Corvair’s top music doc binges of 2021

Since we couldn’t play this year or go to hardly any shows, we watched a lot of late night music documentaries to get our fix. These were our favorites, unranked.

Heather: Todd Haynes made something so exuberantly creative here. It hits the head and the heart simultaneously. It’s fascinating to me that Lou Reed knew he wasn’t naturally a great player or singer but was sure he was born a rock star. And he kept making great records long after he won the argument.
Brian: I love art, and I love artists. Sometimes artists can be too arty doing art for art’s sake. I appreciate some of VU’s droney soundscapes and simple & rough pop songs but for the most part this documentary reminded me that this band is pretty terrible and Lou Reed seems like a snob. 

Brian: This is a master class on how to nitpick and tweak until something is absolutely perfect. This goes against what many rock bands believe is the proper approach to recording and writing but Steely Dan proves that being mind blowingly anal and fighting for a vision can produce something sexy and brilliant.  
Heather: This blew my mind. Michael McDonald’s weird backing vocals on “Peg” (“foreign moo-vee!!”), all the wildly different parts they auditioned for each song. Fagen and Becker muttering commentary over each other like an old married couple. The weird celeste in “Deacon Blues.” I don’t think there’s a song that captures the wiry feeling of a 6AM solo cab ride into New York better.

Heather: The ambition of AIR Studios was crazy. It was supposed to be on a moving sailboat but alas George Martin settled for a remote island and they had to roll the massive console in on logs. Recording there seems like the most immersive studio experience ever–and Duran Duran hated it, which says a lot about them. And then the Earth swallowed the studio with back-to-back natural disasters–it’s pretty biblical. 
Brian: This satisfied my itch for more behind-the-scenes footage of studio work in remote tropical places. I’ve always fantasized about being locked up in a faraway place with nothing to do but record. One thing that stuck out was how much writing was done in the studio by many of these bands. Ah, the lost art of slowly creating new material while the studio racks up a massive bill that the label will pay, then take out of your royalties. 

Heather: We just finished this the other night, and it took us 6 viewings, but it was edifying, a balm for my black and withered heart. The love between John and Paul is so palpable. I wept through the final rooftop concert because Double Fantasy era John was my first love. 
Brian: I loved this so much. It was too short!!! Now I want so badly to see detailed footage of bands recording my favorite records. Let it Be is my least favorite Beatles record, yet I gained so much respect for every member of the band. The working relationship, brotherly love, and work ethic these guys had, all while eating toast. They were sloppy when they were allowed to be and perfect when they needed to be. And I’m happy to know that so much of the drama between Yoko and them was just hype. 

Heather: My whole life, I could never sit through this–instant narcolepsy!–but it is in fact awesome and so weird. David Gilmour is an angel; he exudes a steady grace. Roger Waters strikes me as the kind of guy who’d come up to you at a bar just to mock your shoes.
Brian: I’ve seen this many, many times since my first viewing as a 16 year-old peaking on some stuff I tried for the first time. It was a religious experience. The scene of David singing at the end of “A Saucerful of Secrets” brings tears and chills to this day–I think this is the most perfect male vocal ever recorded, as well as the most amazing video of a male vocal performance. I love this part so much I completely stole it for a song in 1999, two years after Radiohead stole it for “Exit Music (For a Film)”.

Heather: I do not know what celestial channel Barry Gibb’s spiritual radio is tuned to, but it is the rarest of talent. Also Robin’s voice–what is that? I love Idea or 1st era BeeGees but this made me reconsider Main Course as a pretty cool inflection point. Plus I love watching stuff about sibling bands because I was in one for a long time; it can be painful to make art together when you have the exact same wounds.
Brian: I liked learning much more about the early Bee Gees and how they got sucked into the world of disco. I feel the film tried to overhype their place in disco, but I walked away not thinking that they helped create a movement, but rather appropriated it and sold it out. It makes me wonder what they would sound like under the influences of today’s popular music. Ugh. 

Brian and Heather from Corvair (photo courtesy the band)

Heather: I always thought ZZTop was what happened when three pervy unwashed uncles formed a band. But I was wrong. They are unwashed pervs who also are singular musicians. It gives me great pleasure to imagine them playing a small bar in Texas way back when and the crowd realizing how fucking good they are after about 3 minutes and just losing it. 
Brian: It’s so satisfying to see this band perform and learn about their beginnings. They’re much more artistic and weird than people give them credit for. One of the best live bands on earth, and one I still listen to on cassette in my old Chevy van whenever I’m making a run to the dump. 

Brian: These guys are simply amazing. In some ways one of the best rock bands ever. Each player was immensely talented and could sing. They put on incredible shows and took control of their management and trajectory. Very underrated. Watch clips of their old stuff! 
Heather: I was surprised to learn that the Sweet started as a boy band. I remember reading years ago that Motley Crue idolized them–and it really showed in their early bubblegum Satanism. 

Heather: Neither of us could sleep after watching this, it was so dark. The Korn Era totally defiled “alternative” music. This movie was mostly just watching shitty people be inspired to be way shittier, to a very shitty soundtrack. Happy New Year everybody!!!!!
Brian: I really believe that the rage Fred Durst tapped into with the crowd was the seeds of the Trump presidency. Only instead of burning food carts and port-a-potties, they grew up and lit America on fire. 

Brian: My favorite album by one of my favorite bands of all time. Yes, I grew out of heavy metal when I was 16 but I will always love this band and album. Rob Halford is perhaps the best rock singer of all time and the production on this record is astounding. I love that they recorded in Ringo’s house and used his cutlery to create the clanking “metal” sound on one song. Every single song is great and this doc, though cheesy and slow, gives much insight into that. 
Heather: I cried a LOT because I can’t watch Rob Halford without projectile crying. He is incandescent with Love– for his audience and the world. Our friend got us great seats at a Priest show a couple years ago and Rob changed outfits like 8 times. He truly loves what he does!

Find out more about Corvair here!

an interview with corvair’s heather larimer

Heather and Brian = Corvair

Last month Portland, Oregon’s Corvair released their wonderful debut album on the very fine WIAIWYA label out of London. The band is couple Brian Naubert and Heather Larimer, along with drummer Eric Eagle on the album. CF folks know Heather from her (John Peel approved!) band Eux Autres, whose music was used in TV shows and commercials as well. She’s also played on other folks’ record, including the Minus Five and Stephen Malkmus. Brian has played in loads of bands including Tube Top, the Service Providers and (solo as) Hoffabus. They’ve also created jingles! We caught up with Heather to see how she and Brian have been faring during this very weird era. 
Interview by Gail O’Hara

Heather on drums in Eux Autres

Chickfactor: How have you guys been holding up during COVIDtime? 
Heather Larimer: We are doing really well, actually. We had already basic tracked our record so once we went into lockdown, we were able to focus a ton on building up the record and playing around with ideas. We went through a lot of wine and candles trying to make quarantining a little less apocalyptic feeling. Having a project was so good for us. We would have lost our shit otherwise. 

When did Corvair begin? 
We started writing the record about two years ago, not knowing exactly what the project was, just that we were collaborating. It’s funny how obvious it seems to us now—and it’s weird we didn’t try it a lot earlier.

Tell us about your nautical theme / water obsession on the new one.
I guess there’s the obvious Jungian stuff, water as the unconscious. And then I think because Brian and I imprinted on each other when we were very young and then went our separate ways and reconnected, it’s really made both of us question what is volition and what is much deeper or older than our superficial daily “choices.” So this record is in so many ways Brian and I retrieving stuff from the deep—including our own painful early history together and the dark time that ensued when we tried to build lives apart that kind of collapsed. And then, his family is old-school Northwest people. S’Klallam tribe from Port Townsend and early settlers of the port town of Tacoma. But then there’s just the more associative and light parts, which were that we rented a cabin in Oceanside Oregon to go write songs and everything came together. We found all these sea creatures, which ended up being our album art. And we wrote a song about hope and added the words “Oceansided” at the end, because what does that even mean? And then we drove to “Cape Disappointment,” which is the best place name ever because some of the most instructive times in my life were when I miraculously got what I wanted and blam!—be careful what you wish for. This idea about finding land and with it, salvation and then…oh shit. So, we were both really feeling the symbolism and murky depth of the water stuff and we just ran with it. Plus, for videos it was pandemic-friendly—all we needed was a car and a camera. 

The wee Heather with her violin; photograph courtesy of Heather

How old were you when you started playing music? 
I started playing Sukuzi violin when I was about 6 and played until I was 14, and then I dabbled very lightly in bass and tambourine (haha!) and then when I was 28 I learned to play the drums and my brother and I started a band about a year later. I thought I was too old to start a band at the time. Ridiculous.

When did you write your first song? What was it about? 
Weirdly, Brian hung the lyrics to my first song on the wall of our studio.  When I was 4, my dad typed up my song lyrics and later framed them once I was making music. I had forgotten all about it until Brian found them in the basement. The song is called “She’ll Never Let Me Play” and it’s about my mom, and my friendship with squirrels. It seems all cute at first but then it turns into a Steve Miller time-traveling diss track.   

Early song lyrics by Heather

What were you like as a teenager? 
Very confused. I loved punk rock music like Hüsker Dü and the Replacements but I also hot-rolled my hair and wore, like, striped turtlenecks and scrunchies. It makes me laugh that I was too scared to play in a band or be in drama, because it’s obviously where I would have been happiest. I always sang in school even though I was never picked for the elite singing groups because I wasn’t showy or polished enough. I just cried bitterly into my scrunchie. But I’m like a cockroach. I come crawling BACK stronger!

Do you have kids or pets? 
I have two young sons, which is a trip, but they’re unbelievably sweet and weird. And a boy dog, a disturbingly muscular lab. Plus, Brian my husband slash bandmate. My house is a total sausage fest.

What else do you guys like to do besides making music? 
I like to write and read. And power lift. And travel. And snuggle the shit out of the kids and have movie nights. And then, Brian is one of the most well-traveled people I know, a great photographer and he loves to garden. That is the one activity I will never join him in. To me, gardening is a nightmare trifecta of tedium, dirt, and solar irradiation. 

Heather on drums; photograph by Joey Hippopotamus

Your previous band was inducted into the Indiepop Hall of Fame recently. Tell us about that. 
That was such a thrill. I love that Eux Autres still matters to people. And that the song was “Other Girls,” which was the first or second song that Nick and I wrote together. We got to pick a location for our virtual commemorative plaque, and we chose Omaha’s Sokol Hall, which was an amazing place in our hometown that hosted bingo, gymnastics, polka lessons and all-ages punk-rock shows. I love Omaha so much.

via @IndieHallOfFame on Twitter!

Can you cook? What is your specialty? What’s in the fridge? 
I am a pretty dang good cook but I’m not very improvisational. I get uptight about the recipe. My best friend is the best cook I’ve ever known—she’s a food entrepreneur—so I always feel like a fool next to her. But she’s taught me some great stuff, just by virtue of the fact that she’s been feeding me for decades. And my mom and sister-in-law are also killer cooks. There’s always a lot of asparagus in our fridge for some reason. It’s so easy and toothsome. And pork. It’s the Other White Meat. Brian cooks a lot of brown rice and vegetable stir-fries that are great healthy staples; he’s a bold weekday improviser. I take us to the dark side of the fridge on the weekends.

Brian and Heather; photograph courtesy of Corvair

What are your favorite Portland food carts and other spots? 
We are utterly obsessed with Robo Taco’s al pastor anything. Before COVID, it was our Friday night jam. We also love this place called Master Kong. And then Tusk is amazing, and all of Jon Taboada and Giovanna Parolari’s places—Navarre, Luce and Angel Face. Our hot date is always Laurelhurst Market because we like sitting at the bar and eating steak.

What else is in the pipeline? 
We are going to record again in May, and we are so excited and nervous now that we have actual expectations, as opposed to last time when we were making it up as we went along. 

What is Portland looking like at the moment? 
Portland is pretty devastated all around. The houselessness is like nothing I’ve ever seen. There’s graffiti on every surface city wide. And I’m so worried about the restaurant and food community, they are the heart of Portland. I have no idea what this city will look like in 12 months, but we are committed to staying here for a while. CF

10 Records Heather Cannot Live Without
Guided By Voices, Alien Lanes
Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville
The Replacements, Let It Be
The Kinks, Village Green Preservation Society
The Cars, The Cars
John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy
Built to Spill, Perfect from Now On
The Bee Gees 1st
New Order, Substance
Cat Power, Moon Pix

A Corvair!