mini-interview with the clientele

we first heard the clientele when they played a chickfactor/papercuts party in london in 1999 and were dazzled for life (we interviewed them in CF13, 2000). they continue to be one of our favorite bands, even if they’ve been less than prolific the past few years (we also love alasdair’s other band, amor de días, natch). we asked alasdair a few questions in advance of their first US show in 4 years (and first with this classic lineup in 9): we cannot wait to see them! the clientele plays at chickfactor 22 with versus, barbara manning and the saturday people on march 21 (night two of two) at the wonderful bell house in brooklyn. be there!

interview & polaroid by gail o’hara

what has the clientele been up to? are you back together for good or just a few shows?
I’ve been slowly and painfully writing a novel, and playing in amor de días. mark has moved into a canal boat and is tuning pianos. james has been growing chillis and playing bass for comet gain. ¶ last year I wrote a couple of songs that sounded more clientele than amor de días and it coincided with an offer for the old lineup to play a festival in denmark, which we decided to do for fun. then merge asked us to record a song or two for their 25th-anniversary 7″ singles club so we had a chance to record together again. that’s all so far.

why was it important to reissue suburban light?
again, it was merge’s decision, as part of their 25-year anniversary reissues series. I over-listened to that record when we mixed it the first time round and I got sick of the songs. james and I were talking about how frustrating that whole time was, we kept losing drummers and we wanted those songs to be on the radio but we were in a little studio trying to cut out the hiss on the tape by sliding the faders up and down. every sound engineer we met tried to make us sound like radiohead. ¶ coming back to it was really positive though—we unearthed a lot of stuff everyone had forgotten. It was weird being in a room and hearing our younger selves bantering on tape. I think the reissue does it justice, and it seems to be a lot of people’s favourite clientele record so hopefully it will be enjoyed.

how has your songwriting process changed since you were a teen?
I learnt that songs don’t need to be symmetrical—if one verse has four lines it’s okay for the second to have three. otherwise, not in any way!

how do you keep your guitar nails from chipping?
on tour you can’t keep them from chipping but once they do chip you can replace them with estee lauder press-ons and superglue. kurt wagner showed me when we toured with lambchop and since then both have become an essential piece of tour kit.

what records are you most excited about these days?
I really enjoyed gerard love’s lightships record. the new boards of canada is interesting. I’ve been catching up on old martin newell and cleaners from venus records and also listening to a lot of virginia astley.

what’s the best pub in london?
for me the pembury tavern in hackney central is OK. also the elderfield in clapton.

who is the comedian in the band?
we are all equally amusing.

what will you do in NYC when not playing?
have lunch at angelica kitchen.

best chickfactor party memory/story?
flying in to play one of the london chickfactor shows after a gig in berlin. we arrived backstage with several bottles of berentzen apfelkorn, which is a kind of schnapps which sends you completely bananas, god knows why we had picked them up but we did. we tried to get club 8 to drink it, a german guy personally interceded and warned them not to deal with us.

mini interview with versus by lois!

versus are one of our long-running music and people crushes. we cannot get enough! they are a chickfactor house band! anyway, we asked another CF event regular (lois maffeo) to interview them for this year’s fest. they play chickfactor 22 friday, march 21, with the clientele, barbara manning & the saturday people at bell house.

interview by lois & photograph by michael galinsky

lois: I was in the middle of a room full of indie bands sleeping on the floor of dave auchenbach’s house after a big night at the providence pop fest in 1992. versus had arrived late, after a gig in some other town. it was probably four in the morning when I woke to see figures with guitar cases moving gingerly across the bedrolls. richard baluyut was stepping over my sleeping bag when he looked down and darkly intoned, “I heard you made brownies.” that phrase (accurate, I may add) kickstarted a long friendship with richard that soon came to include his versus bandmates fontaine and ed and patrick and james. you’d think that over the past 20 years, I would have gotten around to asking richard some of these burning questions. so thanks, gail, for assigning me to interview richard in advance of versus’ appearance at chickfactor 22 on friday, march 21 at the bell house in brooklyn.

is it true that you once got a guitar lesson from roger miller of mission of burma?
richard: I never had a lesson from roger. he did sell me his guitar from mission of burma, before they got back together. when he needed it back, I sent it back to him of course! I believe I still own it, but I haven’t held it in over a decade!

can you describe the ownership timeline of the famous black rickenbacker guitar?
richard: I bought it in 1990, and used it on our early singles. traded it to tae won yu for his SG, which became the versus guitar. tae brought the rickenbacker with him to olympia and made it the classic kicking giant guitar. but he got bored of it and sold it back to me when we were passing through on tour. I sold it to jeff cashvan, who later sold it to carrie brownstein, who made it the signature sleater-kinney guitar. quite an illustrious history! I haven’t seen carrie play it in a long time though; I hope she’s passed it on…

if you could play in any band from the past, which one would it be?
richard: I wish I’d been in the who, isle of wight-era so I would be wearing a jumpsuit…

what is your favorite sci-fi novel?
richard: invisible cities by italo calvino? I was more of a fantasy guy. I only read civil war history now…

what are your top 3 favorite things about new york city?
richard: double-features at film forum. mamoun’s falafel still standing. not living there.

7 questions for amor de días

when we think of “royals” from the united kingdom, naturally we think of AMOR DE DÍAS, featuring alasdair maclean (frontman of the papillon-obsessed lite psych combo THE CLIENTELE from fleet) and lupe núñez-fernández (one half of the slapdash & adorable pop duo PIPAS). we could not be more excited about seeing them play at chickfactor 22 at the bell house on thursday, march 20, along with withered hand (whose live band will feature pam berry of black tambourine and kenny anderson of king creosote), lilys and jim ruiz set (and mc gaylord fields of wfmu)!

interview by the legendary jim ruiz & photograph by shoko ishikawa

1 distance running
2 love life
3 the live experience
4 where do you most want to live/retire?
5 your meeting gail stories
6 borrowing your name
7 gearhead question

chickfactor: considering the dominance of the UK in middle and long distance running in the past; sir roger bannister’s four-minute mile, sebastian coe and steve ovett’s amazing rivalry on the track, and the astonishing world record of paula radcliffe at the marathon, it was really not a very big surprise to see that you are specializing in the 10k. tell us a little about your training and how you feel it’s going. any tips for those of us who want to start running? what’s your PR (optional)?
alasdair: we have no expertise in running, or specialisms in the 10k. we both ran the new forest half marathon last year and counted ourselves lucky to be alive by the end. the only tip for a 10k run I could offer is don’t sprint the first 3k, the next 7k will not thank you.
lupe: it’s handy for catching the last tube back home after a gig, or the train to the next city on tour. that’s definitely our specialty distance.

charlotte and emily want to know if you are a couple. I assured them I would ask you.
lupe: buy our records and find out! there are hidden messages if you play the vinyl backwards.

emily and I were at an amor de días gig at the triple rock in minneapolis about 3 years ago. that gig was an introduction to your music, it made a big impression on me and I made it a goal to play with you someday. in fact, whenever we visit our friend’s house there is a poster from that gig framed on their wall. do you think that touring is worth it because you never know what impact it has, even if the audience might be small on a given night? or do you think that touring has had its day?
alasdair: what a nice thing to say! I suppose in my career the model of the small gig with a strong connection to the audience has been mostly how it’s happened, and when when that connection really works it’s amazing, nothing can beat it. opening for much bigger bands has taught me that my songs work better in a small space, chamber music rather than a nuremberg rally or a mass singalong.
lupe: touring is usually when you might get to play in front of strangers who’ve never heard your music, and see a sincere reaction. it’s probably very self-indulgent but there’s something to be said for that, whether it’s a good one or not.

living in the middle of a vast continent as we do, without any real possibility of moving anywhere exotic, we are in awe of your EU passports and your seeming ability to move anywhere you please on the continent. do you plan to stay in the UK forever? do you ever miss the sun?
alasdair: come on, minneapolis is about as exotic as it gets! prince lives there! I was born in scotland so have never known the sun. It would be nice to be an internationalist rather than stuck in the UK. I’ll have to work on it.
lupe: when we were in minneapolis a couple of years ago we talked about moving there. I’m not kidding!

tell me how you first met gail….
alasdair: outside NYU in the freezing cold. I think we had eaten polish food for the first time and were semi-comatose.
lupe: I was aware of this cool chick with retro glasses and blond braids at all the shows at fez I went to in the ’90s but I didn’t know her name (or that she’d curated the shows, and put out chickfactor). years later we met in london through our friends pam berry and mark powell—the heat broke at the place where she was staying and I told her she could squat at ours. instant family.

last year the aislers set seemed to take no offense when we changed our name to jim ruiz set. how would you feel about our recording under the name amor de ruiz `rE- ahs?
feel free. it has a classy ring to it.

the classical guitar scares the hell out of me, yet you make it sound so easy. are you self-taught players or do you have years of pumping nylon behind you at some music conservatory? who first inspired you to play classical? who do you listen to for your inspiration?
alasdair: I learnt classical guitar as a kid, my parents put me in for lessons, but I gave up around age 11, and lost a lot of my technique. the first guitarist in the clientele,innes phillips, had the same teacher as me, so we both grew up playing adagios and tangos and only came to playing pop music later—the way for instance george harrison played was a total mystery to us. ¶ my favourite guitarists: toquinho. argentinian folkloric guitarist atahualpa yupanqui. In the flamenco world, nino ricardo. rock guitarists stacey sutherland (13th floor elevators) ron morgan (west coast pop art experimental band), vini reilly (durutti column), maurice deebank (felt) and tom verlaine/richard lloyd. I also really rate ignacio aguilo (hacia dos veranos) and archer prewitt.

lupe: haha definitely self-taught and very limited in my knowledge. I bought a classical guitar for 27 pounds in hackney in 1999, with no previous musical experience or knowledge of what a chord was, etc. I really wanted a bass, or drums, but the guitar was much cheaper, portable. it’s handy as a way of noting a song down, but I definitely don’t consider myself ‘a guitarist’, I just write songs, and make it up as I go along. I think I’m actually a lot better at percussion; my dream is to tour the jazz circuit as a jazz drummer, maybe by the time I’m in my 70s. ¶ my favorite guitarists: probably alasdair, linton from the aislers set, sam prekop and my brother víctor, who taught me that crucial first bass line that started it all (it was “bela lugosi’s dead”).

an interview with barbara manning

there is no one else like barbara manning! when we met her back in the early ’90s, we were mad about her and went to see her all the time (she was on the cover of CF4 with tiger trap). we’ve seen less of her in recent years, which is why we cannot wait to see her play on march 21 at the bell house as part of our chickfactor 22 thing!

interview by douglas wolk & photograph by gail o’hara (taken at, oddly, douglas wolk’s wedding!)

what are your active or semi-active musical projects these days?
the musical projects that I have been working with for years, such as glands of external secretion, butte county free music society, and others continue to release limited releases. the newest release on which I contribute guitar and singing is from the group, this is yvonne lovejoy; a 45 on psychic encumbrance records called wolverine, an ode to one of the X-men heroes.

locally in long beach, I have been playing bass with a collective of friends and we call ourselves celebration of bad news. we improvise while recording the session so that we can hone in on the best parts for our song structures. my favorite element of celebration of bad news is our singer who reminds me of a female blend of both can singers, a bit of pauline oliveros, and a good splash of fearless punk rock. to have a group that faces in: we are all so eager to play and we look at each other as we play, music makes itself easily. I enjoy being a background singer or to not sing at all while I play. for me, playing this way is both relaxing and an adrenaline rush. however, as you say “semi-active” project, we only seem to be able to get together once a month. last week we had the cops called on us by a suburban neighbor which wrecked the session. now that I am a working stiff, I sure see how valuable time is. if I looked at a pie chart of my time spent being creative versus time working, I’d see why I feel creatively out of balance.

a very bright side to this creative conundrum is my husband, dan. he is always encouraging me to write songs or pick up my guitar. he is a producer from the early L.A. punk rock days. some of his best known work includes legal weapon and alice bag’s cambridge apostles and las tres. dan works on his music at home all the time. I feel that if I could just catch up with my work and sleep better hours, I would pick up my guitar to write again. and when that happens, dan is ready to record me.

what’s a record that means something very different to you now than it did 20 years ago? what changed?
when was 20 years ago? 1994??? good god. that doesn’t seem that long ago; does it to you? let me go back to that year in my head again. I was 29 years old, working at reckless records on haight street in san francisco. I was working on truth walks In sleepy shadows and nowhere had just come out. I felt like I finally had a productive, fun working band with melanie clarin, brently pusser, margaret murray as the sf seals. I got to travel to holland to record with james mcnew that year. I felt like musical success was around the corner….

okay I know! oasis’ first record!!! I used to love the first and second records because the music had a swagger and sound that made me feel confident and easy going. I was quite obsessed with noel gallagher during those couple of years. but, just the other week as I was driving along on highway 405, I put on oasis and the music just did nothing for me. I craved that old feeling you usually get from a well-loved song, but I did not feel it. so I put on television’s first record instead.

you’re an exceptional interpreter of other people’s songs. what’s a song you wish you could perform but can’t, for whatever reason?
thank you for your compliment! that means a lot to me, douglas! a song I continue to try to cover but never seem to get down is “stardust” by hoagy carmichael and mitchell parish. since 1927 it has become the most recorded song in the world. it happens to be my favorite song; this “song about a song about love.” I found out that it also was my grandfather, big rip’s favorite song and was played at my grandparent’s wedding.  It’s a “bucket list” wish of mine to record it. but I just never seem to play it smoothly enough for my liking.

you wrote “better by bounds” with george jones in mind. what other performer, past or present, would you like to write a song for, and why?
douglas, your questions are excellent and I am finding them interesting to think about and not difficult to answer.  thank you for taking your time to organize this interview.

I would really like to write a song for kendra smith to sing and record. she has been an enduring hero of mine since she influenced my singing style back in the early ’80s. especially I would like to sing behind her someday; another “bucket list” wish, but I know that she is very private and elusive. I doubt sincerely that she is aware of my existence and I don’t have any desire to disturb her.

what kinds of collaborations are you best at?
I like spontaneous collaborations, but those are impossible to plan. my mind says that I must feel comfortable with my other collaborators in order to create, but I know in my heart that isn’t necessarily an obstacle to making good music.

the album I recorded in new zealand was full of fairly spontaneous collaborations and I was not always comfortable with my collaborators. every song was recorded the day it was written, except for one I had ready to go. recording those songs was utterly terrifying because I had so much fan-admiration for the artists I worked with (graeme downes, chris knox, denise roughan and david mitchell, robert scott, david kilgour) that I was determined to make good use of their time. I did my best to connect to my musical muse so that what I contributed was open-minded and high quality. I can still listen to the songs on the album, in new zealand, and feel proud of our results.

gail tells me you’re teaching chemistry in high school these days. what are you like as a teacher? how does teaching relate to performing for you (or does it)?
wow, douglas. you are very perceptive because teaching certainly is performing and there is no worse audience than 36 bored teenagers. as a teacher I am loud, funny, informative, compassionate, caring, annoyed, fierce and sometimes inappropriate. I have a lot to learn to get where I want to be as a teacher.  one important thing I have learned within the past months is that teaching requires putting on a show, a new one, every day; and if that show bombs there is no way to close the curtain and ask the ushers to see the audience out for their refund.

what’s the most fruitful piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
to view everyone as though they are wearing a shirt that says, “please help me feel good about myself.”

barbara will play night two of chickfactor 22 at the bell house, brooklyn, on march 21.

new jim ruiz interview & vinyl announcement!

Jim-Ruiz-Set-2

it is no secret over here at CFHQ that we dig the jim ruiz set (and the legendary jim ruiz group before it). they’ve been playing at CF events since back in the 1990s, and pam berry had the good sense to interview them back in chickfactor #9. ruiz & co. recently released a fan-fricking-tastic (third album finally) album called mount curve avenue (the compact disc and “digital files” came out on allen clapp’s mystery lawn music label and korda records), and we are excited to tell the world the latest news about that record: jim ruiz set has teamed up with portland, oregon’s ace shelflife record company to put mount curve avenue out on light-blue vinyl! we cannot wait to get our chocolate-smudged fingers on a copy. read more over on the jim ruiz blog and preorder your light-blue vinyl copy right here. the interview that follows was conducted by allen clapp to run in advance of chickfactor 21 last month, but the lazy editor didn’t get it posted in time. enjoy!

chickfactor: jim, you’ve always had a unique blend of melancholy and humor in your songwriting (you even referred to your uncle as being something of a mexican woody allen in one of your songs). who are some other songwriters past or present who can do that thing you do?

jim ruiz: thanks, that’s very kind. I think you could probably trace it back to 1989 and listening to the jazz butcher sing “girlfriend,” “only a rumor” or max eider sing “D.R.I.N.K.”  you don’t know whether to laugh or cry and maybe you just do both. they were able to be able to be incredibly funny but never cross into the realm of novelty. I suppose loudon wainright III does kind of the same thing. there’s no reason depressing confessional lyrics need to be so serious.

over the course of your three recorded albums, you cover a lot of musical ground, but there seem to be a few kinds of songs to which you gravitate: transportation songs, songs that mention or reference your musical heroes, and self-referential songs that look back on an earlier time in your life. is this coincidental, or are those the things that most occupy the mind of the legendary jim ruiz?

I don’t know what you’re talking about. okay, you’re on to me. I honestly didn’t think anyone would notice that! true, perhaps more than most people, I go back to the well. in my defense, I do tend to stop at three. for instance, “groningen,” “minneapolis,” and “mij amsterdam.” there were no city songs on this record (mount curve avenue), but if you got a good thing going, why not! who would have wanted to hear tony bennett follow up “I left my heart in san francisco” with “I’ll see you in oakland—next time!” and “down and out in redwood city?”  I would have!

you’ve always been more of a mod than a rocker. is it easier to be a mod in 2013 than it was in the mid 1990s?

no, it’s easier to be a mod when you’re in your late teens or early 20s, no matter what year it is. even bradley wiggins (winner of last year’s tour de france) seems just too old to pull off the mod look. at some point you reach the “aging mod dude” status. of course when I look in the mirror I think “hey mod!” but luckily people around here just look at me and think “preppy.”

last time I saw you, I noticed your volkswagen vanagon had a decidedly non-stock color scheme. would you care to describe this? how many paint jobs has your famous van had during its lifetime?

the vanagon has only had two paint schemes but many brush coats. as you probably know, car rust is an inevitable fact of life in minnesota. luckily as a child I painted many model airplanes, mostly from WWII.  I didn’t suspect I would later use that skill on my car, the transition was a natural and easy one.

what’s the best thing about playing a chickfactor show?

just being asked kind of blows my mind.  in london gail bestowed on us the title of “chickfactor band.” it wasn’t a public ceremony, and it didn’t come with a little statue, but it’s a moment I’ll never forget and will always treasure.

order your copy of the latest jim ruiz set LP (well, yes, on vinyl, silly, right here!)

a new future bible heroes interview!

future-bible-heroes-partygoing-video-640x358

future bible heroes is a songwriting collaboration between stephin merritt and christopher ewen (figures on a beach, the hiddle variable, famous boston DJ) with vocals from claudia gonson and merritt. in addition to reissuing their earlier recordings, they’re about to release their first album in 11 years, titled partygoing, and it’s effing ace (as good as their debut, memories of love). they will play chickfactor 21 on june 12 along with the aluminum group, honeybunch and true love always, mc gaylord fields and special guests. stephin will not perform due to ear issues; the live lineup will feature gonson, ewen, magnetic fields singer shirley simms and anthony kaczynski (figures on a beach). see you at bell house!

I did this interview to write their bio for merge records, but I wanted to print it here. I interviewed them back in chickfactor 11 also! interview by gail

chickfactor: the previous FBH album came out in 2002. now it’s 2013. have you been working on it for 11 years or did you begin more recently? what took so long?

stephin: since 2002 I’ve made four stage musicals and four magnetic fields albums, a gothic archies album and a through-sung live score to a silent film. but in fact chris and I have been working on FBH too, and parts of the songs “when evening falls on tinseltown” and “a drink is just the thing” are quite old. the first describes my experience of living in los angeles—and leaving it, which I did while recording partygoing; the second describes solving all your problems with alcohol, which I don’t do much anymore either. writing true and heartfelt lyrics is pointless because once you get around to singing them, they’re lies.

cf: do you feel freer and more playful making FBH music because it’s not your “day job”? your singing—especially on “how very strange” and “drink nothing but champagne”—is very funny.

stephin: thank you. I had other funny voices that didn’t make it onto the record, but they should be available as either bonus tracks or blackmail fodder. after singing exactly like angela lansbury on “mr. punch,” claudia has retired her stage-cockney voice, but I hope she changes her mind for the concerts. I want to see that.

cf: do you know when you write a song whether it will be for FBH, TMF or something else?

stephin: I only write FBH songs to chris’s instrumental songs (which are often perfectly listenable and finished before I get them), so I always know whose song I’m writing. I don’t always know what album I’m writing for, though: this album has less science fiction than before, but I had dozens of half-finished songs in that j.g. ballard universe mapped so much better by gary numan and john foxx.

cf: was there a theme for this record? I know it’s called partygoing but it seems like aging, rejection, death and austerity are recurring themes.

stephin: write what you know (as they tell you in school, when you don’t know anything yet). those happen to be the themes of most of my work, I’m happy to report. aging is a great theme for any writer, because one never runs out of material, and everyone over 12 is obsessed with it.

cf: do you have a different lyrical approach for FBH than for TMF?

stephin: other than a tendency toward science fiction, which sort of matches the “futuristic” synthesizers, I’m not aware of any difference. I’m still just sitting around in bars with a song in my head, rhyming “arcade” and “rodomontade.”

cf: how has FBH’s recording process changed since the previous releases?

stephin: for partygoing I encouraged chris to let me do more of the work, and just give me skeletal fragments, and then we could toss them back and forth as though we were playing a “sport” of some kind. and I did some remixing, not like junior vasquez, but like me, and the results sound a bit more like me than chris sometimes. which some will hate of course.

cf: are there any ’80s-sounding new bands that you’re fond of? contemporary acts?

stephin: the “electroclash” moment came and went without anyone ever contacting us about it, but I always quite liked ladytron, miss kittin, robyn, peaches, goldfrapp and their imitators. they’re all women. what can I say, I’m a gay man, I cried in public when donna summer died. my favorite country song of the last ten years is “you and I” by lady gaga (closely followed by trailer choir’s “rockin’ the beer gut,” a major feminist accomplishment which could never have been in the country charts I grew up on). our roots are in new wave.

cf: you seem to be able to get away with writing about anything as a lyricist. has anyone ever been offended by something you wrote? whose lyrics inspire you?

stephin: when the new york times trashed my first chinese opera adaptation, the reviewer was shocked that I used the word “fucking” in a song, and implied that it indicated a lack of seriousness on my part. now, on my planet, any medium that can’t use the word “fucking” is aimed at pre-school american children, a demographic not known for its patronage of opera, chinese or no. I’ve been listening to nothing but felt recently.

cf: any plans for the 6ths, the gothic archies, TMF? theater and film?

stephin: I’m writing a lot these days for all of the above, but nothing I can talk about yet.

cf: how does recording for FBH differ from working on TMF records?

claudia: chris first composes lots of sonic ideas, like dozens of them, and sends them to stephin. then, stephin makes melody lines over some of them, and decides which are the ones he wants to use for the album. the process goes back and forth. sometimes chris adjusts the pitch or tempo or adds a new section to accommodate the melody stephin has written. once the songs are written, we record lead vocals and harmonies, and a few more instruments.

cf: you sing on partygoing—do you contribute any other sounds / ideas?

claudia: on one song, there is a musique concrète solo. each member was instructed to go out and do field recordings of various ambient sounds, and stephin and his engineer charles knitted together all these sounds to make the solo. on other songs too, stephin added a few other instrumental lines. but the instrumental backing tracks, for the most part, are chris’s work.

cf: why do FBH play live so rarely?

claudia: we put out albums so rarely, that we didn’t have much occasion to tour. we did tour a bit after the first two albums, but back then it was incredibly difficult to get a stage set up with all those enormous bulky synths. we may do some shows for this album release, but the issue will revolve around the opposite problem, how to perform live in an interesting way without just hitting a button on a computer.

cf: do you feel freer and more playful making FBH music because it’s not your “day job”?

claudia: as the band’s manager, I can certainly say yes. but I also feel this way about playing with the magnetic fields. I enjoy my creative role with the band, since most of my time is spent wrangling over deals and contracts.

cf: who is pretending to be david bowie?

claudia: stephin.

cf: is the FBH fan different from the TMF fan?

claudia: I think we have a lot of crossover but I have discovered that people, like my daughter and my parents, really enjoy FBH, because it’s got a synth-based sound and catchy beats. It’s very accessible to the disco set.

cf: how do you feel this album compares with the previous releases?

claudia: I really like the album. stephin and chris wrote some exceptional songs. it’s a bit depressing, lots of songs about suicide, and a nostalgic yearning for youth and happiness. but I think most of the FBH albums are like that.

cf: can we expect another FBH album in 2024?

claudia: hope so!

cf: the previous FBH album came out in 2002. now it’s 2013. what took so long? have you been working on it for 11 years or did you begin more recently?

chris: we began more recently. part of the reason it took so long is that stephin is obviously involved with a lot of other musical projects. another is that—since we all live in different cities, especially when stephin was living in los angeles—it was a bit more of a challenge for us to coordinate everything. back when we were recording eternal youth, we were both experimenting with different recording technologies, and successfully integrating them was somewhat of a hurdle. technology has finally caught up with what we want to do, so it seemed like the right time to collaborate again. I started coming up with some new ideas for FBH towards the end of 2009. a couple of TMF albums happened between then and now, so 2013 has turned out to be the year we’re releasing a new album.

cf: there are a lot of modern-day new bands that try to sound 1980s. are there any that match up to those from the original decade?

chris: when we released memories of love back in 1997, I was very surprised that the american press were quick to dub us an ’80s “new wave” band. it wasn’t our intention to be classified that way, and it certainly wasn’t what was in my head as we were writing and recording the album. I think that happened because we used a lot of synthesizers, which wasn’t very much in fashion back then. the times seem to have changed, and synthesizers are back in vogue, but this time around we didn’t make a conscious decision to make a blatantly new wave revival record either. however, we did use a lot of synths. ¶ one of the things that continues to attract me to a lot of music that came out in the ’80s is that it sounded like itself. it was new, fresh and surprising at the time…some of it still sounds that way. musical approaches and points of reference were blurred or sometimes completely obliterated. these days, it’s pretty easy for me to pick out what ’80s band influenced the sound of any particular new band, so the element of wonder is I experience listening to them isn’t as apparent. that said, I’m currently really enjoying the most recent albums by the soft moon, the knife / fever ray, freezepop, yan wagner and the horrors, to name a few.

cf: what kind of changes in technology have had an effect on the way FBH works?

chris: when we recorded our first two albums, we used our phones and the mail a lot, and sent things to each other on cassette or DAT. or we had to be in the same city. these days, it’s a lot easier for us to send music & ideas back and forth and develop them more fully. my studio set-up now is a lot more conducive to multi-track recording, and I’m not a slave to MIDI anymore. overall, the ways we work together have become much more flexible.

cf: there are scant details on the two first FBH albums about the “sounds” you make. can you share more info here and do SM / CG contribute to the music also?

chris: on those first two albums, I would basically come up with some song idea, and record all or most of the instruments at my studio in boston, usually MIDI sequences driven by a hardware sequencer live to two track. stephin would then get these fully formed instrumental tracks and have to write the lyrics and vocal melodies either around what I had come up with, or complementing it in some way. It became a process unto itself, as the instrumental tracks were already fully mixed, and any changes would mean lots of editing and completely re-recording the track on my end, or completely rewriting the lyrics on his. as far as the sounds go, I enjoy experimenting in my studio, and am quite content to just play around with sound manipulation. some songs came about because of a certain sound I was happy with…a full track could be inspired by something very simple. I also like to write at a piano, and then arrange those pieces for a fuller instrumentation. on the first couple of albums, since the music was already pretty much finished by the time stephin got the tracks, he & claudia would come up with elaborate backing vocal tracks, and in a few instances, stephin would add a lead instrument. these days, we have a lot more options.

cf: the house of tomorrow site says: “future bible heroes are a songwriting collaboration between stephin merritt (words and melodies) and chris ewen (instruments).” can you clarify your roles?

chris: nowadays we are much more of an integrated collaboration, and there isn’t one particular way a song will develop. “living, loving, partygoing” began as an idea stephin sang into my voicemail one night. “love is a luxury” began with the lyrics. as far as the tracks I instigated go, I made a point of sending stephin a lot of demos or song sketches, which I’d then develop more fully as necessary. this time around, we were able to write songs together using different approaches, and were able to arrange them along the way.

cf: whose music gives you inspiration?

chris: I love producers who love experimenting in the studio…conny plank, martin hannett, joe meek, lindsey buckingham. I continue to admire the magnetic fields of course, all of yellow magic orchestra, abba, brian eno, the gentlemen in cluster (or now, qluster), vince clarke, the throbbing gristle family, the human league and a lot of french and german synth-pop. recent inspirations include laurie spiegel’s the expanding universe re-issue, and everything john foxx has been doing lately.

cf: how long have you known stephin and claudia? how have they changed?

chris: we go back a while… we met around 1987 or 1988 I think, during the buffalo rome days. it’s hard to pinpoint exact changes—we’ve remained good friends over the years and through many scenarios, which means that they continue to possess the qualities that drew us together in the first place. claudia has become more self-assured. stephin’s become a more social creature. I think we’ve all grown up, which is probably something I’ve needed to do.

cf: are you involved in other musical projects these days?

chris: I’ve decided to completely revamp a project I started a few years ago called the hidden variable. It was a collaboration I instigated with several dark fiction authors, whose lyrics I set to music. besides a song I wrote with neil gaiman that claudia sings on, and one with gahan wilson that cosey fanni tutti sings, I’m planning on re-recording the entire album. there may also be the possibility of some instrumental solo material, and I’ll continue to come up with new ideas for FBH, in case we feel the urge to record a new album at some point.

 

 

a new james mcnew / dump interview!

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most people know james mcnew from his other band, the condo fucks (and yo la tengo). as long as he has been in yo la tengo, he has been making his own recordings under the name dump. dump songs have sort have been filtered into yo la tengo these days so he is less prolific. we interviewed dump + yo la tengo for chickfactor 8 back in the mid-90s and again later, but here we are doing it again! we love dump and gilmore tamny conducts the interview this time and asks some excellent Qs. ps. dump performs at chickfactor 21 on june 13 with the pastels, lois and jim ruiz set. he also plays with the condo fucks and the pastels on june 15 at maxwell’s!

chickfactor: what chickfactor show do you remember best? missed but wished you’d attended? any particular fond/joyful/amusing chickfactor memories?

james: I think I Ioved every one I ever saw, and I definitely loved playing at them. I saw a lot of them. getting to see nice at under acme was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing. same goes for the georgia hubley trio at fez. versus were just bloodthirsty at the bell house last year (“another face”!). gail was really the only person who ever asked dump to play, and that always meant a great deal to me. I will always remember the sight of magnetic fields fans in the front row with their fingers in their ears while I played my opening set.

who else will be playing with you for the chickfactor show unless that’s ruining a surprise? are you getting besieged with requests?

that shit’s top secret.

how has your relationship with the dump songs (if it does) change over time? the things that you like/that bug you tend to be the same when you revisit?

I cringed a few times while putting together the reissues, but I guess everybody does that, like when you see old photos of yourself. unless you’re really good-looking. but I still liked most of the songs, or at least the ideas. I feel like I have gotten a lot better at writing songs since then, but I can still relate to old me. depression is timeless.

many are superstoked about superpowerless and I can hear music getting reissued—tell us a bit about how that came about?

I was approached by thomas moor of the/his moor music label, of berlin. I was already a fan of their catalog & bands; he was a fan of the dump records. I am always kinda surprised when anyone says that, since they were so difficult to find. I dragged my heels on doing the project until he finally convinced me. so I spent a LOT of time turning it into a deluxe package; bonus tracks, photos, a bunch of new artwork and a ton of new notes I wrote for them. there’s no doubt at least one frustrated moor employee will punch me one day. still, I am very happy with the results. I’m glad he thought of it.

I read once that charles barkley was so keyed up after his games that afterward he’d often vacuum the house to relax. do you have to do any such similar things after shows?

I love charles, so I’ll try that. I also heard he would get his lady friends to shave his head for him. normally I like to pretend like I didn’t just play, and get on with my life, then scrutinize it later.

I’d think touring so much would—if you were inclined—turn one into a bit of armchair sociologist/anthropologist, noting regional differences or ways fans interact, or bass player vs. guitar personalities, etc. any thoughts?

everyone, everywhere, is nuts.

who do you know or admire that might prompt you to say: “that gentlewoman or gentleman, __. _______ _______, has exquisite taste.”?

walt “clyde” frazier.

are there any human virtues you admire or weaknesses that depress you that, when manifesting themselves in music, make you admire/loathe even more? like: subtlety. or: showoffyness.  or, the opposite?

traditional “weaknesses” like not being a virtuoso, or having an unusual voice or take on reality, can be total pluses. fearlessness, whether to express yourself or challenge yourself, or just in general, is definitely something to strive for. also, personally, I don’t like when artists supply me with answers. I like mystery; I don’t want them to tell me what their songs mean. I don’t even want a lyric sheet. I prefer to use my imagination and come up with my own meanings.

what show have you played that has most felt like a hallucination? place you’d like to play you haven’t (parthenon, etc.?)

many of them feel hallucinatory, if all goes according to plan. the shows I played as a member of man forever were all that way. I have been insanely lucky to play at some pretty sweet places. that said, I would like to play at an aquarium.

what’s your perspective on musical literacy? If it isn’t too nosey, how technically literate are you or have you had to become? how would you say or observed it being a help/hindrance?

not very. I have learned to do some stuff. I am mostly self-taught, and completely self-taught on bass (I learned by watching and studying the greats, namely sue garner). I took guitar lessons from age 9 to about 12. one day my teacher refused (in disgust) to teach me a van halen song, instead trying to get me to play some fingerpicky blues thing. That was it for lessons. Technical proficiency is by no means a prerequisite for great, important music. by itself, without feeling or ideas behind it, it’s just dumb. to me, few use it for good. But just to name some who do, glenn jones, william tyler, mary halvorson, tortoise and the boredoms all make music I absolutely love.

what non-musical (piece of?) art(s) has had the biggest influence on your music?

the work of jim woodring, for sure.

do you ever feel like you glimpse, out of the corner of your mind’s eye, some instrument not yet invented that you wish was? can you describe?

no, but I would love it if I could get a car horn that is not only deafening but is also a flamethrower.

would you ever—presuming you haven’t, pardon if my internet research skills are lacking—like to do some sort of sound installation à la christo or spiral jetty (etc.)?

oh, most definitely. when do you need it by?

a new chickfactor interview with lois!

 

lois_by-tae-won-yu

basically if olympia, washington, singer-songwriter lois maffeo isn’t there, then it’s not really a chickfactor party. even though we interviewed miss lois for chickfactor #5 back in 1994, we are interviewing her again! she performs at the bell house in brooklyn on thursday, june 13 with the pastels, dump and jim ruiz set, mc sukhdev sandhu and special guests.

interview by gilmore tamny (of the yips & wiglet fame)

chickfactor: tell us a bit about the last your experience playing the last chickfactor show yonder brooklyn? highlights? unexpected pleasures? things you’re looking forward to this time?

lois: there’s a reason that gail always calls her chickfactor shows parties. there is a togetherness on these nights that doesn’t exist on most (any?) festival bills. It’s like everyone there, bands and audience, has this connection through these shared loves. It’s really magical.

any dish on chickfactor or gail or pam you wanna share? gaudy nights? bank jobs pulled? musical japes not yet known to adoring chickfactor public?

gail o’hara and a magnum of veuve cliquot is a dangerous combination. the last time that lois and dump shared a bill, gail, james and I sat on some steps at NYU (or was it columbia?—editor) and drank this massive bottle of champagne in scavenged paper cups. needless to say, I don’t remember much about that show and fear my set may have been a disaster.

how do you view the songwriting process these days?

sadness and torment are such invigorating tools for songwriting. but handily enough, I have avoided them for a long time and as such, my output has languished. but I’m not complaining.

what are the upsides/downside to playing out less? what do you miss or how do you feel freed up?

I miss being lost. so often we would be on the outskirts of a city and running late and having to ask someone on the roadside how to get to the club. inevitably the answer was “just turn there by the kroger. you can’t miss it.” and lo, we missed it every time.

how has birdie’s variety changed/enhanced your relationship to inatmate objects? history/the past?

I’ll just note here that birdie’s variety is both the name of my fanzine and the once-a-year sale of recycled cookware and useful things that I hold. (this year it will be at the unknown in anacortes, washington, on july 20.) apart from helping people get their hands on non-toxic and durable cookware, the appeal of the birdie’s sale comes in writing the pricetags. that is where I get to detail my thoughts on each object. (see photos.)

Is there (a) holy grail or grails of objects you’d like to find?

I don’t really search for things. I like to just come across them. what I like about finding things in thrift stores is that a person donated the object so it could benefit someone else. and estate sales can be fascinating in the way they illustrate a life through the stuff that was acquired along the way. In short, there are other ways of establishing value beyond looking up the price of something on ebay.

do you feel like lovejoy with nose for authenticity?

Your question hits upon one of the few ye olde TV sleuths that I don’t follow!

any lois maffeo recipes for cobbler/pesto/drinky-winkies you can share?

just some advice: grow herbs and put them in everything.

any artists (bands/writers/painters/what have you) of late that are driving you wild?

I’ve been listening to troubadours like idiot glee and karl blau, studying the songs of leslie bricusse & anthony newley, rocking out to hot hooves and faithfully following jarvis cocker’s sunday service on BBC 6. and gail introduced me to connie converse and molly drake who both made these spare and perfect songs that get right to the heart of things.

gilmore tamny wrote a novel, my days with millicent, which is being serialized on-line, and has a tumblr of line drawings here.

photograph by tae won yu


thalia zedek: chickfactor interview

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cf: do you have any animal cam weaknesses?

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


interview from CF16: jennifer o’connor

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jennifer o’connor is a smoky-voiced new york songwriter, bartender, ebay enthusiast and all-around pop girl extraordinaire. we caught up with ms. jen at the magician on the lower east side in the early days of summer. (this interview originally ran in chickfactor 16 and took place in 2004 in manhattan). interview by gail

chickfactor: when did you write your first song and what was it called and what was it about?

jennifer o’connor: it was in 1996 and it was called “circus” and it was for a band I had just joined—well, it wasn’t even a band yet. I didn’t really play music yet. this guy told me I should be in this band. I went to an open mike with him one night and played bass, then the next day I wrote a song. it was sort of about playing music. it was in atlanta, right after college.

cf: did you want to be a singer when you were little?

jennifer: not realistically. I wanted to be a basketball player. music was always my favorite thing but I didn’t really think of it as something I would ever really do. I played basketball from age 9 to 20.

cf: what was your first concert?

jennifer: van halen in 1987.

cf: they were so past their prime!

jennifer: I know. it was right when hagar joined the band. my first small club show was the replacements in 1991.

cf: first record you bought?

jennifer: probably “physical” by olivia newton-john. I used to buy top 40 singles every week. I used to have a notebook and write it down, the top 40.

cf: me too!

jennifer: you did that? I listened to it on my walkman and I would figure out which ones I wanted to go buy.

cf: you grew up in the south?

jennifer: I grew up in a small town in connecticut until I was 13, a really small town. we moved to florida before I started high school.

cf: when did you play your first show?

jennifer: after I moved here. it was at acme underground. I sent out a bunch of tapes after I moved here. that was in ’99. I tried to get shows at better places after that.

cf: what’s the best venue in nyc?

jennifer: I like, I play at the knitting factory a lot, it’s not my favorite, but I worked there. I like southpaw.

cf: has anything really embarrassing happened onstage?

jennifer: the last show I played was pretty embarrassing. a few weeks ago I played a show and there was no soundcheck as usual and it was the guy’s first night doing sound. I started playing and there was no guitar and somebody went to help him. they turned the guitar on and it fed back really loud. I picked the quietest prettiest song first. I spilled beer and thought I was going to electrocute myself. the snare was moving on the drum kit behind me. just a series of bad things.

cf: what did you do at the knitting factory?

jennifer: marketing and promotion. I wrote to writers such as yourself trying to get them to come to shows or preview shows. flyering and stuff.

cf: when’s the new album out?

jennifer: I don’t know. the beginning of ’05?

cf: do you record at home?

jennifer: a little bit. ultimately I would like to have the ability to do it all at home. I would like to have someone do the levels.

cf: are you bartending these days?

jennifer: no. I was. I really liked it but I was drinking a lot. I quit cause there was a gas leak in the bar and they weren’t fixing it and it made me really nervous.

cf: no one smokes anymore, it’s not that dangerous. do people smoke after hours?

jennifer: and even before.

cf: people are breaking the law?!

jennifer: they are, they do. a lot of places in new york start smoking around 2. but I haven’t had a cigarette in 18 days. but I want one right now.

cf: what’s the best bar in brooklyn?

jennifer: I like o’connors which is right down the street from me. I don’t go to bars that much.

cf: why would you want to play solo anyway? isn’t it scary?

jennifer: it is scary. I do it because…when I first started playing I was in a band and I don’t know. I like playing in a band but I also like having more control. I don’t like to rehearse so having a band…and I like playing with different people. I can’t commit to it. I like being able to do it when I want to do it. maybe eventually I’ll have a band but I like having it mine. plus when I was in a band I had some situations with other members, it’s hard to play with other people. I wasn’t treated very well in some instances and I guess I hold a grudge.

cf: you played at the new york party for the saddest music in the world, the fabulous guy maddin film. who won?

jennifer: did anybody win? I think I won. I was the saddest. no, it wasn’t a competition.

cf: there was a similar party in london, and they had a lot of crappy bands who weren’t nearly sad enough for me and I thought competing to see who was the saddest.

jennifer: we did have to give away tickets for the movie but that was the only contest of the night. kendall’s set was pretty sad too.

cf: what song do you wish you’d written?

jennifer: there’s a lot probably. “your song” by elton john. although I always think it’s weird that he didn’t write his own lyrics.

cf: even weirder that courtney love hired bernie taupin to write some lyrics for her.

jennifer: yeah! so weird. she’s just, sad.

cf: were you a fan?

jennifer: huge fan. huge hole fan. huge nirvana fan. I was in my freshman year of college when the whole nirvana thing broke. I saw hole in ’94. she was a mess then. she was talking to the ceiling and talking to him. I wish I’d written a lot of elliott smith songs. dylan songs. mark eitzel songs. I hung out with him one night on the lower east side, me and him drinking for hours, it was fun.

cf: what are your songs about?

jennifer: death. endurance. continuing. I used to write more about love and stuff but I don’t do that much anymore.

cf: what about driving?

jennifer: there’s a lot of driving and moving in my songs. I write a lot or come up with things when I’m driving. I like new york better with a car actually. I don’t feel trapped as much.

cf: are you still doing the ebay thing?

jennifer: I do that and I do a little promoting for bars.

cf: do you buy or sell stuff on ebay?

jennifer: I sell stuff. I can’t afford to buy anything! mostly I look to see what sells. I do mostly music stuff but I like it because I have a revolving record collection. and this time of year I go to a lot of stoop sales in brooklyn and find stuff. it’s like having a record store without having to buy anything.

cf: what made you the most money?

jennifer: I sold a couple of loren mazzacane connors records for $200 or $300 to jim o’rourke! it was pretty exciting. and I did a good deed because they’re using them to remaster and make the records.

cf: you couldn’t just give them to him?

jennifer: I didn’t know he needed them! he has the money! two records I sold allowed me to pay my rent and continue working on my music.

cf: you’re the middle man.

jennifer: I’m a recyclist.

cf: I hear you signed to red panda records.

jennifer: it’s a big up and coming indie label.

cf: why did you choose to go with them after that huge bidding war?

jennifer: I love the idea behind it and the people running it and I trust them.

cf: what’s in your fridge?

jennifer: romaine lettuce. tomato paste. seltzer water. milk. that’s it.

cf: what were you doing touring france? are you big in france?

jennifer: I used to know a lady in new york who’s french and moved back and she was helping put on a festival in lille and they wanted to do a night or a series of nights of new york artists and they liked my record so they flew me out there and paid me.

cf: didn’t you play a ladyfest once?

jennifer: I didn’t make it. I was supposed to play ladyfest richmond.

cf: didn’t you play one in new york?

jennifer: I was on a compilation but I didn’t actually play.

cf: what’s the pop scene like in nyc?

jennifer: I don’t know. there’s so much here but most of it is williamsburg type stuff. I haven’t found much of a community but I think red panda might change that.

cf: who’s your favorite new york band?

jennifer: I don’t know. I suddenly like the yeah yeah yeahs—they were on mtv awards the other night and it was so gorgeous.

cf: aren’t they from new jersey? have you ever dreamt about a song and remembered it?

jennifer: I do but I don’t remember it to write it.

cf: have you had a dream with rock stars in them?

jennifer: I’ve had dreams with courtney love and nirvana…oh, you mean a hot sex dream?

cf: have you had a hot sex dream with someone you really don’t like?

jennifer: oh yeah.

cf: what melody is stuck in your head?

jennifer: that britney song “toxic.”

cf: do you like any mainstream bitches?

jennifer: not really. I listen to a lot of mainstream hip-hop. I like the franz ferdinand single. I didn’t buy it but I listened to courtney love’s album at the jukebox where I worked. didn’t really stick for me. I probably should buy it—the last album was like that for me at first too.

cf: if you buy it maybe it’ll keep her out of prison.

jennifer: it’s so sad, it really is. did you read that interview in something online? I couldn’t believe how sad it was. she’s broke.

cf: not another behind the music story.

jennifer: that’s what it was like.

cf: kurt must sell a lot of records. sounds like she hasn’t done a very good job of managing her money.

jennifer: no, she hasn’t. that’s exactly what the article is about.

cf: it’s kind of embarrassing to be a celebrity and to talk about that stuff in public.

jennifer: I guess that’s part of the job.

cf: she doesn’t hold back.

jennifer: she doesn’t hold anything back.

cf: if courtney asked you to be in her band, would you do it?

jennifer: you know it’s funny that you should ask that. did you know they took out a full page ad in the village voice last year for a bassist. and I thought about it for a whole day. the ad said they wanted somebody who looked a certain way.

cf: a goth metal chick like auf der maur?

jennifer: I was like that’s not me.

cf: they could do your hair and makeup.

jennifer: they wanted someone who behaved like flea but didn’t play like flea or something.

cf: why do you think they wanted a girl?

jennifer: um, I think that’s pretty cool. that’s something I waffled about if I put a band together. I prefer to play with women if they’re good. it’s easier. my first band was with two guys and that’s part of the reason I don’t want to have a band anymore. some bad shit happened and I think it was in some ways because I was a girl just learning how to play. I’m not saying all guys are like that because they’re not.

cf: do you like to sing karaoke?

jennifer: not really. I’m kinda shy about it. I like watching people.

cf: what’s your sign?

jennifer: scorpio.

cf: ever been to a psychic?

jennifer: yeah.

cf: what did they tell you?

jennifer: stupid shit. when I lived in florida a while ago, I wanted to find out if I should move back to new york. said I was going to be very famous and rich. of course I’m still waiting for that. have you been to a psychic?

cf: hasn’t everyone? are you going to check out the spongebob movie?

jennifer: I want to.

cf: who’s your idol?

jennifer: sleater-kinney. as a group.

cf: all three of them?

jennifer: yeah, they’re great.

cf: better than hole?

jennifer: they’re better than hole.

cf: they’re definitely better than hole. who’s your favorite writer?

jennifer: I like michael chabon a lot. I read the mysteries of pittsburgh in high school. I read a lot of music stuff. I just read the bob dylan bio.

cf: you have any phobias?

jennifer: I don’t like to fly. I don’t like heights. I don’t like the subway. I have a lot of anxiety issues in general but I’m working on them. I don’t like elevators either. I don’t like to feel like I’m out of control even though I’m really not anyway.

cf: who do you have a crush on?

jennifer: I have a crush on the brenda character on six feet under. I also have a crush on the amy character on judging amy. she’s sexy. david berman. I love him.

kendall: maybe gail can introduce you.

cf: talented man.

jennifer: is he a jerk? I used to have a big crush on carrie brownstein but I think I’m over it. don’t print that.

cf: right, we won’t. off the record. you’re the first one to have a crush on her.

jennifer: I’m more interested in corin at the moment. I really like the song she wrote about her kid. they’re good rock stars.

cf: who would you want to collaborate with?

jennifer: the guy from neutral milk hotel. kevin shields. dizzee rascal.

cf: what are your top 5 records?

jennifer: the self-titled elliott smith record; bringing it all back home; what would the community think; blue; american water; plastic ono band.

photograph by amy bezunartea. jennifer runs a label called kiam records and her latest LP is called I want what you want.