T. Cole Rachel
Considering the amount of love and affection that’s been showered on Australian singer/songwriter Courtney Barnett for the past few months, it seems kind of insane that her excellent debut, The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas, is only now getting a proper physical release here in the States. The record (if you haven’t managed to hear it already) is a 12-song exercise in masterly exposition — a bunch of story-songs that run the gamut from detailing a panic attack while gardening to masturbatory confessionals, all tossed off with the kind of casual aplomb that would be annoying if the songs themselves weren’t so insanely catchy. I called up Barnett at home in Melbourne just as she was about pack her bags and fly out to California with her band to play Coachella. We talked about her new/old record, and what she plans on doing next.
If you came of age at a certain time — say, that musical sweet spot around 1993/’94 when the “Alternative Nation” was just coming into full bloom — chances are Veruca Salt were/are very important to you. In 1994, I was enduring my first year of college, and American Thighs — Veruca Salt’s much-beloved debut album — was basically the unofficial soundtrack of my life. Not only were Veruca Salt ostensibly just very cool — a band fronted by two badass guitar-wielding women, Nina Gordon and Louise Post — their music was oddly prescient as well, neatly ushering in a swarm of other bands who understood the benefit of marrying snarly guitars with undeniable pop hooks and gooey vocal harmonies. Given that “Seether” — the band’s breakthrough single — was one of the most omnipresent songs of the ’90s, the future seemed (at least in that moment) to be Veruca Salt’s for the taking. They sold more than a million records, they toured with other, similarly great bands (Hole and PJ Harvey among them) and played an arena show in front of 10,000 people in their hometown of Chicago. Still, the story of Veruca Salt — like so many of their ’90s brethren — would turn out to be a cautionary tale of sorts. After releasing their Bob Rock-produced sophomore album, Eight Arms To Hold You, and doing a lengthy round of touring, Gordon abruptly left the band in what she now describes as some real Behind The Music bullshit: “It was drugs and cheating and all that junk.” Both Gordon and Post would soldier on making music (Gordon under her own name, Post under the Veruca Salt moniker), but it would never really be the same. Sadder than the end of their musical partnership was the end of their friendship, something that both Post and Gordon mourned for the better part of the next two decades.
It is not possible to overstate the importance of Kim Deal. As a member of the Pixies and a founding member of the Breeders, she has made some of the most deeply compelling — not to mention some of the most compellingly influential — music of the past three decades. Though she is not currently playing in the Pixies (a subject that she is very happy not to talk about), she is no less busy than she has ever been. The Breeders recently wrapped up a lengthy tour in celebration of the 20th anniversary their seminal 1993 album, Last Splash. The tour proved to be such a success (and apparently such a good time) that the band — featuring the Last Splash-era lineup of Kim and Kelley Deal, Josephine Wiggs, and Jim Macpherson — are currently working on music together for an all-new Breeders record. In addition, Kim continues to release music in her ongoing 7″ solo series. The fourth installment in that series — two songs recorded with LA musician Morgan Nagler (“The Root” and “Range On Castle”) — was released on April 1. Much like the other singles in the series, Deal’s latest release is a decidedly lo-fi and somewhat scrappy affair — a kind of playful, somewhat insouciant version of what Deal does so well on her full-length endeavors. Still, it would be wrong to think of her singles as somehow less serious or mindfully conceived. Taken as a whole, the eight songs Deal has released so far via the singles represent some of her most sublime and most Kim Deal-iest music to date, not to mention some of the loveliest. After speaking to Deal about her work, it’s easy to see why so many legions of music fans remain obsessed with her. She has an almost workmanlike devotion to music-making and clearly doesn’t give too much of a fuck about the rest of the music business. While so many of her contemporaries have burned out, retired, or simply given in to the easy lure of becoming a nostalgia act, Kim Deal — one of rock music’s most fantastically individual talents — just becomes more and more herself.
Some of you were asking about my setlist. This is what I sent Nina and Louise. I included spots for them to insert some new songs.
1 – Get Back
2 – All Hail Me
3 – The Museum of Broken Relationships
4 – Straight
5 – NEW SONG
6 – NEW SONG
7 – Seether
8 – Don’t Make Me Prove It
9 – Shutterbug
10 – Forsythia
11 – Wolf
12 – The Morning Sad
13 – NEW SONG
14 – Fly
15 – Spiderman
16 – It’s Holy
17 – Celebrate You
18 – 25
19 – Shimmer Like A Girl
20 – Volcano Girls
I approve of this cat-oriented artwork. And the song.
With all due respect, I can only WISH that my name was Z. Cole Rachel Smith.
Thanks for your comments.
I generally enjoy that my Stereogum interviews are casual and conversational, but maybe you’re right–I probably could have cut some of our initial chatter. In any case, I hope there was at least something in the interview you enjoyed. I don’t want anyone to feel like their time is being wasted.
I wish. I would love to be able to take credit for writing “How Long Have You Known?”
Yes, total spellcheck malfunction. I could die a thousand deaths for not spotting that, as Icky Mettle truly is one of my favorite albums of all time. SORRY, FOLKS.
Yes, “When The President Talks to God” is a stand-alone single that Bright Eyes released in 2005. I didn’t necessarily mean to imply that it was included on “Wide Awake.”
I stand totally–and accurately–corrected. For some reason The Feelies have always felt like a predecessor to those bands, but clearly that is only a reality in my overcluttered brain. Thanks for setting me straight.