutual goal is the execution of a shared musical intent, beautifully and descriptively, shaped by the choice and nuance of instrumentation. Ego falls away. It’s all about the music. 

image from her FBK page

What were those early shows like? And the Boston/Cambridge music scene in general?
I can’t speak about the early shows or the Boston scene in the ’90s because at that time I had moved to Arizona, and was starting my love affair with EDM/electro/industrial/Europop.

Have you seen Strange Powers
I finally got a chance to view the film a couple of nights ago! I enjoyed it greatly. You might be interested to know that when the clip of “100,000 Fireflies” came on, the whole audience started singing it—including me! The film has some wonderful rehearsal/
arranging scenes and, of course Stephin’s (and Claudia’s) wry comments. 

Thank you for all your many kindnesses re: TMF and my contribution to the early band sound. I am happy my disembodied voice is in the film. As a vocalist, I feel in some ways that’s perfect.

image from her FBK page

These responses were for our 20th anniversary issue (CF17, 2012):
What was the best record / live show / artist in 1992? 
Record (other than The Wayward BusMagnum Force 
Performance: Sielwolf 

What is the best record / live show / artist of 2012? 
Record: looking forward to Delerium’s Music Box Opera.
Performances: The Roots & Combichrist, for sheer sustained intensity and crowd motivation

image from her FBK page
image from her FBK page

Excavate! Book Review

Excavate! The Wonderful and Frightening World of The Fall 
Edited by Tessa Norton & Bob Stanley (Faber Books)

The Fall were the first so-called ‘indie’ band I ever liked. I would love to be able to say that I came across them on John Peel or on a cool mixtape. In fact, it is on Top of the Pops, or more likely its rival, The Chart Show, that I catch the video for “There’s a Ghost in My House”first encountering the Mark E. Smith sneer as he dodges china hurled at him by Brix, playing the eponymous grinning sprite. This isn’t early Fall of course, although perhaps that’s relative, given that the band still has more than thirty prolific years ahead of it. But in April 1987, the pop sensibility that Smith’s Californian wife has brought to the band’s abrasive sound is paying dividends. The Fall have never sounded more conventional, but they are still like nothing I have come across before.

Mark E. Smith photograph by Pam Vander

“There’s a Ghost in My House” doesn’t feature prominently in Excavate!, Tessa Norton and Bob Stanley’s engrossing new collection of writing and ephemera on The Fall. In fact, the editors have little interest in providing a comprehensive account of the band’s long and turbulent history at all. Instead, with an approach more philosophical than biographical, each contributor to the text comes at the band according to their own interests and expertise, less interested in what the band did than at getting to the heart of who they were. Architectural historian Elain Harwood introduces us to Mark E. Smith the psycho-geographer via a tour of Prestwich, the North Manchester town where Smith lived all his life. Designer Paul Wilson explores the Northern Working Men’s Clubs in which the band played their early shows and ponders the influence that these venues may have exerted on their text heavy artwork. Bob Stanley, whose own band happens to be named after a football team, uses the football leagues as an avenue to discuss The Fall as amateurs (and, circa “TaGiMH,” as professionals).

Image courtesy of Excavate!

A real pleasure of the book, one that speaks to the care of its editors, is how the varied contributions combine to unfold as a cohesive and satisfying whole. Occasionally the book format provides an avenue for writers to interact directly. Michael Bracewell & Jon Wilde’s essay on Mark E. Smith and Stuart Bertolotti-Bailey’s on Vorticist co-founder Wyndham Lewis playfully mirror one another. Continuing on the subject of Smith’s literary influences, a reprint of the late cultural theorist Mark Fisher’s Memorex for the Kraken considers the group’s early output alongside modernist and horror literature. Fisher’s essay quotes Mark Sinker repeatedly, and the latter writer here continues the conversation, responding to Fisher with a new essay of his own. Through these and other entries, we are guided from Smith, voracious reader and autodidact, to the group as an education in its own right. Tessa Norton considers The Fall as a curriculum, situated within a lineage of artist-led alternative educational establishments that include the Black Mountain College and Joseph Beuys’ Free International University for Creativity and Interdisciplinary Research.

Image courtesy of Excavate!

Of course, The Fall’s outsider status is never in doubt. There is Mark E. Smith the personality, who disliked the company of musicians socially and kept them on a tight rein within his band, who at the height of Madchester famously claimed Salford as his home, while decamping to Edinburgh until the fuss died down. Then we have Smith the visionary, who “when the Fall began,” quotes Ian Penman “was picking up the past and the future on different frequencies to everybody else.” And no one else ever quite matched their wavelength. In the essay most concerned with the Fall’s influence, Adelle Stripe doesn’t discuss Pavement or Prolapse, instead focusing on a mixed-media art project. For his part, Mark Fisher locates a shared essence between The Fall and the black comedy series League of Gentlemen in their predilection for “grotesque humour.”

Image courtesy of Excavate!

A second form of excavation bookends each of the essays. A cornucopia of Fall ephemera has been unearthed for the book, all drawn from the collections of fans. There are posters, press releases and fan communiques, song lyrics and notes on album track listings (“From the book, don’t read it,” Smith comments on Dice Man, a useful reminder not to read all inspiration as endorsement, especially from a writer so fond of the third person). The concert program for The Fall’s ballet collaboration with Michael Clark is included, as is an excerpt from Mark E. Smith’s original script for his play, Hey! Luciani. This is not written on beer mats, as sometimes rumored, although a scrawled-on beer mat is found elsewhere. It has all been lovingly cared for and is beautifully reproduced, along with the artwork for all thirty-one of the band’s studio albums. There is ample material here to reward the serious fan’s careful attention, but its handsome presentation within this hardcover edition also makes the book ripe for the coffee table, a designation that might have prompted some wry amusement from its subject matter.

Image courtesy of Excavate!

I never had a big breakup with The Fall. I considered them my favorite group for a few years, and I always considered myself a fan. They were the first band that I ventured to see twice in a single week. One show was thrilling, the second a chaotic mess, the difference itself feeling very much in keeping with this group. At some point in the mid-nineties my attention began to falter, I still had my old records, but I barely noticed as new albums arrived. Inevitably, reading Excavate! has encouraged new excavations of my own, discovering Fall songs that I’ve missed, and breathing fresh connections into old favorites. “There’s a Ghost in My House”: An entwining of Smith’s embrace of Arthur Machen and America music, a Motown cover from a band whose signing to a Motown subsidiary was scuppered by a regrettable lyric in the 1982 song “The Classical.” A music book like none I’ve encountered before, Norton and Stanley have assembled a fine tribute to one of British culture’s most idiosyncratic voices. Excavate-ah!

—Chris Phillips

Image courtesy of Excavate!

JEANINES!

Alicia and Jed from Jeanines!

When it comes to indie-pop flame keepers, few do it better than the East Coast band Jeanines. We love their 2019 debut album and cannot wait for the next one out early next year on Slumberland. We caught up with Alicia Jeanine and Jed Smith (My Teenage Stride) to see how they’ve been holding up, what they’ve been listening to and doing over the past few strange years since we saw them play in January 2020 in a chilly basement record shop in Portland. Interview by Gail

CF: What has changed since the pandemic happened? Did you have to cancel plans? Change residence? Change your working style? 
Alicia: The week we were supposed to leave for Europe to play the Madrid Popfest plus two other dates, the entire world basically shut down. That was super disappointing, of course, but we hope to get to Europe eventually! I also graduated library school in May 2020 and moved to Western Massachusetts for a new job this February, which totally changed our working style. We used to go to our practice space together weekly and work on recording stuff, but now we have to do almost everything separately. Jed helped me get a super basic recording setup in my apartment here, but things still take much longer and aren’t as fun, unfortunately.
Jed: What Alicia said, plus a West Coast thing in September that got canceled. Since Alicia moved we’ve seen each other plenty, either me up in Massachusetts or her down in the city for shows, but we can’t really practically record in the same way, so that’s a bit frustrating and the process definitely isn’t as fun. 

What were you like as teenagers? 
Alicia: I was socially maladjusted and had very few friends. I was definitely slowly getting into more and more indie bands, but not many people I knew were into that kind of thing. I was pretty isolated and grew up in suburban sprawl not super close to any cities.
Jed: From ages about 13–18, I was more or less completely asocial. So all of junior high and high school, basically. I wasn’t picked on or anything and actually had good social skills—I remember people even trying to befriend me and I’d just…not take them up on it. All of my teen years were spent alone recording songs on a 4-track pretty much as soon as I picked up drums and guitar at 14, doing special effects makeup (I kid you not), and painting (poorly). I can’t really regret not hanging out with anyone during those years because I spent it being creatively productive. Oh, I did have a weird sort of uh…love triangle in like 11th and 12th grade with two girls at school—I was totally in love with one of them who had a boyfriend and the other one had a crush on me and it was fraught and sad and stuff but this all happened at school—I never hung out with them outside of school, nor did I try. So yeah, I was a weird, very much intentionally solitary teen I guess. Okay, that was wayyyyy too much info sorry. 

Are you from musical families? 
Alicia: Yes, my mom has a degree in music and used to teach piano. She only cares about classical music, though. I’m glad to have that foundation (I was forced to take piano and violin throughout my childhood) but I never wanted to be a classical musician. I definitely think some of my ability comes from my mom, though!
Jed: Yeah, my grandmother was a piano player, basically a stride piano player like Jelly Roll Morton or Fats Waller; she was a virtuoso with perfect pitch, wish we’d recorded her. My grandfather played drums a bit in church jazz bands and my mom is a jazz musician semi-professionally. So I grew up with a lot of jazz. 

When did you write your first song, what was it about, what was it called? 
Alicia: I didn’t write my first song until about six years ago, actually, with the encouragement of Jed. I don’t remember what it was called or what it was about, though!
Jed: The first song I remember writing, which I can still recall completely, like arrangement and everything, was when I was 7, and it was called “Salt Water Up My Nose.” It had a sort of music hall McCartney arrangement with groovy drums and bass arpeggios like Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. I didn’t start playing instruments till I was 14 though, so I had no means to record any of my ditties till then. I was always obsessively doing it though. 

What is your songwriting process like? 
Alicia: Usually I sit down with the guitar and try to will something into my mind, the beginnings of a song. Often it works but sometimes it’s just not the moment. Other times I’ll get a little snippet of a melody or a phrase in my head and sit down and try to work it into a song.
Jed: Either a song pops into my head and I go record it, or I think about a song I want to exist and I work out the arrangement and everything in my head, including the production aspects, so it’s more like writing a record than a raw song. I don’t sit down with an instrument to write, so it’s an entirely uh…cerebral process, which makes recording it a joyless, obsessive sort of act of transcription. Working with Alicia changes that process and it’s way more fun.

Where do you write and record? 
Alicia: I write songs at home. Most of the recording happens at the practice space in Brooklyn, but now I do some recording in my apartment in Massachusetts.
Jed: I write when I’m doing something mundane like shopping or cleaning or showering—mowing the lawn used to be a good time for thinking of songs. It’s good to have the nervous part of me busy with some other task so I can free up the good part of me to think about songs. I record everything in my practice space/studio in Bushwick. 

Your debut album is awesome! What were you going for when you recorded it? 
Alicia: I always say I write sad folk songs and Jed turns them into indiepop gems. So yeah, I handed them to him as simple acoustic things, and he transformed them into pop hits! We both were super into adding lots of harmonies.
Jed: Thanks! Alicia’s early songs were more often than not minor key songs written with acoustic guitar. I liked the idea of up-tempo, super short minor key pop songs, that’s really the main concept I personally had in mind. I couldn’t think of that many examples of it that were contemporary besides Veronica Falls. We also both really love multipart harmonies including hymnal stuff. 

What’s it like being on Slumberland/WIAIWYA? 
Alicia: Being on Slumberland is a dream come true, and Mike Schulman (Papa Slumber) is the nicest, best person you could hope to have on your team. Working on the EP with John from WIAIWYA was also great.
Jed: Same as Alicia, having a record on Slumberland was always a dream and a lot of my friends over the years were in bands I really loved like Cause-Co Motion and Crystal Stilts, who had records on Slumberland—but my first Slumberland obsession was Aislers Set, and I still consider Linton to be one of the greatest songwriters and pop musicians of the past 20+ years. Their stuff was really inspiring to me. WIAIWYA are another great label with great bands and it’s been an honor having a record there. 

What is the pop community like where you live? 
Alicia: In Brooklyn the pop community is doing all right, perhaps not as vibrant as it’s been in the past. It definitely skews older currently. In Western Mass I’m still trying to find any pop community that might exist!
Jed: Brooklyn/NYC has had a lot of great guitar pop…some you could call indiepop, for whatever it’s worth, but some like the aforementioned Cause Co-Motion and Crystal Stilts, who for me were more part of the continuation and mutation of the sort of 60s music that’s always been the core of my musical DNA. Right now it’s disjointed. But there’s always great music being made everywhere, even if the people making it aren’t letting anyone hear it. 

Whose lyrics do you adore? 
Alicia: Nothing is coming to mind right off the bat, but I’ve always found the Siddeleys’ lyrics quite clever.
Jed: I’m always reticent to say it, but I think Mick Jagger is one of the greatest lyricists of all time when he’s not being childishly misogynistic, and weirdly underrated in that sense…especially considering they’re the second most famous band of all time. Other than that, Linton from Aislers Set’s lyrics are one of the things about them that’s exceptional and makes them stand out from other bands associated with indie pop. I also think Kim Deal is one of the most underrated lyricists of all time, especially on Pod. Chris Knox also. 

Where in NYC are you living now? If we came to visit for one day, what should we do? 
Alicia: Jed lives (and I used to live) in Ridgewood, Queens, right next to North Brooklyn. Depends what you like to do! Ridgewood has some great restaurants and bars (both old and new). The music scene right now is kind of in flux/trying to emerge from the pandemic.
Jed: I live in Queens right over the Brooklyn border next to Bushwick. NYC is a horrible place for a day trip or a several-day trip, I think it’s best experienced by actually living here. 

How has NYC changed since the crazy time started? 
Alicia: A lot of places have closed but some haven’t. A lot more outdoor seating, of course! 
Jed: It’s weird and traumatic and wonderful as ever. The music venue situation is upsetting but I think it’s finding ways to mend. Andy Bodor deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Cakeshop forever. 

Can you cook? What is your specialty? 
Alicia: I can cook but don’t like to. Sometimes I make this thing with green beans and kidney beans that sounds boring and bad but tastes quite good.
Jed: For about four years, I was an obsessive bread baker—like three times a week or so, back in like the mid-2000s. Other than that, Mexican and Italian are my things since forever. 

What’s in the fridge? 
Alicia: Eggs, yogurt, fruit, salad stuff, seltzer.
Jed: Yogurt, too much cheese, beans, too much seltzer. 

What day jobs have you had? 
Alicia:
 Librarian, proofreader/editor, software tester, admin stuff.
Jed: Special education, barista, video store/music store, proofreader/editor, copywriter, internet “journalist,” music lessons, recording engineer/producer, soundtrack composer. Past couple of years it’s mostly been copywriting and recording/producing, paid work–wise. I also do wet work for the CIA occasionally. Not really though. OR DO I REALLY THOUGH?

What are you reading/watching/eating at the moment? 
Alicia: I’m about to start reading something that looks really good, but I don’t remember the name! I’ve been watching so much Masterchef, it’s very dumb.
Jed: If I visit Alicia it’s nonstop Masterchef, so I guess I have to count that. World/American cinema from 1935 or so to 1985ish. Reading, I’m on a Joan Didion kick right now and just finished Kiss of The Spider Woman by Manuel Puig. I also read books about sharks and deep sea life as often as possible. 

What radio shows/DJs/podcasts do you love? 
Alicia: Lately into podcasts by Jamie Loftus; the current one is about Cathy comics. Also love Maintenance Phase (about bodies/dieting/health fads) and You’re Wrong About (rehashing historical moments with witty banter).
Jed: My friend Neal Ramirez has a great show called Sound Burger, and my friends Owen Kline and Sean O’Keefe both have wonderful, unpredictable shows on this indie station called K-PISS (no, really.)

Fave record stores? 
Alicia: None in particular, but I love places with a great and well-priced used selection.
Jed: Earwax, Captured Tracks store, Academy Records, Deep Cuts, and Rough Trade, all in Brooklyn except for Deep Cuts, are/were all great. 

How do you consume music? (Platforms, formats)
Alicia: Spotify and records, mostly.
Jed: I rarely listen to music casually so it’s usually one song or piece, on YouTube, staring at the screen, or my iTunes library. I think YouTube is the best option for music on the internet outside of Bandcamp (for newer/smaller artists).

Do you use any apps or software in to make music? 
Alicia: Logic to record; Voice Memo to jot down ideas.
Jed: Logic for recording and production, voice memo to remember a vocal melody occasionally. In the past I’ve also used Audacity and Garageband.  

Who is your style icon? 
Alicia: No one?
Jed: No one. Though David Hemmings’ white pants in Blow-Up make him 10x more foxy. 

What are your day jobs? Hobbies? Pets? Kids? 
Alicia: I’m the outreach librarian at the public library. Music is my hobby, I suppose. I have two beautiful cats—a calico named Heidi, and a gray and white tabby named Biscuit. They are delightful.
Jed: I’m a copywriter as my regular thing, peppered with recording/mixing/soundtrack work throughout the year. My extremely lovely black cat Elsa is my familiar. 

What would you do this summer if money and COVID were not in the way of your dreams? 
Alicia: Travel more and maybe tour.
Jed: Buy a car and do a road trip across the country and then drive up the coast of California listening to “Babylon Sisters” on repeat. Help some friends out.

What bands/venues do you want to play with/at? 
Alicia: Dream pairings that won’t happen—Aislers Set, Dear Nora. 
Jed: Alicia’s picks are good. My Teenage Stride played in this cool outdoor venue at Primavera years ago. I’d like to do that again but having rehearsed more. 

Future plans? Upcoming tours/records? 
Alicia: We have a new LP coming out in early 2022 and we are hopefully playing some dates in California at the beginning of January around the SF Popfest!
Jed: New Jeanines LP in early 2022 on Slumberland as well as new Mick Trouble LP on Emotional Response in January, with a special limited edition w/flexidisc bonus thingie for Rough Trade which I’m excited about. Touring Jeanines and Mick in SF Popfest and the West Coast in January also. 

Records Alicia Cannot Live Without
Dear Nora – Three States
The Siddeleys – Slum Clearance
Les Calamités – C’est Complet
The Aislers Set – How I Learned to Write Backwards
Nice Try – S/T (2016)
The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave
Elliott Smith – all?
Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing
Go Sailor – S/T
Connie Converse – How Sad, How Lovely

Songs That Jed Cannot Live Without
“All My Hollowness,” Tall Dwarfs
“Nothing But Heartaches,” the Supremes
“This Angry Silence,” Television Personalities
“Anything Could Happen,” The Clean 
“Myself When I Am Real,” Charles Mingus (from Mingus Plays Piano)
“Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” The Four Tops
“Luck of Lucien,” A Tribe Called Quest
“Back Up Against the Wall,” Circle Jerks
“Doe,” The Breeders
“Quick Step,” The Adverts
“Ready Teddy,” Little Richard
“Hit It and Quit It,” Funkadelic 
“They Don’t Know,” Kirsty MacColl 
“Don’t Believe the Hype,” Public Enemy 
“Oogum Boogum,” Brenton Wood
“Lady Rachael,” Kevin Ayers
“Solace- A Mexican Serenade,” Scott Joplin
“Dawn,” The Four Seasons
“Get Right Back,” Maxine Nightingale 
“I Bet You,” Funkadelic 
“Sabbath Bloody Sabbath- Black Sabbath
“Theme de Camille” from Contempt/Le Mepris soundtrack- George Delerue 
“Queen of Fools,” Barbara Mills
“Do I Love You,” Ronettes 
“Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper
“Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home,” Kinks
“Gideon’s Bible,” John Cale 
“Touch the Hem of His Garment,” Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers
“Mona,” The Beach Boys
“Electric Funeral,” Black Sabbath
“Sweet & Dandy,” Toots & The Maytals
“Into The Groove,” Madonna
“After Eight,” Neu!  
“Your Heart Out,” The Fall
“No Side To Fall In,” The Raincoats
“Street Fighting Man,” Rolling Stones
“When I Grow Up,” The Beach Boys
and every Velvet Underground album 

IPUC at 30! The International Pop Underground Convention Remembered by Those Who Were There on its 30th Anniversary

We asked a few folks to look back and try to remember what it felt like attending, organizing, and performing at the very influential International Pop Underground Convention, which took place August 20–25, 1991 in Olympia, Washington, was organized by Calvin and Candice from K Records, and featured a crazy good lineup including Beat Happening, Bratmobile, the Pastels, Jad Fair, Kicking Giant, Some Velvet Sidewalk, Bikini Kill, Nation of Ulysses, Sleepyhead, Scrawl, Nikki McClure, Rose Melberg and loads more. This type of festival became a blueprint and surely influenced our foray into party throwing a few years later. Some folks remember it as a magical utopian moment in time, others were stressed and disillusioned. Whatever those who attended felt, it was a pivotal moment for independent labels, great pop and punk music, and a spirit and community still with us today.

Convention pass courtesy of Rose Melberg

Did you attend the convention? What made you want to go? 
Nikki McClure: Yes. It felt like it would be the center of the world that week. I had a job in the mountains during the week (field ornithology) and threatened to quit when my boss wouldn’t let me take the week off as promised. He let me go and keep my job. I was willing to risk complete poverty for the Convention. My boyfriend at the time went to Europe with Nirvana to the Reading Festival. That moment felt like a cultural divide. Everything shifted in August 1991.
Erin Smith (Bratmobile): YES!  I was a major K kid from ’87 on, so it was a no-brainer I was going. That was the entire center of my universe—virtually EVERY band I loved at the time was playing IPU.  I was OBSESSED with Beat Happening! Bratmobile were asked by Calvin Johnson to play as well—a total dream come true!  Bratmobile were actually the only band to play 2 shows at IPU—both on Girl Night—8/20, and an early morning show with Kicking Giant and Jad Fair on 8/23.
Michael Galinsky: Sleepyhead got invited to play, largely due to Tae’s suggestion. I don’t think we even had a single out yet, maybe we did… it’s murky, but we had just done our first 10-day, 5-show tour that July. So, we were a little more prepared to play. I might have gone even if we weren’t playing, but I was also pretty broke so it would have been a big reach for me. Thankfully the awesome folks in Treehouse offered us a place to stay, which made it more possible. Allison from Bratmobile lent us her car to go pick up Rachael, our drummer, about two hours before we had to play. All went smoothly until we left the airport and realized we needed gas. She had given us the key to the car but not the gas key, which we discovered when we pulled over to get gas. Thankfully we made it into town and had to jump on stage shortly after we got there.

Memories from Lois Maffeo


Tobi Vail: Yes. I honestly don’t remember if I wanted to go or not. I mostly grew up in Olympia and I was a part of the K scene as a teenager but after I was assaulted by a stranger at 18 (in my first apartment in Eugene) what I perceived to be traditional gender roles and cute 1950s aesthetic of K no longer spoke to me (if it ever really did). I was in a band with Calvin (’85–89) as a teen and I looked up to him but that experience ended on a bad note. The year before IPU I was part of a feminist awakening of young women in the NW music scene, which eventually led to us starting riot grrrl. We were angry and pushing back against male domination and patriarchy and at that point I feel like most men in the Olympia music scene were threatened by us—exceptions were the teenagers in Unwound and the guys in Nirvana, who were super supportive. We had a little trouble communicating with K when they were distributing our self-released demo tape and ended up pulling it from their mail order to distribute on our own and I don’t think they understood why we wanted to control everything but that was really important to us at the time. So it was nice that the festival was organized by a woman (Candice) who became a co-owner of K. In retrospect I do appreciate that K sold our tape through their mail order and I appreciate their support but I wish that we had been able to communicate with them a little better about sales.
Ira Robbins: I was there and wrote about it in Rolling Stone, which earned me a death threat from Ian Svenonius.

Bratmobile photographed by Michael Galinsky

Had there been other festivals like this you’d been to before? What felt different about it? 
Nikki M: It really felt like a Convention and not just some shows. A Convention needed banners! So I made some from dyed sheets with sticks found on the old growth forests I was working in. I made them on the floor of the ranger cabin that I lived at during the week, rolled them up and headed to Oly then unfurled them from the windows of The Martin apartments. There was more happening than music. It was a collection of people forming an international underground community and network. It was important work.
Candice Pedersen (IPUC organizer/formerly K Records): I’d never been to a music festival or conference before. The IPU was designed so that the bands and the audience would come to us! But seriously, the IPU convention was a chance to be at a conference that was designed by the kids for the kids. 
Erin Bratmobile: Festivals for “our” brand of indie were not so commonplace at this point.  Of all things, I’d won tickets to the first Lollapalooza, so attended that in DC the SAME week as IPU, turned 19 that day, then flew to Olympia.
Tobi Bikini Kill: No.
Michael Sleepyhead: We went to a couple of others after this. Lotsa Pop Losers (which wasn’t as big but had a similar inclusive vibe) and Lollipops and Booze, which was more of a schedule of shows with a pass over the course of a week than a festival like this. So, no, this was a truly unique and powerful event.

Scrawl photographed by Rose Melberg

Organizers, what do you remember about putting it together? 
Candice Pedersen: Everything and nothing. I remember being adamant that the design should include blackberries as they are Olympia in August in a nutshell. I remember hand making the badges. I remember when it was proposed (not by us!) that there should be a “girl night” and worrying that if it was the first night no one would be there. Which was exactly what didn’t happen. It was the most electric night of the entire festival. I remember the Sub Pop BBQ—it was great to have them as part of the convention even if there wasn’t any food. 
Nikki M: I made banners. I helped Candice make invites. Calvin had issued a call to action which is still vital and raw. She wanted formal invites mailed to people. I made a blackberry vine image, which now seems fitting for those hot, sweet, thorn-scratched days.

Convention pass courtesy of Stephen Pastel

Performers, what did it feel like to be there? What were the fans like? 
Stephen Pastel: From our perspective just being invited was really exciting. It was the first time we’d played in the US and it was the first time we’d played a community type event on that scale. Everything about it seemed thought through, joined up—the groups, the audiences, the spaces, the city. We were so impressed by all the work that Calvin, Candice and their friends had put into it—it was so ahead of its time. I remember the Beat Happening show being incredible, seeing them at their best in a beautiful theatre space with an absolutely packed out audience just going wild for them.  It felt like we were at the epicentre of something new and the world had suddenly changed for the better.   
Rose Melberg: I remember going to my first punk show at 13. all guys of course. it was like Social Distortion and Battalion of Saints and I was standing in the back of the venue in Sacramento. I was tiny. I was up in the top and my first thought was: the safe place is on stage. I was terrified of what was happening in the pit but I wanted to be a part of that and I saw it in my mind. I was having all these ideas of what it would look like and feel like to sing in a punk band, just scream and be above everyone. it was my first punk show and that was the feeling I got. I wanted to be on the stage. partly out of fear and partly out of power but mostly because I wanted to be part of it so bad. I was 19 when got up onstage at IPU. I was terrified. I had a physical reaction to it. my hands shook violently. I wanted to get on that stage so bad but my body wouldn’t even let me. I had to kind of detach because I knew I wanted it so bad—even though my body was telling me “don’t do this”—I couldn’t even hold my guitar pick. I was so desperate to be included. I didn’t want to feel left out. I didn’t want to be in the audience. I wanted to be liked and acknowledged and heard (from chickfactor 18, interview with the Softies).
Nikki M: This was also my first time performing. I sang a few songs at Girl Night, the songs I sang in the woods to ward away bears. It was powerful to hear those songs fill the theater. Those 5 minutes were life altering.The theater was packed. It was the first night and every one was so eager and open to possibility. We were creating our own world.
Michael Sleepyhead: It was wonderful to be there, but no one had even heard of us so it was kind of like going to a film festival with your first film, where you don’t know a lot of folks. Although, this was a little different as we knew a couple of the bands from their visits to NY and we had Tae to make some introductions. It was fun to play for sure, but also kind of hard to do an outdoor show when we had never done anything remotely like that. We were young and excited and it just meant a ton to us to be invited into the community. 

Bikini Kill photographed by Rose Melberg

Tobi Bikini Kill: Bikini Kill got to play the festival but we were added late and had to play an afternoon show on a small stage. I feel like someone from DC got us on the bill at the last minute but I really can’t be sure. I remember feeling kind of bummed that we didn’t get to play with Nation of Ulysses who we had been on tour with and spent the summer with in DC but I was happy that we got to play. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a chance to practice that summer as Kathi, our bass player, had gone to Europe by herself. It was a hard show for us. We weren’t ready and had a lot of equipment trouble but I think some of it was pretty good.
Erin Bratmobile: Girl Night especially was completely intense.  The stuff of legend now!  The launching point for so much.  Heavens 2 Betsy played their first ever show at IPU—Rose Melberg as Tiger Trap, too.  So I got to witness both Corin Tucker and Rose Melberg’s first times on stage.  I remember Corin coming up to me after the show and complimenting me on the Bratmobile set.  It was all so new to me, too—I had no idea how to respond!  

Beat Happening photographed by Rose Melberg

Fans, what do you remember loving about it? 
Nikki M: Probably many Performers were Fans 90% of the time. I remember dancing and responding to the immediacy of sound and to the intimacy of hanging out with those who just made you dance so crazy afterwards. It was a Convention, We were all attendees, not so much fan or performer.
Michael Sleepyhead: As a fan I was blown away by seeing a lot of bands I had only heard about, like Bikini Kill, Jad with the Pastels was amazing. Seeing Beat Happening play to a packed house that was all in was astounding. Nation of Ulysses was on fire. the Bratmobile Kicking Giant show was inspiring. It was also nice that the whole thing felt very community focused.
Erin Bratmobile: Olympia is magic.  Being able to just WALK and see every band I loved over the course of a week was wild. All of my heroes were playing!  When Stephen Pastel asked to borrow my Sears Silvertone amp—well, he was a hero of mine to say the least.  Just a couple years before I was buying my first Pastels album, and now, not only was I playing the same festival of them, Stephen liked my amp?! There was not a whole lot of divide between the bands and the fans. The bands were fans, too!
Tobi Bikini Kill: I lived across the street. It was overwhelming. People kept coming over to my teeny tiny apartment. It was nice to have friends in town but there was no escape. I don’t remember the fans, it seemed like everyone here was in a band and it was just like people in the audience getting up on stage and vice versa. That was pretty cool.
Rich Siegmeister: I was friends with Sleepyhead but they made their own arrangements and I traveled there by myself. I needed a hotel. K records was offering to help and it sounds crazy now but they randomly placed people together. I ended up in a room with a nice guy. We didn’t hang out much together but when it came time to sleep, he came out in silvery silk pajamas. We were each in our single beds but crazy. Also I was hanging outside talking to some nice people from New Zealand. I was telling them how I loved the Clean and the Chills and this all girl group Look Blue Go Purple. They got a look on their faces and then one of them yelled out “Lizzie you got a fan.” A member of the band was there and couldn’t believed I was listening to them.

Sleepyhead photographed by Michael Galinsky

It was a very exciting new fresh time for music and culture: What did the community feel like then and is some of it still intact for you? 
Candice P: The community felt intimate and yet also disparate. Everyone was together but still had their own thing going, which I appreciate. I wouldn’t say the community from then is still intact for me. But, many of the friendships I had then and made then are still the most important friendships I have today. And many faded as they do.
Erin Bratmobile: It’s hard to understand in retrospect, and it might not even be fully understood unless you were there, but IPU was like the big bang and really everything came from that in a lot of ways. It’s all still totally intact. Friendships formed over that week for so many have been life long. It was life changing, and that’s not hyperbole.
Michael Sleepyhead: That community is still foundational for me. Tae drew the cover for our first single and he designed my photo book two years ago. I went on to make films but my foundational community is still the music one. It is wildly more open and supportive than the film world. 
Nikki M: The community was always present then and possibilities were always blooming. Now that spirit is there, but things aren’t nearly as spontaneous or untamed. It feels like it might just be me, but I think we all are thinking that…maybe? We all have embers we carry from that time and still use in our lives.
Tobi Bikini Kill: For me it was a little bit of a sad time. Nirvana wanted to play and they were not allowed because they had signed to a major label. The ’80s were ending and the ’90s were starting. L7 were great. I was confused that they got to play but Nirvana didn’t. I remember wishing that they didn’t sign but understanding why they did. I didn’t think we needed corporations to buy and sell our music and I think that was kind of the main idea of IPU.

Photograph by Michael Galinsky

What performances do you remember? New artists discovered? 
Candice P: I love all my children equally. 
Erin Bratmobile: I STILL hear IPU stage banter replaying in my head.  Thee Headcoats: “Oh, fuck your mother.” L7: “Keep your elbows off the knockers!!” The Bikini Kill set was absolutely revolutionary. The Mummies were incredible! I remember heading straight to the pit—all of Bikini Kill and all of Bratmobile together—to watch the Nation of Ulysses.  After their blistering performance, I remember James Canty coming back out onstage to humbly announce the release of their first record.  I was SO PROUD!  
Tobi Bikini Kill: Bratmobile played two sets I think and they were very good. Heavens To Betsy at girl night were incredible. Mecca Normal were great, as always. I remember being excited The Pastels were going to play but I would have been more excited to have seen them a few years earlier when they were still one of my favorite groups. Nation of Ulysses was my favorite group at the time but I remember Thee Headcoats as being the best group at IPU by far. They had played Olympia the year before and both shows were nuts. I think the band I discovered at the fest is The Mummies—they were so good and fun and funny. Fugazi was great too.
Nikki M: Fugazi. Heavens to Betsy. Rose. Jad Fair. Beat Happening. I Scream Truck. Nation of Ulysses. The Pastels. Cake walk. A picnic with no food.

Slim Kill Rock Stars, Rose Melberg and Al Some Velvet Sidewalk (photo courtesy of Rose)

What was the vibe in general? 
Candice P: For me the vibe was hectic. The Pastels were staying in my apartment, I had to co-host the event, and I was trying to spend time with friends. The time flew by. I was supposed join the Pastels on their west coast tour after the convention but I was too exhausted/sick to go. Chris Jordan so kindly took my place at the last minute. 
Nikki M: Festive. Spontaneous. After this past year, it seems fantastical that we once so freely mingled and danced and ate cake. It was powerful. All dreams became possible.
Tobi Bikini Kill: A little stressful. Like too much going on at once. It was also very odd to have people not from here acting like it was quaint or cute or utopian or something and not really understanding where they were. By 1991, Olympia was no longer a milltown but the brewery was still here. It was still pretty working class, the center of southwest Washington, which was populated by loggers and timber workers. It was a kind of rough place to live if you were nonconformist. The Evergreen State College is a public school and very progressive but it’s very small. Olympia never really was a liberal college town because the population of students has always been just a few thousand and my impression is that most people who end up going there are kids from the NW who couldn’t afford or get into a more expensive school. Local kids who went to punk shows and hippies from Evergreen got targeted and bullied and physically assaulted by guys in pickup trucks downtown. The IPU people didn’t really seem to notice any of that. Also it rains more than 150 days a year in Olympia and it was very sunny that week. It all seemed like a dream.

Tae Kicking Giant photographed by Michael Galinsky

Why do you think there was this link between D.C. and Olympia? Was it down to individuals or was it just a shared ethos? 
Nikki M: Both! Individuals sharing an ethos but with differences between the East and West. Both explored and created cultural freedom. For the Cake Walk, Cynthia Connolly (DC and Dischord) made a vegan chocolate cake topped with freshly picked blackberries, if I remember correctly. That cake seemed the perfect pairing of the 2 sides of the country.
Candice: It’s a shared ethos. 
Erin Bratmobile: I think it began as certain individuals and grew to be a shared ethos.  Calvin Johnson lived in Bethesda, MD, in the late ’70s/early ’80s, so was involved in the DC punk scene before going back to Olympia and Evergreen. Then the cross-pollination of the scenes continued. DC had great record stores like Yesterday & Today that stocked K titles, and Calvin visited family in the DC area all through the ’80s into the early ’90s, always bringing along records and making more connections. I connected with being a K and indie kid before I then grew to intensely love Dischord and the DC underground. Nation of Ulysses and Fugazi were my gateway drug in that regard, if that makes sense!
Tobi Bikini Kill: Olympia is the capital of Washington so there are a lot of natural connections—one of them being that Calvin went to high school in both places.
Michael Sleepyhead: I think it was both the shared ideals and the musical influences created a strong cross current that made sense—I felt like going on tour was like being in the pony express. Bands carried information and ideas from one town to the next and in some ways DC and Oly were kind of the terminuses at the end of the routes.

Rose Melberg, the very first time she ever got onstage or sang into a microphone. (Photo courtesy Rose)

Was it covered by mainstream media then and if so, did they get it? 
Nikki M: Who cared? We were mostly happy to outnumber the logging trucks.
Tobi Bikini Kill: Yes and no.
Candice: I think there was national media outside of indie fanzines. I remember Ira Robbins wrote something. But, if people “got it” or not didn’t concern me. “It” was something for different for everyone. And, I didn’t care if media got what it was to me.  

The Pastels photographed by Rose Melberg

Is there anything else you remember? 
Candice: I don’t remember meeting Scotty but he remembers meeting me (I asked him how old he was!). But, I’m glad we were both there because one year later we started dating and 29 years later we’re still together. 
Nikki M: Driving with Calvin to the Sup Pop picnic but there was no food left. People signing the back of the Kill Rock Stars albums like they were yearbooks with the silkscreen ink still a bit tacky. Melvins at the park. Blueprint posters taped to my door fading over time. Was this the festival that the theater cat peed on the shirts?
Erin Bratmobile: The first Kill Rock stars comp came out on vinyl the week of IPU, all hand silkscreened covers, with no time even to put the art on the back yet. So all of the copies given to the bands that were on the comp had hand done covers and blank backs. Several of us, myself included, got autographs of the other bands on the blank backs, high school yearbook style. 
Tobi Bikini Kill: The first Kill Rock Stars compilation came out at IPU. The front was silkscreened and the back was blank so everyone used the back like a yearbook and signed each other’s records. That was pretty cool. 
Michael Sleepyhead: I don’t have a good tactile memory. Thankfully I have pictures, though not nearly enough from that event. What I do recall was that the whole summer felt the beginning of something for me. It takes a lot of hope to start a band and then commit to it in the way that we felt we needed to. The summer before we had moved to Providence to live together. It wasn’t an easy transition but we muddled through and became more of a band. We started to play out in NY a lot which connected us with NY bands like flying saucer, ruby falls, antietam, and many others. II spent months booking that first tour which we went on a few weeks before IPU. On that trip we met some incredibly creative people and that just changed my life. Then we went out to Olympia and that sense of being part of a community became some much more profound.

See more photos of IPUC by Michael Galinsky here.

Rachel Kicking Giant (photographed by Rose Melberg)
The Pastels with Jad Fair (photographed by Rose Melberg)
Bratmobile with Michelle Noel (photographed by Rose Melberg)
Some Velvet Sidewalk (photographed by Rose Melberg)

Sleepyhead (photographed by Rose Melberg)
Kicking Giant (Photographed by Michael Galinsky)

10 previously unreleased recordings from The Pacific Ocean out today on our label

Cover design by Jen Sbragia; cover photo by Adam Woodward

Happy Bandcamp Friday! On August 6, our label, Enchanté, will release The Other Shore Demos, 10 unreleased recordings from THE PACIFIC OCEAN: three are completely new and seven are different (some very different) takes on songs that appeared on their third record, So Beautiful and Cheap and Warm (Teen-Beat Records). Recorded by Ian James (Flower, Cell, French) in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, in winter/spring 2001, the demos were recorded by main songwriters Connie Lovatt and Edward Baluyut along with drummer Steve Pilgrim.  

The Other Shore Demos track listing: 
All songs written by the Pacific Ocean 
Connie Lovatt: vocals, bass and keyboards 
Edward Baluyut: guitar and vocals 
Steve Pilgrim: drums and keyboards 
Recorded by Ian James in Ditmas Park, Brooklyn, winter and spring 2001 

“Lights On” (LISTEN)
Connie: This is a long-distance story song. The kind of nonsense words that worked as place holders grew on me so I kept them. Mostly for it being fun to sing. The situation deserved more pointed words but these words had more see-saw to them. “Lights On” is just a better title. 

“Fifty Dollars” (LISTEN)
Lyrics written with David Berman 

“It’s Too Late” (LISTEN)
Connie: A reliably unreliable scenario got some focus on this one. Somewhat. And “Give” seemed a more generous title. Most situations deserved some generosity. Even dumb ones. And then the lyrics went through a big change too. Gail calls this song “British Pop.” 
Vocal melody to the verse written with Fontaine Toups.

“Rainbow” (LISTEN)
First time being released. 

“It Is Something” (LISTEN)
First time being released.  

“Have You Ever” (LISTEN)
First time being released. 

“People to People” (LISTEN)

“I’m Part of Everything Again” (LISTEN)
Lyrics written with Bryce Kass 

“Honey” (LISTEN)
Ian James: guitar solo 

“Spanish” (LISTEN)
Connie: The song, as we worked on it, we called “Spanish” because of the tone Ed was getting from his strings and the kind of “neck up” fun playability he was having with it. After lyrics were set and it was time to record, we named it after my friend Adam. Lyrics were sprung from a certain social gathering he told me about. It’s a hug for Adam in song form. 

The Pacific Ocean back in the day. Photo: Adam Woodward

The Pacific Ocean formed around 1996 and made music through the early 21st century, releasing one EP and two albums (2 on Enchanté, 1 on Teen-Beat). The heart and soul of the band were Edward Baluyut (Versus, Flower, Containe) and Connie Lovatt (Containe, Alkaline), with Steve Pilgrim as a pretty regular member. The band played at many chickfactor events in NYC. 

The Pacific Ocean, Arlington, VA, 2000-ish. Photo: Gail O’Hara

Who is Ian? What was his role in it? 
Ian is a longtime forever friend from late teen years who was in a band with Richard Baluyut called Flower. He was also in Cell and French. He knows how to crush it on guitar and bass, and he was kind enough to share his space and equipment and record these songs. 

How does this music sound to you now? 
We love it. We were a good band. We worked hard for each song and practiced often and hung out more than we practiced. Not every song we made was perfect but we made a lot of perfect songs. 

Why didn’t you make more records after this as The Pacific Ocean? 
Good question. Connie moved to the city of angels. Everyone had babies. Babies can take the wind out of anyone’s sail for a while. Nothing against babies. They’re better than songs. 

Read our oral history of THE PACIFIC OCEAN

label spotlight: shelflife records

Ed at Toffee Club in Portland. (Photo: Gail O’Hara)

Shelflife Records
label head: Ed Mazzucco
location: Portland, Oregon

as part of a new series focusing on indie labels, we introduce (those who don’t already know him) y’all to Ed Shelflife! Not too surprisingly, he also has a day job, is a massive karaoke aficionado, is a soccer dad, cat lover and longtime vegan! Shelflife has put out loads of records that we adore. Meet Ed…

chickfactor: What year did you start a label? Where? Why? 
Ed Mazzucco: Shelflife started in 1995 from my bedroom in Southern California.  I was inspired by a lot of the great international bands I was discovering at the time and I really wanted to help get these bands a little more exposure in the US.  That was basically the label’s mission at the time and our first release (the Whirl-Wheels compilation) was the product of that.  

What has been the most fun bit about running a label? 
I love working with so many amazing artists and helping bring their visions to life.  I never grow tired of holding a brand new release in my hands for the first time. It’s a pretty magical experience working from start to finish with our artists to create a product together that will soon be shared and loved by our community.  I put a lot of time and energy into making each and every release the best it can be.

What have been the biggest challenges? 
Right now the vinyl production bottleneck is causing me quite a headache.  It’s all a bit insane, going from 3-4 month to 6-7 month turnaround times.  We are doing our best to navigate through it, but really hoping the plants can catch back up in 2022.  

What are the top sellers of all time on yr label? 
Off the top of my head, probably Airiel, The Radio Dept, and The Ocean Blue.   

What new stuff are you working on in the coming year? 
We just released wonderful new albums by The Catenary Wires (ex-Heavenly), Always You, and Pastel Coast.  We haven’t announced our fall releases just yet, but there are some really exciting things coming up.  

What labels have inspired you? 
Factory, Sarah, and Slumberland are the first to come to mind. Slumberland probably was the most influential for me in starting Shelflife.  I still remember writing letters to Mike asking for advice.  

How do you find new records (not on your label)? 
Usually word of mouth from friends or sometimes on Instagram.  

What are some great record stores and mail orders still operating? 
I have to give a shout out to My Vinyl Underground in Portland, OR.  Hands down the best indiepop shop around today.  

Ed DJing at the Indiepop Brunch, the Toffee Club in Portland a few years ago. Photo: Gail O’Hara

Can people get your releases outside your country? 
Yes, but sadly shipping costs and taxes are making it harder these days.  Our solution has been to work with an overseas partner label on most of our releases, so fans can have a local label to service them.  That helps a lot with keeping shipping costs down.  

What bands/records are you really excited about? 
I have been really into the new Lightning Bug “A Color Of The Sky” LP and Submotile’s “Sonic Day Codas” CD.  

What are you drinking, eating, listening to, reading, watching these days? 
drinking: Fort George 3-Way IPA
eating: Modern Times Crunchwrap
watching: Unsellable Houses on HGTV

Do you also play music? Tell us about it. 
Yes, I play guitar in Tears Run Rings.  We’re working on our 4th album right now. 

Anything else you would like to add!? 
Thanks Gail for the interview.  We miss you in Portland.  Go Timbers!

Ed loves futbol!