1994 – 1997

1994
Mecca Normal at Yo Yo Festival by Jeff Smith

Mecca Normal at Yo Yo Festival. Photo by Jeff Smith.

Matador Records (New York) contacts us about releasing our records.

“Flood Plain” peaks at #46 on the CMJ Top 200 chart.

Jean joins Superconductor as a guitar player. The band’s main songwriter, Carl Newman, goes on to form the New Pornographers 3 years later.

Jean interviews Calvin Johnson for a 2-page feature in Raygun (Los Angeles). The spread runs with a photo taken by David.

“Seeing Mecca Normal live is an entirely different experience from listening to their two newest albums…. Live, they invest their music with a raw vitality that simply cannot be captured on disc, and turn each evening into a memorable piece of performance art, rather than merely a concert.” — Warped Reality (Boston, MA) review of Mecca Normal at the Middle East Café, 1994

“Jean played guitar on two songs. She rubbed it all over her body, back to the audience, then threw it on the ground and stepped on it, playing it while it was still on the ground.” — Warped Reality (Boston, MA) review of Mecca Normal at the Middle East Café, 1994

“This is about as punk as it gets kids.” – Slot review of “Jarred Up”

“You never miss the drums or bass, the effect is intense enough. To add anything would be diminishing.” – Sarah Kestle reviewing “Jarred Up” in Melody Maker (England) 1994

“…careful song-by-song inspections prove how complete each one actually is, a compact little world.” – review of “Jarred Up” in Butt Rag, 1994

“When Smith takes the stage that night before a packed house, lunging back and forth on her heels like a prize fighter as she spits out her words, she’s in full command. ‘I have this terrible feeling I’m going to light my hair on fire. Get those cameras ready, guys. It’s the photo opportunity of a lifetime,’ she jokes.” – from a profile by Gillian Gaar in Option (Los Angeles). Gillian Gaar wrote “She’s A Rebel: The History of Women in Rock & Roll, originally published in 1992, and reissued in 2002

“Evocative, soothing, worth it just to hear her say the word ‘out.’” – review in Snipehunt (Portland) of “Carboni Angel” 7” by Jean Smith (Kill Rock Stars Wordcore series). The series included 7”s by Slim Moon, Peter Plate, Juliana Luecking and Kathleen Hanna. 1992

Mecca Normal contributes a track to an “Anti-War Action Foundation for Former Yugoslavia” comp CD. 1994

“Their gig at Die Insel (Berlin) was one of the most intense experiences one could imagine.” — Wahrschauer (Germany) 1994

“Take something you care about and make it your life.” – Mecca Normal interview in Wahrschauer (Germany) 1994

European winter tour diary excerpts by David:

We tour in a borrowed Citron running on diesel.

Feb 2: Kaufbeuren (in Bavaria). Four and half-hour photo shoot with Wolfgang for Germany’s biggest magazine, Der Spiegal. The photographer only has 10% vision in one eye. Wolfgang interviews Jean, not David — “have you written a book?”

Feb 3: Konstanz (Kulturladen). Two hour set with two encores in a building built by Hitler in 1937. Heidi interviews us, asking Jean “Why does a feminist play in a band with a guy?” Stay in the Graf Zeppelin hotel where Jean polishes her boots a lot.

Feb 10: Driving from Wurzburg to Berlin, we stop in Munich to be interviewed and play on Bavarian State radio. All night drive to Berlin, snow, ice, traffic jams, accidents until we arrive at 4:30 AM, just by chance a guy is leaving the venue, so we are let in to rest for the day, until the evening’s show.

Feb 12: Drive through what was East Germany. Skeletal trees covered with snow. Small old East German cars. Nightmare soundcheck. Arrive for the show in Hannover. Fall asleep behind stage during Dutch band’s opening set. Trapped behind stage, we must crawl through a window to get to the car and change clothes for the performance.

Feb 14: Spend day in Hamburg. Sleep at another Wolfgang’s apartment. In the morning Jean asks Dirk (tour manager) if he could tell Wolfgang to put some pants on.

Feb 15: Hamburg (Kunst). Two photo sessions. Wear glasses worn by famous people, Joni Mitchell, Nirvana etc. Radio interview. Jean sick from eating some canned dalmades.

Feb 16: Frankfurt (Intem-Bar). A former brothel. Lots of plush red colours in this venue.

Feb 17: Karlsruhe (Subway). An actual subway station. 2 encores and 6 monitors. Old guy in an orange jumpsuit spins like a helicopter and tells David he was in high rotation during our set. He also claims to be a famous leftist who had all his inventions stolen. Two “brunos” from Heidelberg ask for a kiss from Jean. Eat spaghetti afterwards.

Feb 20: Tour car broken into. Interview with Klause who asks us about Snoop Doggy Dog and Tonya Harding.

Feb 23: Day off in Vienna, Austria. See paintings by Gustav Klimt and Egon Schiele. Eat chocolate cake.

Feb 24: Linz, Austria (Posthof). Jean says the mic is stinky. Jean buys Robert Musil book for Dirk.

Feb 25: Ebensee, Austria (Kino). Old theatre. Jean develops new guitar technique, play a note and then drop the guitar to the floor, repeat several times. Stay in a villa by a huge lake. Winding drive through little villages to Regensberg.

Feb 26: Regensberg, Germany (Alte Malzerei). Medieval city. Everything is closed. 2 hour set, 2 encores. Opening band drinks all our beer and eats most of our chocolate. Jean interviewed for television by a nervous Ursula: “Do you shave your legs?” and “Don’t your big eyes scare women in the audience?”

Learn new German terms: Let’s crank gas. Spargel fields.

“I find it completely therapeutic to look at well photographed food. Actually, if I had to choose another course in life, it would be one of two other things: the person who composes food for photography or a builder of fabulous fountains.” – Jean interviewed by Keith Parry in Chart (Toronto) 1994

“I’m plagued with only being able to do what I want to do every day.” – Jean interviewed by Keith Parry in Chart (Toronto) 1994

“It’s important to keep taking risks, not the same risk, but a re-inventing of your life on a regular basis.” – Jean interviewed by Keith Parry in Chart (Toronto) 1994

The room we’re sitting in is almost empty. Milk crates and cardboard boxes are stacked against the walls. Several accordion files are shoved into one corner. “Did you just move in?” Jean: “No. I’ve been here a couple of years.” – Jean interviewed by Keith Parry in Chart (Toronto) 1994

“I’m not going to stop making music because it’s not completely appealing to every person who is walking through a mall.” – Jean interviewed by Thomas Reimel in Magnet (Philly) 1994

“It seems that people either don’t feel empowered themselves, or they can’t make a dent in what we have going as a culture here. Or they simply are afraid of failing, so they do nothing. But it’s actually relatively easy to start doing something past the initial stages of whatever fear you have about it.” – Jean interviewed by Thomas Reimel in Magnet (Philly) 1994

David designs a bus shelter poster commemorating Vancouver anarchist George Woodcock. It can be seen at a dozen bus shelters.

A German publisher writes expressing interest in publishing a translation of Jean’s novel “I Can Hear Me Fine.”

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“I Can Hear Me Fine” excerpt:
Joelle is listening to a phone-in radio show. The host of the show says the switchboard is jammed.

“I’m thirty-five, my name is Helen, actually that is my middle name. I want a guy who is sensitive, honest, likes the outdoors, movies, going for walks. I was married once, ten years ago. I haven’t met anyone, you know, really met anyone since. I guess I just want a guy to call my own. Maybe we’ll have kids one day.”

“OK, that was Helen,” says the host. “She wants a guy who likes the outdoors, she’s a lonely gal who hasn’t met anyone for ten years. OK, here’s our next caller. Hi, go ahead.”

Joelle is twenty and the ball is coming right at her. The guy from third base is running towards her yelling, “I’ll get it, I’ll get it.”

The example is walking towards Joelle. He is talking about health. Complaints. He is talking about his wife. Divorce. He is talking about money. Taxes. He is talking about his plans. Grandiose.

Joelle is dancing with the example, she stops to listen to how much his legs hurt. He is spitting in her eyes. He should be quiet for ten years.

It is dark out. Joelle walks across the parking lot and meows at a small white bag of garbage. She opens the door to her apartment. From the living room she hears, “I feel like balling.”

He has been sitting on her couch for two days wrapped in a yellow sheet. He has great hair.

“Bowling?” Joelle goes into the bathroom. Her whizzing pee sounds exactly like the Flight of the Bumblebee. She pulls up her pants, leans across the sink towards the mirror and spreads lip gloss over her mouth, turning her lips into slices of roast beef. They shimmer that same blue-green as the roast beef at a deli, like oil on wet pavement.

Joelle goes into the bedroom to find dry socks. One foot is wet. She tried on a cowboy boot at Value Village. It was soaking wet inside. Joelle goes back to the bathroom, draws black lines around her eyes and puts on her brown leather jacket.

Downtown, in a club, faces as smooth and dry as sand dunes float past her. Joelle listens, she wants to know what people are talking about. They are motioning above their heads; bursting, twisting, smoothing motions. They are talking about hairdos. – excerpt from “I Can Hear Me Fine” by Jean Smith 1993

“The day have only 10 hours to work, fuck it’s not enough” –Dirk (tour manager) in a fax from Germany

“This tour weights quite heavy on my shoulders, but I think we have to do it.” –Dirk (tour manager) in a fax from Germany

“Ok at last, some good news, Rolf at Semaphore is still selling your records very good and this here is the original size of a record review in the biggest musik press. Underground record of the month!! Great sounds great. Jean David I miss your help in my office, love Dirk”. –Dirk (tour manager) in a fax from Germany

“Thank you very much for writing back. Everything here has been going pretty fast for me. I’m going to be graduating from high school in 3 months. I haven’t even decided where I’m going to go yet. I have a bad case of senioritis. I wake up every morning dreading school. I’m pretty much stressed out sometimes. But I’m hanging on.” – Helen (Los Angeles) in a letter to Mecca Normal

Jean plays a show with Superconductor and breaks her guitar neck.

Spring Tour Diary 1994 excerpts by David:

April 7: Drive from Vancouver to Olympia. Buy a Fender amp on the way out of town. Play Capitol Theatre in Olympia with Lois.

April 8: Hear of Kurt Cobain’s suicide when Calvin gets a call while we’re at the K office in Olympia. Play Seattle (Weathered Wall) with Jasmine, Juned and Railroad Jerk. The guy from Jasmine gives Jean a beautiful metal book he made. David’s s strap breaks. Sleep on the booker’s office floor.

April 9: Portland (X-Ray). Some audience member’s cry during “I Walk Alone” and “Not With You.”

April 19-22: Fly to Europe. Drive from Germany to Holland in 8 hours to play Fast Forward festival in Nijmagen. Jean meets Peter Jefferies — who she advised, a month or so earlier, to take a chance and tour Europe with Dirk. We played with Eugene Chadbourne, Tall Dwarfs and Smog. Arrived at venue with only 10 minutes to spare. During our performance Jean knocks her face into a drum mic stand and rips the back of her dress. David’s guitar strap breaks. All of this is filmed by 3 cameras. Afterwards meet Sebadoh, Alistair Galbrath and James of Yo La Tengo.

April 25-27: Write songs at Dirk’s.

May 1: On the way to a recording studio in Augsburg, Bavaria, Dirk drives head on into another car. We walk the rest of the way. Record 6 songs in 12 hours. Peter Jefferies plays piano on “Vacant Night Sky” and Dirk plays acoustic guitar on another one. Chinese food afterwards. New Zealand saying: “We are rogered.”

May 3: A show in Ansbach. Our host falls down drunk. Our photo is taken by a guy who keeps waving his hand in front of the lens. Kasper Hauser was killed here.

May 4: Munster (Gleis). David breaks 3 strings. In the car ride we listen to the billionth playing of Wean singing about not pressing the weasel and “Push The Little Daisies” and “Little Birdie”.

“It’s good to hear you’re ok. I am not in the best mood. I’m a bit sad after you leaved, anyway that’s always the same after you’re tour.” –Dirk (tour manager) in a fax from Germany

Much Music television (Canada) screens film of Jean doing “The Dogs” as part of Word Up — a spoken word series.

“I always thought there was a drummer in this band.” – review of “Flood Plain” in Rebel Sound zine (Dalton, MA) 1994

“In the same way that I think Mecca Normal tries to challenge what already exists in our band’s format, I hope ‘I Can Hear Me Fine’ challenges, to a degree, what we anticipate in reading a novel.” –Jean Smith in an interview with Mark Woodlief, Warp Magazine (Los Angeles) 1994

“The image of Mecca Normal’s Jean Smith destroying a guitar – stomping its guts out on an Olympia, Washington stage – remains vivid, burned into my consciousness, although it happened over two years ago.” – book review of ‘I Can Hear Me Fine’ by Mark Woodlief, Warp Magazine (Los Angeles) 1994

23-page contract arrives from Matador Records (New York).

Eastern tour diary excerpts (on a tour booked by Tom Windish) by David:

May 26: Drive Vancouver to Olympia, see Calvin, Candice, Kathleen and back up to SeaTac. Drop car off at airport. We are the last to get on the plane, it is a total panic. In NYC the amp doesn’t arrive. We wait for another plane to arrive. Amp arrives. Group shuttle ride into NYC. Check into Paramount Hotel.

May 27: Work out contract with Gerard and Chris at Matador. They agree to all Jean’s changes. Then off to perform for a group of German Futurists — late afternoon, 90 minute set, on the 43rd floor of a Manhattan skyscraper. Johan (of Matador) shows up in a bulletproof vest to shoot footage for a Beastie Boys video. In the evening go to the multi-leveled USA Disco with German Futurists.

June 2: Providence, RI (Last Call) Flat tire. Problem finding club. The sound guy says Dunkin Donuts make good coffee.

June 3: Heading into NYC we almost hit a stalled car on the freeway. Jean manages to swerve into the next lane at the last moment. Drive around forever in Manhattan trying to find a parking spot. Play Knitting Factory with Truman’s Water. Afterward haul all our stuff up 5 flights to Vicki’s. In bed by 4:30 am.

June 6: Write and record “Something To Be Said” at a studio in Worcester, MA.

June 7: Up at 7 AM. Pass through 8 states on way to Baltimore. 94 degrees. Jean plays her guitar on a stripper’s pole on the stage in this old bar. Sleep on booker’s couch.

June 8: Get lost leaving Baltimore. Stop in Laurel, Maryland at a diner, where a guy approaches us with the story of his tortured life and hopes we can turn it into a top 10 hit. Play Black Cat in DC.

June 9: Philly (Khyber Pass) with the Tindersticks. 16 year old Laura invites us to stay at her parent’s mansion in the suburbs. Her parents are away and although there are empty beds, we must sleep on the floor so the parents don’t find out we were there. Laura bakes us biscuits in the morning.

June 13: A stranger puts money in our parking meter in Hoboken, NJ.

“We have to say that your performance was one of the highlights. For us you managed to create the same strong feeling than you did at the concert at Marquee in Hamburg sometime in summer ’93. It was the first concert that we saw of yours. We are still thinking that we passed through a ‘magic moment’ – that’s how we feel about it.” – Jutta, in a letter from Hamburg, 1994

Jean interviewed by Clifton Joseph for Imprint Ontario TV.

Candice Petersen, co-owner of K Records, from an article in Rolling Stone (New York) 1994 — “When I talk to indie labels, I’m always speaking to women who make decisions, but at majors, the women I speak to are usually publicists or sales people,” says the 28-year-old, who works with the bands Mecca Normal and Halo Benders. “One of the reasons the indie scene exists is because people don’t want to follow the rules. One of the ways you don’t follow the rules is to choose the best person to work for you and not base the decision on preconceived ideas of which gender knows more about rock. Or, as women, you start up your own company.”

Excerpt of Jean’s interview with K Record’s Calvin Johnson in Raygun Magazine (Los Angeles) 1994:

Jean: When you’re interested in a band, is it the idea of working with somebody who has a similar method or vision and not necessarily a particular sound?

Calvin: Right, for instance, Mecca Normal. The first time I saw them was on the Black Wedge tour where they got together with their friends and said, “hey, this is important, let’s do it.” It wasn’t as if they were saying, “How can we sell this new album?” It was a tour of people and half of them weren’t even bands.

Jean: You know, when I think of K, it doesn’t exist in the realm of “isms.” I don’t think of an interest in overly politicized dogma. I see you doing things that follow some of those sentiments, like putting out a lot of music by women and being a do-it-yourself label, but the word from K isn’t put together in a literal way. It’s interesting that you were attracted to the Black Wedge, because it was very literal.

Calvin: One of my ideas, in the back of my mind, is that instead of saying that we’re smashing sexism, we’re trying hard not to be a macho rock ‘n’ roll label.

Jean: Does it ever bug you how much Mecca Normal talks about these things in literal terms?

Calvin: No, I think it’s great. For me, the idea is, we’re trying to create an environment where those negative things don’t exist. I think for a lot of people who are making music in a political way… one criticism I might have is that they don’t allow for a dialogue. If you disagree with them they just turn off. I’ve encountered a lot of people in music who have strong political views who don’t have a strong tolerance for other people’s views.

Jean: They need to get out more.

Calvin: It’s hard for things to change if people aren’t going to exchange ideas. If they’re only going to say, “If you disagree with me, then you’re the enemy.” One thing that’s really useful when discussing issues, especially issues of repression, is to see all the different points of views and try to understand why someone would look at something as oppressive and someone else doesn’t. Not to say that one person is right or wrong but to understand why they can exist.

Play Yo-Yo Festival (1994) in Olympia. Introduced to Beck while Jean sets up her tent in Calvin’s backyard.

“Such innocence and enthusiasm are the guiding principles of the Olympia genre called love rock. At Yo Yo, bands throw candy to the audience, and the festival organizers hand out yo-yos. Homemade and vintage instruments proliferate, as do two-and three-piece groups, a minimalism exemplified by the Saturday night performances of Mecca Normal and Spinanes.” – Evelyn McDonnell, Rolling Stone (New York) 1994

Record with Calvin and Steve in Seattle. These tracks plus ones we’d recorded in Germany and Worcester would become “Sitting On Snaps.”

“There would be no Liz Phair without a Jean Smith.” – Gerard Cosloy interviewed in Spex (major German rock magazine). 1994

West Coast summer tour (with Peter Jefferies) excerpts by David:

Aug 12: Wake up in Pismo Beach at 6 AM. Interview on KXLU (Los Angeles). Write and record two songs including “The Bird That Wouldn’t Fly” with Robert Hammer at the Pony Palace — Distorted Pony’s house in Hollywood. On the way to the show, Robert van overheats. We wait at a gas station for a taxi, while a black guy tells us he is Diana Ross’ manager but just happens to be living in a gas station at the moment. Packed show. In the audience is Excene Cervenka, Sonic Youth members and Franklin Bruno. Charles Brown Superstar opens.

Aug 18: Play small artist space in Oakland called X-Press. Members of Rancid complain we are too loud. Jean sings without a mic and I play with volume totally off. Still too loud says Rancid guy with a Mohawk.

Aug 19: San Francisco (Thirsty Swede). Packed show. A group of guys chant Jean’s name. Stay at Laura’s.

Aug 20: Jean throws her back out. Re-schedule Eugene show.

Aug 22: Eugene (John Henry’s). Because of her back problems, Jean performs sitting in a chair.

“This was beyond any doubt the best live performance I’ve seen all year, and Jean never moved from her seat until the very last song.” – Snipehunt (Portland)

Autumn East Coast tour (booked by Jim Romeo, Twin Towers) with Peter Jefferies and Trash (Robbie Yeats, Bruce Blucher and Paul Cahill) from New Zealand.

Mecca Normal record “The Dogs” and “Don’t Shoot” in Vancouver at Venture Studios with Sheldon for a Virgin/EMI spoken word comp called Word Up.

A new Mecca Normal song called “The Bird That Wouldn’t Fly” is donated to a benefit comp CD called Home Alive. Home Alive is a Seattle based anti-violence non-profit organization that offers affordable self-defense classes and provides public education and awareness for women.

Jean has a piece of fiction published in literary magazine Sub-Terrain (Vancouver).

“I really liked your set. I did not know what to expect and was pleasantly surprised. Who’d have guessed Dave was so limber? And you too Jean, doing the limbo with that guitar.” – letter to Mecca Normal from Chicago, 1994

 

Peter Jefferies interview  by Allyssa Isenstein (1994)

Have you spent time in the city here (Portland)? Yeah, we sort of hung around the day we were here, but it’s been a pretty heavy schedule, it’s been a lot of driving. I think I’ve done 18 performances in the last 21 days.

And where are you going to go now? I’m going to go back to Vancouver, and have a look around Canada. I haven’t been to Canada before this trip, and it’s a very beautiful country. Have a little holiday, I’ve earned it now. I think I need it, much as I love playing, I think I need to see some trees.

Any plugs you want to make? I’ve plugged Dimmer, I’ve plugged IMD, I’d like to plug Mecca Normal. One of the most brilliant bands I have seen, and to see them do a series of shows has been a real eye opener for me. They’re just always interesting and always do something that makes you think, wow, what an incredibly special band. They are great people and some of the most talented people I’ve ever met.

Are you taking turns driving? No, Jean’s doing all the driving.

All by herself?!? Well, me and Dave sit there and watch her and encourage her. Well, Dave can’t drive and I can drive but, in New Zealand it’s all on the other side, so it all looks like it’s in a mirror. So she’s done all the work as far as driving goes. She booked all the shows on the west coast and she’s done all the driving. She’s pretty incredible. I don’t know too many people who could have done that.

In 1994 Mecca Normal did 6 tours and played 71 shows.

December, 2008 (added from Jean’s MySpace blog)

When I arrived in Dunedin I was met at the airport by both Peter and my new boss, the owner of the record label IMD. I think that’s what happened — it was the early-90s. I had given up my apartment and I intended to write, but Peter cleverly got me a position at the label, which was really just him and Brendan — the studio engineer.

So I was the publicity department and back then it was faxes, so I wrote a lot. Peter was A&R. We were working on a Bill Direen CD. I’d had a drunken run in with Bill in Berlin, and now here I was, his label publicist. Downer. Oh well.

The next CD was to be a Sandra Bell — Peter’s ex. Great. Anyway, there we were in the basement of a building several blocks away from where we lived on Liverpool Street. Paul Cahill was away, Bruce Blucher rehearsed downstairs and eventually Peter and I made the first 2 Foot Flame CD there and invited Michael Morley around to add some guitar. When the CD came out on Matador, many reviewers attributed my guitar playing to Morley and likewise, the great sounds Peter got out of his electric piano went the way of Morley in many reviews as Dead C were favoured in the USA.

I hadn’t intended to be working and it was summer there, yet I didn’t know there was an incredible beach about ten minutes away — no one told me.

Peter worked very hard and made incredible music. He was one of the most enthusiastic amazing people I have ever known. Heaps of energy and a great sense of purpose directed towards his vision. Really, I can’t say enough good things about Peter Jefferies. An incredibly supportive, deeply talented and adventurous man.

We moved to St. Clair, near South Dunedin, into a duplex and I had a room with a bit of a sea view in which to write.

At one point I had a stamp made to apply information to the backs of CDs and LPs that Peter was bring into the country to have go out through IMD. He was doing great, working really hard to bring in incredible music. I had a rubber stamp and stickers made that said “Disturbed by IMD” and one day the owner noticed that it said disturbed instead of distributed and he got angry. Guess that’s what owners are for — to squish any creativity that arrives in their work force.

Years later I notice that they made a compilation of IMD releases and guess what they called it?

Disturbed by IMD

Not such a horrid idea after all?
 

1995

 

Sitting On Snaps (Matador) released on January 24, 1995.

Jean’s favorite song on the album: The piano (Peter Jefferies) on Vacant Night Sky is the first time we’d had a guest on a Mecca Normal record. It’s one of those songs whose meaning evolves through time and circumstance. It seems to apply to various aspects of life. I love Frozen Rain, Dave plays it so beautifully. Only Heat is something I came up with. I listened to Dub Narcotic and Creedence Clearwater Revival mixed together in my headphones and used a Boeing super-sensitive microphone, something they used to inspect aircraft for structural defects. It picked up creaking floorboards, and pounding bass from a car going by — we couldn’t hear it in the room, just through the super-sensitive microphone.

David’s favorite songs on the album: Vacant Night Sky. Only Heat. Beppo’s Room

“Sitting On Snaps was recorded in various locations, mostly while we were on tour. We had a few days off in the middle of a tour in Europe so we wrote some songs and found a studio. We’d met up with Peter Jefferies at a festival in Holland and he’d come down to southern Germany to hang out so we had to get him to play piano on a couple of songs. We recorded four songs in Montreal for a national broadcast and we ended up using one for this record. While we were on tour in the eastern U.S., we went into a studio in Massachusetts with lyrics I’d written that morning, David came up with the guitar part while the tape rolled. We recorded some more songs in Seattle and put the whole thing together there with Calvin’s help.” — Jean Smith, Matador website, 1995

Vacant Night Sky (excerpt):
This is not what it’s supposed to be
a false light on the faces we can see
They’re not really smiling
frozen into shapes
Translate them
they’re power mixed with pain
And no astronomer can pilot
across a vacant night sky
a solid thing travelling
with a blinding hole

Sometimes this light is called winning
and I really don’t know why
this light contributes nothing
it only allows me to see
a false machine in motion
passing through the clouds

Trapped Inside Your Heart
Trapped inside your heart
You’re trapped inside your own heart

I am a swarm of possibility
that make him feel
good or bad
that’s what he needs to know

Invoking passion with false memories
a publicly manufactured code

The movie runs between my fingers
There’s always trouble
when you have to invent yourself

It’s not love
that I don’t feel
it is the loss
of something that never was
It is the loss

In Dunedin, New Zealand, Jean works at IMD — a small label.

In New Zealand, Jean Smith and Peter Jefferies (This Kind of Punishment, Nocturnal Projections) and Michael Morley (Dead C, Gate) form 2 Foot Flame. Jean and Michael Morley make a video for Vacant Night Sky.

In Vancouver David designs theatre posters and book covers.

“Straying To Summer” by Mecca Normal is released on a benefit comp CD for battered women’s shelters in B.C. Other bands on the comp include Cub, Art Bergmann, Coal and Spirit of the West.

“What actually stuck in my mind, though, and what will probably stay with me for a long time was a short conversation Jean had with my friend Gomshay after the show. Gomshay introduced himself to you, Jean, and he drunkenly told you about his long-time friend, Jason, who had recently been in a car accident and was in critical condition in intensive care. It looked like Gomshay was going on and on talking about Jason, and I have a feeling it was the first time he let himself really feel anything about the accident. I have to say that when you reached out and gave him a long hug and told him that you had lots of extra power and that he should give some of it to Jason I was very moved. It was one of the sweetest, most caring things I’ve ever seen and I want you to know how much Gomshay appreciated it.” – Christian in a letter to Mecca Normal (Minneapolis, MN) 1994

Jean writes (and takes the photos) for a feature article on Peter Jefferies — “Tape-Hiss Is A Sign of Life” Raygun Magazine (Los Angeles) 1995

“We drove through beautiful rolling hills (sheep dotting the landscape) to a beach with fine white sand and waves coming up in the wind. You know the type of waves that, as they roll in, the tops of them are blown by the wind creating a beautiful mist. The scenery here is incredible.” – Jean in a fax from New Zealand, 1995

“Few bands poking around the indie scene can be singled out for creating something entirely their own, rather than producing an assemblage or reshuffling borrowed sounds. The beautifully potent songs of guitarist David Lester and vocalist Jean Smith stand clearly in that rare arena.” – Lydia Anderson reviews “Sitting On Snaps” in the CMJ New Music Weekly (New York) 1995

“This time around the two broaden their canvas, including guest pianist Peter Jefferies on two cuts, and take their own raw sound to new, spine tingling levels.” – Lydia Anderson reviews “Sitting On Snaps” in the CMJ New Music Weekly (New York) 1995

“Sitting On Snaps” debuts in the CMJ Top 200 at #61.

“Smith and Lester are so tuned into each other, voice and guitar create a skillful interplay that’s great fun to listen to.” –Gillian Gaar reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in The Rocket (Seattle) 1995

David flies to New Zealand for a Mecca Normal tour with Peter Jefferies and Gate. Mecca Normal then fly from New Zealand to Los Angeles for an in-store at Rhino Records. A week later they fly to Munich for a European tour. 1995

“‘Trapped Inside Your Heart’ is a fine example of Mecca Normal’s subtle beauties.” –Daily Trojan (Los Angeles) reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” 1995

“Change Is How You Act”, an animated film David made in 1981, gets its first public screening (in Saskatchewan).

Word Up CD (EMI) released with Mecca Normal’s “The Dogs” and “Don’t Shoot”. The CD also contains tracks by Meryn Cadell, Judy Radul, Sheri-D Wilson, John Giorno, Jeannette Armstrong and Lillian Allen.

“God, do these people not believe in drums?” — Ripple reviews “Sitting On Snaps” 1995

“…eschewing verse-chorus-hook hegemonies in favor of free-flowing structures, and finding a new sonic language for rock…” – Douglas Wolk reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in the CMJ Monthly (NY) 1995

“Mecca Normal sink further into the depths of gratuitous depressing pretentiousness.” – Christine reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in Platform 1995

“Sparse, beautiful music.” – review of “Flood Plain” in The Obscuritant (Chicago) 1995

“The eleven songs end up sounding like they were produced by washed-up and sentimental coffee shop regulars, drowning in espresso and lovable morbidity.” – Taylor Antrim reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in Intermission. 1995

“Never has minimalism sounded so lush, as guitar and voice interact with symphonic intensity in deceptively simple songs like ‘Trapped Inside Your Heart.’” – Sia Michel reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in SF Weekly (San Francisco) 1995

“To my mind, K. K. Null and David Lester are the most riveting and exciting guitar players alive today.” – review of “Flood Plain” in The Obscuritant (Chicago) 1995

“In the most breathtaking example of ‘less is more’ in recent musical history, Vancouver’s Mecca Normal creates a Byzantine cathedral full of sound…” – Jud Cost reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in Magnet (Philly) 1995

“Smith’s voice—my god! —is a universe unto itself.” – Jud Cost reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in Magnet (Philly) 1995

K Records re-issues the first Mecca Normal album on vinyl and on CD (for the first time).

“I’ll be honest in saying that I honestly don’t know what motivates Mecca Normal… all I can say is that it reminds me a lot of what it felt like when I touched a cat’s tongue for the first time.” – Ben reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in Milkbone 1995

“I don’t think any of their records are less than remarkable.” – Tom Sedlak reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in Cadenza (St. Louis, MO) 1995

“Don’t expect a chorus to come bubbling up to save your sorry ass and sum things up in a neat package…. This will vex your mind like long buried thoughts, dragged kicking and screaming to the surface only to be poked with a stick and left to go brittle in the harsh light of day.” – review of “Sitting On Snaps” in Factsheet Five, 1995

“As a document of frustration and transcendence, Sitting On Snaps rocks. If The Man takes it in the nutsac, all’s the better.” – Cindy Widner reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in the Austin Chronicle (Austin) 1995

“Listening to Sitting On Snaps is a multi-layered thrill. Not just because it’s a great record by a great band – it’s the record of a great band re-inventing itself…. How often can you say that nine years into a band’s career?” – Bill Meyer reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in The Bob (Wilmington, DE) 1995

The Rocket (Seattle) rates “Jarred Up” at #178 in the list of the top 200 albums of all time in the Pacific Northwest. 1995

Excerpts from European tour diary by David. 1995:

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Jean at Vera at Groningen — photo by Snorkel.

April 7: In Austria, our tour car is towed, setting us back 300 deutchmarks.

April 8: Eingingen, a small rock club. In the adjoining room to the club I see a group of men stand around a tree stump passing a hammer, each attempting to hit a nail in. At the show I break a few strings, guitar cord breaks, guitar strap breaks. Jean helps by making a guitar strap out of guitar cords.

April 10: Nurnberg, Germany. Totally enthusiastic crowd. Two encores. I break input to guitar. In the audience, I can see a woman singing along to “Throw Silver”. Later she tells Jean about breaking up with her husband and the importance of the song to her. Italian meal. I twisted my ankle a bit, and ache all over after such a long show.

April 11: Koln. Lend Mary Timony of Helium my amp.

April 14: Dirk (tour manager) avoids a car crash.

April 16: In Bremen, we play a “Lo-Fi Festival” with Chris Knox and the Mountain Goats.

April 19: In Karlsruhe, Jean gets word that Matador will release a 2 Foot Flame album.

April 20: Eat snail soup.

April 26: Play the Sausage Machine in London and meet Gina of The Raincoats.

May 5: Fly from Germany to New York city and headline a show at Under Acme, with Mad Scene, Cat Power, and Shiva Speedway.

“Yet their music – Lester plays guitar like it’s a strange instrument found washed up on a beach, Smith’s vocals are glass shards melting and crystallizing – is far from pop-radio sensibilities. By twisting the delivery, they place power in individual interpretation, in the belief that one should be strengthened, not seduced, by melody.” – Evelyn McDonnell in a 4-star review of “Sitting On Snaps” in Rolling Stone (New York) 1995

“As for Smith and Lester? They continue to push the envelope tearing open their souls in search of a new emotion. Sitting On Snaps is simply incredible, but take caution as Mecca Normal is an acquired taste. Nothing but original, anything but crap, and indeed a group that will be overlooked by the sneering Top 40 music seekers.” – Pat Merlihan reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in Imprint, 1995

“As it is, the raw throat, Tori Amos-on-a-murder-spree caterwauls and lacerating, sparse guitars stand up pretty well in the art rock friendly ‘90s.” – review of “Sitting On Snaps” in the NME (England) 1995

“A quiet hurricane…” – review of “Sitting On Snaps” in RAW (England) 1995

“…it is more unsettling than four Ministry fans with rack samplers could ever be. Extreme in the real sense of the word.” – review of “Sitting On Snaps” in Kerrang (England) 1995

“Smith’s voice can be warm and melodic, as on the gorgeous ‘Trapped Inside Your Heart’” – Dave Jennings reviewing “Sitting On Snaps” in Melody Maker (England) 1995

“Sitting On Snaps” also gets a four star review in the German edition of Rolling Stone.

“I think the same aesthetic basis of everything we do is apparent in whatever form it takes. We’re constantly trying to inspire ourselves and find inspiring things. You know if you can live through the dulled times and realize your work is going to create something exciting, some culmination at the end, whether its booking a tour or the hard times you might be having writing a song or even just getting out of bed some mornings. You know you can keep a sense of direction and not give up just for the sake of taking on a normal lifestyle. You can really take control of your life and point it in a direction and stick with it.” – Jean interviewed by Tiso Ross in Spec (Dunedin, New Zealand) 1995

Record 3 songs at Profile Studios (Vancouver) with Peter Jefferies adding the first drums ever on a Mecca Normal song (Breathing In The Dark).

In Vancouver (Starfish Room), Mecca Normal do a show with Chris Knox (who joins us for one song).

“Sitting On Snaps” peaks on the CMJ Top 200 at #48.

“Afterwards, as the audience leaves, the conversation is nervous, confused, and a little awestruck. People had arrived expecting to see a band. Instead they’d seen a two-person guerrilla campaign against apathy.” – Dave Jennings reviewing a live show at the Laurel Tree, London in Melody Maker (England) 1995

“A neat, bespectacled, studious-looking figure, he windmills his arm to maximize the sonic shock value…” – Dave Jennings reviewing a live show at the Laurel Tree, London in Melody Maker (England) 1995

Gerard Cosloy (Matador Records) attempts to get to the Mecca Normal show in Los Angeles at Jabberjaw but is mugged outside. While Gerard waits for the police to show up, he passes a record contract to David to give to Jean for 2 Foot Flame. At the show, a woman tells David he has given her enough power that she has some to take home.

Eugene, Oregon band Oswald Five-O release a 7” covering the Mecca Normal song “Blue TV”.

“Bird That Wouldn’t Fly” and “Breathing In The Dark” 7” released on Matador.

2 Foot Flame album released on Matador.

Jean does a 2 Foot Flame tour.

Word Up (Key Porter) book published with 3 pages of Jean’s writing.

“Is this album good? You’re damn right it’s good! The Arbitrator, To The Sea and Compass create some of the most disturbing; yet uniquely enjoyable, waves of sound ever put together.” – R.T. Hunter reviewing 2 Foot Flame in the Daily Cardinal, 1995

“… hearing her (Jean’s) voice tear through these other contexts is nothing short of thrilling.” – Gail O’Hara reviewing 2 Foot Flame in Time Out (New York) 1995

Sounding Off: Music as Subversion / Resistance / Revolution (Autonomedia) book is published with Jean’s chapter on the Black Wedge. It was edited by Ron Sakolsky and Fred Wei-han Ho. The book would go on to win an American Book Award.

Excerpt from The Black Wedge Tours by Jean Smith from Sounding Off

In the early part of 1986, Mecca Normal released their first LP on their own label, Smarten Up! Records. Soon thereafter, they flew to Montreal and hooked up with Rhythm Activism; another voice and guitar duo dealing with social concerns from an anti-authoritarian perspective. While the four stood around in the basement of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation building waiting to go on live radio coast to coast, they listened in on the segment prior to their spot–England’s Red Wedge was being featured. Formed in the late ’80s to support the Labor Party, the Red Wedge presented political ideas within a musical context, a showcase of musicians encouraged people to vote Labor. The Black Wedge, coming into existence that night, would encourage people to reclaim their voices, to speak out against oppression rather than rely on electoral politics as a means to solve social problems.

A phone call was made to Vancouver and a bus was secured for a West Coast tour. The tour line-up included Mecca Normal, Rhythm Activism, Ken Lester (D.O.A.’s manager, activist and poet), Dave Pritchett (longshoreman and poet) and Bryan James (a self-describe “jingle man”).

Leaving Vancouver after a sold-out show, the tour headed south, playing nightclubs, a bookstore, an art gallery, a soup kitchen, a record store, universities and as many radio stations as possible along the way. Our preliminary promotional work paid off, and articles appeared in many publications, including mainstream daily papers.

The show, divided into five segments, dealt with a variety of issues. Mecca Normal performed “Strong White Male,” “Smile Baby,” and “Women Were King”–all of which brought up sexism and male oppression. We also performed “Are You Hungry Joe?”, a dialogue between Joe and the guy that stood between him and a bag of groceries at a food bank. Rhythm Activism also addressed poverty in “The Rats.” Bryan James’ songs were about pornography and the lure of the TV screen. Dave Pritchett’s poems were mainly about disenfranchised citizens and lost love. Between songs and poems, we all talked about what we were trying to do with the Black Wedge. Sometimes it sounded dogmatic and rhetorical, other nights it was spontaneous and charming. In Olympia, Rhythm Activism’s Norman Nawrocki called for a raid of the Safeway next door–it didn’t quite happen, but there was enthusiasm for the plan.

Prior to the Black Wedge, Mecca Normal had not toured at all. That first tour was amazing; we met poets, community activists, anarchists, feminists, people at radio stations, recording label people, fanzine writers and bands. It was incredible to drop into a community and see what was going on and, at the same time, represent ourselves. I don’t think we had any idea of what was out there in terms of like-minded people. Since that first time out, Mecca Normal has done about thirty tours in North America and Europe. After the group tours, we became more insulated, preferring to tour by ourselves and play on regular rock bills as a contrast to the four-guys-on-stage syndrome.

In 1987, the Black Wedge got on the same old school bus and drove from Vancouver to Winnipeg. Rhythm Activism, Bryan James and Mecca Normal were on the bill again in addition to Toronto’s Mourning Sickness–“committed to destroying all forms of patriarchal power…” and Peter Plate, an agent of the spoken word, who had seen our San Francisco shows the year before and decided to join us. Responding to an ad in Open Road, an anarchist news journal, Nelly Bolt took on the driving and information table with anarchist news, Black Wedge booklets and prisoners’ rights information. David Lester set up a display of political posters at every show. Booklets containing a selection of everyone’s work and a compilation tape were sent out to secure shows. One promoter in Edmonton canceled our show after hearing Peter Plate’s piece “San Bernadino” in which, to paraphrase, Peter jerks off on church door handles Saturday night so his dried seed will glisten on the priest’s hand Sunday morning. Konnie Lingus of Mourning Sickness brought up the rights of sex-trade workers, herself being one. Prudence Clearwater and Lynna Landstreet were the other band members. When we met up with Mourning Sickness for a Toronto show, Prudence had been attacked by a man on a street the night before. She was so strong up on stage doing her usual rant against street harassment, “Listen to me, little man,” she howled down at the audience. It felt like our introspective world touring had been interrupted by reality.

On a ferry ride across a lake in British Columbia, Peter jumped up on the roof of the bus without warning and began a poem. The other passengers tried to pretend this was not happening; people in cars actually rolled up their windows. Nelly Bolt, our driver, also got up there and did her first public performance of her poetry to a captive audience.

In ’88, Peter Plate and Mecca Normal went to England to perform on the cabaret circuit. We were sandwiched between highland dancers, comics, and skits. Peter was dynamic; all his pieces were done from memory. Mecca Normal had always wanted to be either a contrast to a larger, more traditional rock band, or as part of the Black Wedge, an element within a similarly motivated group. In England the other acts were entertainment, something we never wanted to be!

After the tour ended I stayed in the North of England doing solo readings and running a women’s writing workshop which was set up for me by Keith Jafrate, a poet, sax player and an employee of the local council. He was running writing workshops at all different levels involving poets and people interested in improving their writing skills. Keith joined the ’89 Black Wedge tour in North America. He teamed up with Rachel Melas on bass. We were joined again by Peter Plate. We toured the West Coast and in the East before the thing exploded for financial and personal reasons. That was the last tour that I know of called the Black Wedge. The name is available for other people to use to present anti-authoritarian ideas. It is meant to be an arena for people who might not otherwise be known well enough to bring out an audience. It was never meant to be a closed group that was only active for a short time.

Mecca Normal and 2 Foot Flame play Super Winner’s Summer Rock Academy in Chico, CA.

“From the opening strains of The Birthday Party-esque ‘Lindauer’ to the relentless surf-noise of ‘The Arbitrator’, 2 Foot Flame bravely recovers that remarkable territory where art, poetry, and rock and roll co-exist. You want punk rock, turn off your radio. It’s about opening your heart and dusting off those neglected pieces that refuse to break. It’s about 2 Foot Flame.” –review of 2 Foot Flame album in The Synthesis (Chico, CA) 1995

“Some might find it hard to imagine Smith’s voice split off from the guitar of her longtime playing partner, David Lester, but her very individualistic style – a combination of acrid intensity and deadpan alienation – is in fact the perfect match for Jefferies and Morley’s fuzzy, buzzing mix of noise and near-industrial syncopations.” – Alex Varty, profiling 2 Foot Flame in the Georgia Straight (Vancouver) 1995

“It’s a series of images that I came up with. It’s more like a cinematic voyage into a particular emotion. I think it’s about something that’s hit a critical point, and blown up. I can’t see clearly what it is, and I’m not sure that I want to. It could be trouble.” –Jean talking about the 2 Foot Flame song ‘Cordoned Off’’ to John Chandler in The Rocket (Seattle) 1995

2 Foot Flame album peaks at #60 on the CMJ Top 200.

In December, 1995, Mecca Normal finishes recording and mixing an album at Profile Studios (Vancouver) that will become “The Eagle & The Poodle.” Peter Jefferies produces and plays drums on some of the tracks. Four of the tracks were recorded with Calvin Johnson at his studio in Olympia.

1996

The+Eagle++the+Poodle+R17763411315545145
Jean designs CD cover art for The Eagle & The Poodle (Matador) — released April 9, 1996

The Eagle & The Poodle peaks at #75 on the CMJ Top 200, 1996

Jean produces Peter Jefferies’ CD Elevator Madness at Sounds Fine to Me Studio and Profile Studio (Vancouver, BC)

“Since Sitting On Snaps brought them wider notice this year, the duo seem, calmer: their set here was refined, haunting, expert.” – review of Mecca Normal show in Chico by Richard Martin, Puncture (Portland)

Slim Moon (Kill Rock Stars owner): “Starting at the beginning – Were the original methods used by Mecca Normal out of necessity or ideal?
Jean Smith: Slim, it was neither. It was a total lack of knowledge, understanding and scope that lead Mecca Normal to any method. Then it became, simultaneously, necessity and ideal. It is easier to stand by a band whose foundation you’ve invented. If you follow the rulebook and someone tells you “you’re doing it wrong”, then where do you stand? — Interview between Slim Moon and Jean Smith in Resister #1 (New York)

“Did you ever think we’d still be making beautiful records 10 years later?” – Jean in a note to David on the anniversary of the release first Mecca Normal LP

“Mecca Normal is one of my personal nominations for a very short list of the best operating punk bands (with only Fugazi for serious company). – review of Sitting On Snaps in War Against Silence

“…Lester’s playing is aware of the actual instrument to a greater degree than anybody else’s that I know of. His guitar emits squawks, screeches, buzzes, rattles, discord, melody, drive, chaos and a dozen other sounds that it’s usually the producer’s job to filter out on the way to the finished production.” – review of Sitting On Snaps in War Against Silence

2 Foot Flame album becomes #1 at KAOS radio (Olympia, WA)

Mecca Normal records Paris In April 7” for K records in Jean’s Vancouver apartment.

Alt-Rock-A-Rama (Rolling Stone Press, Dell Publishing) book published with writing by Jean.

Feb 10: First public performance by Mecca Normal with Peter Jefferies on drums — Vancouver (Malcolm Lowry Room).

March 7: Mecca Normal perform at a book launch for Sounding Off — American Book Award winner — includes article by Jean on The Black Wedge. Capitol Theatre, Olympia with Calvin Johnson’s new band Dub Narcotic Sound System, Sue P. Fox, Mark Hosler of Negativeland and Sue Ann Harkey.

Mecca Normal shoots video for Revival of Cruelty with Elliot Rocket in Seattle and Olympia. Edited with Cyndee Baudhuin in Seattle.

David does 10 illustrations for Rebel Moon by Norman Nawrocki (AK Press)

Much Music VJ Sook-Yin Lee picks Dovetail by Mecca Normal as one of her Top 10 Canadian albums of all time. Her list also includes Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, No Means No and Leonard Cohen. – Chart Magazine (Toronto)

The Eagle and The Poodle is a lucky-13 song album about the tenacity of love, grade school teachers, a movie set lake where a paddle-wheeler prop explodes, the relentless pursuit of a future that eradicates the present along with its subtle imperfections, a blonde religion, a smooth fingered page turner who just can’t put down the rule book, a dial-in radio show called “The Rival Theories Hotline” where you can mainline a dose of duality, a house without doors, the boxing match of the century: The Unexplored vs. The Replica of Duplication, Peach-A-Vanilla naked on the couch stroking her green ring finger, another world’s future and a box of souvenirs that crumbles to dust. – Matador press release

“It’s ‘make up your own story’. A fable. The fable of the eagle and the poodle. I have this image of a TV screen and a talon, and a little white poodle with blood coming off it.” – Jean interviewed by Clint Burnham about The Eagle & The Poodle in Exclaim (Toronto)

“Smith’s voice conveys passion through her vocal acrobatics—she sings more from personal vision than from traditional training—and as a result, liking Mecca Normal is often a matter of liking Smith’s voice, which I do. The fable that runs through The Eagle & The Poodle is an abstract sense of fragmented stories, some covering common themes of success, aspiration, greed and the like…” – review of The Eagle & The Poodle by James Keast, Exclaim (Toronto)

“Mecca Normal are one of the few bands I know of that put some aesthetic meaning into the term ‘independent.’” – review of The Bird That Wouldn’t Fly 7” by Glenn McDonald, The War on Silence

“Whether people feel uncomfortable with my music isn’t something I’ve ever taken into consideration. Some people like to feel uncomfortable.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Matt Galloway, Now (Toronto)

“Clasp hands, dear readers if you dare, and descend into Album Eight, a haunted spiral-staircase to the underside of the waking world. Thirteen songs step downward to dream states which may—or may not—concern exploding riverboats, a religion of blondes, decaying mementos and another world’s future.”– review of The Eagle & The Poodle by C.J. O’Connor, Eye (Toronto)

“What we’re doing really is underground music.” –David Lester interviewed by C.J. O’Connor, Eye (Toronto)

“I think people believe our music is really angry just because it sounds discordant. But really, you can play dissonant –even difficult—music without necessarily being enraged all the time.” –David Lester interviewed by C.J. O’Connor, Eye (Toronto)

Tour Report by Jean Smith, July 1996:
Earlier this year Mecca Normal played its first ever show with drums. This historic event was amplified by the 10th anniversary of the release of our first album. Mecca Normal is officially a trio and 2 Foot Flame is officially a duo. We toured in the east and south in April and May. We’ll be on the west coast in August. The current album was produced by Peter here in Vancouver at Profile Studio where I’ve just finished producing Peter’s next album, Elevator Madness (to be released on Trance Syndicate mid-October). K Records is releasing a Mecca Normal 7″ called Paris in April, an acoustic three-songer recorded at Sounds Fine To Me Studios.

Christina and Matt came to the show in Yipsilanti, MI at the Green Room–an excellent space–to make sure we had a place to stay. They are part of the Honorary Impostership Program (various opinionated people are on the road claiming to be Mecca Normal for the purpose of gaining access to radio stations to talk about the environment, political activism and the sexuality of teenage girls).

In Toronto the opening band is By Divine Right. Dave has equipment problems that stall our show but BDR’s guitar guy Jose is right there loaning Dave his amp, cords and eventually his guitar. We played live on Much Music (Canada’s MTV, but not as uptight).

Montreal: We played for 90 minutes in a beautiful little theater with a balcony (The Cabaret). The entire show was broadcast on Canada’s national radio (CBC) on Brave New Waves–an excellent show.

In Charlottesville, Virginia we played the Tokyo Rose, the only sushi bar I know that does punk rock shows in the basement. The opening position on the bill was a 27-year-old woman who told the story of how that very day she, for the first time in her life, bought clothes for herself. Until that day her mother had bought her clothes. Her fashion sense was not up to scratch–red blazer and a navy pleated skirt. It’s a start, though. Imagine–independence at 27! Next thing you know she’ll be cutting her own meat!

The Atlanta show was great, our first show ever there. Members of Possum Dixon and Mudhoney were very nice! In fact, Mark Arm found my hair clips on stage and returned them to me with a huge helpful smile. Sweet boy! We stayed with Thomas Peake, a music critic who we tried not to be too friendly with — we made him buy us breakfast.

Birmingham was so friendly that we almost didn’t want to separate from our new friends to play the show. Michael (our host) made us pork chops and cornbread after the show, like at 2 a.m.

New Orleans was so incredible to wander through. As we played in Anthony’s front yard until the cops came (we were just finishing anyway). Have you ever noticed how quickly parties evaporate when the keg is gone? The streets of the French Quarter were packed with people drinking margaritas in plastic cups.

Houston was our next show but we’d left enough time to visit the Tabasco factory–a total thrill! Toby is the booker and sound guy at Mary Jane’s in Houston. He was completely helpful and he laughed at all my jokes. Charalambides played with us and later took us home. Just last week I got my music stand in the mail, I’d left it at their place. I didn’t even have to ask them to send it. I hope their good deed is returned to them on their tour.

“Welcome home. I made some muffins for you and Jean and a strawberry pie and some dream whip. It’s all in the fridge. Thaw the pie out before you eat it.”— note left by David’s mother at his apartment when he returned from tour.

“Mecca Normal is their landscape, their collaboration, their 11-year odyssey in beautiful, ugly, experimental self-expression.”– review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Natasha Stovall, Village Voice (New York)

“Smith wants you to consider breaking convention, but she also wants you to know about what happens if you don’t. ‘Her Ambition’ is a cautionary tale about just that: A man and woman get together; she puts aside her aspirations and over time is subsumed into him.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Natasha Stovall, Village Voice (New York)

“Don’t let them infect you with their subversive activities.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle in The Daily Bruin, UCLA (Los Angeles)

“Mecca Normal is a band of a rare breed, one which has been around for over 10 years without jumping bandwagons of lame trends. They’ve managed to stick with their simplistic yet beautiful eerie style of music without becoming repetitive and boring. Smith’s distinctive voice and delivery is enough to send chills down your spine (which can be rather fun). — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Sarah Shimizu in Vox (Calgary, AB)

“I try to break down some of the rules of communication without being something of the sloganeer that I was in my younger days. I used to say exactly what I was thinking but now I give audience members a lot of room to interpret. I also don’t really think it’s my job to make sure they think what I want them to think.” — Jean interviewed by Joe Sebastian, The Daily Texan (Austin)

“I’ve never been very clear on where a song stops being a poem or whether a song is just not a very good poem. It’s that gray spot between poetry or songs or literature in general – that seems to be one of the last frontiers.” — Jean interviewed by Joe Sebastian, The Daily Texan (Austin)

“Her voice has gotten quieter recently–not sweet, but more lyrical. The characters populating her songs have gotten quirkier, more the stuff of novels than the wayward poets we know.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Andrea Moed, in CMJ Monthy (New York)

“…her singing here is some of her best and most adventurous to date…” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Douglas Wolk, in CMJ New Music Report (New York)

“I was absurdly depressed and scalding the night you played. It may sound like sentimental fallderfall, but Mecca Normal levitated me out of it.” – a letter to Mecca Normal from Love Rake, New Orleans

Mecca Normal record a song called Hurricane Watch for a Matador Records comp CD.

“No they’re not very easy to listen to, but life ain’t very easy, is it.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Holly Ennist in Aquarian Weekly (New Jersey)

“I’m still as always, inspired by your visionary approach to the music industry and your tenacity to that vision. I’d like to thank you for sticking to your guns and paving the way for other innovative artists. – a letter to Mecca Normal from Patty-Lynne, Seattle

“One of the best ones yet. Yeah, I know that’s saying a lot in the face of albums like Dovetail and Calico Kills the Cat, and the Jarred Up singles-comp, but I really think it’s up there with those.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle in Snipehunt (Portland)

“’Have you ever tried to dig straight through to the other side of the world?’ These words begin Mecca Normal’s eighth and most musically diverse album. The longtime duo of David Lester and Jean Smith is joined by propulsive drummer and producer Peter Jefferies, whose work shifts the group’s dynamic from avant garde to raw, driving rock without diluting their power.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Matt Smithwick, The Rocket (Seattle)

“People were wondering what we might have sounded like with drums. It’s not quite what you’d expect it to be. Peter plays the drums very melodically.” – Jean interviewed by Matt Smithwick in The Rocket (Seattle)

“The struggle for self-expression and autonomy is the driving force behind powerful new records by Sleater Kinney, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, Tribe 8 and Mecca Normal.” – Evelyn McDonnell, NY Times (New York) Evelyn McDonnell co-edited ‘Rock She Wrote: Women Write About Rock, Pop and Pap”

The Eagle & The Poodle would reach #8 on Canada’s national college chart.

“When You Know is a song that had been around for a while that we’d never recorded. It was meant to be very angular and experimental, but I think it expresses what you might say to a friend during some kind of turmoil. ‘Things you used to do alone, I will do with you. Ladders, walls, red carpets, lakes. And down we go through our mistakes.’ An offering to a friend — for better or for worse.” — Jean’s favorite song on The Eagle & The Poodle album and why.

The Revival of Cruelty. When You Know.
— David’s favorite songs on The Eagle & The Poodle album

Her Ambition
She used to work days
at the counter
He, sunken cheeks
paint flecks on his clothes,
rubbed the dust from his hair
and went to meet her.
Together they drove home.

Her ambition faded
her ambition slipped away.

After she used to work
part time in an office.
He built things that
other people wanted.
He couldn’t keep them for himself.
He paid exactly half their bills.
She began to move like him
and pick up all his habits.
He developed a fondness for
rare wood from mainland China.
Any extra time he had he spent
sharpening his tools.

Her ambition faded
Her ambition slipped away.

She can’t stop the dullness
something slowly rotting
in her box of souvenirs.
She finds a token of her ambition
and rolls it in her hands.
She rolls it in her hands
and like her plan, like her desire
it disappears.

Her ambition faded
Her ambition slipped away.

Prize Arm excerpt
Prize arm, rubber bandit
enthusiasm stripped away.
Socretes! Assumption!
Blonde religion
rigged with terminal velocity.
Write your own damn anthem.
Run it up the flagpole.

When You Know
Where you know you shouldn’t go
I will take you there.
When you know you want to turn around
I will take you on.
Things you used to do alone
I will do with you.
Where you used to go alone
I will go with you.

Ladders, walls, red carpets, lakes
and down we go through our mistakes.

“Whenever I tried calling you from S.F. in the spring (where I worked for the German Goethe-Institute), all I got was a message telling me how busy you were.” – letter to David from Nils in Germany

“You are always welcome to crash and burn at my place.” –letter to Mecca Normal from Laura in San Francisco

“This duo is simply without compare. Mesmerizing. They demanded and received absolute full attention… A small town like this ensures one the privilege of drinking with the famous and talented! They didn’t ever let on that they were famous…” –Trish reviewing Mecca Normal at Super Winners festival, Chico, CA

“…admired by a pretentious minority of an alt-rock subculture already way too full of itself…” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Robert Christgau, the Village Voice (New York)

“They can do no wrong. But gone is the duo, now they’ll look like any other band until you hear them.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle, Giant Robot

“Just wanted to say once more that it was great playing with you… It was probably the most memorable night of music in Houston in oh, a year at least (especially the last Mecca Normal number…). We would’ve liked to have talked more but certainly understand the late-night post-show exhaustion.” – letter to Mecca Normal from Tom, Houston, TX

Jean designs the cover for a Mary Lou Lord 7”. The single ends up not coming out.

“A few days ago, I bought myself a Venetian blind, made in red plastic. It looks good and in the afternoon, when the sun comes around the corner, it turns the whole room into flaming red. Sure, it is a bit scary too. I like your new album. I like it how it is. Peter’s drumming is good, I mean it’s not too much, no, it fits into your music. Not to forget, the cover-work, its beautiful, I put the record in front of all the other records so I can see it everyday.” – fax to Mecca Normal from Dirk,, Kaufbeuren, Germany

“I finally made copies of the tape of when you guys played in my yard. Would you guys be interested in doing a 7” with the stuff recorded on the Fisher-Price recorder? I’m already doing a split 7” with Pee Shy and Home from when these two bands played in my kitchen.” – letter to Mecca Normal from Anthony, New Orleans, LA

“We recorded it (Hurricane Watch for a Matador comp CD) on our 4-track and then mixed it at Profile where we have captured a genius engineer (Mark Cohen) to entertain our every whim. Peter and I just finished mixing his album (Elevator Madness, on Trance Syndicate) with him as well. It was incredible for me to get the chance to produce it.” – fax from Jean to Gerard Cosloy, Matador

“Phrases like ‘work of art,’ ‘avant-garde.’ ‘art music,’ or ‘free jazz’ are not generally associated with political punk rock, but Vancouver, BC duo Mecca Normal is changing that. The Eagle & The Poodle is an atmospheric work of such vision and integrity as to blur the lines separating punk goals, attitudes and guitar sounds…” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle, Carbon

“My first cycling road race about 70 miles took place two weeks ago and it was really fun, even just to see more than 300 slim men in good shape, wow! You know what I mean? Jean, I have to thank you a lot for getting me to know the music journalist Pinky Rose… A powerful and critical woman. We often talk for hours on the phone and together we interviewed Tortoise. Now we’re close pals. Because of you.” – letter to Jean from Elena, Radio Meltdown, Munster, Germany

“Amazingly, Mecca Normal are still finding new ways to make music using one guitar and one voice. While Jean Smith’s vocal style can sometimes remind you of a fly repeatedly hitting the window, her talent as a storyteller eventually wins most people over.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle, Snakcake

“I am in a musical group here in Vancouver and we are hoping to plan a tour in India.” – fax by Jean to India Today & Tomorrow Radio

“Live, it could lead to bouts of brutal self-examination, feelings of guilt and uncontrolled fits of tears. But they’d be the good kind of tears.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Joe Gorden, The Onion

“Peter played a show here (Vancouver) and I played guitar on 3 songs at this show. Do you remember a long time ago, after I phoned Peter from your house to tell him to dare a tour with you? Do you remember an idea of me saying I would play guitar if Alistair couldn’t come? So it finally happened! I used a delay unit with distortion and an e-bow. I don’t roll around on stage, I just make a hell of a lot of feedback. Works fine bine!” – fax by Jean to Dirk, Germany

“… her esoteric messages and the way she presents them are too beautiful to pass up. On The Eagle & The Poodle, Jean and guitarist David Lester once again wrap their souls around each other until they are one. It’s beyond eerie how these two coexist artistically. Jean cuts them a path through life’s underbrush with her words, and David builds bridges with his guitar to carry them both across a canyon in order to reach the other side where Jean will hack away at whatever is in her way.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by Caldwell Noble, Moo

Paris In April 7” (K records) released August 7

“Quiet, contemplative, and beautiful, yet strong and empowering.” – review of Paris in April 7”, The Rocket (Seattle)

Mecca Normal, 2 Foot Flame and Peter Jefferies tour the west coast, August 1996. Tour notes by David:
Stop near Bellingham to visit Michael of Noggin. He lives in a house built by his great grandparents. There is a huge piano leaning, strings exposed against the wall, so we play it like a harp. Sounds great. Rent a brand new Lincoln Continental for the west coast tour. Jean buys a Fender guitar on the way out of town. Play a show in Seattle, where our friend Argon says we were better than last time. Stay at Argon and Eva’s place. Push start Eva’s car in the morning. In Portland, at EJ’s we don’t go on until 1:15 a.m. the latest we’ve ever gone on. In bed by 4 a.m. Stayed with L who was unhappy about his job in a record store selling Rancid records to the public, while nobody wants to buy the music he loves. Drink from the Lithium fountain in Ashland, OR. Listen to a book on tape called The Red Fox by Anthony Hyde and read by Donald Sutherland. Jean drives 500 miles today. Play in Chico, CA in the window of a Mexican restaurant. Peter spills beer over the merch. On the way to San Francisco, listening to NPR, we hear a terrible speech by presidential candidate Bob Dole. Play Bottom Of The Hill in SF, where one guy tells us he’s waited 10 years to see us. A woman says she last saw us 4 years ago in Santa Cruz and she was so moved by the experience that her boyfriend has been ordered to attend this evening. The show is great with an enthusiastic encore. In bed by 5 a.m. Our bodies are light feathers made of lead. Sleep until noon. Sushi for breakfast. In Los Angeles, we drive into the venues parking lot and a black guy says that will be $2, we pay, only to discover he was just some guy passing by. Almost run out of gas on the way back up the coast to San Luis Obispo, thankfully a 6% downgrade appeared at the right time. Stop to watch surfers in Pismo Beach and I buy a Fugazi record. In San Luis Obispo, Mecca Normal is only 2 songs into our set when the promoter Melissa says the police have closed us down because of a noise bylaw. At the Agenda Lounge in San Jose we get a standing ovation at the end of the set. Stay at the bookers place, where I sleep in a room with nothing but a shag rug on the floor. I’m up first and go bring back coffees from McDonald’s. In Davis we stay with a booker who seems to be obsessed with surveillance equipment. Heading north we listen to another book on tape by Emberto Eco, the story of a man who wakes up on an abandoned ship. Take a detour off the I5 and visit a gold rush ghost town, it turns out to be the location where the old TV show Gunsmoke was filmed. Encore in Eugene. Stay with Robert and Denise. I get a couch.

Mecca Normal set list, August, 1996:
1. Water Cuts My Hands
2. Armchairs Fit Through Doorways
3. Her Ambition
4. Breathing In The Dark
5. Don’t Shoot
6. Tower Island
7. Revival of Cruelty
8. The Dogs
9. Struggles the Clown
10. I Walk Alone
11. Throw Silver
12. Drive At
13. Prize Arm
14. When You Know

“For 11 years, this Vancouver, B.C. duo has explored diverse frontiers both sonic and lyrical, distinguished by David Lester’s transgressive guitar work and vocalist Jean Smith’s crooning alto.” – The San Francisco Bay Guardian

Jean Smith is a featured writer at the 14th Annual Sechelt Writers Festival in B.C. She performs with Mecca Normal. Other writers at the festival include, Jeannette Armstrong, M.A.C. Farrant, Brian Fawcett, and Patrick Moore.

Mecca Normal play a show at the Impala (Los Angeles) with Nothing Painted Blue.

“Mecca Normal is fuelled by minimalistic, but incredibly creative songwriting and punk energy, accentuated by Lester’s Townsend-esque windmill guitar-playing.” – Chico News & Review

“I don’t know squat about this band (Mecca Normal), but if they’re on the Cal Poly student-run station, they must be weird at the very least.” – The Arts (San Luis Obispo, CA)

“In a business where integrity often disappears at the wave of a dollar, the members of Mecca Normal maintain a rare devotion to their art. — Richard Martin, Willamette Week (Portland, OR)

“I’ve never viewed this as a fleeting thing that we’ve done in our youth that we’ll get over. My parents are waiting for me to get over this stage. I’m going to be 37 tomorrow, and I’m not yet nearing the point where I’m going to get over this stuff.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Richard Martin, Willamette Week (Portland, OR)

“I can’t believe it. We’re amazed that we can do this 10 years on, and what we’ve tried to point out is that eventually, longevity becomes a factor. A lot of people do give up because they simply can’t make it work financially, or fashion tells them that they are not acceptable anymore. So for us to keep doing this, no matter what the fashion is, then it becomes a kind of radical statement in itself. That’s exciting. And to be getting older and to be able to play this type of music is exhilarating.” – David Lester interviewed by Richard Martin, Willamette Week (Portland, OR)

“Mecca Normal is aesthetically radical.” – David Lester interviewed by John Payne, LA Weekly (Los Angeles, CA)

“When you’re in your early 20s or younger, you feel you need to respond to your feminist, social and political concerns, but you don’t really trust that your audience is as incredibly brilliant as you are. So you have to yell these platitudes at them, because you suddenly figured it all out like a ton of bricks have fallen on you. But you learn that you don’t have to hit people over the head with information, that if you ease up on your own observations, you can discover things in your observations.” – Jean Smith interviewed by John Payne, LA Weekly (Los Angeles, CA)

“On The Eagle & The Poodle, Lester again treats the guitar with discomfort, like it’s someone else’s baby he’s been asked to hold for awhile.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by John Payne, LA Weekly (Los Angeles, CA)

“This music finds liberation in claustrophobia. It’s a finely drawn, non-improvised sound wall where every instrument and voice carries equal weight; each part molds the character of the others.” — review of The Eagle & The Poodle by John Payne, LA Weekly (Los Angeles, CA)

“This kind of music we create, is in the interest of the essence of each piece, each note, and the beauty that can be found in that. It’s the antithesis of the rock video, the change every half second. We appreciate holding down one chord for as long as possible. It would be a glorious achievement for us if we could pare it down even further.” – David Lester interviewed by John Payne, LA Weekly (Los Angeles, CA)

“If people sit there and look at their watches, that can be irritating – then I have to go tip their tables over. The audience does need to realize that they are part of the equation.” – Jean Smith interviewed by John Payne, LA Weekly (Los Angeles, CA)

“When we were precursors [to Riot Grrrl], we didn’t know what was going on. When you’re a part of it, you don’t recognize your own slot.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Rachel Leibrock Davis, News & Review (Sacramento, CA)

“Forget Rancid, Offspring and Green Day. Forget the Sex Pistols. The most important punk band of the ’90s is Mecca Normal.” – profile by Rachel Leibrock Davis, News & Review (Sacramento, CA)

“I think when people talk about punk, it’s the essence of what was an ideal: making music yourself, exploring what you want to do without boundaries. It has less to do with a stylistic sense. We approach music from our own sensibilities. We’re not ruled by fashion shifts that come along every few years. The idea is to maintain the dignity you have within.” – David Lester interviewed by Rachel Leibrock Davis, News & Review (Sacramento, CA)

“I am dropping off the enclosed current copy of Rockrgrl and a t-shirt for you. My daughter, Carla DeSantis, of whom I am quite proud, is the publisher and editor in chief of the zine. Carla also told me that Slim Moon from Kill Rock Stars has spoken very highly of you and was planning to do an article on Mecca Normal for Rockrgrl. I am a retired person and now feel I would be too conspicuous if I went to hear you this evening.” – from a letter left for Mecca Normal at the Agenda Lounge, San Jose, CA

“I also wanted to especially thank you for ‘Don’t Shoot ’til you see the whites of their eyes’, one of my favorite moments in all of music…” – letter to Mecca Normal from Glenn McDonald, Cambridge, MA

Mecca Normal’s I Walk Alone is played at a Take Back The Night march in Vancouver.

“I don’t know about you, but I miss Mecca Normal’s punkier side. Strange: now that they have a drummer, they’ve gotten quieter.” – review of the acoustic Paris In April 7” in Discorder (Vancouver, BC)

“Our views maybe confrontational or a bit quirky and it’s maybe a good thing that other people view that as a forum to say, ‘Well, I don’t agree with you.’ That’s part of the social process. Not everybody has to be compressed into one thin band of mainstream.” – Jean Smith interviewed for a cover story by Elvira Balakshin, Discorder (Vancouver, BC)

“Vancouver rocks. And we love Jean Smith.” – King Coffey, Butthole Surfers

“I was singing a tune around the house, ‘A Fairey Found a Farthing on a Dusty Windowsill,’ and my mom said, ‘What is that? Sing that again.’ So I sang it with all my heart again, and she said ‘That is the worst thing I’ve ever heard. That is terrible.’ I thought that was so cruel to get this little kid to do it again so you can listen critically and say ‘You’re awful.’ So I didn’t sing for awhile. But when I did sing again all hell broke loose.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Thomas Peake, Stomp & Stammer (Atlanta, GA)

“The bottom line is that we’re still weirdos.” – David Lester interviewed by Thomas Peake, Stomp & Stammer (Atlanta, GA)

“It’s okay if you’re a blues musician or a jazz musician to carry on to be 60 or 70. But what about rock musicians? What about all these idealistic young people playing music – so they just give up? Is that really what the point of this is? To give up?” – David Lester interviewed by Thomas Peake, Stomp & Stammer (Atlanta, GA)

“I suppose that’s a theme that comes up again and again in the album [Eagle & The Poodle], the idea of taking a course and having it sidetrack you from other possibilities you could have developed in your life.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Thomas Peake, Stomp & Stammer (Atlanta, GA)

“There is no way to be pure, especially as soon as you’ve defined yourself within a doctrine whether it be feminism or communism or anarchism, you were then throwing this lasso over your morality and your own humanness.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Thomas Peake, Stomp & Stammer (Atlanta, GA)

“Mecca Normal’s aesthetic body politic shares a rare ability, a la Czech novelist-in-self-imposed-exile Milan Kundera — to make the political personal. — Thomas Peake, Stomp & Stammer (Atlanta, GA)

“Lester’s guitars are as inventive as ever. Gracefully attacking and lulling, he has captured Smith’s emotional range in strings.” — Thomas Peake, Stomp & Stammer (Atlanta, GA)

“When I started making music, it wasn’t really because I was itching to be in a band and therefore had to find something to say. I wanted to express those ideas [feminism] in particular, as well as other ideas about poverty and the way our system is organized, ideas about electoral politics and so on.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Adam Gottlieb, Statik, CKUT, (Montreal, PQ)

“It seems like popular music has to a degree been reduced to platitudes for and by simpletons.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Adam Gottlieb, Statik, CKUT, (Montreal, PQ)

“Rock ‘n’ roll is probably the most stylistically conscious of all the musical forms, and it’s almost neurotically so. Sometimes I wish people would drop the neuroses and just get on with it, without worrying that you have to be 19 years old in order to write a good rock song. It’s not really that way, unless you believe it to be that way.” – David Lester interviewed by Adam Gottlieb, Statik, CKUT, (Montreal, PQ)

“It’s good to know how to do everything yourself first-hand but it’s not necessary to control every facet of your creative, touring or recording life. Find people that you really like to work with, get along with, enjoy and respect their input, those are the relationships worth developing.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Adam Gottlieb, Statik, CKUT, (Montreal, PQ)

“Those songs [on Calico Kills the Cat and Water Cuts My Hands], were a very powerful reaction to deal with, responding to physical and psychological violence against women. They were very direct, saying that this is not acceptable to me, to women or to society; this is not just a problem for women. It’s an overall problem that everybody knows about and has to face on one level or another. I think those songs in particular were also intended to be an inspiration to women to look at their own potential for self-expression through music.” – Jean Smith interviewed by Adam Gottlieb, Statik, CKUT, (Montreal, PQ)

Mecca Normal is asked by Vickie Starr of Girlie Action, for permission to use A Kind of A Girl for the feature film Ratchet. The song did not make the final edit. “The director (John Johnson) also loves your music, and he was sad that the song had to be removed. At any rate, thanks for all your help, and thanks for continuing to create amazing music.”

David Lester on guitar, backs poet Norman Nawrocki at his book launch for Rebel Moon (AK Press) at La Quena (Vancouver, BC)

Mecca Normal play Rock For Choice benefit with Team Dresch at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. Concert taped for broadcast on CBC Real Time radio program.

Sook Yin-Lee interview with Mecca Normal broadcast on Much Music (Canada).

Interview with Sleater-Kinney in Discorder Magazine (Vancouver, BC) 1996:
DISCORDER: Do you remember a singular moment, i.e. listening to a particular single or an album, or having been to a concert, that was the moment where it all made sense?
CORIN: One of them was in high school, on my senior prom night, or whatever they have in high school. I went and saw Mecca Normal. They opened for Fugazi…. Mecca Normal just completely blew me away.
CARRIE: I had gone to shows in Seattle for years in high school, but I guess it was just the first time that it was like ‘Oh, I can do this too.’ And also, just listening to the Jam or the Buzzcocks, or something, it never seemed like something I could be a part of except for as a listener.
DISCORDER: So was it the live experience that you’d say made it really clear for you?
CARRIE: I think so, but even just listening to the records was inspiration enough to go out and pick up a guitar. I actually already played music, and in high school had formed an all-girl band. That was pretty much a joke, even to the point that we had to consider it a joke because otherwise… it was too scary to take seriously…
DISCORDER: Was it a covers band?
CARRIE: No. I mean, we wrote our own songs, but we were just too… you know, there were the ‘real bands’ – those were the boy bands – and we were like a novelty band, because we were women.

Jean Smith records and produces a 12 song album called Give Me A Call by Duane Crone, a singer songwriter who had been performing 8 hours a day, 6 days a week for 11 years outside the liquor store on Commercial Drive in Vancouver, BC. The cassette is released on Smarten Up! Records.

In Punk Planet Magazine (Chicago, IL), Slim Moon picks The Eagle & The Poodle as one of his top 5 albums of the year.

The Rocket (Seattle, WA) selects The Eagle & The Poodle as one of the top 40 albums of the year in the Pacific Northwest.

Paris In April is on a comp CD released in Spain called Club Nasty Boots.

Playing guitar, David backs downtown eastside poet Bud Osborn at La Quena (Vancouver, BC)

1997

LIVE Mecca Normal — streaming KCRW Los Angeles, December 1997, songs from Who Shot Elvis? KCRW Los Angeles

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