Last month Portland, Oregon’s Corvair released their wonderful debut album on the very fine WIAIWYA label out of London. The band is couple Brian Naubert and Heather Larimer, along with drummer Eric Eagle on the album. CF folks know Heather from her (John Peel approved!) band Eux Autres, whose music was used in TV shows and commercials as well. She’s also played on other folks’ record, including the Minus Five and Stephen Malkmus. Brian has played in loads of bands including Tube Top, the Service Providers and (solo as) Hoffabus. They’ve also created jingles! We caught up with Heather to see how she and Brian have been faring during this very weird era. Interview by Gail O’Hara
Chickfactor: How have you guys been holding up during COVIDtime? Heather Larimer: We are doing really well, actually. We had already basic tracked our record so once we went into lockdown, we were able to focus a ton on building up the record and playing around with ideas. We went through a lot of wine and candles trying to make quarantining a little less apocalyptic feeling. Having a project was so good for us. We would have lost our shit otherwise.
When did Corvair begin? We started writing the record about two years ago, not knowing exactly what the project was, just that we were collaborating. It’s funny how obvious it seems to us now—and it’s weird we didn’t try it a lot earlier.
Tell us about your nautical theme / water obsession on the new one. I guess there’s the obvious Jungian stuff, water as the unconscious. And then I think because Brian and I imprinted on each other when we were very young and then went our separate ways and reconnected, it’s really made both of us question what is volition and what is much deeper or older than our superficial daily “choices.” So this record is in so many ways Brian and I retrieving stuff from the deep—including our own painful early history together and the dark time that ensued when we tried to build lives apart that kind of collapsed. And then, his family is old-school Northwest people. S’Klallam tribe from Port Townsend and early settlers of the port town of Tacoma. But then there’s just the more associative and light parts, which were that we rented a cabin in Oceanside Oregon to go write songs and everything came together. We found all these sea creatures, which ended up being our album art. And we wrote a song about hope and added the words “Oceansided” at the end, because what does that even mean? And then we drove to “Cape Disappointment,” which is the best place name ever because some of the most instructive times in my life were when I miraculously got what I wanted and blam!—be careful what you wish for. This idea about finding land and with it, salvation and then…oh shit. So, we were both really feeling the symbolism and murky depth of the water stuff and we just ran with it. Plus, for videos it was pandemic-friendly—all we needed was a car and a camera.
How old were you when you started playing music? I started playing Sukuzi violin when I was about 6 and played until I was 14, and then I dabbled very lightly in bass and tambourine (haha!) and then when I was 28 I learned to play the drums and my brother and I started a band about a year later. I thought I was too old to start a band at the time. Ridiculous.
When did you write your first song? What was it about? Weirdly, Brian hung the lyrics to my first song on the wall of our studio. When I was 4, my dad typed up my song lyrics and later framed them once I was making music. I had forgotten all about it until Brian found them in the basement. The song is called “She’ll Never Let Me Play” and it’s about my mom, and my friendship with squirrels. It seems all cute at first but then it turns into a Steve Miller time-traveling diss track.
What were you like as a teenager? Very confused. I loved punk rock music like Hüsker Dü and the Replacements but I also hot-rolled my hair and wore, like, striped turtlenecks and scrunchies. It makes me laugh that I was too scared to play in a band or be in drama, because it’s obviously where I would have been happiest. I always sang in school even though I was never picked for the elite singing groups because I wasn’t showy or polished enough. I just cried bitterly into my scrunchie. But I’m like a cockroach. I come crawling BACK stronger!
Do you have kids or pets? I have two young sons, which is a trip, but they’re unbelievably sweet and weird. And a boy dog, a disturbingly muscular lab. Plus, Brian my husband slash bandmate. My house is a total sausage fest.
What else do you guys like to do besides making music? I like to write and read. And power lift. And travel. And snuggle the shit out of the kids and have movie nights. And then, Brian is one of the most well-traveled people I know, a great photographer and he loves to garden. That is the one activity I will never join him in. To me, gardening is a nightmare trifecta of tedium, dirt, and solar irradiation.
Your previous band was inducted into the Indiepop Hall of Fame recently. Tell us about that. That was such a thrill. I love that Eux Autres still matters to people. And that the song was “Other Girls,” which was the first or second song that Nick and I wrote together. We got to pick a location for our virtual commemorative plaque, and we chose Omaha’s Sokol Hall, which was an amazing place in our hometown that hosted bingo, gymnastics, polka lessons and all-ages punk-rock shows. I love Omaha so much.
Can you cook? What is your specialty? What’s in the fridge? I am a pretty dang good cook but I’m not very improvisational. I get uptight about the recipe. My best friend is the best cook I’ve ever known—she’s a food entrepreneur—so I always feel like a fool next to her. But she’s taught me some great stuff, just by virtue of the fact that she’s been feeding me for decades. And my mom and sister-in-law are also killer cooks. There’s always a lot of asparagus in our fridge for some reason. It’s so easy and toothsome. And pork. It’s the Other White Meat. Brian cooks a lot of brown rice and vegetable stir-fries that are great healthy staples; he’s a bold weekday improviser. I take us to the dark side of the fridge on the weekends.
What else is in the pipeline? We are going to record again in May, and we are so excited and nervous now that we have actual expectations, as opposed to last time when we were making it up as we went along.
What is Portland looking like at the moment? Portland is pretty devastated all around. The houselessness is like nothing I’ve ever seen. There’s graffiti on every surface city wide. And I’m so worried about the restaurant and food community, they are the heart of Portland. I have no idea what this city will look like in 12 months, but we are committed to staying here for a while. CF
10Records Heather Cannot Live Without Guided By Voices, Alien Lanes Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville The Replacements, Let It Be The Kinks, Village Green Preservation Society The Cars, The Cars John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Double Fantasy Built to Spill, Perfect from Now On The Bee Gees 1st New Order, Substance Cat Power, Moon Pix
Broken Greek by Pete Paphides – lovely, just lovely, but you all know this, right?… you no doubt all have it already, and have been similarly enjoying it (both physically, and as an audiobook) throughout lockdown, listening to the accompanying playlist, thinking about your own childhood, remembering your own teen music obsessions… also, not bragging, but the last gig I went to was the book launch (Chrissie Hynde! David Arnold! Mike Batt! – basically, a better lineup than Live Aid) and the last non-partner hug I had was from Pete!
Jackie Mittoo – working from home has meant listening to more music during the day, and after a few weeks of trying different playlists to see what was easiest to work with (I went through a lot of Dungeon Synth, ’60s soundtracks, and ambient tracks), I settled on instrumental reggae, ska, rocksteady and dub, which in turn has led to a minor obsession with Jackie Mittoo records… solid gold…
Spun Out of Control – a cassette label that went vinyl during 2020 – broadly they release creepy electronic not-soundtracks to nonexistent horror films that have become the actual soundtrack to a LOT of walks through empty West London streets this year… treat yourself to the Sleepers by Hattie Cooke:
Double Deckers – “The chocolate bar is structured in two layers; a lightly whipped nougat layer, with a lower layer of cereal “crispies,” these are then coated in milk chocolate”… need I say more?
Disaster films – this year I’ve been watching a LOT of worlds ending, buildings collapsing, planes crashing, volcanoes erupting, diseases spreading, boats sinking and SHARKS… the Poseidon Adventure is the best one
Singing Streets app – I tend to walk the same streets for my daily exercise, it’s just easier not having to think… the Singing Streets app was launched at the start of September, and I found out, among other things, that Bryan Ferry’s Studio (where Prince recorded!), the house where Freddie wrote BoRap and the caff off the front of Common People were all on my daily route… I branched out to walks from where Dan Treacy went to school to where Syd Barrett lived (via the Troubadour, David Gilmour’s old flat, the Nashville Rooms and the Beggars Banquet shop) and from the studio where Buzzcocks recorded “What Do I Get?” and “Orgasm Addict” on 9 Sept 1977 to the place Bolan died one week later.
Discogs – Finally catching up with adding all my records to Discogs, realising how much utter rubbish I have, having a clear out, and using the money from any sales to treat myself to deluxe versions of Saint Etienne albums, and…
Paul Collins– I Don’t Fit In, the Paul Collins autobiography was announced over the summer, copies came with a 7-inch but postage from the states was crippling… a discogs sale for exactly the value of the book, record and postage, came in and I bought the book, all in a couple of minutes… I listened to a LOT of the Nerves this year too…
Joy Division – I’ve always dismissed them as a not-as-good OMD, with a good song I’m a bit bored of (you know the one) and a great song that keeps getting better (Atmosphere), but a combination of the Stephen Morris book (excellent, really funny, tragic) and the Transmissions podcast narrated by Maxine Peake has led to a reappraisal, and finally listening to a pair of 40-year-old albums… turns out they’re pretty good (not as good as OMD though)…
Very early pre-orders – ordering records, forgetting about them, and getting them in the post months later is great… in 2020 new ones from Taylor Swift and Kelly Lee Owens arrived as a surprise, as well as the reissue of Sisters by the Bluebells, and Forever by the Spice Girls… I’ve just checked, and there is still a Pye Corner Audio box set, the new Insides LP and another from Taylor Swift in the pipeline… roll on 2021
Nikki McClure (artist)
10 people I want to hug as tight as I can and I’m not much of a hugger
1. Lois Maffeo and I will eat tamales with her
2. My sisters who are quite far away
3. Oscar Soule, my college botany teacher who just dropped off raspberry jam
4. Amber Bell because she would then pass it on for me to everyone in Portland
5. My Mailman Craig who I repeated his name all day to remember it.
6. Marena at the Farmers Market who sells me bread every week and I put it in my basket that her Father made
7. Tina Herschelman and hopefully she is wearing cashmere
8. Aaron Tuller at Buyolympia because he’s not a hugger either
9. My Mother because she’s my Mother
10. Doctors and Nurses and Teachers and Grocers and Delivery Drivers. I think I heard another van pull up at my neighbor’s. I will hug my neighbor too and we will dance in the street.
Ten records I’ve been listening to obsessively this year, in descending order of repeats:
6 Women I’d Like to Personally Thank (I Was Trying for 10, but I Am Nearing Deadline)
Marcy Mays I’d like to thank you for your cowboy boots and for always being full-on ready to rock. Scrawl Forever!
Heather Lewis Thank you for coming up with my favorite drumbeat. Interested listeners may refer to “Midnight A Go Go” by Beat Happening to hear it.
Sara Lund The best drummers in the world have an idiosyncratic system of timing. Is it in their head, their hands or their feet? Wherever it stems from, Sara Lund’s drumming in Unwound not only withstood the art-damaged time signatures of Justin Trosper and Vern Rumsey—she elevated it. 100% fucking genius musician.
Stella Marrs Since we’re on the subject of drummers, has any performance more radically changed my views on and understanding of performance than Stella playing a snare drum with hands holding stiletto pumps? Her voluminous influence on visual and graphic art is well known, but she also resides in my life as a continual handmaiden to my blown mind.
Kathleen In 1984, I lived in Portland, Oregon, and walked across downtown to Satyricon once a week for a poetry night organized by Walt Curtis (who was inspiration for the older protagonist of Gus Van Sant’s Mala Noche.) It was more or less an open mic in which self-serious poets from Reed College would recite their verse and aging gay men would yell at them. (“You are an abortion!” was a favorite taunt I heard there.) One consistent feature of this weekly event was the pre-intermission arrival to the stage of a late-middle-aged woman named Kathleen, who would sing (a capella) the 1961 hit “Norman” and then return to her seat next to her ever-changing (yet gentlemanly) elderly date. Each of the 7 or 8 times I heard her sing it, it was so pure. And never once was it not entirely cheered on and welcomed by the otherwise vicious crowd. She is unforgettable to me and I wish I’d had the good fortune to get to know her.
Gilmore Tamny A friend had a copy of Wiglet in his apartment and I picked it up to scan the contents, thinking it was a music zine. In it, there was a cartoon about having a job where you had to drive around all over the place and knock on people’s doors. But the panels ended before the actual job was named. So I wrote a letter to the zine address in Columbus, Ohio, and asked if the job had been delivering flowers or pizzas. I received a note in return that said, “I was a process server.” That brief letter of reply (in 1985?) brought Gilmore Tamny into my life and from then on she has been a total heroine to me. Who else can make a shitty job into a thrilling zine cliff-hanger? Who else can convince me to go on a 1-show tour, in order to drive to Columbus, OH and play at an All Girl All Star Hoedown? (With Scrawl! See above!) And who has combined metal chops and chutzpah in bands the Yips, Weather Weapon and in her side gig as a spokesmodel for the Mystery? And who follows their idle thoughts of, “Hmmm…maybe it would be interesting to become an expert in art theft and forgery?” into REALITY??? Musician, artist, novelist, poet, promoter and Bostonian Gilmore Tamny, that’s who. All hail.
Thank you, brilliant women.
Daniel Handler (a.k.a. Lemony Snicket)
Books of Poetry I found especially useful this year:
Gwendolyn Brooks – Blacks
Anslem Hollo – Sojourner Microcosms
Robert Fernandez – Scarecrow
Samuel Amadon – Listener
Louis MacNeice – Autumn Journal
Caroline Bird – The Hat Stand Union
Ada Limon – The Carrying
Atsuro Riley – Romey’s Order
Elizabeth Bishop – Questions of Travel
whoever wrote Gilgamesh – Gilgamesh
Rachel Blumberg and Jeffrey Underhill (artists, musicians)
Top ten favorite foods we made in 2020 that gave us some slivers of happiness.
1. enchilada lasagna
2. cullen skink
3. bacalao gommes
4. vegetable shepherds pie
6. grilled scallops
7. pan con tomate with garden tomatoes
8. sourdough discard biscuits with fig jam
9. eggplant parmesan
10. gingerbread pancakes
Gilmore Tamny (Weather Weapon)
10 Things That Happened, I Noticed, Were Important to Me, or Were Merely Novel
This list does not include my shock, horror, and despair of the wider world. Take that as writ.
1. passed a dear friend on the street without recognizing her due to masks and fogged-up glasses
2. drew chinchilla plotting to destroy a Chihuly
3. thought New England spring 2020 tulip game absolutely outstanding
4. discovered the way I express love to my petfriend is to continually fret about their wellbeing and contentment, and the way I experience work anxiety is a tiny tasered sensation everytime I hear that arriving email bingbong
6. started a taut psychological thriller
7. took a class on Sea Monsters
8. thought about hypocrisy all the time—mine, yours, the world
9. FOOD: a) tried to bring iceberg lettuce back into my life b) bought a croissant crust frozen pizza, made a big deal about it, thought about doing a Zoom roundtable where we try/discuss en masse, but it still lays in my freezer withering c) discovered there is no room at the adjective inn for Snickerdoodle-flavored popcorn
10. had a fling with nonfiction: The Great Beanie Baby Bubble: The Amazing Story of How America Lost Its Mind Over a Plush Toy—and the Eccentric Genius Behind It, My Friend Anna, and Children of Ash and Elm. All highly recommend (not necessarily pub this year BTW).
Oed Ronne (The Ocean Blue)
Top Ten Episodes of The Rockford Files
1. The Farnsworth Stratagem
2. Quickie Nirvana
3. In Pursuit of Carol Thorne
4. The Girl in the Bay City Boys Club
5. The Mayor’s Committee from Deer Lick Falls
6. The Oracle Wore a Cashmere Suit
7. The Becker Connection
8. Requiem for a Funny Box
9. Dwarf in a Helium Hat
10. If the French Heel is Back, Can the Nehru Jacket Be Far Behind?
Chickfactor editor in chief Gail O’Hara
Top Ten Things I Miss About Portland
1. Eating! Especially at Back to Eden Café (RIP), Harlow, Kati Thai, Luc Lac, Maruti, the Sudra, Supernova, Cedo’s, Eb & Bean, Tarai Thai, Modern Times, including delicious big bowls at Bye & Bye and Sweet Hereafter, the best falafel and hummus and pickled veggies in the entire world at Cedo’s, the vegan pizza at Red Sauce, Pizza Jerk and Virtuous Pie, the hummus at Aviv, the breakfast, reubens and burgers from Off the Griddle, oh so many things! I’ve probably already lost a stone by being gone (not really). I wish I could order takeout of everything and have it delivered. Vegan heaven. Comfort food capital of the world.
2. Playing indoor futbol with my team The Crusty Punks. They are the best! After 9 months of not playing, I feel sad and less powerful.
3. Chanting my head off at Portland Thorns games (also so sad that I won’t be seeing Crystal Dunn play a bunch of home games; also sad that Tobin Heath is technically no longer a Thorn; I will miss seeing Christine Sinclair and Lindsey Horan play a ton) I am starting a covert Rose City Riveters supporters group in my current home town if anyone wants to join. #BAONPDX
4. Screaming like a banshee and jumping up and down and swinging my scarf at Portland Timbers games; I never truly understood the meaning of sports until I became a fan of this team in 2011. My love for them; their love for the fans; the love affair between the Timbers Army and the players, so pure, so magical. The Magic Is Real. #RCTID
5. Karaoke!! Especially at Voicebox with like 8 of my friends. My standards: “99 Red Balloons,” “Buffalo Stance,” and I miss the group scream-along to any B-52s tune.
6. Beulahland: my footie-watching local, where I wasn’t crazy about the food but I dug the atmosphere, the people, the vending machine and the left-wing history. (sings) “Where everybody knows your name…”
7. Toffee Club! It was such a fun place to watch women’s futbol, like the Thorns and the USWNT, plus the cider selection and the people were so great. We all used to DJ there a few years ago. I guess I miss living in SCUSA (Soccer City USA): ya think?
8. Walking in parks with friends! Especially in Laurelhurst and Mt Tabor, the general overwhelming blossoming fertile bucolic pastoral beauty of the Pacific NW, the elephants and seals at the zoo, and the Japanese Garden and International Rose Test Garden. So much beauty.
9. Venues! There were three venues that I treasured the most: Doug Fir, which is ideal in terms of size, sightlines, coziness, sound, and everything. It’s underground and looks like a softly furnished log cabin. Mississippi Studios, which is just a wonderful space in every way, though I never was able to set up shows at either sadly. And of course Bunk Bar, which is the greatest in terms of working with them on events, they feed the bands fancy tater tots and big sandwiches, they pay artists properly and are easy to work with. The shows we did set up there were epic.
10. Record stores! Bookshops! Powell’s. Old movie theaters! Dive bars. Bridges and rivers.
11. My friends! Their dogs! Their yards. Their support and company and conversation. Still can’t quite accept that I’m not going back. (I know I’ll fall in love with my new home but I feel like life is in limbo so…)
Jen Sbragia (The Softies, All Girl Summer Fun Band, chickfactor designer)
1. Feeding and viewing hummingbirds on my porch 2. Walking through deep puddles in old rainboots that I have mended with goo I bought from the internet 3. Listening to podcasts about crimes and/or terrifying stories and then podcasts about self-help and mindfulness whilst cooking. 4. Coffee 5. Avoiding sugar long enough that a consuming a small chunk of dark chocolate feels like snorting a line of something 6. Fashion Plates and colored pencils 7. Potatoes in all forms 8. Snuggling with calm children 9. Not putting on jeans for almost a year and also witnessing the death of the skinny jeans trend and being like, “cool… bye” 10. Porch dates
What I did in 2020
Switched off the news.
Followed Peter Terzian on Instagram as he shared and contemplated photographs of himself. One a year up until the present. (He’s a very handsome 52.)
Wiggled around in the kitchen while listening to Jarvis Cocker’s Saturday-night Domestic Disco DJ sets in the spring.
Caught up with The World At War. All 26 episodes and 47 years after it was made.
Cheered on Sander Bos and Esther Perbandt in the first series of Making The Cut. Mittel-European fashion designers really do trump American ones.
Went to Germany, embraced lido culture, and took up cycling.
Missed drinking through the night with strangers at Milano’s on New York’s East Houston Street.
Bought lots of records from Monorail in Glasgow and Discreet (a.k.a. ‘New Sounds of Swedish Underground’) in Gothenburg.
Listened to Mikey Kirkpatrick’s daily live flute improvisations on Wild Lakes Radio.
Wandered through forests looking for deer and pondering the past and the future.
Watched lots of ski jumping and took up sledding.
Sent Christmas cards for the first time in three decades.
Dawn Sutter Madell (Agoraphone)
I found it hard to concentrate on much besides music, but here is a top 10 list of things that distracted me from 2020
1. ancestry deep dives 2. schitt’s creek (which I had never watched) 3. true crime (podcasts, doc-series) 4. gardening for myself 5. gardening for others 6. freaks and geeks re-watch 7. running 8. Cassi Namoda art 9. His Dark Materials (the show) 10. cbd
13 Highlights in a Low-Life Year
1 Gonsalves Portuguese Seasoning (an indispensable part of our pantry) 2 Open E Tuning (courtesy of Johnny Marr’s “Headmaster Ritual” guitar tutorial on YouTube. Now I use it on everything, just like the Portuguese seasoning) 3 Arch Cape, Oregon 4 Kamala Harris 5 John was Trying to Contact Aliens doc. on Netflix 6 Anarchist Jurisdictions (There were no delays getting our Holiday packages either to or from Portland—go figure.) 7 Michael Galinsky’s photo archives 8 KMUN Coast Community Radio, Astoria, Oregon (especially the rockin’ Backbeat program, and the ship report) 9 Strum & Thrum: The American Jangle Underground 1983–1987 compilation (Captured Tracks) 10 City of Dreams: a tasty unfiltered/citrusy pale ale from Ft. George Brewery in Astoria, OR. 11 Takeout Cocktails: an idea whose time has come, and hopefully outlasts the pandemic. 12 O & H Bakery’s Almond Kringle: Maybe the sweetest thing to ever come out of Racine, WI 13 Cawston Press’s Rhubarb soda (hard to pick a favorite flavor—their Elderflower Lemonade is also right up there.)
Evelyn Hurley (Cotton Candy)
Top 10 walks & bike rides I made in 2020
#10- The walk from my house to Central Square, Cambridge. A utilitarian walk usually made to complete chores.
#9- The walk from my house to Whole Foods on Beacon St., Somerville. The sidewalks are usually really crowded, and there seems to be a lot of pedestrians who don’t know how to socially distance and also share the sidewalk, and the intersection at Inman Square is kind of annoying. But other than that, it gets me where I need to go pretty quickly.
#8- The bike ride from my house to my office. Thankfully there wasn’t as much traffic as usual, and it’s not a relaxing or easy bike ride, but it was nice to be back in the office even if it was only for one day a week.
#7- The walk from my office to the library stacks. I used to think it was ordinary, now I find it exhilarating!
#6- The walk from my office to Trader Joe’s and the Trillium beer garden. I always come back to work with delicious goodies in my bags!
#5- The walk along the beach in South Boston with my friend Viktoria and her adorable dog.
#4- The walk up Buffalo or Seneca Street in Ithaca, NY. It’s a brutal hike up this street, but you get your entire workout ring closed and it’s a thrill to successfully achieve the hike!
#3- The walk from my house to the Cambridge Brewing Company, two blocks away.
#2- The bike ride from the Provincetown Ferry to Race Point Beach, Cape Cod. I only did it once this summer, but it was hard and totally rewarding.
#1- The daily walk I took from my house over the Longfellow Bridge and back. I’d head out after WFH was done, or I’d finished making dinner, this jaunt was my daily dose of sanity. I’d listen to books on tape, podcasts like “Rock and Roll Film Club,” new music, Folklore” from TS was in heavy rotation, or I’d talk to friends on the phone. I have far too many pictures of the sunsets, which were often technicolor and always gave me hope.
Hope 2021 is good for everyone and we are all healthy and safe.