Jennifer Baron in Conversation with Hilarie Sidney

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

Jennifer Baron in Conversation with Hilarie Sidney

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer leads the Garment District / Photo by John Colombo

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jennifer and Lucy = the Garment District

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What is your sign?
Jennifer:
Leo

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

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

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

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

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

The Ladybug Transistor on tour in Paris, late 1990s

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

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

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

The Garment District live at Spirit, December 14, 2023

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

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

Jennifer recording the new album at David Klug Studio

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

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

Jennifer and Casper on the Panhandle Trail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturnine at The Beachcomber in Wellfleet MA

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

Hilarie Sidney in Conversation with Jennifer Baron

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

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

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

Hilarie in Denver (images courtesy of Hilarie)

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

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

The Apples in Stereo with Kurt Heasley

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

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

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

Early High Water Marks

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

Hilarie and Per Ole

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

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

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

Hilarie in the Apples in Stereo 1995 Tidal Wave video

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

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

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

Hil recording on Ecstasy Rhymes

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

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

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

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

Beautiful Ringo in beautiful Sunndal, Norway

These Things Happen: The Sarah Records Story Excerpt

Happy publication day to These Things Happen: The Sarah Records Story by Jane Duffus (on Tangent Books). Jane says that “Sarah’s co-founders Clare Wadd and Matt Haynes were both very involved with the production of the book, which also features almost 130 interviews with band members, fans, fanzine writers, journalists etc, and very much takes a feminist and fan’s approach to the label. The book is 450+ pages, 250+ pictures, hardback, and was three years in the making.”

Author Jane Duffus says: “It’s been a long three years creating this book but, once you hold that beautiful new book in your hands, you instantly forget all the blood, sweat and tears that cropped up along the way. This may be my sixth book but the excitement never lessens when you open that initial box of books and pick one up for the first time. I always knew that this would be a big book but it just kept growing and growing. There was so much to say about this inspirational indie record label, and so many stories from the interviewees that I wanted to share, and to finally see them on the page is very rewarding. I just hope, now that the book is out in the world, that other people also enjoy it. It’s a bit nerve wracking, to be honest!” Please scroll down to read part of the chapter on something we care deeply about…

Collection of fanzines. Photo by Jon Craig
This is an excerpt from the book These Things Happen 

Chapter 5: Fanzine Culture
In the olden days, when the internet and email were just twinkles in the sky, the best way for music fans to share their love of the things that rocked their world was via self-published fanzines. The modern equivalent of a fanzine would be a blog but the ephemeral nature of them – and the changed means of production – creates an entirely different dynamic, so it’s not a perfect comparison.

The origin of music fanzines is commonly dated to the punk heyday of the 1970s, although fan magazines go back to the 1930s. The thinking is that fanzine writers typically have an opinion that is in opposition to that expressed in the mainstream media, hence the need to self-publish. Fanzines also enable fans of a particular thing to find and communicate with each other, thereby opening up a dialogue that would never otherwise have been possible.

The famous There and Back Again Lane sign. Photo by Sarah Records.

To buy a music fanzine, you would tape coins to bits of card and post these all around the country. You might hear about fanzines through adverts in things like NME or Melody Maker, or more commonly from the tiny slips of paper that fell like colourful inky snow from inside your most recent mail-order fanzine delivery. It was the habit of fanzine writers and flexi producers to create these tiny ads, squeeze as many as possible onto a sheet of A4, and photocopy this onto coloured paper. Then cut these sheets up and send batches of the ads to other fanzine writers to distribute. This, along with reviews in more established titles, was how we heard of other people’s fanzines. It was a very successful and introverted network of quiet people making silent contact with one another. Most of us would never meet face to face and were quite happy about that.

Heavenly. Photo by Alison Wonderland.

The other tried and tested method for selling fanzines was at gigs, so long as you lived in a town that put on gigs and you had the courage to go up to strangers and demand they hand over 30p in exchange for your photocopied musings. Mark Taylor was the editor of the popular Smiths Indeed fanzine, which he ran from his parents’ home in Bristol and sold all over the country. However, he remembers one of the pitfalls of having a successful fanzine: “I didn’t think about the weight of coins after selling 100 or 200 fanzines. I’d have to try and get through the gig without my jeans falling down!” Although this level of success wasn’t something most fanzine writers needed to worry about.

Jane Duffus and Matt Haynes at the Bristol, UK, book launch last week. Photo by Neil Phillips.

Chris Tighe and Robert McTaggart mostly sold their fanzine Far Out And Fishy at gigs and, according to Chris, would “just walk up to hundreds of total strangers, butting into their conversations, sticking a piece of printed paper under their noses, saying ‘Hey, would you like to buy a fanzine? It’s only 25p!’ and getting told to ‘fuck off’ once in a while.” He adds: “I wasn’t exactly an outgoing person and I’ve got a slight stammer, so it baffles me that I was able to do it.”

Rob Sekula of 14 Iced Bears tells me: “It was great to see fanzines being sold at gigs, they added to the excitement. Similar to how football programmes added to the sense of occasion when I went to Tottenham as a kid. They were a more immediate, less industry way to find out about good new bands and discover things like great records and bands from the past, from people who had similar tastes. Along with John Peel they were pretty useful in the days before the internet.”

Davey Woodward from The Brilliant Corners adds: “I always thought fanzines were a great thing to happen because I felt we were very close to going back to a time where big multinational labels just ruled the roost in terms of what happened. And I think, in those Thatcherite 1980s, there was a definite reaction against that. People thought, ‘No, I am going to do my own thing, I’m going to make it the way I want to make it.’ It was important in the wider scheme of things to create a scene for a group of people.”

Temple Meads postcards. Photo by Sarah Records.

Simon Barber, bassist with The Chesterfields, agrees: “Fanzines were so important. The difference between fanzines and the music press is you only write about something in a fanzine if you love it. If there’s a good review in the music press, you don’t know if it’s been paid for.” He adds: “I bought every fanzine going. If someone was going round a gig selling a fanzine, I’d buy it, those guys were the best.” Simon still has all his fanzines and kindly loaned me two enormous boxes of them while I was researching this book.

Ric Menck of The Springfields was based in Illinois and says: “The fanzine network meant everything to me back then. I was more interested in fanzines than the British weeklies. The fanzine writers weren’t trying to be cool. They just wrote about what they loved. Before computers came around, fanzines were the way to hear about cool new stuff. The fanzine network was always crucially important to underground music.”

Collection of fanzines. Photo by Jon Craig.

Influential fanzines that came in the years immediately preceding Sarah included the following three, all of which certainly made an impact on readers and bands. Their editors also all went on to make their mark on the world of pop culture in one way or another. Tellingly, these are all by men.

  • Attack on Bzag was run by James Brown from Leeds, who would go on to write for NME and Sounds, edit troublesome lads’ mag Loaded and men’s monthly GQ. He later become editor-in-chief for the Sport Newspaper Group which, despite the name, has nothing to do with football but everything to do with topless women and absurd sex stories.
  • Meanwhile, John Robb from Lancashire was running Rox when he wasn’t in punk band The Membranes. John told online magazine JSNTGM: “The best fanzines were out of control, quite literally out of control! They wrote in their own style about their own music and were not filtered by the music business … I love cut and paste artwork which very much matched the cut and paste nature of the punk and post punk music.” John went on to write for Sounds, Melody Maker and various national newspapers. These days he runs the music website Louder Than War.
  • Jerry Thackray launched a fanzine that was called The Legend! and – bizarrely – he also put out the first single on Creation. After his fanzine finished, Jerry wrote for NME (as The Legend!), before moving to Melody Maker and adopting the pen name of Everett True. “I guess I was quite idealistic,” says Jerry now. “But maybe that’s what separated some of the fanzine writers apart. Some of us really did believe that passionately in what we wrote about.” Talking about the way that he adopted a different approach to many of his contemporaries, Jerry says: “I saw all these post-punk fanzines and they all had interviews in. And I was like, ‘These interviews are fucking crap, they’re just really bad versions of the music press’. I couldn’t speak to people and it just so happened that music was easily the thing I was most passionate about so I wrote about music, and that’s all I’ve ever done my entire life.” He still writes about music and teaches music journalism in London.

To continue reading the section called Fanzine Culture, order the book via Tangents in the UK or Rough Trade in the U.S.

To find out about upcoming events (or perhaps arrange one), visit Jane’s website. 

Blueboy performing at the Bristol, UK, book launch last week. Photo by Neil Phillips.
Even As We Speak meeting radio DJ John Peel. Photo by Even As We Speak.
Secret Shine at the Bristol, UK, book launch last week. Photo by Neil Phillips.

 

The Terry Banks Interview

You know Terry Banks from so many great bands! Tree Fort Angst played at our very first chickfactor party with live music in Sept. 1993, he played in glo-worm with chickfactor cofounder Pam Berry, Terry was featured in the zine with The Saturday People, did time with St. Christopher, and currently plays with the poptastic D.C. band Dot Dash. We wanted to check in with him just before his band plays at D.C.’s Fort Reno on Monday, July 24. Read on, pop nerds! Interview by Gail / Images via Terry Banks

Dot Dash at Quarry House 2023

Chickfactor: When did you write your first song? What was it about? What was it called?
Terry Banks: The first one I can remember was in a band in Richmond called Roy G. Biv. It was called “The Joy of Transportation.” It was just kind of jokey nonsense, a bit Housemartins-y, but that was our schtick. 
Were you musical as a child?
I played saxophone for about two weeks as a fourth grader and that was it. A long time later, around age 19 or 20, I started playing guitar, but it was my roommate’s guitar. I didn’t get my own until summer 1986—an Ibanez Strat copy for a hundred bucks from a guy I knew.

The Saturday People, reunion CF 22 show at Bell House.jpg

Were you from a musical family?
My dad played drums as a youth. We listened to a lot of music at home, but no one played an instrument.
What were you like as a teen?
I can’t really remember. I think I was kind of reserved. Around 16 I got very into, for lack of a better term, the ‘new wave’ music that was happening at the time. A friend of mine and I went to see Split Enz and we were sold. Then I got very, very into The Jam, The Buzzcocks, The Undertones, The Clash, stuff like that. The first Echo and The Bunnymen album led me back to The Byrds and The Velvet Underground. I wore a long coat to school.
Where all have you lived?
I grew up in suburban Baltimore; went to college in Richmond; spent a few years in England and Australia. Everything else has been D.C. I wish I’d lived a few more places. Maybe there’s still time.

The Knievels, Richmond

Please name all the bands you have been in that aren’t active.
Roy G. Biv (we later changed our name to The Kickstands), The Knievels, Tree Fort Angst, St. Christopher, glo-worm, The Saturday People, Julie Ocean.
Current bands?
Dot Dash.
Was guitar your first instrument? What kind do you play and why?
Yes. I’ve always picked guitars by how they look. These days, I play a Vox Phantom. Before that I was playing a Vox Teardrop (the real name is Mark III.) I like the 60s vibe of these guitars but, equally (maybe even more so) I feel like there’s an early 80s post-punk thing going on, too – kind of Siouxsie or Robert Smith. 

glo-worm, circa ’93

How did you first meet Pam Berry?
It was right after I first moved to DC. I put an ad in the City Paper’s free classifieds in the music section saying I played guitar, liked Orange Juice and The Byrds, and wanted to form, or join, a band. Pam called my number, which was listed in the ad, and said “Who are you?” From that, I met her and Dan Searing and all those people. They were cool.
What was it like being in glo-worm?
It was good. I could never tell what Pam’s lyrics were until we recorded and then I always liked them. I think the album that came out, Glimmer, is really good and some of those songs — ‘Tilt-a-Whirl’, ‘Holiday’, ‘Travelogue’, and ‘Change of Heart’ all come to mind — sound (to me) like lost classics or something. Our gig-related claim to fame was that we opened for Radiohead once. I commented on them having Yoo-Hoo on their rider (there was a lot of it backstage) and the lead guitarist guy was like “Oh, do you know about Yoo-Hoo? It’s brilliant. It’s like chocolate milk, but fizzy”

The Saturday People, Malcolm X Park

What was it like being in The Saturday People?
It was fun: a lot of humor, in-jokes, pseudonyms, and ongoing laughter. 
What’s Dot Dash up to these days?
We had an album, called Madman in the Rain, come out at the end of 2022. Like all its predecessors it was released by Canadian indie label The Beautiful Music. Since lockdown ended, we’ve played about 15 shows in the past year and a bit with people like Bailterspace, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Richard Lloyd and a bunch of other rocking combos. It’s fun to be playing out again. We’re playing at Fort Reno in July.

Dot Dash plays July 24, 2023, at Fort Reno in D.C.

What kind of pop scene does D.C. have going on?
The Quarry House has a great vibe and is booking lots of stuff. The Black Cat and DC9 are still going strong. Comet does a lot of stuff. A place called Songbyrd started up a while back. We know these guys in a garage band called Apollo 66 who do a club night once a month in an American Legion hall in Silver Spring where they’ll have three indie-ish bands of varying sorts and that’s always fun. There’s also the Runaway, Slash Run and Jammin Java and I’m probably forgetting a few others. In terms of D.C. bands, Bad Moves are excellent and have a bunch of killer pop songs.

St. Christopher in Berlin

Do your kids play music? (How old now?) Do you like any of their music (if they like music)?
The oldest is 24 and plays guitar and writes songs. The younger is 21 and dabbles with guitar. One of their shared faves is Taylor Swift, who I think is pretty great. (If you’re unconvinced, check out “All Too Well” – there’s something Joy Division-y about it.) 
What is on your turntable these days?
I think the best new thing I’ve heard in a good while is The Reds, Pinks and Purples. That guy (Glenn) is super prolific and it’s all great. 

from chickfactor’s first ever party with live music, Sept. 1993

What are you reading/watching?
A bunch of music-related books. Some recent ones include Starman by Paul Trynka, Record Play Pause by Stephen Morris, My Rock ‘n’ Roll Friend by Tracey Thorn, Small Town Talk by Barney Hoskyns, and Playing Bass with Three Left Hands by Will Carruthers. There are always more piling up.
What else is going on in your life? Day job? Pets?
I do media relations for a renewable energy org. We have a cat named Fergus. He spends a lot of time outside, spying on passers-by. My phone can no longer save anything because it’s filled with photos of him.

Listen to Dot Dash here!

From our 22nd anniversary party in NYC, 2014. Poster by Tae Won Yu

Chatting with the Softies About Their New Tony Molina Collaboration

The Softies with poutine / Photo: Heather Johnston

When we put The Softies on the cover of chickfactor 18 back in 2018, we had no idea they would be coming back together to MAKE A NEW ALBUM and TOUR! Just a few weeks before Rose Melberg and Jen Sbragia set out to play a short Pacific Northwest tour with Tony Molina and All Girl Summer Fun Band and Mo Troper, we asked them a few questions about how this all came to happen. The split cassette tape in the images below features the Softies covering Tony’s entire album Dissed and Dismissed and Tony covering three Softies tunes, will be available at the upcoming shows and is being co-released by Slumberland Records and Alicia Vanden Heuvel’s (Poundsign, the Aislers Set) label Speakeasy Studios. Interview by Gail

Chickfactor: Why Tony Molina?
Jen Sbragia
: I first heard Dissed and Dismissed when Rose played it for me in her kitchen, in 2017. At the time I wasn’t listening to any new music really and was just focused on other stuff. I was blown away because of the genre-blending and was a little jealous I hadn’t thought of it first! I just thought it was a genius blend of my two favorite kinds of music—crunchy, squealy, distorted guitars and perfect pop. Not to be too dramatic, but that record changed my life.
Rose Melberg: As Northern California natives, Jen and I both feel a deep connection to the California-ness of Tony’s music. It’s difficult to put a finger on what that means, it’s just a special kind of magic for us.


How did you guys and Tony M. know each other?
Rose: We had been in touch as mutual fans of each other’s work but only met in person the first time when Tony played in Vancouver in 2019. He and his band stayed at my house and he and I stayed up talking until 5am on my porch talking about life, music, songs, etc. There’s nothing like watching the sun rise together to solidify a friendship forever 
Jen: We met in person at the Oakland Weekender, but had been texting each other about music and guitar stuff. I got his number from Mike Schulman, because Tony isn’t on any social media and I just wanted to introduce myself as a label mate, make that connection, and to gush about how much I loved his music. It was funny and weird that we were all big fans of each other. There were loose plans for me to sing with him at the Weekender during his secret/surprise set, but it didn’t work out. I joked that we should collaborate and release a split 7″ on Slumberland so we could “play this thing next year”. And weirdly, something very similar is happening.

The Softies in the olden days / Photo: Hannah Sternshein

How did this mini tour / new tape come about?
Jen: He just texted me and asked if we wanted to play some PNW shows, simple as that. I wasn’t sure which band would work but then it became both Softies and AGSFB. The cassette was Mike and Alicia’s idea. 

Please explain what the record is, what format, how people can get it, etc.
Jen: It will be a cassette-only release, available at the merch table. Co-released by Slumberland and Speakeasy Studios. 

If you are willing to say anything, what is going on with the Softies?
Rose
: We’re writing new songs and will be putting out a new album in 2024.

New recording? Record deal? Shows? Etc.
Rose
+ Jen: All of the above!

The Softies with Alicia Vanden Heuvel and Gary Olson at CF20, Bell House, Brooklyn, 2012. Photo: Tae Won Yu

How has your songwriting (style, content, tools, etc.) changed from the olden days?
Jen
: Attending the Oakland Weekender after so long in quarantine was huge for me. Not only just traveling again and seeing old friends and live bands, but the prep I put in beforehand of researching all the bands and listening to new music again so that I would know the songs and be extra excited to see them played live. After I came home, I felt such renewed excitement about playing music again for the first time in years and my creativity sort of exploded. I started playing guitar every day, writing little riffs and bits of lyrics and songs, and shared the more Softies-esque ones with Rose. She is the true mastermind IMHO. She took those ideas and we made whole songs. She’s writing too, of course. So these new songs are more collaborative than ever before. 

We have had several songwriting trips over the past year where we traveled here and there to work on music. Often we would meet in Seattle because it’s a pretty good halfway point between Vancouver and Portland. We have been recording our new songs in demo format so we can each work remotely using Garageband, but we have time booked at Anacortes Unknown over the summer to record our new record.

Poster by Jen Sbragia (The Softies will not be playing in Eugene)

Can we expect to hear new stuff at the shows?
Jen: There are definitely some new ones on the set list.

What else is happening?
Jen
: Mostly practice! I agreed to do double duty, (which I have done before, Softies and AGSFB toured California 24-ish years ago) It never occurred to me that it might be too much for me presently—I was too excited. So now, that equals a LOT of practice. Practice is my middle name right now. But I couldn’t be happier. CF

chickfactor 18 with the Softies on the cover is still available in our shop as well as various other outlets including Quimby’s, K Recs, Jigsaw, My Vinyl Underground, Record Grouch, Main St. Beat, Grimey’s, Atomic Books, among others.

Follow the Softies on Instagram and Bandcamp here.

Poster by LD Beghtol

All Girl Summer Fun Band is back! 

Since Portland’s All Girl Summer Fun Band originally formed just to be a band during the summer of 1998, it’s pretty incredible that they are playing live in the summer of 2023. Now playing together as a trio (bassist Ari Douangpanya left in 2005 to focus on raising her son), AGSFB is now OGs Jen Sbragia, Kathy Foster and Kim Baxter. During the pandemic, Jen and Kim started playing together for fun, while Kathy leads a band called Roseblood and plays with Hurry Up and Slang as well. Since they kind of formed thanks to a Softies show way back when, it’s so great that the two bands will be playing together in early June (see flier below) in the Pacific Northwest! We are so excited to present a brand-new interview with AGSFB, who were featured in chickfactor 15 (2002) and played at our 10th anniversary soiree at Fez the same year. Interview by Gail O’Hara / Photos courtesy of All Girl Summer Fun Band

Chickfactor: what years were All Girl Summer Fun Band in action back then? 
Jen Sbragia
 (she/her): Summer of 1998 until our most recent show – May of 2010 at the SF Popfest (thanks, SongKick… I had no idea)
Kim Baxter (she/her): It’s so crazy that it’s been 13 years since we last played! When Kathy, Jen and I recently got together to practice for these upcoming shows, it felt like no time had passed at all. It was a pretty magical feeling, I didn’t realize just how much I had missed playing with them.

What is the current AGSFB lineup? 
Jen: Myself, Kathy, and Kim
Kim: People have been asking us why Ari isn’t playing these shows. She actually left the band in 2005 to raise her son, so AGSFB has been a 3-piece band ever since then. We are all still very good friends with her!

What was the impetus for starting up again? 
Jen: Kim and I have been playing together over the pandemic, outside in her covered breezeway between her house and her practice space. We were just doing it for fun, to flex those old music muscles again and chat and just interact with each other in person while taking care not to give each other any possible germs. Then Tony Molina asked us to play in June. We were excited to ask Kathy to join us, she said yes and we all got back together to practice, in the actual practice space.

How long have you been secretly playing together in recent years? 
Jen: Not secretly! Just spending time together in person and playing some old tunes and writing some new stuff. Seeing what happens.

How did you guys originally meet? 
Jen: I met Kim when her band Cherry Ice Cream Smile played with the Softies at Thee O Cafe in Portland, June 1997. She gave me her band’s cassette. Rose and I listened to it a ton as we drove across the US and back. I was like, I gotta hang out with this person and start a band. 
Kim: I was a huge fan of the Softies so getting to play a show with them and being able to give them a tape of my band was a big deal. But then they actually called me from the road and left me a message on my answering machine saying that they loved the tape and that I should hang out with Jen when she gets back from tour. I was over the moon! I actually still have the microcassette with that message from my answering machine. Jen & I instantly became good friends. A year later, Kathy moved to Portland from California, and we hit it off right away. The two of us recorded a couple of songs on my four track which eventually became two of the first AGSFB songs, “Broken Crown” and “Will I See You.” Ari and I both grew up in Albuquerque, NM, but didn’t become friends until she moved to Portland. I asked the 3 of them if they wanted to be in a band for the summer of 1998 and described it as an all-girl-summer-fun-band. No pressure, just a goofy & fun band. I was leaving to go to school in Russia that fall and figured it would be a project just for the summer. But we all decided to continue playing when I got home, and here we are, 85 years later, still a band! Ha!
Kathy Foster (she/her): Yes Kim brought us all together. She was one of the very first people I met (and stayed with) when I moved to Portland in May of 1998. I knew her then-boyfriend/now-husband from the Bay Area. We clicked right away and became friends. Soon after, we started AGSFB. As I remember it, Kim told me I was in a new band with her, Jen and Ari. Haha. And I said OK! I, too was a huge Softies fan and was stoked to play with Jen. Even though I had just met the three of them, we all had so much fun together right from the start!


What were some highlights and memories from the old days?
Jen: Spending half of practice just standing around with instruments plugged in and ready to go but then we’re just catching up, chatting, laughing. Getting to tour Europe! 
Kim: I love chatting at practice! We talk about anything and everything and sometimes we play a little music too. I loved all of our past shows, tours, and I absolutely love spending time in the studio with AGSFB.
Kathy: Same! I always thought it was so cool and special that we could talk, laugh and be ourselves so comfortably at practice. (It’s the same now, too!) There was no pressure, no agenda, no one dominating the conversation or creative process, no egos. Just a fun, creative, supportive atmosphere, which carried through everything we did together – playing shows, recording, touring. Recording and touring were always fun adventures.   

I love looking at the old photos from the first AGSFB era—lots of red, pale blue, gingham, pigtails/bunches. Did you guys have rules about stagewear? 
Jen: We tried to come up with color themes. We did all have gingham tops or outfits, so that happened at our first show. One time I found some deadstock Women’s uniforms in sort of an orangey color at thrift store somewhere and we wore those, I think? Also, we played a Halloween show where we all wore vintage prom dresses with zombie makeup. It was fun but then we stopped doing it after a while. It was nice to just wear whatever.
Kim: Kathy is so good at doing zombie makeovers! I want to play another Halloween show just so she can do zombie makeup for us!
Kathy: I love doing zombie makeup! Yeah, at first we tried to come up with a dress theme for every show. We also did a monochrome theme where we each wore a different color. Jen just posted some old show footage where we’re all wearing baseball tees. Mostly, though, we all kinda had a similar style that looked good together. 

Any good stories from tour in the early days?
Kim: We would often go on spring break tours down to California which I always loved because we had a lot of friends living in the Bay Area. It was also fun touring in Europe and of course we loved playing the Chickfactor show in NY in 2002. So many great memories.

Tour nightmares? 
Kim: Well, one night Jen, Kathy and I were driving home after playing a show in Tacoma, WA and we ran out of gas. These creepy guys pulled over and were shining lights in our van to see what we had. Luckily they didn’t try to steal anything and they finally just drove away but it was so flippin’ scary! 
Kathy: That was so scary! I still think about that when I drive past that area of I-5, and feel so relieved that nothing bad happened. There was also the tour down to California in my VW Vanagon where we had van trouble, and found out the van had a small gas leak. We got a fire extinguisher for the van and crossed our fingers that we’d make it back to Portland in one piece. I believe it was that same tour that Ari and I got tattoos at the parlor next door to the venue in San Pedro, CA. 

What bands are you in these days? 
Jen: As always, The Softies and AGSFB, but also—over the quarantine times I started recording little weird outbursts or jingle-type “songs” on my phone. It was just stupid stuff like me singing Go Brush Your Teeth to my kids and stuff like that. Rose and her husband Jon heard them when we were together during a Softies songwriting sesh and they encouraged me to release them as a weird solo project. So I have a Bandcamp for it called Yreka Bakery. It’s just a handful of weirdness mostly about my cat.
Kim: AGSFB & I’m also recording songs for another solo album (Kim Baxter Band) plus writing new songs with Jen but we’re not sure what they will be yet. Maybe a new project, maybe a new AGSFB album, maybe both!
Kathy: AGSFB (I wanna write new stuff!), Slang, Hurry Up. I’m working on releasing a solo album under the name Roseblood

How did the pandemic change you? How did it change Portland? 
Jen: Like many people, I was scared at first, then scared and bored, then scared and sick of living with my family all on top of each other. Online school was abysmal for my kids. Part of me kind of liked being a hermit. I grew a little garden, we painted rocks, I made overalls. I still wear masks a lot, but I’m dipping a toe back in here and there. Portland definitely seems different now, so many businesses that have closed. So many camps. It seems like this everywhere though. Not good.

Kim: It forced me to prioritize the things that mean the most to me, like playing music. I didn’t have a lot of energy to put toward music for a couple of years though because I was so stressed and worried most of the time. But we are lucky because we have a studio in our garage, so when I did have energy to get out there and play music, it helped me feel more grounded, nostalgic, and positive about something. ¶ Portland has been growing at a very fast pace which was already causing some issues, especially around housing. But then the pandemic hit, and it really exacerbated those problems. I’m hopeful that some positive solutions are found soon. I still love it here, but we have had our car stolen 4 times now and that just gets old after a while. 

Kathy: Like Kim, I didn’t have much energy to put toward music or writing, which was disappointing. I saw a post on Instagram that stuck with me that said: the pandemic is not a residency. Even though I wasn’t working, and I was fortunately getting unemployment, it wasn’t a relaxing or productive time. It was stressful not knowing what was happening or how long it would go on. I put energy toward working on a vegetable garden which I hadn’t done much of in the past, and just dealing. I also learned a few bike maintenance skills and fixed up a few things on my bike. I’m pretty introverted, which may sound weird since I’ve played tons of shows. The pandemic made me a bit more socially anxious but I’m starting to come out of that. Portland’s problems got really magnified during the pandemic—homelessness, drugs, mental health problems all got way worse and we’re still dealing with it today and trying to figure out solutions. 

What does Portland’s music scene feel like these days? Top acts? 
Kathy: I guess I’m the one who’s gone to shows the most in the last several years, but I still feel like I’m out of it. I don’t go to as many shows as I used to, that’s for sure, so I wouldn’t say I have my finger on the pulse. It still feels pretty much as vibrant as ever. We definitely need more all ages venues. Portland seems to have always struggled with that. There seem to be more country influenced bands these days, and not in any cheesy way. Bands I like are The Barbaras, Roselit Bone, Silver Triplets of the Rio Hondo, Fronjentress, Jenny Don’t and the Spurs, and the legend Toody Cole still plays. There are still tons of great pop and folk bands like Sunbathe, Arch Cape, Black Belt Eagle Scout, Terre Haunt; and great punk bands like The Ghost Ease, HELP, Dials, Divers, Dommengang, Love in Hell, Yuvees. A few of my top fave punk bands that are now broken up were Lithics, Mr. Wrong, and Ex-Kids. There are synth, noise, jazz and hip hop scenes too! Too many great acts to list. 

What else are you guys up to in 2023? Kids, pets, jobs, etc? 
Jen: My other job is freelance graphic design. My kids are tweens and doing good. We have the same ancient cat (long may she reign!) and a newly adopted bearded dragon we call Tobias Jordan. 
Kim: My husband and I own a small film production company. We have a teenage son who is so awesome, and I love spending time with him! I’ve been trying to spend more time sewing and making art. I also play a lot of futsal and I’ve been getting into bouldering. 
Kathy: I’m a part-time bookkeeper. I’m the only AGSFB member without human children, but I have a dog daughter named Ronette (Ronnie) who I adore. She’s two. I’m currently in the mastering phase of my solo album (Roseblood). Slang will probably be playing more later this year. Janet Weiss, who is in Slang, has been touring a lot the last few months with Quasi but they’ll be home soon. I’m starting to DJ a little more (DJ KM Fizzy). I DJed regularly and had a radio show (Strange Babes on XRAY FM) before the pandemic but have only DJed a couple times since. I also like to sew, make beaded jewelry, and I’ve been reading more this year. 

If you do have kids, what kind of music are they into? Do they know about your music past/present? What do they think? 
Jen: My kids’ music preferences are a mystery; they listen to and view stuff on YouTube mostly. They know how vinyl records work and how to hold ’em by the edges, so my work is done. (ha) My daughter wants me to pay for Spotify, but I just can’t bring myself to pull the trigger on that. They got to see me play a secret Softies set in Seattle (with the Umbrellas, who they loved) a few months back and they were so sweet. After each song I glanced over and they were waving and cheering, so sweet.
Kim: My son loves EDM and records his own music. He’s supportive of my music but I know it’s not his favorite style. When he was 3, we brought him with us on a European tour for my solo album. Since my husband and I both play music, it’s always just been a part of his life.
Kathy: Ronnie gets really relaxed when I sing to her or play music. 🙂

Got any crushes? 
Jen: I fall in love with people who make music I love. Always have. Matthew Rhys as Perry Mason could get it.
Kim: I have crushes on everyone finding time to make music and art after being so mentally exhausted by the pandemic and the craziness of the world. I see you and I’m cheering for you all! Oh, and I also totally have a crush on Diego Luna.
Kathy: Pedro Pascal like everyone else. 


What are you watching? 
Jen: Just finished reading Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to my kids and now we are watching the 2015 miniseries. Also burning through Succession and Perry Mason.
Kim: I’m re-watching My So Called Life and Freaks and Geeks.
Kathy: The last show I was excited about was The Last of Us (hence the crush)I’m excited for the second season. 

What are you reading? 
Jen: Just started the His Dark Materials series with the kids.
Kim: I’ve been on a big Steinbeck kick lately. I read 8 Steinbeck novels back to back. I recently switched gears though and now I’m reading the Mötley Crüe book, The Dirt.
Kathy: I recently read two books by Kristin Hannah – The Four Winds and The Great Alone. Both were incredible. She was recommended to me by a friend. She has a long bibliography so I’m excited to read more by her. I’m currently reading Good Neighbors by Sarah Lanagan. I like it so far. 


What are you eating? Fave food carts? 
Jen: Just started going out for food again, so EVERYTHING is exciting. Our fave sushi is Kashiwagi PDX. I didn’t get the appeal of La Croix for the longest time but now I’m fully in the cult. Also I love diet coke.
Kim: There’s a food cart by my house that makes delicious food from Guam. It’s so good but they’re rarely open. 
Kathy: I get overwhelmed by the amount of food carts in Portland. There are so many that it’s hard to choose so I just freeze. Plus, I don’t eat out a ton. There’s a good Mexican & Yucatecan cart near me called Loncheria Los Mayas. I also go to the taqueria down the street from there called Santo Domingo. I’ve been on a protein smoothie kick lately. I make one most mornings. Other than, it’s kind of all over the place. I love all kinds of food. 

What are you most excited about doing on the upcoming tour? 
Jen: I hope I smile so much my face hurts. I miss playing shows so much!
Kim: Spending time with Jen & Kathy, seeing old friends, making new friends, putting smiles on other people’s faces. 
Kathy: Yeah, same. Just playing again, hanging out together, having fun, seeing friends, lots of smiles all around, and seeing The Softies! Omg.

Any special gear you are using these days to record? Learning new tricks? 
Jen: I got an EVO 4 interface so that I can record straight into an iPad using Garage Band. It’s been really helpful writing music remotely. I also got a BOSS loop pedal for experimenting with, and a Blues Driver pedal that seems perfect for beefing up those old clean-guitar songs a bit. 
Kim: I recently got the Data Corruptor pedal from Earthquaker for bass. I’m still learning to use it, it’s a beast. I currently just step on it at random moments during practice to make Jen & Kathy laugh. I also have been recording songs using a Poly D Analog Synth which I love!
Kathy: I been recording with Logic for the past few years. I recorded the Roseblood demos and album in Logic. When I made the demos, I was new to Logic and I found it to be a cool tool for songwriting. It helped me write songs in new ways by being able to mess around with all the different sounds it comes with – amps, instruments, effects and beats. 


What can we expect at the upcoming shows?
Jen: Maybe matching WILDFANG coveralls? And some new pedals. A mix of old songs. Not sure we have the time to get anything new together in time. 
Kim: Giggles, nerves & pure happiness!
Kathy: What Kim said! 

Please tell us about what music you are recording / making / practicing / selling for this tour.
Jen: Kim and I were writing some new songs when it was just the two of us. Now that Kathy is practicing with us, those songs might become new AGSFB songs. Mostly we are just trying to practice a set list of established songs, but who knows? Mike Schulman from Slumberland and Alicia Vanden Heuvel from Speakeasy Studios were talking about co-releasing a cassette of Tony and the Softies covering a few of each other’s songs just for this tour. A fun little limited edition gem. Well, Rose loves doing covers (if you haven’t heard her September cassette it’s incredible). So she learned ALL the songs on Tony’s Dissed and Dismissed. She laid down the guitar tracks and her vocals on her own, we recorded my vocals together during one of our many practice sessions, and then I did my guitar parts in my little office with my iPad. Tony did three Softies songs. We put so much of our hearts into covering his songs because we love him so much. I can’t wait for everyone to hear it.
Kim: I think we are close to finalizing our set for the upcoming shows. The bulk of it consists of songs from our album, 2. Plus some from the s/t album, some from “Looking Into It”, and maybe one from our first 7-inch.
Kathy: Not music, but we’ll have new t-shirts and buttons!

What’s on the turntable, er, bandcamp right now?
Jen:
The Lost Days – In The Store
Chime School  – s/t
Lisa Prank – Perfect Love Song
Black Belt Eagle Scout – The Land, The Water, The Sky
OVENS – s/t
Weedrat – The Rat Cometh
Julia Jacklin – Crushing

Kim:
The Muffs – “Lucky Guy”
Heavenly – “Space Manatee”
Pulp – “Mile End”
Tony Molina – “All I’ve Known”
Breeders  – “All Nerve”

Kathy:
Ribbon Stage – Hit With The Most
Various artists – Strange World (compilation of “cosmic and earthly Doo Wop and R and B from America and Jamaica released by Mississippi Records)
Quasi – Breaking The Balls Of History
Dateline podcast
Tig & Cheryl: True Story podcast

Photos: Michael Lavine
Photo: Todd Baxter

New Wedding Present Book Alert

Like this zine’s founders, Richard Houghton knows a thing or two about being a fan of the Wedding Present. Published last Friday, The Wedding Present: All the Songs Sound the Same collects more than 300 stories from fans, friends and current/former members of TWP, all of whom discuss favorite recordings, along with loads of previously unseen images from bandleader David Gedge’s archive. Gedge even coedited the 336-page hardcover book along with Houghton. 

Photographer unknown / courtesy of the Wedding Present

Gedge says: ‘When I’m asked to choose my favourite of the songs I’ve written, I never know what to say. It’s like asking who your favourite child is! How could I pick just one? However, I did think it would be interesting to see which songs fans would select, and why. There’s quite a few from which to choose … When an audience member requests one of the 280-plus songs that we haven’t rehearsed for that particular evening’s set I usually sympathise with them by saying, “I know, I know… there are just too many classics, aren’t there?!”’

Photo by Jessica McMillan

The songs are discussed, explicated and championed by all the superfans in the book, including Sir Keir Starmer, Peter Solowka, and Mark Beaumont, along with CF editor me (Gail), who discusses the origins of the Pavement Boy comic (it’s Wedding Present related) and road trips to NYC with Pam Berry, Mike Slumberland and Dan Searing where we were listening to Seamonsters. We asked Richard a few questions about the new book. 

How did this book come about? 
David Gedge and I worked together on a book called Sometimes These Words Just Don’t Have To Be Said which was published in 2017. That was fans talking about seeing The Wedding Present in concert. But lots of people mentioned songs that were favourites of theirs, and I thought a book of people writing about their favourite Wedding Present songs would be a fun idea. I pitched it to David and he agreed to give it a go.

Gedge in the studio / photo by Jessica McMillan

How long has it taken to get made? 
I started compiling the book in 2018, so it’s been five years. It took a while to gather together all the material. I also had access to David’s personal archive and scanning in images and getting clearance to use some of those (including David deciding which ones he was happy to see in print) also took a while. And then we had to find a slot in David’s busy schedule, as he’s been publishing his autobiography in comic strip form, and we needed to avoid launching the book when it might clash with the release of one of those volumes.

Photographer unknown / courtesy of the Wedding Present

Where can people get it? In the US? Europe/rest of world? 
The book is available in hardback via Amazon and also via Spenwood Books (who ship worldwide). The hardback is also available in the UK and Ireland via your local bookshop, although you may have to ask them to order it in for you. But the book is also available in paperback via Barnes & Noble in the US, meaning fans only have to pay domestic shipping.

Will there be any book events? 
David and his bass player, Melanie Howard, are doing a semi-acoustic gig at Resident Music in Brighton on Friday May 5 at 6.30pm BST. More details are available here:

All The Songs Sound The Same is published on 28 April 2023 and available to order now from Spenwood Books.

2013 with Marc Riley

David Lewis Gedge lives in Brighton and is the founding member, lead singer and guitarist for the semi-legendary indie band The Wedding Present, who were founded in 1985, and his ‘other’ band, Cinerama. He is also the author of several books, including two volumes (so far) of his illustrated autobiography, Tales from the Wedding Present.

Richard Houghton lives in Manchester and is the author of 20 music books, including authorised titles on The Wedding Present, The Stranglers, Simple Minds, OMD, Jethro Tull and Fairport Convention. His People’s History series of music books is published by Spenwood Books.

David Gedge with Sean Hughes
Photo by Jessica McMillan
Photo by Jessica McMillan

The Linda Smith Interview

Linda Smith in Brooklyn in the 1980s; photo courtesy Linda Smith

Certain artists take up too much space in the world, and some don’t take up enough. Baltimore’s Linda Smith falls into the latter camp. Keeping a low profile for decades, she started experimenting with a 4-track and putting down gentle home recordings in the early 1980s. Despite being on Slumberland, Shrimper, Feel Good All Over and Harriet, she didn’t capture (enough of) the public’s attention until releasing a comp called Till Another Time (1988-1996) on Captured Tracks in 2021. She’s also played in Silly Pillows and the Woods and was closely associated with the Magnetic Fields 30 years ago. 

Folks who document discographies suggest she occupies similar territory to the Cannanes, Dump, Sentridoh, and the Marine Girls, so yeah, her music is right up (y)our alley. Now she has a great new record out with her old friend Nancy Andrews titled A Passing Cloud (2023). We caught up with her recently to see what’s happening in Charm City these days. (Listen to her music here.) Interview by Gail O / Images courtesy of Linda

Linda with Peggy Bitzer in the early ’80s; photo courtesy Linda Smith

chickfactor: How did your life change during the pandemic/lockdown? 
Linda Smith: I had a year off of work. During this time, Captured Tracks released “Till Another Time”, a compilation of my old songs. I also started recording again after many years.
How did Baltimore change? 
Like most cities, it became very quiet and deserted, with very little traffic on the streets.
What kind of impact did The Wire have on the city? Good or bad? 
I never watched The Wire but it seems that people outside the city were influenced by it and took it as a realistic portrayal of the city. It reminds me of how people used to think of Baltimore as being like a John Waters movie. Certainly, there are aspects of truth in both but neither gives a complete picture. 
How long have you lived there? Where else have you lived? 
I was born here but I did live in NY City for 3 ½ years in the 1980s. When I moved to NY, it seemed to provide more action and excitement than Baltimore did. When I moved back, though, I was glad for the relative lack of excitement. 
Were you musical as a child? 
No, but after seeing the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I wanted to be. 

Girls Ranch is (from left): Elizabeth Downing, Dee Dee Taylor, Peggy Bitzer, Linda; photo courtesy Linda Smith

Were you from a musical family? 
No, but we heard records frequently and I was given a transistor radio at the height of the 60’s pop music era.
What were you like as a teen? 
I spent most of that phase listening to classical music and watching old movies, waiting for high school to end. While I loved AM radio in the 60’s, most of the music of the early 70’s seemed lackluster in comparison. It wasn’t until the late 70’s punk and New Wave period that I wanted to listen to rock and pop again. 
I think I first heard your music on a cassette comp in about 1993 made by Keith Darcy. When did you first start making music? 
Probably around 1979-80. I was buying a lot of records and became inspired by the Raincoats and Young Marble Giants, among others. I decided I wanted to be in a band like that and put an ad in the local free paper seeking other unschooled players. Many of those I met came from the art school (MICA), of course!

Paul Baroody and Linda in NY; photo courtesy Linda Smith

What have you learned about recording over the years? How has your process changed? 
There are lots of technical aspects of recording that I have no idea about, but I learned enough to get individual tracks down on tape. For me, it was about keeping things simple. The recording process changed most recently when I started recording on my laptop. I thought it would be more difficult but it’s actually easier! In this case, I use the simplest program, Audacity. 
What was the Baltimore music scene like when you were making music in the ’90s? And what’s it like now? 
The music scene back then was more live performance and rock based, not so much about releasing recordings. These days, the scene is far more diverse. Musicians still play live but recorded music is very important to what they do. Bandcamp has allowed that to happen. A couple of years ago I put together a selection of current Baltimore music for The Lot radio in Brooklyn. There is so much going on that I wanted to include but couldn’t get everything in. It can be heard here: Listen to Baltimore to Brooklyn: Captured Tracks with Linda Smith @ The Lot Radio 06 – 17 – 2021 by The Lot Radio on #SoundCloud
You were working in the art world, yes? What is the art world like in Baltimore? 
I worked in the security dept at the Baltimore Museum of Art for 15 years. The art world of the museum is a bit different from the art world on the outside of it. I was more involved with the former than the latter. In the security dept. one is somewhat invisible on a certain level but also privy to many things others never see. I could write a book.

Rehearsing at 14K Cabaret in 1991; photo courtesy Linda Smith

Can you tell us some good stories about events that happened at the 14 Carat Cabaret? 
Back in the 90’s, the 14K Cabaret was THE art scene in Baltimore. I did sound there for a year and saw many of the early shows. Laure Drogoul ran the Cabaret and always scheduled a mix of performance, music, and film. She booked many local artists as well as groups like Beat Happening, Scrawl, and the Magnetic Fields. The one night that really sticks out in my memory is the Annie Sprinkle performance. Packed house.

Rehearsing at 14K Cabaret in 1991; photo courtesy Linda Smith

If I came to Baltimore for the day, what should I absolutely do? 
Visit the art museums! Also, don’t miss Normals Books and Records for your music and literature needs. For small locally run shops and restaurants, I suggest Hampden.  
Do you see John Waters around town much? 
Not in general, but the museum where I worked had a show of his work a few years ago. We got to see him quite a bit then.
How does your songwriting process happen? Where do you write? What tools do you use? 
My process is very tied to the recording process. Songs are often created while laying down tracks rather than fully written out beforehand. I’ve gotten more into making instrumental music, too. Writing lyrics has been of less interest to me recently but that could be old age. 
Do you perform live much these days? 
I’ve never performed all that often over the years but recently have received more requests to do so. With the release of my new album with Nancy Andrews, “A Passing Cloud” (Grapefruit/Gertude co-release), I’m thinking of becoming more involved in that aspect of music. We did a show last week at Normals Red Room, which was actually fun and not too nerve wracking! 

Please tell us about the LD tribute record you have been working on.
One of the recording projects I started during the pandemic was prompted by LD Beghtol not long before he died suddenly. Though I did not know LD as well as those at Chickfactor (and elsewhere), we had communicated off and on since the 90’s, always with the idea of working on this or that project. In 2018, he created the cover for the Lost Sound Tapes Linda Smith tribute cassette, and also recorded a wonderful version of my song “Brightside”. When the shutdown happened in 2020, we were again in touch, this time about having me record one of his songs. He chose “Lack of Better”. I did my recording, which he was to add a vocal and acoustic guitar to but did not get the chance to do. Since then, the idea of an LD Beghtol tribute album has been germinating. He made so many connections with other musicians and wrote so many great songs, that it seems the best way to honor him. Many of the artists with whom he worked will be contributing tracks and Charles Newman at Motherwest is helping to organize it. (Thanks to Gail for the inside connections!)
What’s in your fridge? Can you cook? What is your specialty? 
I like food that can be easily microwaved. 365 Plant based nuggets are a favorite. Other than that, I prefer to eat in restaurants but that gets expensive.
Do you have pets? Hobbies? Day job? 
No pets, no day job (retired). Painting might be considered my hobby at this point; it has taken a back seat to music these days. I can only do one thing at a time, it seems. 

Linda Smith; photo by Peggy Bitzer

What are you reading? Watching? 
Too many books lying around here that need to be read but I just finished Celia Paul’s “Letters to Gwen John”, a collection of messages from a living painter to a long dead one. As for watching, I really like a good disaster movie, among other things. ☺
What’s on the turntable these days?
Since restarting my long dormant vinyl habit, there are brand new records along with interesting reissues of old music.
*Dottie Holmberg: Sometimes Happy Times (Sundazed)
*Wheatie Mattiasich: Old Glow (Open Mouth Records)
*Doug McKechnie: San Francisco Moog 1968-1972 (VG+ Records)
*The Smashing Times: Bloom (Meritorio Records)
*Tetsu Mineta: Early Scenes (Ditch Lily/Unread/Union Pole/Almost Halloween Time)
*Andre Previn: Dead Ringer Soundtrack (Warner Bros)
*Twink, The Best of: You Reached for the Stars (Sundazed)
*Josephine Foster: Godmother (Fire Records)
*Sarah La Puerta: Strange Paradise (Perpetual Doom)

Anything else you’d like to tell us about? 
Besides the LD Beghtol tribute, I hope to do a vinyl re-release of the 1998 album I did with Paul Baroody, “Domesticated” (great pop songs with memorable melodies!), and a new album of poems by Baltimore writers set to music. Coming in 2023, there will be a full length album of old recordings by The Woods, my NY band in the 80’s, on Dot Matrix (a subsidiary of Sundazed/Modern Harmonic). In addition, Shrimper will be re-releasing my old Woods bandmate Brian Bendlin’s 1987 album, “13 Groves”, with artwork by me. Along the way, there are other various collaborations possible.

Much of my old music and all of my new music is available here: lindasmith2.bandcamp.com 

Records Linda Smith cannot live without 
*The Dionne Warwick Collection (Rhino)
*Lesley Gore: It’s My Party, The Mercury Anthology
*Sam Phillips: Martinis and Bikinis
*Brenda Holloway: The Motown Anthology
*The Shangri-Las: Shangri-Las 65
*Game Theory: Lolita Nation
*Young Marble Giants: Colossal Youth
*Four Tops Anthology 
*Dolly Mixture Demo Tapes
*Sandy Denny: Who Knows Where the Time Goes? Collection

The Woods on the Staten Island Ferry; photo courtesy Linda Smith

Looking back at CF30: Oct. 30 at the Betsey Trotwood, London, featuring the Catenary Wires and Marlody

The Catenary Wires at CF30. Photo: Andrew Bulhak

Our final chickfactor 30 party in London was an afternoon Hangover Lounge affair at the Betsey Trotwood and had kind of a chill vibe that was welcome after two nights at the packed Lexington! Marlody is a new signing on Rob and Amelia’s Skep Wax label and her moody, intimate songs were quiet and poignant at a time when finally coming together after so long was so needed. Her music was a reminder that we all need to share our stories. The Catenary Wires are of course pop legends: Amelia Fletcher, Rob Pursey, Ian Button and Andy Lewis. They played stellar songs from their latest, Birling Gap, which you should snap up if you haven’t got it, and even thrilled the audience with a Heavenly song, “Cool Guitar Boy,” in advance of their couple of Bush Hall shows next spring, which was so so fun.

Photo: Morgan Stanley

London is a place I was lucky to call home for half a decade and I miss it like crazy. chickfactor’s cofounder Pam Berry has lived there since the late ’90s and I love being able to go back and see people at these events in these places that miraculously are still open. I wish we could do it every year! Thanks again to the musicians, bands, venues, Paul Kelly for backline wrangling, the sound people, Hangover Lounge, Tae Won Yu, the folks who put me and others up, the documenters, readers, fans, friends, strangers, and pop lovers who make up this incredible community.

Marlody, an artist on Rob and Amelia’s Skep Wax label, played the show. Photo: Jen Matson
The Catenary Wires. Photo: Jen Matson
The Catenary Wires. Photo: Morgan Stanley
People with great taste in music. Photo: Gail O’Hara
Pop stars meeting and smiling. Photo: Gail O’Hara
Beer mats from CF20. Photo: Morgan Stanley
Lunchbox at the Betsey. Photo: Gail O’Hara
Legends in our midst. Photo: Morgan Stanley
All the Umbrellas in London (sorry, I’ll stop saying that now). Photo: Morgan Stanley
Hangover Lounge gents Tim and John. Photo: Gail O’Hara
Raz attempting to wrangle the unruly CF revelers. Photo: Gail O’Hara
Poster by Tae Won Yu
Art by Tae Won Yu

Looking back at CF30: night 5, Oct. 29, the Lexington in London starring Birdie, The Umbrellas and Seablite

Seablite played their London debut! Photo: Jen Matson

Tonight from the stage, Morgan from the Umbrellas said that her face was hurting from smiling so much and we could all relate! The London CF30 shows were like a big lovefest full of fantastic pop music! The show kicked off tonight with the Bay Area pop group Seablite, making their London debut in the most stylish and melodious way!

Jen from Seablite / Photo: Jen Matson

Birdie played next and our hearts melted because they are so damn charming and just effortlessly generate classic-sounding pop music that could have come from the 1960s. Their set list is below, but we know how lucky we are to have heard a few Dolly Mixture songs on Friday during Rachel’s set and some on Saturday with Birdie! Unbelievable joy.

Birdie / Photo: Jen Matson

The final act tonight was the Bay Area Slumberland band The Umbrellas, who are so young and yet so good at making classic but fresh indie pop in the best possible way. Such energy! Such positivity! If there were any justice in the world, we would take these shows on the road and fill the world with joy and melody! I’m sure these US bands will be back soon, but for now London + California = love.

Birdie set list

Just a note: In case you wondered why the shows started so early and they had no real breaks between bands, it’s because the Lexington has another dance party event that starts roughly an hour after our thing ended. We left a time cushion between our show and theirs because our experience at CF25 was a bit difficult to deal with, the Pastels could hardly load out or relax and have a post-show beer before the late-night dance party people rushed the room.

the Queen (Debsey) / Photo: Jen Matson

(Personally, I was perched on a bench in the back because I had recently rolled my ankle and couldn’t manage the pain being on my feet all night or I would have been dancing like a dervish right up front as per usual! I was on so much paracetamol that I felt I couldn’t drink much cider, and I was a bit limited in my movements as host! But it was pretty crazy to see three of my former coworkers from SPIN magazine in the house! Daisy and Sarah, shoutouts to you for being so fun. )

Birdie / Photo: Andrew Bulhak

Thanks again to all the bands who played and all the fans who came from afar and the Lexington. Special thanks to Gaylord Fields and Rachel Love (to whom I apologize for my grumpiness) for helping me wrangle the right lager and snacks from the local Tesco. The overall vibe this weekend was very much a lovefest, a total all-hands-on-deck, walking around the neighborhood and running into each other funfest with some of the greatest people. MC Gaylord did an amazing job of waxing loudly and lovingly about the bands to get everyone’s attention back to the stage. Many thanks to Paul Kelly and the Betsey Trotwood for wrangling the backline for the whole weekend. Thanks to the Hangover Lounge gents—Tim, John, Ben and Steve—for handling merch and being the generally wonderful humans that they are. 

Some great humans / Photo: Daisy Wake
The Umbrellas / Photo: Andrew Bulhak
Keith and Nick Umbrellas / Photo: Gail O’Hara
The Umbrellas sparked so much joy it lasted for the rest of the year / Photo: Gail O’Hara
Some Umbrellas after their London debut! Photo: Daisy Wake
Umbrellas set list!
Fancy wristbands courtesy Eric Fischer
Poster by Tae Won Yu
Art by Tae Won Yu
Art by Tae Won Yu
Art by Tae Won Yu