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dimanche 17 mars 2013

Jennifer Baron Interview/ Garment District

Soeur de Jeff Baron le fondateur des Essex Green, Jennifer Baron qui a joué de la guitare et chanté au sein des Ladybug Transistor et de Saturnine avec Matt Gallaway, est une personnalité dans le monde de l’indie-pop. Talentueuse et généreuse, elle apporte sa griffe en jouant avec Kevin Ayers et Gary Olson sur la reprise en français de May I. Jennifer est une artiste impressionnante, qui ne cesse de m’étonner au fil du temps et à qui je voue une admiration sans bornes. Originaire de Pittsburg, diplômée du Brooklyn Museum of Art, la musicienne auteur-compositeur est actuellement en studio pour enregistrer de nouveaux morceaux après avoir signer, sous l’alias Garment District, l’album Melody Elder en 2011 sur cassette avec le label Night-People puis récemment un EP chez French label Radar Station, label français dont le nom va comme un gant à l’univers musical de l’artiste américaine. Jennifer a eu la gentillesse, le tact charmant de répondre de manière détaillée, référencée, à mon interview au beau milieu de ses sessions d’enregistrement. Ci-joint à la suite de la chronique Melody Elder.



Melody Elder est une concentration d’ambiances lunaires, une oeuvre fascinante signée Garment District qui dissèque, bricole avec science, mais aussi libère toute sa musicalité et sa sensibilité via une esthétique incroyable avec la participation brillante de Kevin Smith aux rythmiques et ingénieurie. Jennifer Baron fait planer le mystère avec une grâce jaillissante dans chaque titre de Melody Elder. Son prodige instinctif, sa mémoire et sa filiation musicale, Syd Barrett, Kinks, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Neil-Young y sont pertinents et admirables. On Air, en ouverture de bal, est une ritournelle qui reste en tête et fait naturellement opiner de la tête tellement elle est rythmée par la guitare et le mélodica, voltigeants. Venant d’un orgue et d’un synthétiseur, évoquant volontairement le domaine du futur, une ambiance cosmique, la mélodie nous invite d’emblée dans l’univers musical pop et psychédélique de Jennifer. The Parlance poursuit dans le thème, et on imagine des martiens aimables, green aux allures hippies débarquent sur la planète avec des guitares et des claviers psyché. Puis l’excellent Bird or Bat, là encore marque l’oreille efficacement, donnant furieusement envie de déhanchés dévergondés à son écoute, est le premier titre chanté. Le xylophone, éminent, harmonieux accompagne les claviers et la voix angélique de Lucy Blehar, cousine de Jennifer ce qui est élégamment annoncé dans le break qui suit nommé I am not The Singer. Nature-Nature et son synthétiseur puissant, annonce les sujets proches de la nature et apporte la texture conceptuelle fabuleuse, un tuteur et une chronométrie au disque. La pop psychédélique, alternative et expérimentale habille l’album qui se déroule comme un film, une suite d’images ordonnées à la perfection. La batterie langoureuse de Supermoon amène le processus auditif en apesanteur, les synthétiseurs nous font voyager dans l’espace de manière cohérente et absorbante avec Bird or Bat Reprise et le son vibrant, oscillant, tandis que Highway Mountain Hymnal Rain tente de rester en contact avec les ondes terrestres quand la transmission difficile est enfin captée sur Apple Bay Day. Là, la mélodie m’évoque une scène des martiens, pâquerette à l’oreille, dansant une ronde mirifique dans un verger en fleurs. Quand un chant de muezzin moins champêtre nous ramène sur terre sur Gaza Drift, changeant brillamment de tonalité, en quittant brusquement le domaine féerique définitivement avec Push, qui boucle avec éclat et réussite l’ensemble des titres. Push propose un sample émouvant tiré d'un projet artistique sonore de 1980 appelé The Apology Line par son auteur Allan Bridge, plus tard adapté en livre puis adapté au cinéma. Melody Elder est conquérant, magnifique d’ambiances, de messages libres d’interprétation, un travail de composition remarquable, une performance sonore. L'album montre tout le riche univers artistique de Jennifer Baron, qui se dévoile, magistrale ! 

Hommage : S’il y a une autre planète habitée de pop orchestrale et psychédélique à explorer, loin des contingences politiques et religieuses, nous éspèrons, Jennifer et moi, que Kevin Ayers s’y repose en paix. 





INTERVIEW 
Thank you so much Jennifer for your answers... Not an icon, you are becoming a real indie-pop landmark, a riche reference and a source of enthousiasm for Piggledy Pop and his readers. 

What were your dreams when you were 10? 
At age 10, I dreamed about being a writer and an artist, having more cats and traveling. I used to create collages and homemade books with different subject matter and themes. My mom saved most of my childhood artwork, so I am able to revisit my childhood imagination from time to time. 


What were activities when you were 20?
At 20, I felt the usual combination and fluctuation of urgency, confusion, idealism, experimentation, and wanderlust that comes with that age. I also felt very fortunate to be able to attend Mount Holyoke College, which has a magical campus feeling with inspiring Gothic architecture, and brilliant faculty, in a small Western Massachusetts town--it was quite idyllic. I met inspiring women from around the world--India, Nepal, England, Serbia--many of us are still in touch. I had the life changing opportunity to study abroad at York University in Northern England, where I fell in love with the landscape, history and music scene. At 20, my mind was completely focused on living in New York City, an obsession that began in high school, especially after visiting my aunt there when I was 16. I drove straight to Brooklyn during the summer after my college graduation to start a Museum Education Internship at the Brooklyn Museum of Art, and lived in New York City for 10 wonderful years.

Today, many of my dreams are of course are highly personal and private, but one that never fades is to live in a cozy house by the sea, such as in Humboldt County, California, with my husband Greg and our Chocolate Labrador Retriever Bailey, along with our records, books and vintage housewares, and to make music by the ocean and walk next to the waves every single day. I always wish to travel more, and dream of living in cities like Barcelona and Stockholm, where I have been so lucky to your with my old band The Ladybug Transistor. Travel is on my mind quite often, and I feel the urge to experience other cultures on a regular basis. South America, Indonesia, New Zealand, and Iceland are high on my list. More dreams? Having the magical power to live in the year 1967; being able to talk to my grandparents again; living on a planet inhabited by many more animals; and permanently clearing space in my life for creating more music and art. 


How do you imagine yourself at 80?
Living by the ocean with my husband Greg and at least one large dog, playing lots of board games, listening to and making music, tending a small garden, and drinking summery cocktails on a big porch with friends and relatives.

I'd like to live similar to my great-grandmother, Peggy "Nana" Beach, who lived to be 1010. Nana was incredibly independent minded, and kept an apartment with a balcony well into her 90s, entertaining friends, telling stories and enjoying a glass of wine each night.: )
Off to brunch! What was your part in Saturnine? 
I played guitar and sang back-ups in Saturnine. We recorded numerous albums and 45s on Dirt Records and toured in the US and Canada. I coincidentally met guitarist-vocalist Matt Gallaway when I went over to his apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn to have dinner with his roommate, whom I had met in college. All of a sudden, Matt and I realized that we had many uncanny things in common. I lived a few streets away in Park Slope, and we were stunned to find out that we had grown up in the same part of Pittsburgh, though we had not met because he went to boarding school in Michigan. We started playing music together instantly, and he built a rehearsal space in the basement of his apartment. It became a regular gathering place for us, our friends, and fellow musicians, visual artists and filmmakers, during the mid-1990s in Park Slope. 


What was the first musical participation and when did you meet Gary Olson to become a Ladybug Transistor member?
I first met Gary in the early-1990s; we attended a lot of the same shows and art openings in the East Village and parties in Brooklyn. While I was playing with Saturnine and he was playing with Azalia Snail and in an early incarnation of Ladybug, we played shows together, such as the somewhat legendary show at the now defunct Threadwaxing Space in SoHo. The show was turned into a compilation that was released on LP/CD, featuring artwork by Steve Keene, and songs by Saturnine, Azalia Snail, Guided By Voices, The Sea and Cake, Giant Sand, Slant 6, and Blonde Redhead.
I first started playing in Ladybug in about 1995, when Gary asked me to join the band (my brother Jeff had joined on guitar after I introduced Gary to Jeff), and soon after in about 1996, we toured in Switzerland with Sportsguitar (Matador), which was an incredible experience! I taught myself to play bass at that time and soon after I moved into Marlborough Farms in Flatbush, Brooklyn where we had a studio.

You contribute on the wonderful cover Puis-Je of Kevin Ayers with Gary Olson. Which was your part? Merci, Marie-agnes! I played guitar and percussion. This remains one of the musical highlights of my life. All these years later, I still cannot believe this actually happened. Even though I knew well of Kevin's demons, I am deeply saddened by his death last month in France. There is no other musical figure quite like Kevin Ayers and he continues to blow my mind and inspire me to make music. Joy of A Toy is a constant presence in my life and source of inspiration, and has been for so many years. I feel so deeply honored that he agreed to sing on our version of this song. We recorded all of the instruments at our Marlborough Farms studio in Brooklyn (where we were living at the time) and then sent the song to England, where Kevin recorded his vocals at a studio in London. 


How old were you at your first gig? Do you think playing lives young helps and encourage to create music, is a motor or a motivation. What part of music do you prefer?
the laboratory work process in rehearsal in studios or to play live in front of the audience? I was in theater company in high school and I performed at some coffeehouse shows in college, so my first show as part of a band was not entirely a brand new performance experience. That said, there is nothing that can compare to playing your first live show in New York City as part of a band, and it was definitely a turning point for me. Saturnine played our first show at a party at our friend Joe Gaer's (his nickname was Joe Show, because he was a fixture in the Downtown Manhattan music scene, present at every show I can remember) house in the financial district of lower Manhattan. To live there during the early 1990s was fairly pioneering, and his space was a spawning loft that seemed massive and wonderfully cavernous to me. I instantly fell in love with performing live, just as I had instantly fallen in love with New York. 

The first concert I attended was Peter, Paul & Mary at The Stanley Theatre in Pittsburgh with my mom, when I was in elementary school. My mom used to sing “Stewball” to us—my three brothers and me—all of the time when we were children, and she named her dog after the song//horse. My first concert alone with friends getting dropped off by parents was The Kinks, Civic Arena, when I was in junior high.

I do not prefer one aspect of music making over another; I love writing, recording and performing live equally.

  

Whatever was the reason of your leaving after Ladybugs, I know you travel around the world with Ladybug Transistor playing guitar with Gary on stage, in Paris for example. What did you do after that? (babies, wedding, day-to-day work, etc..) and were you still playing music at home, with plans and envies to go back for rehearsal or on stage? 
When I left NYC, I took the position of Education Director at the Mattress Factory, a museum of contemporary art and residency program in Pittsburgh. I was ready for a change in life and new scenery, and I was excited about the challenge of creating educational programming focusing on contemporary art, a passion of mine and the subject I studied in college. One of my favorite artists, James Turrell, organized a major retrospective at the Mattress Factory, and I also got to work on programming for a Cuban Art exhibition, as well as for installations by artists I greatly admire, such as Yayoi Kusama, Kiki Smith, Rolf Julius, Forcefield, and many more.

In 2011, I co-produced a 200-page color photography book on vintage signs called, The Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania (Carnegie Mellon University Press), that was featured on Boing Boing. I contributed many photographs to the book and also received a grant to support the publication. I also help run Handmade Arcade, Pittsburgh's first and largest annual DIY/indie craft fair, which features more than 150 indie designers from around the United States. 



Your new project The Garment District is on the way with an EP came out these days on the French label Radar Station and your album Melody Elder released on cassette on Night-People in 2011. Would you like to come back in Paris to introduce your new material? 
Absolument! Bientôt je l'espère. I toured in France with Ladybug many years ago, and I also traveled through France during college, and I would love to return soon. If I don’t travel I feel claustrophobic and landlocked. I miss traveling on a semi-regular basis to Europe, and would love to return to the beautiful country of France. One of my best friends from college lives in Paris. Even at a distance, I do feel the support of French listeners and writers. I am incredibly grateful for the support of Jerome and Fleur, who run La Station Radar, and for all of the work they put into releasing my new three-song 45. I am thrilled with the results. I am also extremely grateful for the support and enthusiasm of French music journalists Tibo Novo (Hartzine) Joseph Ghosn (Obsession), who have reviewed my music, interviewed me, and invited me to curate mix tapes:


What were your musical influences when you were teenage, then later? What did inspired you for Melody Elder? How was doing the creation’s process? Did your write lyrics? what came first? music or lyrics? How do you work when ideas come to you?
I write all of the music and lyrics for The Garment District. Two songs on Melody Elder (Push and Highway Mountain Hymnal Rain) were collaborations with Oakland, California-based sound artist Kevin C. Smith. When I write music, I don’t concretely or consciously think about influence. I focus on listening to what is in my head and interpreting and giving it form via sound, melody, and texture. My hope is that it takes on a new life that is out of my control cerebrally. I think more in terms of inspiration as an energy force, rather than a traceable or literal influence. Things seep into your subconscious and may end up making their way into your artistic voice in unrecognizable or partially discernible ways. 

Growing up, our house was filled with LPs, cassettes and 8-tracks—records by the Beach Boys, Beatles, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Donovan, Neil Young, and Van Morrison were some of our first toys—so I was fortunate to feel like I had a private listening library to share with my brother Jeff. My parents raised my three brothers and me on what I call the "Leonard-Cohen-Bob-Dylan-Neil-Young-Trinity," so I was hooked on certain music at a pre-verbal age. My husband Greg (he runs a tape label called As Above So Below, which released the first two RANGERS tapes and the debut release by North Carolina-based Dreams West) has an astounding vinyl collection, so we often have turntables going on both floors.

Among the first albums I bought as a child were compilations of “hits” from the 1950s-1970s. One in heavy rotation included Napoleon XIV’s “They're Coming to Take Me Away” (1966), The Coasters’ “Yakety Yak” (1958) and Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs “Li’l Red Riding Hood” (1966). Those songs all have catchy melodies paired with evocative imagery and narratives to stir a child’s curiosity and imagination. They got lodged in my brain and I still love them, and instantly associate them with childhood. 

I was recently asked in an interview to name my favorite album of all time, which is too difficult to do. I pretty much stink at best/worst/favorite questions! I think of music as one giant ever-morphing soundtrack to life. Albums that provide me with a constant source of inspiration are: Kaleidoscope: Tangerine Dream; Love: Forever Changes; The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds; Judy Henske and Jerry Yester: Farewell Aldebaran; The Golden Dawn: Power Plant; Syd Barrett: The Madcap Laughs; Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers; Donovan: A Gift From a Flower to a Garden; Mayo Thompson: Corky’s Debt to His Father; John Phillips: John, the Wolf King of L.A.; John Cale: Paris 1919 and Vintage Violence; Songs of Leonard Cohen; The Left Banke: Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina; Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets; Kevin Ayers: Joy of a Toy; The Zombies: Odyssey and Oracle; The Kinks: Arthur; New Order: Movement & Power Corruption & Lies; Joe Week: I Hear a New World; Manuel Göttsching: E2-E4; Lee Hazelwood: Cowboy in Sweden; Harald Grosskopf: Synthesist; R. Stevie Moore: Meet The R. Stevie Moore; Jack Nitzsche: The Lonely Surfer; and Jim Sullivan: UFO.

Since I was a teenager, I have been drawn to a massive range of music--including 1950s-1970s psychedelia, folk, pop, garage, freakbeat; 1950s-1960s rock steady and ska; early electronic music; free jazz; 1980s NYC hip hop; 1970s-1980s pop and new wave from Scotland, New Zealand and Australia; and film soundtracks, interstitials and TV, video and cartoon themes. 

New(er) music I have been listening to a lot lately includes Samantha Glass, White Fence, KWJAZ, Rangers, Liam Hayes, Matrix Metals, Wet Hair, Euros Childs, Halasan Bazar, Destroyer, The Cyclist, War on Drugs. Some of my favorite music from the 1980s and 1990s is still just as inspiring to me, such as Neutral Milk Hotel, Beachwood Sparks, Broadcast, The Aislers Set, Galaxie 500, The Olivia Tremor Control, The Clean, Swell Maps, Television Personalities, Yellow Magic Orchestra, The Go-Betweens, The Velvet Underground, Tall Dwarfs, The Feelies, Psychic TV, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Game Theory. There are also so many amazing reissues to keep up with that it makes my head spin. Films from the 1960s-1980s have also always inspired me. I view a passion for film, photography, music and design as more of a nebulous inspiration and energy, than a direct and traceable or literal influence. There is music that I know will always just BE in my life, and then there is that amazing moment when you discover a new band or a hear a reissue of something you have never heard before, when you realize how crucial it is to always keep your mind open, listening and waiting. 




Do you ask to someone to have a listening and to offer advices or did you go straight ahead in creation, confident in composing your songs?
I work from what I hear in my head and from experiments with the mostly vintage equipment I have at home. I share a lot of my ideas with my husband Greg and he plays synth on one of my brand new songs, which I am currently finishing up now. I make music in something of a cocoon. I completed my new 7" and Melody Elder basically in a vacuum of my own mind, blocking out some of the hazards that can sometimes be associated with any place in time, locale or scene. Currently I am finishing mixes for a new full-length album, and I got to work with an amazing drummer and bassist on five of the new songs. 


You write all the songs and play all instruments on Melody Elder and your cousin Lucy Blehar sings. Will you play guitar or synth on stage and will you sing? how many musicians will play with you for the lives? Do you consider to play acoustic gigs sometimes? 
I love to perform live and hope to do so more frequently as The Garment District, because I have mainly been focusing on recording up to this point. The arrangements and lineup depends upon the show. Live, my music can work as a full orchestrated group or as a more minimal approach. I could play keyboards, guitar or bass depending upon the set and the song selection. When I performed at the 2012 VIA Music & New Media Festival (opening for LA-based musician Julia Holter) in October 2012 at The Andy Warhol Museum, I played keyboards and put together a lineup of multi-instrumentalists that featured Orlando 'Buscrates' Marshall (ELQ), d/s/miller (Dynamo Sound Collective), Greg Langel (As Above So Below Tapes), Liz Adams (Lohio), and Matt Booth (City Dwelling Nature Seekers). The multi-media set was accompanied by videos created by Keith Tassick (Pittsburgh), Albert Birney (Philadelphia) and Ryan Emmett (Pittsburgh), as well as a video that I filmed in Pittsburgh with my step-dad. Here is a video clip: 




If you had the choice, what band would you dream of to share the stage for one night? (dead or alive)
Syd Barrett, Marc Bolan, Euro Childs (Gorky's Zygotic Mynci), John Cale 


Some songs have the psychedelic vein, were you looking for this effect and do you like psyche music? Merci; I love psychedelic music for sure! I am intrigued by the intersection of different kinds of sounds or ways of making music. I do not think of my music, or any in general, as confined to a category or a description that is limited by language. I feel a personal connection to music, art and film that embody a psychedelic nature, and I also love melody, soundtracks, incidental sounds, and both arranged orchestrated pop and free-form experimentation. I am very interested in some kind of convergence between highly orchestrated, pristine pop music and the vibe/feel of more ambient experimental stuff, and in contradictions like wanting to have control and letting go. I think there’s something akin to alchemy, or maybe having a fever, about writing music. It’s difficult to discuss and sometimes best to keep the process hidden or private.

I will leave the effect mostly up to the perceptions and imaginations of listeners, and to you, to create your own experience. When I write music, I don’t concretely or consciously think about effect or message or influence. I try to focus on listening to what is in my head and interpreting and giving it form via sound, instrumentation, melodies, and texture. My hope is that it takes on a new life that is out of my control cerebrally. I genuinely hope that meaningful relationships and visceral connections are formed between listeners and my music. I suppose there is always a tension in mind between wanting to experience and feel every fleeting moment and embrace the parts of life that are elusive and temporary and this attachment I have to objects and permanent sounds or documentation of existence.



The cover of Melody Elder is awesome and really arty. It’s from Jesse Treece. Your new video for Nature-Nurture made by the filmmaker Keith Tassick was selected for Design, Art and Technology Awards by the Pittsburgh Technology Council. The videos feature 700 photographs you took. So, with photography and music, your artistic skills are rich! are you interested in other forms of art? Does the talking part in Push come from a movie?
The artwork for Melody Elder was designed by Shawn Reed, who runs Night-People and is in the band Wet Hair. With Melody Elder, this was my first time being involved in a release that I did not have a direct hand in designing/packaging. I admire the consistent visual aesthetic of Night-People, particularly Shawn’s rigorous process and his use of color, texture, line and collage. It was unknown territory for me—a challenge personally—to have to let go of that stage of the process, especially since I am a very visual person. It’s an honor for me to have my music represented in the visual way he created. In high school, when I purchased tapes, I would often remake the artwork myself, and I still have crates filled with them. I am mesmerized by the precious and limited-edition nature of tapes. It’s a kind of cultural currency. Tapes are both raw and clunky but also magical. This thin tiny fragile strip of tape holds so much information, energy, effort, and communication. Releasing a tape was also natural extension of my participation in the DIY/indie craft scene. 

The artwork for my new 7" was designed by Seattle-based collage artist Jesse Treece, who I met via communication on Tumblr. His collage work, source material and visual references really resonate with me, and I am in awe of his meticulous process. The experience was ideal, and we exchanged ideas over the distance, as he developed collages for the front and back covers and the labels. I am honored to have his vision for the packaging and I think it is the perfect visual representation for my music. Even though we have never met in person, we have become connected and shared an expression through this process. collageartbyjesse 



Melody Elder is a kaleidoscope of themes like the nature, the cosmos, music, different territories and cultures. Are you feeling well in the country or in a city? which one? 
Merci, Marie-agnes! I really appreciate those thoughtful words. My inner mindset is a shifting place, when I think about locations. I currently feel a bit landlocked where I live now, and my ultimate desire would be to live closer to the ocean. I am definitely drawn to the outdoors and to nature, and I need to have nature as a regular constant part of my life, even if only in minor or mundane ways. I try to consciously build in moments for this. But I also love cities and urban architecture and typography, so I exist in more of a duality. In Pittsburgh, I am inspired by the topography, art scene and museums, architecture, neighborhoods, thrift shops, record stores, independent businesses, and history. One of my favorite things about Pittsburgh is its remarkable role in America’s music history, in terms of jazz, soul and funk (Kenny Clarke, Billy Strayhorn, Gene Ludwig, Henry Mancini, Beaver Harris, Roger Humphries), rock and roll (Fantastic Dee-Jays, Swamp Rats, Bo Didley's guitarist The Duchess, Todd Tamanend Clark, The Cynics) and 1950s/1960s pioneering DJs, teen dance clubs and pop hits. This is where tastemaking DJs such as Terry Lee, Mad Mike and Porky Chedwick created hits for many obscure groups and where songs like Tommy James's "Hanky Panky" were literally revived and made into hits here—so music is in this city's fabric. Pittsburgh’s architecture deserves more international attention: with everything from the Alcoa Building (first aluminum skyscraper in the US) to beautiful buildings by H.H. Richardson, Mies van der Rohe, Paul Schweikher, and Frank Lloyd Wright. There is such a distinct intersection of labor, innovation, art, and creativity embedded in Pittsburgh. 


Basic and a tiny bit in Proust style questions for the end (Saturnine and his indie rock opera Remembrance of Things Past) : what’s your favorite color, favorite word? Your heroine in World history? Your favorite heroine in fiction? If not yourself, who would you be?
I think of color in terms of combinations: orange and turquoise; pink and brown; yellow and brown; orange and pink; gold and green.
So many heroines in history, fiction and music to celebrate! 
History: Frida Kahlo 
Music: Delia Derbyshire, Daphne Oram, Judy Henske, Nico, Sandy Denny, Dorothy Moskovitz, Carole King, Carol Kaye 
If not myself, a dolphin.