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.
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.
Coming from the land of Hal Hartley (uh, Long Island), My Favorite was/is a stylish, mod-ish punky pop band that formed in 1993, connected with us via zines and postcards, and played at some of our early shows in NYC. The band has existed in two time periods: 1993-2005, when (according to their Bandcamp) “teenage misfits gather around black mass of water called Lake Ronkonkama, release 7″s, release 2 LPs, go to Sweden, die.” Legend has it Michael Grace Jr. and Darren Amadio formed MF at SUNY Stony Brook, then added Andrea Vaughn, Gil Abad, and Todbot. The ’80s had just ended so it was an influence! They released their first cassette and a few seven-inches between 1993-1995, the latter on Harriet Records. They were quite active between that time and 2003, then called it quits and reemerged in 2014. (Grace was also in the Secret History as well.) We spoke with Michael on the eve of the first release in a series of three EPs via HHBTM and WIAIWYA. Interview by Gail / Images courtesy My Favorite
How are you holding up in the pandemic era? I’m OK! Honestly the pandemic has been instructivein a sense. I was, and still am, worried for myself and my parents and my friends—COVID is serious stuff. But on a different level, the pandemic helped me realize just how isolated I had let myself become in the years priorto COVID. How comfortable I had gotten with my depression, and with being apart from so many things that used to bring me joy. Seeing people on social media freaking out about all the stuff they weren’t doing, all the stuff they were missing, it just shook me out of a certain complacency. Because things hadn’t really changed that much for me. So it encouraged me to take a hard look at my life and recommit to letting people in, to taking chances, to making my art. So seeing this first EP finally released, it means a lot to me. I’m still a bit battered and dazed, but I feel a little like Mad Max (Sad Max?!) emerging from a smoldering wasteland. Onwards! What were you like as a child/teen? Was your family musical? Gail! That’s a novella at least! I was a very awkward and introverted child, prone to daydreaming and getting lost in movies and books and drawing. I was sick a lot, and I didn’t really have many friends. My mother was insanely overprotective and her anxiety both affected and infected me. And those were the best years of my childhood! Becoming a teenager was much, much worse and that period was pitted with incidents of violence and abuse. All of that only pushed me further into my own inventions and fantasies. They became a kind of sanctuary to me. A haunted castle of self (Abandoned Castle of My Soul?!) You come to have a very complicated relationship with trauma when you start to believe that all your gifts have sprung from it. There is no My Favorite without all that darkness. But there was nearly no me, because of it. That takes a long time to sort out. ¶ Eventually music joined books and painting to really save me as a teen—and to help me find people whom I could feel seen by, and safe around. Perhaps that’s why I kept some of the spirit of that era with me in the music I made over the decades that followed. ¶ My grandfather on my mother’s side supposedly played violin, though I never saw or heard him play. He had a violin case, but I used to imagine that it was full of cash or secret ledgers. We were a Sicilian-American family in Queens, and the mythology of the mafia still remained during my early childhood. However, his son—my Uncle Joe—replaced Felix Pappalardi as the bassist in Mountain with Leslie West, and was a really great rock ‘n’ roll musician. He gave me my first guitar, but I couldn’t play it because I was left-handed. On my dad’s side were mainly cops.
Tell us about the Long Island scene from your early days (zines, shows, etc.) As a young teen, there was heavy metal and hardcore—so given those choices I opted for hardcore, but I wasn’t especially suited to it. I was the worst skateboarder in Lake Ronkonkoma. I did find our first drummer in a hardcore group and convinced him to join our 11th grade new wave band, which also included Darren Amadio, who went on to be my guitarist/musical partner for the next 20 years in My Favorite and The Secret History. Long Island was ahead of the curve in terms of radio stations and clubs though. WLIR was one of America’s first commercial stations dedicated to new wave (a decent documentary on it dropped a few years ago). Duran Duran used to fly into JFK, take a limousine out to Long Island to do an interview, and then straight back to play Madison Square Garden. WUSB—the college radio station in Stony Brook—was also great, especially Lister-Hewan Lowe’s reggae show called “Saturday’s A Party.” There were also dance clubs like Malibu and Spyze that were nearly on the level of places like Danceteria and Limelight. This was during my high school years, roughly 1987–1991. ¶ Once college started in the ’90s, it was really a mishmash of scenes and styles as indie and grunge came into prominence. But in the clubs—synthpop, industrial, and the new romantic stuff never really went away. We went to these little strip-mall goth clubs in the suburbs. It was laughable, but also sort of amazing. I listened to my fair share of Britpop—especially Suede, Blur, and Pulp. I was intrigued by techno and house but did not have the stamina necessary for raves. Still, I listened to stuff like 808 State, Future Sound of London, A Guy Called Gerald, and Mr. Fingers. I read the NME every week, but also started to send away for indie pop zines and follow labels like Teenbeat and K, and Kill Rock Stars. I wasn’t entirely sure about the music, but I loved the spirit. I found Riot Grrrl really inspiring. When I got Huggy Bear’s “Weaponry Listens To Love” LP, it really shook me, like an indie pop “Unknown Pleasures.” ¶ So there was really no organized indie pop scene on Long Island then. If we were on punk bills, we skewed our set a little heavy; if we were playing with synthpop or shoegaze bands we went that way. It worked for us. I wasn’t very committed to any sound or scene. I felt like we were doing something that created its own world. I know that sounds arrogant, but in a way—it proved true for many. ¶ There were a lot of zines on Long Island, mostly personal zines, and I did a big one-off with Andrea from MF called “Absolute Beginners,” which connected us to a myriad of people via the P.O. box. It was an innocent time, with the internet in its infancy, and the years peeled away slowly in the ’90s like a sunburn. Few cared about a weirdo pop band from Long Island, and we had no musical careerist aspirations at that time. So we went to school, worked some really menial jobs, and played whatever shows we could. At that time, it felt great to put out a 7” a year on these interesting little labels. What was the indie pop scene like when you started out with MF and how did it change through the decades? Our first single was “Go Kid Go” / “Absolute Beginners Again” in 1994, and then “The Informers” / “Detectives Of Suburbia” in 1995 on Harriet Records— which I was really excited to be on in no small part because of the Magnetic Fields single they had done. It also didn’t hurt that the label was named after my most beloved YA book, Harriet The Spy.In 1996 we did two split singles (“Working Class Jacket” and “Modulate”) and then spent nearly two years trying to make a record that wasn’t very indie pop at all. To be honest, I had been drawn to indie pop due to the leftist politics and “up with kids” energy of scenes and labels in the Pacific Northwest and D.C. Yet having our label run by a Harvard professor, we ended up in this little Northeast cabal of bands and small college shows. And it was, frankly, culture shock. We were legitimate working class and middle-class kids with Long Island accents. We all went to community colleges and state universities. Playing in Cambridge, at MIT, at Bryn Mawr, at Brown. It was wild. No amount of thrift store cardigans and barrettes could conceal a rich kid from us, and vice versa. We were treated as somewhat of a curiosity, playing decade-old synths and wearing the preppy clothes they had themselves self-consciously forgone. It was clear we were up to something with this soul boy/Benetton kid look. But what? It was some Fabulous Mr. Ripley shit and Brideshead wasn’t entirely having it. ¶ That said, I have some amazing memories of those years, especially mini-tours with Go Sailor and the Softies and Holiday and the Push Kings. But there were other nights we were playing with bands whose parents were famous right-wing Texan senators. I’m not saying this was that kid’s fault, but it was just a whole new world from the punk and goth scenes where we had started out on Long Island. A lot of wealth, and a lot of privilege. Occasionally it felt like we were in a kitschy bubble, and I really wanted to pop it. ¶ I also found the shambolic, half-trying aesthetic of some indie pop to reflect how little it all actually matteredto them.Like, was this just some sort of rumspringa before jobs in finance and summer houses in Cape Cod? By this point I really wanted to change pop the way my heroes did. But my depression and anxiety got deeper the more I failed to figure out where we belonged in all of this. We spent half a year doing demos for Minty Fresh, and when that didn’t amount to anything, we made the poor decision to max out our credit cards trying to make a slick, retro-sounding record that would be defiantly anti-grunge and anti-lofi. ¶ The biggest change in the indie scene for us came around the year 2000. The Love at Absolute Zero LP came out in 1999, and while it might have been polarizing, it was also quite acclaimed in certain circles, and solidified our fan base. Then when electroclash started, we had a second scene to not really fit into, but one in which we had some simpatico and overlap. Then with the emergence of the Strokes and the explosion of interest in NYC bands, we were able to hold our own in that scene, as we were a group with both post-punk and art rock influences. We actually headlined a CMJ show at Brownies in the early aughts that featured both the Walkmen and Interpol in probably their first years of existence. Though I continued to live a mainly monk-like existence, I did find the glamour and sleaze of these years exciting on a Warholian level. So between indie pop, electroclash, and the next wave NYC scene we had fashioned a kind of praxis, a Venn diagram for being My Favorite. Those were the best years, and I think it’s reflected in the songs we wrote during them.
You played at a number of chickfactor things back in the day. Any memories or connections made at those? My main memory of chickfactor was how it helped me learn about and get deeper into bands like Belle & Sebastian and the Magnetic Fields (that and being slagged off by Sleater-Kinney in the Jukebox Jury thing). So then to end up being able to eventually play with both those bands and have friendships with certain members (we actually talked Claudia Gonson into managing us for like three months), it was really special. I also remember being exposed to Momus and Nick Drake through chickfactor. I had a real appreciation for the lens through which your crew saw indie. There was just a really high curatorial quality, and whenever we were able to play a CF party or show it was a real thrill.
Do you see it as having a political side to it? Your band always seemed to. It, as in indie pop? I think it could have and should have had an even more political side to it. Considering how important Riot Grrrl was to the formative years of the scene, I think it is disappointing that it didn’t. But I’ve touched upon some of the reasons it may not have. I remember a popular indie pop zine writer who was vocally pro–George W. Bush, and some of the uncomfortable silences that would follow when I challenged him. The vibe was that it was rude of me to take shots at this “nice, harmless bookish guy.” It drove me crazy. And now look where we are! I’m not saying that artists need to write political songs—they are very hard to do well. I had a few like “Working Class Jacket,” “Detectives of Suburbia,” and “The Informers,” but overall, that wasn’t my focus in any didactic way. I tried to write about life, and by doing that I think this dystopia of late capitalism emerged in our songs. However, I always thought that a band should, in their art and interviews and personas make it very clear where they stood. I really admired artists like Billy Bragg and Heaven 17 and the Style Council for doing that. If I couldn’t be in a band that talked about kicking fascists in the balls, I didn’t want to be in one at all.
How do we save this country from evil (and idiocy)? I’m really not sure, but it is clear we have to! I think for now, we support and protect all the people the Right wants to erase or harm, and we stay vocal and vigilant about how much peril we are in. Voting is part of it, but it’s also about solidarity. It’s about pushing back at the insane narratives that are poisoning our country. It’s also about expecting more from Democrats in an intelligent and strategic way. We are getting outschemed by Nazis. We just have to keep fighting and not get demoralized, no matter how bad it gets. We need as much Socialism as we can get this Nation to swallow.
You guys seemed to have a very ’80s and very mod style back then. What were some of the things you were into then? Yeah, like I mentioned before, Long Island was really the center of New Wave radio and culture on the East Coast via WLIR, Malibu, My Father’s Place, etc. I was just a kid in the ’80s but I do think some of that culture rubbed off on me. Seeing the punks, mods, and new wavers on the bus, and in the park. They seemed like Star Wars characters to me. These fantastical others that I wanted to know, and eventually—be. At around the age of 14 I experienced certain trauma, and after that I had less desire than ever to “be normal.” So these “freaks” became like saints to me. By the time the ’90s arrived, I was really intent on reclaiming that feeling and (hopefully) reimagining it into something new. As grunge emerged, I gravitated toward the mod/skinhead thing mostly to be contrary. The irony was that I was too poor and too ethnic to be accepted by the preps in the ’80s, but in the ’90s, in the context of a band, I could appropriate that look and try to make it my own. It was my way of saying “I am my own gatekeeper now.” Or actually, my own gatecrasher. I related to the original mods—working class kids who subverted Savile Row, subverted the “respectability” of the middle class, and became an unsettling mirror of it. Like a double agent. That’s what I was trying to do. So I blended ’80s prep/Ivy League (a lot of which you could get cheap in thrift stores as it was no longer trendy during grunge) with skinhead style and a sort of Italian mod thing, like how Marcello Mastroianni or Pasolini dressed. And honestly—I still dress the same way to this day.
Who are your style icons? Aside from the folks I just mentioned—Paul Weller in the Style Council, just fantastic looks one after another. Andy Warhol in the ’70s, with all the tweed and corduroy blazers and school ties and paint-splattered jeans. Jean-Michel Basquiat in the ’80s, making Ivy League look worn and weary in this slyly confrontational way. Lou Reed for just being so immutably “New York.” Bryan Ferry in his rich and bored phase. And of course David Bowie—especially during the period after Ziggy. The apocalyptic soul boy of “Young Americans” and “The Man Who Fell to Earth.” I’m also a fan of Vivienne Westwood and Alexander McQueen, though I tend to blend in their influence subtly. Let’s see, who else—James Dean. Marvin Gaye. Peter Murphy and Mick Karn in Dali’s Car. Agent Cooper.
How would you describe your own personal style? I’ve touched on a lot of it already. I’ve always been interested in taking style cues from scenes and circles I never had access to—like Ivy League and European couture and juxtaposing it with suburban and urban street styles. I like to mix in odd things like aristocratic British bog-wear lol—Barbour field coats, plaid caps and black rubber rain loafers. I like to make playful nods at my Sicilian heritage by wearing gold chains and saint medallions. I also love skinhead style and the ’80s/’90s “casuals” look—Burberry macs, Fila and Lacoste, khakis and soccer jerseys. I like to have fun and be ironic and give people a sense that something is just—off. It’s all a kind of performance art to me. Like “Who let this person into our club?” The answer is I let myself in, hit the buffet, scrawled “My Favorite Forever” on the bathroom mirror, and got the fuck out. ¶ I usually dress like an ’80s burnout or beach bum when I’m just hanging out. Especially in the summer. Weird t-shirts and cutoff jeans and sunglasses. Sneakers with holes in them.
As someone who seems as big a Smiths fan as I was, how does it feel listening to their music now that we know what kind of person Morrissey is? He’s definitely a complicated character. It is absolutely one of the strangest and most disenchanting experiences of my life to watch someone who was so important to me in my late teens/early twenties start to fall from grace and just keep falling. There isn’t a thing he says or creates now that contains anything of value. It’s just grievance and narcissism. And it’s gross. He is a deeply reactionary figure, and all he does for me now is serve as a reminder to be vigilant as you get older. Of your biases. Of your blind spots. I don’t even want to give him any more oxygen than that. But at least we still have Johnny.
I feel like “miserablism” was a sort of goth, sort of nerdcore movement that never got explored as a thing. I think you are probably right, but maybe that’s a good thing? Even as someone who has suffered from serious depression for most of his life, I wouldn’t want to be known as an artist who glamorized or commodified that sort of darkness. The world is still imbued with beauty, and each being has value, and none of us was created to suffer. I know my songs deal a lot with shadowy thoughts and feelings, but that’s not all they deal with. I believe in love and I believe we can heal—and help others to.
Why do you think My Favorite were big in Sweden? Well, the boring answer is that one particular magazine and one particular national radio show in Sweden were very influential, and both of them championed us ruthlessly. But why did they? I think that’s the more interesting part of the answer. I’m not really sure. I think I have a certain respect for melody and rhythm, two classical attributes of pop that I think Swedes have a taste for. I also think that despite us using so many European reference points in our music, there was also something brash and reckless about us that owed more to America. Judging by the quasi-riotous crowds we’d draw in places like Gothenburg, I think the Swedish fans tapped into that. Understood that we were some really fucked-up kids, that it wasn’t a put on. I think that quiet storm of feeling in our music felt liberating to them. They tore off the plastic wrap, where other people couldn’t see past their own reflections in it. What was the first record you bought? I think it may have been Judas Priest’s Defenders of The Faith. Satanic Panic was a big thing on Long Island in the early ’80s and I was a textbook case of a 12-year-old really into the devil. At least in a Dungeons & Dragons way. What was your first gig? Hmmm, I think it was INXS! Tour horror stories? Gratefully, we haven’t been robbed or left stranded somewhere. But one time in Norway I remember our rental van getting grazed by a trolley car as we were hurtling the wrong way down a cobblestone street, and we were really close to colliding with it head on and being killed in a ball of fire. What are some of the weirdest events you ever played? In 1994 we played a DIY event called Vulvapalooza at the old Gas Station—the illegal East Village venue where GG Allin died. We sounded like OMD, and the punks and Riot Grrrls were just shaking their heads. We were four boys and Andrea. After we played, a young woman with like 11 safety pins through her face came up to me and simply said, “One vulva was not enough vulvas to play Vulvapoolaza.” Who is your favorite lyricist ever and why? Oh, that’s really hard. There are so many good ones. It’s pretentious to say that I was more influenced by certain writers and poets like Sylvia Plath or—God help me—Bret Easton Ellis, but in my earliest years that was probably true. So instead of discussing the pantheon let me give credit to a couple underrated people. Brett Anderson from Suede had a very distinctive lyrical style. He’s like a pop art vending machine full of apocalyptic pulp sci-fi novels. I remember being really into that. And Bernard Sumner is one of the best “bad lyricists” ever. There is something so awkward and artless about his lyrics, but like—they work, and his imagery feels uniquely idiosyncratic. When is “Blue Monday”? Who are the “Thieves Like Us”? What is “The Perfect Kiss”? I mean, no one wants me to wax on about Donald Fagen or Lou Reed in Chickfactor. (sure we do.—editor)
Do you have pets, kids, hobbies, a day job? Tell us more. I do not have any pets or kids, though I love being an uncle to my amazing five-year-old niece Franny. She is literally my best friend. I think I’m too intense and crazy to have any “hobbies.” Everything I do I get really into, even if it is hitting golf balls at the local dilapidated driving range. I guess watching YouTube videos about every nerdy thing on earth would be my main hobby. Like “Who Was More Powerful: Gandalf or Darth Vader?” I’m not proud of it. I watch a decent amount of baseball and soccer. I have a couple day jobs but being a part-time art professor at the local community college is the one I enjoy the most. I’m working on a trilogy of YA novels set in the My Favorite Extended Cinematic Universe, but I don’t consider that a hobby—more a burden. What are you reading, watching, listening to, cooking? Fiction-wise I’ve been reading On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, and re-reading On Rockaway by Jill Eisenstadt. Nonfiction, I’ve been crawling through Sweet Dreams, a long oral history of the New Romantics. I watch way too much TV. I mean, I’m still watching Westworld long after most replicants jumped ship. I’m most excited for the upcoming final season of Atlanta. I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff—old and new—but Miserable Chillers, Swan Lingo, Holy Wire, and Scam Avenue have all released amazing music over the last few years. Cooking? I’m always trying to re-create my grandmother’s pasta dishes from my youth. Sicilian stuff with fried zucchini and red pepper flakes, Parmigiano Reggiano, fennel and sardines and the like. What are some of your favorite records in 2022? Kristeen Young’s The Beauty Shop. Drake’s Honestly, Nevermind. What song is currently stuck in your head? “To Turn You On,” by Roxy Music, but that’s because I just saw them at Madison Square Garden last night. The first arena show I’ve been to in maybe ten years. Bryan Ferry’s voice isn’t what it once was, but I had chills the entire show nonetheless. Beautiful.
Tell us about the EP. Tender Is the Nightshift: Part 1 is the first in a 3-EP series, and it is a return to My Favorite 17 years later with a skeleton crew of bandmates and a lot of machines and wires. It’s like returning to the city of your youth and finding it a rainy, neon-lit ghetto of ghosts. Which I am aware is pretty much the plot of Blade Runner. It’s a much more dancey/layered and synthetic soul record than anything we’ve done before. A luxury depression product. Or perhaps—a cheap knockoff of a luxury depression product. In all seriousness, doing this now feels like being in the after-hours of your youth. Some sleek steel and glass limbo with a hefty check that is soon to come due. I’m not sure what else to say about it except that we are still doing things in indie pop that others can’t or won’t. We have new stories to tell, and new vantage points from which to tell them, otherwise we wouldn’t bother at all. I have little interest in nostalgia, except as black magic. Anyway Kurt Brondo, Gil Abad and I are very excited and gratified to remake/remodel My Favorite this way. Give a listen! What are your future plans? Well, we have to finish these last two EPs, and there are songs on there that I can’t wait for people to hear. I’m going to try to get my YA published. I’d really like to travel again for the first time in a good while. And I’d love to play live, and we are working toward that. To be honest, I’ve been in survival mode for so long that the future is a really intangible concept to me. Yet—I always seem to find myself there. 10 records Michael cannot live without You have to give me 15 otherwise I’ll have a panic attack. Also I’m not including The Smiths on principle right now—but they belong here. Lists are really difficult for me, but these have really been on my mind and turntable during the making of this EP series. OK! Not (necessarily) in order: David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & The Spiders from Mars Cocteau Twins, Heaven or Las Vegas Lou Reed, Take No Prisoners Marvin Gaye, In Our Lifetime? New Order, Substance Roxy Music, Stranded Sade, Diamond Life The Style Council, Confessions of a Pop Group Donald Fagen, The Nightfly Patti Smith, Horses Prefab Sprout, Protest Songs Destroyer, Kaputt Dexy’s Midnight Runners, Don’t Stand Me Down Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Welcome To The Pleasuredome Macintosh Plus, Floral Shoppe
When it comes to indie-pop flame keepers, few do it better than the East Coast band Jeanines. We love their 2019 debut album and cannot wait for the next one out early next year on Slumberland. We caught up with Alicia Jeanine and Jed Smith (My Teenage Stride) to see how they’ve been holding up, what they’ve been listening to and doing over the past few strange years since we saw them play in January 2020 in a chilly basement record shop in Portland. Interview by Gail
CF: What has changed since the pandemic happened? Did you have to cancel plans? Change residence? Change your working style? Alicia: The week we were supposed to leave for Europe to play the Madrid Popfest plus two other dates, the entire world basically shut down. That was super disappointing, of course, but we hope to get to Europe eventually! I also graduated library school in May 2020 and moved to Western Massachusetts for a new job this February, which totally changed our working style. We used to go to our practice space together weekly and work on recording stuff, but now we have to do almost everything separately. Jed helped me get a super basic recording setup in my apartment here, but things still take much longer and aren’t as fun, unfortunately. Jed: What Alicia said, plus a West Coast thing in September that got canceled. Since Alicia moved we’ve seen each other plenty, either me up in Massachusetts or her down in the city for shows, but we can’t really practically record in the same way, so that’s a bit frustrating and the process definitely isn’t as fun.
What were you like as teenagers? Alicia: I was socially maladjusted and had very few friends. I was definitely slowly getting into more and more indie bands, but not many people I knew were into that kind of thing. I was pretty isolated and grew up in suburban sprawl not super close to any cities. Jed: From ages about 13–18, I was more or less completely asocial. So all of junior high and high school, basically. I wasn’t picked on or anything and actually had good social skills—I remember people even trying to befriend me and I’d just…not take them up on it. All of my teen years were spent alone recording songs on a 4-track pretty much as soon as I picked up drums and guitar at 14, doing special effects makeup (I kid you not), and painting (poorly). I can’t really regret not hanging out with anyone during those years because I spent it being creatively productive. Oh, I did have a weird sort of uh…love triangle in like 11th and 12th grade with two girls at school—I was totally in love with one of them who had a boyfriend and the other one had a crush on me and it was fraught and sad and stuff but this all happened at school—I never hung out with them outside of school, nor did I try. So yeah, I was a weird, very much intentionally solitary teen I guess. Okay, that was wayyyyy too much info sorry.
Are you from musical families? Alicia: Yes, my mom has a degree in music and used to teach piano. She only cares about classical music, though. I’m glad to have that foundation (I was forced to take piano and violin throughout my childhood) but I never wanted to be a classical musician. I definitely think some of my ability comes from my mom, though! Jed: Yeah, my grandmother was a piano player, basically a stride piano player like Jelly Roll Morton or Fats Waller; she was a virtuoso with perfect pitch, wish we’d recorded her. My grandfather played drums a bit in church jazz bands and my mom is a jazz musician semi-professionally. So I grew up with a lot of jazz.
When did you write your first song, what was it about, what was it called? Alicia: I didn’t write my first song until about six years ago, actually, with the encouragement of Jed. I don’t remember what it was called or what it was about, though! Jed: The first song I remember writing, which I can still recall completely, like arrangement and everything, was when I was 7, and it was called “Salt Water Up My Nose.” It had a sort of music hall McCartney arrangement with groovy drums and bass arpeggios like Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. I didn’t start playing instruments till I was 14 though, so I had no means to record any of my ditties till then. I was always obsessively doing it though.
What is your songwriting process like? Alicia: Usually I sit down with the guitar and try to will something into my mind, the beginnings of a song. Often it works but sometimes it’s just not the moment. Other times I’ll get a little snippet of a melody or a phrase in my head and sit down and try to work it into a song. Jed: Either a song pops into my head and I go record it, or I think about a song I want to exist and I work out the arrangement and everything in my head, including the production aspects, so it’s more like writing a record than a raw song. I don’t sit down with an instrument to write, so it’s an entirely uh…cerebral process, which makes recording it a joyless, obsessive sort of act of transcription. Working with Alicia changes that process and it’s way more fun.
Where do you write and record? Alicia: I write songs at home. Most of the recording happens at the practice space in Brooklyn, but now I do some recording in my apartment in Massachusetts. Jed: I write when I’m doing something mundane like shopping or cleaning or showering—mowing the lawn used to be a good time for thinking of songs. It’s good to have the nervous part of me busy with some other task so I can free up the good part of me to think about songs. I record everything in my practice space/studio in Bushwick.
Your debut album is awesome! What were you going for when you recorded it? Alicia: I always say I write sad folk songs and Jed turns them into indiepop gems. So yeah, I handed them to him as simple acoustic things, and he transformed them into pop hits! We both were super into adding lots of harmonies. Jed: Thanks! Alicia’s early songs were more often than not minor key songs written with acoustic guitar. I liked the idea of up-tempo, super short minor key pop songs, that’s really the main concept I personally had in mind. I couldn’t think of that many examples of it that were contemporary besides Veronica Falls. We also both really love multipart harmonies including hymnal stuff.
What’s it like being on Slumberland/WIAIWYA? Alicia: Being on Slumberland is a dream come true, and Mike Schulman (Papa Slumber) is the nicest, best person you could hope to have on your team. Working on the EP with John from WIAIWYA was also great. Jed: Same as Alicia, having a record on Slumberland was always a dream and a lot of my friends over the years were in bands I really loved like Cause-Co Motion and Crystal Stilts, who had records on Slumberland—but my first Slumberland obsession was Aislers Set, and I still consider Linton to be one of the greatest songwriters and pop musicians of the past 20+ years. Their stuff was really inspiring to me. WIAIWYA are another great label with great bands and it’s been an honor having a record there.
What is the pop community like where you live? Alicia: In Brooklyn the pop community is doing all right, perhaps not as vibrant as it’s been in the past. It definitely skews older currently. In Western Mass I’m still trying to find any pop community that might exist! Jed: Brooklyn/NYC has had a lot of great guitar pop…some you could call indiepop, for whatever it’s worth, but some like the aforementioned Cause Co-Motion and Crystal Stilts, who for me were more part of the continuation and mutation of the sort of 60s music that’s always been the core of my musical DNA. Right now it’s disjointed. But there’s always great music being made everywhere, even if the people making it aren’t letting anyone hear it.
Whose lyrics do you adore? Alicia: Nothing is coming to mind right off the bat, but I’ve always found the Siddeleys’ lyrics quite clever. Jed: I’m always reticent to say it, but I think Mick Jagger is one of the greatest lyricists of all time when he’s not being childishly misogynistic, and weirdly underrated in that sense…especially considering they’re the second most famous band of all time. Other than that, Linton from Aislers Set’s lyrics are one of the things about them that’s exceptional and makes them stand out from other bands associated with indie pop. I also think Kim Deal is one of the most underrated lyricists of all time, especially on Pod. Chris Knox also.
Where in NYC are you living now? If we came to visit for one day, what should we do? Alicia: Jed lives (and I used to live) in Ridgewood, Queens, right next to North Brooklyn. Depends what you like to do! Ridgewood has some great restaurants and bars (both old and new). The music scene right now is kind of in flux/trying to emerge from the pandemic. Jed: I live in Queens right over the Brooklyn border next to Bushwick. NYC is a horrible place for a day trip or a several-day trip, I think it’s best experienced by actually living here.
How has NYC changed since the crazy time started? Alicia: A lot of places have closed but some haven’t. A lot more outdoor seating, of course! Jed: It’s weird and traumatic and wonderful as ever. The music venue situation is upsetting but I think it’s finding ways to mend. Andy Bodor deserves a Nobel Peace Prize. Cakeshop forever.
Can you cook? What is your specialty? Alicia: I can cook but don’t like to. Sometimes I make this thing with green beans and kidney beans that sounds boring and bad but tastes quite good. Jed: For about four years, I was an obsessive bread baker—like three times a week or so, back in like the mid-2000s. Other than that, Mexican and Italian are my things since forever.
What’s in the fridge? Alicia: Eggs, yogurt, fruit, salad stuff, seltzer. Jed: Yogurt, too much cheese, beans, too much seltzer.
What day jobs have you had? Alicia: Librarian, proofreader/editor, software tester, admin stuff. Jed: Special education, barista, video store/music store, proofreader/editor, copywriter, internet “journalist,” music lessons, recording engineer/producer, soundtrack composer. Past couple of years it’s mostly been copywriting and recording/producing, paid work–wise. I also do wet work for the CIA occasionally. Not really though. OR DO I REALLY THOUGH?
What are you reading/watching/eating at the moment? Alicia: I’m about to start reading something that looks really good, but I don’t remember the name! I’ve been watching so much Masterchef, it’s very dumb. Jed: If I visit Alicia it’s nonstop Masterchef, so I guess I have to count that. World/American cinema from 1935 or so to 1985ish. Reading, I’m on a Joan Didion kick right now and just finished Kiss of The Spider Woman by Manuel Puig. I also read books about sharks and deep sea life as often as possible.
What radio shows/DJs/podcasts do you love? Alicia: Lately into podcasts by Jamie Loftus; the current one is about Cathy comics. Also love Maintenance Phase (about bodies/dieting/health fads) and You’re Wrong About (rehashing historical moments with witty banter). Jed: My friend Neal Ramirez has a great show called Sound Burger, and my friends Owen Kline and Sean O’Keefe both have wonderful, unpredictable shows on this indie station called K-PISS (no, really.)
Fave record stores? Alicia: None in particular, but I love places with a great and well-priced used selection. Jed: Earwax, Captured Tracks store, Academy Records, Deep Cuts, and Rough Trade, all in Brooklyn except for Deep Cuts, are/were all great.
How do you consume music? (Platforms, formats) Alicia: Spotify and records, mostly. Jed: I rarely listen to music casually so it’s usually one song or piece, on YouTube, staring at the screen, or my iTunes library. I think YouTube is the best option for music on the internet outside of Bandcamp (for newer/smaller artists).
Do you use any apps or software in to make music? Alicia: Logic to record; Voice Memo to jot down ideas. Jed: Logic for recording and production, voice memo to remember a vocal melody occasionally. In the past I’ve also used Audacity and Garageband.
Who is your style icon? Alicia: No one? Jed: No one. Though David Hemmings’ white pants in Blow-Up make him 10x more foxy.
What are your day jobs? Hobbies? Pets? Kids? Alicia: I’m the outreach librarian at the public library. Music is my hobby, I suppose. I have two beautiful cats—a calico named Heidi, and a gray and white tabby named Biscuit. They are delightful. Jed: I’m a copywriter as my regular thing, peppered with recording/mixing/soundtrack work throughout the year. My extremely lovely black cat Elsa is my familiar.
What would you do this summer if money and COVID were not in the way of your dreams? Alicia: Travel more and maybe tour. Jed: Buy a car and do a road trip across the country and then drive up the coast of California listening to “Babylon Sisters” on repeat. Help some friends out.
What bands/venues do you want to play with/at? Alicia: Dream pairings that won’t happen—Aislers Set, Dear Nora. Jed: Alicia’s picks are good. My Teenage Stride played in this cool outdoor venue at Primavera years ago. I’d like to do that again but having rehearsed more.
Future plans? Upcoming tours/records? Alicia: We have a new LP coming out in early 2022 and we are hopefully playing some dates in California at the beginning of January around the SF Popfest! Jed: New Jeanines LP in early 2022 on Slumberland as well as new Mick Trouble LP on Emotional Response in January, with a special limited edition w/flexidisc bonus thingie for Rough Trade which I’m excited about. Touring Jeanines and Mick in SF Popfest and the West Coast in January also.
Records Alicia Cannot Live Without Dear Nora – Three States The Siddeleys – Slum Clearance Les Calamités – C’est Complet The Aislers Set – How I Learned to Write Backwards Nice Try – S/T (2016) The Mantles – Long Enough to Leave Elliott Smith – all? Frankie Cosmos – Next Thing Go Sailor – S/T Connie Converse – How Sad, How Lovely
Songs That Jed Cannot Live Without “All My Hollowness,” Tall Dwarfs “Nothing But Heartaches,” the Supremes “This Angry Silence,” Television Personalities “Anything Could Happen,” The Clean “Myself When I Am Real,” Charles Mingus (from Mingus Plays Piano) “Reach Out, I’ll Be There,” The Four Tops “Luck of Lucien,” A Tribe Called Quest “Back Up Against the Wall,” Circle Jerks “Doe,” The Breeders “Quick Step,” The Adverts “Ready Teddy,” Little Richard “Hit It and Quit It,” Funkadelic “They Don’t Know,” Kirsty MacColl “Don’t Believe the Hype,” Public Enemy “Oogum Boogum,” Brenton Wood “Lady Rachael,” Kevin Ayers “Solace- A Mexican Serenade,” Scott Joplin “Dawn,” The Four Seasons “Get Right Back,” Maxine Nightingale “I Bet You,” Funkadelic “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath- Black Sabbath “Theme de Camille” from Contempt/Le Mepris soundtrack- George Delerue “Queen of Fools,” Barbara Mills “Do I Love You,” Ronettes “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper “Rosie Won’t You Please Come Home,” Kinks “Gideon’s Bible,” John Cale “Touch the Hem of His Garment,” Sam Cooke & The Soul Stirrers “Mona,” The Beach Boys “Electric Funeral,” Black Sabbath “Sweet & Dandy,” Toots & The Maytals “Into The Groove,” Madonna “After Eight,” Neu! “Your Heart Out,” The Fall “No Side To Fall In,” The Raincoats “Street Fighting Man,” Rolling Stones “When I Grow Up,” The Beach Boys and every Velvet Underground album
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.