-
neumu
Sunday, April 20, 2014 
-
-
--archival-captured-cinematronic-continuity error-daily report-datastream-depth of field--
-
--drama-44.1 khz-gramophone-inquisitive-needle drops-picture book-twinklepop--
-
Neumu = Art + Music + Words
Search Neumu:  

illustration



edited by michael goldbergcontact


Freakwater's Janet Bean Takes A Solo Turn

Chicago — Janet Bean opts for a cozy two-seat table in the bar of 312 Chicago, a mahogany and marble-bedecked restaurant in Chicago's loop. It's nearly 5 p.m., and a matinee of The Lion King lets out next door. Bean, attired in a tailored suit, fits in with the post-theater crowd and the many business people who populate the bar.

In fact, Bean — a veteran musician, who founded and performed in Freakwater, a lauded collaboration with Catherine Irwin, and, perhaps more eminently, Eleventh Dream Day, also a critical favorite — still has a "day job" working in a lawyer's office in a nearby skyscraper.

Wearing a burgundy skirt and matching jacket, Bean, who has an 11-year-old son, Matthew, appears to fit the corporate image. She doesn't look anything like the typical "indie rocker," nor like a recording artist whose quite wonderful first solo album, Janet Bean and the Concertina Wire's Dragging Wonder Lake, has been released on Thrill Jockey.

The album is rooted in warm Americana soundscapes but centers on Bean's lyrics, which chronicle a year in her life. The tracks are fleshed out with cellos, pedal steel and airy keyboards. "I've always fancied the notion of making a record along the lines of — I love the fusion of the looseness and the jazz sensibilities and the melodic sensibilities and the sadness of [Van Morrison's] Astral Weeks, and so I'd always thought that would be great," Bean said of the approach she took to recording Dragging Wonder Lake.

"That record," she said of Astral Weeks, "is sort of just the deal for me. I guess in that way, it was a touchstone that I had thought about. It was just as much that as my love of just over-the-top Burt Bacharach, like big, dramatic, just super-big pop melodrama — which is probably not a savvy business move really," she said, laughing at the continued prospects of good press (yes, the album has received raves) but low sales figures.

Sitting in the bar, Bean said she doesn't mind her day job; she likes her co-workers and her boss. She quips that not having to work would be ideal but that is just unrealistic at this point. She is seemingly amused by her double life.

Bean wraps a diaphanous shawl around her back and orders a glass of red wine. Her dyed-red hair, slightly darker than her outfit, is pulled back; she sits upright in her chair, her penetrating eyes darting between her wine glass and other bar patrons. Bean speaks hurriedly, but her mellifluous voice, with its prominent Southern drawl, allows her to expand her thoughts, granting a sense of purpose to each word, each complete thought.

Louisville, Skull of Glee and Freakwater

Bean's career as a musician began in the rather unlikely town of Louisville, Ky., where she moved at age 10, leaving Tampa, Fla. As a teenager she became part of Louisville's burgeoning music scene. "When I started becoming involved with [the local music scene] in 1981, they actually had the cover of the Village Voice — some friends of mine from Louisville, and their band called the Babylon Dance Band," she said. "So there was this thriving punk rock scene down there, but very, very small.

"There were a couple bands... I was in one called Skull of Glee, which really was this fabulous surf-meets-Roxy Music kind of band, a really odd, but great band."

Bean laughs when she recounts the names of her early musical projects. That band had an equally quirky roster of players. "At the time [the lead singer]...was in the process of going through hormone shots to get a sex change operation," she said. "So he was this odd, tall, giant, half-character. It was sort of a matter of never being able to afford the right shots and high blood pressure, so he was always in the middle. He was this really great character, really fabulous guy — still is."

Meanwhile, Bean met and befriended Irwin, with whom she began to explore Appalachian mountain music and traditional country sounds. "We started singing together — it was probably '82. It was sort of something to do," she said. "Catherine had her own apartment at the time, and she was pretty young to have her own apartment, so I was over there all the time just to get out of my family's house. We just sang Loretta Lynn songs or Tammy Wynette songs, and then there was like a punk rock club in town that had this open-mic night."

Bean explains that though she initially was put off by some mawkish country music, as she became more familiar with the genre she really got into it. "Even at that time in '82, that super-traditional country music and mountain music was considered pretty great... A lot of times when you're young like that, like 17, I guess you could think it was really just stupid and sentimental music, which, a lot of it, I did feel that way... But when I started singing with Catherine, it was just such fun music to sing because it was so melodic. And you can be big and dramatic. Nobody was really singing Burt Bacharach back then, so it had to be country music."

As time went on, the two women formed Freakwater, only it wasn't called Freakwater at first. Bean explains that the two appeared on several compilation CDs under sundry names including Heat from the Windchill Factory and Hog Butcher to the World. They also played some gigs under the name Mojo Wish Bean and the Trippy Squash Blossom.

Bean claims some responsibility the odd band monikers. "Generally, I guess, I've had a hand in naming most of them," she said. "Freakwater, I can't remember who came up with that. I think we were just driving around trying to think of something to call ourselves that wasn't Mojo Wish Bean and the Trippy Squash Blossom because that sounded so bad."

Bean said that in Freakwater's early days, Irwin provided her with an invaluable musical education, exposing her to bands and genres that influenced much of the group's sound. "I didn't have this breadth of knowledge about mountain music," she said. "And [Catherine's] family, her parents, were avid collectors of the Clancy Brothers records and Irish folk music so she had a bigger foundation... I sort of found out a lot in a short period of time."

Heading to Chicago: Forming Eleventh Dream Day

In 1981 Bean met singer/guitarist Rick Rizzo at the University of Kentucky; the two eventually became a couple. She joshes that, "I came back to Chicago to cast my spell upon him."

When she arrived in Chicago in 1983, Bean said, there wasn't an established music scene in which she felt comfortable playing. "It wasn't that much of a music scene here — I'm sure there was pop stuff going on...," she said. "There was more of a hardcore punk scene, and Rick and I weren't really interested in making that kind of music."

The two formed Eleventh Day Dream, with Bean becoming the group's drummer; she also sang. Recalling the band's development is difficult for Bean, though she acknowledges the influence of friends in the community. "I don't know how we got shows. I don't remember any of that," she said, laughing. "It's all kind of a blur to me. Just at the time there were some friends... it was a nice, kind of fun, friendly, small-town feel of bands. There certainly wasn't the idea that Chicago's the right place to be to play music. Not at all."

But Chicago provided the right community to nurture the band; Eleventh Dream Day were regarded as fine upstarts. The recorded an EP, Eleventh Dream Day and an album, Prairie School Freakout for the independent Amoeba label. They were critically lauded (Greil Marcus singled them out in his Interview column), caught the attention of Betina Richards (who went on to found Thrill Jockey) who was, at the time, in the A&R department at Atlantic Records. Richards signed them to Atlantic. The group's albums received adulatory press, but Eleventh Dream Day never found commercial success.

"I think that we're really highly rated, we're just underpaid," she said, laughing, about being dubbed Chicago's most underrated band in a recent issue of Chicago Magazine. "We certainly get a lot of great press and great reviews. We've been really super lucky that way. So, I wouldn't say the people that are doing the rating have really underrated us. Sometimes I think they attribute much more to us than we're really worthy of. But as far as sales, that could have been better.

"I like being the underrated band," she continued. "It's a nice comfortable position, because you're held with a certain amount of esteem and people root for you because you're like the Cubs or something. You don't really get too big for your britches that way."

Bean said working with a major label had its perks. "It was fun to drive around in Bentleys and go to photo shoots and stuff, and live the high life in a very tiny way," she said.

As time went on, the label tried to influence the band's sound. "I think on El Moodio it was our attempt to see if we could make songs that might somehow appeal to a wider audience. But it didn't really work," Bean said.

"On El Moodio [executives at Atlantic] picked the single to be this song that I sang," she said. "They'd fly you up there and you'd go into the offices and they'd schmooze you and do all this stuff. And they'd say, 'Don't worry about the numbers. You know girl singers aren't big this month' and they'll make some sort of crazy, preposterous comments like that. And it just seems so ridiculous. I think that because it was never our goal to be a huge success that it didn't make any difference to us. We were just excited that we got to keep on making records and critically we were doing fine. It was a fine experience."

Trying Out a Solo Career

Eventually, Atlantic dropped Eleventh Dream Day, though Bean and Rizzo continued to collaborate. The band currently records for Thrill Jockey; its most recent album was 2000's Stalled Parade. Bean also remained a member of Freakwater, recording and writing with Irwin. But an urge to record a solo album — something she calls less an conscious career move and more "just a matter of inertia or someone threatening" — came after suggesting Freakwater partner Irwin do the same.

"I couldn't tour so much," she said. "I was sort of mired in a relationship that was difficult to get away, so I told Catherine I thought it would be a really good idea, since she wanted to tour all the time, for her to make a record on her own, so she could tour on it. And I kind of wanted to make one on my own too in a way... the reason not being to tour, but just because I wanted to make one with all the possibilities that Chicago has to offer as far as musicians and studios."

Bean is at a loss for contemporary influences, mostly because she says she doesn't hear too much current music. Most recently she caught the Polyphonic Spree on late-night TV and was underwhelmed, if not completely disquieted; on the other hand, she said likes the recent Cat Power album, You Are Free.

It's not that Bean has an aversion to new music. She's just limited by technology. "It's sad to say, but I only have a mono hi-fi, like an old-fashioned hi-fi, and then a boom box," she said. "I don't have anything adequate to play music on, so it's regulated by those two devices. So, I don't really buy CDs because I don't really want to buy them for that damn little Magnavox boom box.

"And then my turntable, I love it, but it's really made to play old records, so I'll buy an old Randy Newman record or an old Led Zeppelin record or something," she said, continuing. "I buy those at thrift stores. I don't hear too much new music unless I'm with friends and I'll go, 'Oh, what's this? That sounds pretty good.'"

Bean has some wild fantasies about how she'd like to perform her album. "I'd love to have a big stage show," she said. "My secret fantasy is to have a stage version of it, like ABBA's Mamma Mia! And it starts out — and I'm not in it — people are playing the songs, like this really austere stage and a really white light, just playing the opening part of the song 'Suddenly' which is really spare. And then all of a sudden it's like BIG and then it jumps out and there's all kinds of dancing girls and stuff. It's like a combination of actual thoughtfulness as far as musicians go, and then absolute ridiculousness."

The album befits Bean's vaudeville-esque vision. The songs are typically jaunty despite some hefty themes. "It's a happy little record about desperation and regret," she teased.

And how does Bean manage to contain downbeat themes in happy sounds? "Maybe that comes around Freakwater and the actual history of mountain music and the storytelling aspect of it — like telling dark messages like 'Knoxville Girls,' which is a very dark song — and singing it in a very casual way, where there's no emotion whatsoever," Bean theorized. "These bouncy songs are conveying how somebody went down and murdered a girl on the banks of the Ohio River. I like giving a shiny front, and then the ugly underbelly is even more sinister, I suppose." — Brian Orloff [Wednesday, May 28, 2003]


Alejandro Escovedo's Joyous Rebirth

John Vanderslice Kicks Genre

Paul Duncan's Elusive Pop

Stephen Yerkey's Wandering Songs

French Kicks Complete 'Two Thousand'

Spazzy Romanticism: Love Story In Blood Red

Brain Surgeons NYC Rock The Big Questions

Jarboe's 'Men' Charts Turbulent Emotions

Delta 5's Edgy Post-Punk Resurrected

Blitzen Trapper Spiff Things Up

Minus Five: Booze, Betrayal, Bibles and Guns

New Compilation Spotlights Forgotten Folk Guitar Heroes

Chris Brokaw's Experiment In Pop

Old And New With Death Vessel

Silver Jews: Salvation And Redemption

Jana Hunter's Beautiful Doom

Vashti Bunyan Finds Her Voice Again

Nick Castro's Turkish Folk Delight

Katrina Hits New Orleans Musicians Hard

Paula Frazer's Eerie Beauty

The National Find Emotional Balance

Death Cab For Cutie's New Album, Tour

Heavy Trash's Rockabilly Rampage

Help The Wrens Get Their Albums Released!

Devendra Banhart, Andy Cabic Launch Label

Lydia Lunch's Noir Seductions

Bosque Brown's The Real Deal

PDX Pop Now! Fest Announces Lineup

Sarah Dougher Starts Women-Focused Label

Jennifer Gentle's Joyful Psyche

Mountain Goat Darnielle Gets Autobiographical With 'Sunset Tree'

Mia Doi Todd's Beautiful Collaboration

Return of the Gang of Four

Martha Wainwright Finds Her Voice

Brian Jonestown Massacre's Acid Joyride

Solo Disc Due From Pixies' Frank Black

Heartless Bastards' Big-Hearted Rock

Mike Watt's Midlife Journey

The Black Swans Balance Old And New

Nicolai Dunger's Swedish Blues

The Insomniacs' Hard-Edged Pop

Yo La Tengo Collection Due

Juana Molina's 'Homemade' Sound

Beans Evolves

Earlimart's Songs Of Loss

Devendra Banhart's 'Mosquito Drawings'

Negativland Rerelease 'Helter Stupid'

Alina Simone Transforms The Ordinary

Sounds From Nature: Laura Veirs

Octet's Fractured Electric Pop

Sleater-Kinney Working With Lips Producer

The Cult Of Silkworm

The Evolution Of The Concretes

Devendra Banhart's Exuberant New Songs

Catching Up With The Incredible String Band

Gram Rabbit's Desert Visions

Three Indie-Rock Stars Unite As Maritime

Remembering Johnny Ramone

Jarboe's Many Voices

Phil Elvrum's Long Hard Winter

First U.S. Release For Vashti Bunyan Album

Incredible String Band To Tour U.S.

New Music From Lydia Lunch

Le Tigre Protest The Bush War Presidency

Joel RL Phelps: Bleak Songs Rock Hard

Time Tripping With Galaxie 500

Patti Smith Wants Bush Out!

Sharron Kraus: A New Kind Of Folk Music

The Fiery Furnaces' Psychedelic Theater

Harder, Heavier Burning Brides

Sonic Youth's Ongoing Experiment

The Dt's Do It Their Way

Poster Children Cover Political Rock

Rare Thelonious Monk Recordings Due

Uneasy Pop From dios

Beck, Lips, Waits Cover Daniel Johnston

Understanding Franz Ferdinand

The Truly Amazing Joanna Newsom

Mylab's Boundary-Crossing Experiments In Sound

Have You Heard Jolie Holland Whistle?

The 'Magical Realism' Of Vetiver

The Restless, Rootsy Songs Of Eszter Balint

The Sun Sets On The Blasters

Devendra Banhart To Tour U.S.

The East/West Fusion Sounds Of Macha

Destroyer Gets Mellow For Your Blues

TV On The Radio Get Political

Sonic Youth, Modest Mouse To Play Lollapalooza 2004

New Music From The Fall

Apocalyptic Sound From The Intelligence

Fast And Rude With The Casual Dots

'Rejoicing' With Devendra Banhart

New Album, Tour From The Polyphonic Spree

Shearwater Take Wing

Sleater-Kinney To Tour East/West Coasts

Resurrecting Rocket From The Tombs

Visqueen Want To Get A Riot Goin' On

Lloyd Cole Makes A Commotion

Funkstörung's 'Cut-Up' Theory

Waiting For Mirah's C'mon Miracle

Electrelane Find Their Voice

The Television Is Still On!

Experimental Sounds From Hannah Marcus

The Ponys Play With Rayguns

Ex-Mono Men Leader Returns With The Dt's

Mountain Goats' Darnielle Adopts A More Hi-Fi Sound

Sun Kil Moon To Tour U.S., Europe

Nothin' But The Truth From The Von Bondies

Sultans Survive 'Shipwreck'

Sebadoh Reunite For Spring Tour

Xiu Xiu's 'Reality' Rock

Meet The Patients

Beth Orton, M. Ward Make Sadness Taste Sweet

Oneida's Pathway To Ecstasy

Radiohead, Pixies, Dizzee Rascal To Play Coachella

Young People Tour Behind War Prayers

Pixies Tour Dates Announced

Ani DiFranco Tells It Like It Is

Deerhoof Back For 2004 With Milkman

McLusky Set To 'Bring On The Big Guitars' Again

Pixies Reunite For U.S., European Tours

American Music Club, Decemberists To Play NoisePop 2004

Damien Rice Set To Tour U.S.

The Frames Accept Your Love

Punk Rock's A-Frames To Re-Record Third Album

Finally! Mission Of Burma Record New Album

A Solo Detour For Ladybug Transistor's Sasha Bell

Return Of The Old 97's

Spending The Night With Damien Rice

Tindersticks Reissues Due This Spring

The Evolution Of 'A Silver Mt. Zion'

Neil Young Rocks Australia With 'Greendale'

Poster Children Back In Action

'The Great Cat Power Disaster Of 2003'

Chicks On Speed's Subversive Strategies

Oranger At A Crossroad

Peaches On Tour And In Control

Jawbreaker's Complete Dear You Sessions To Be Released

Belle & Sebastian + Trevor Horn = Sunny Pop Nirvana

Von Bondies' Pawn Shoppe Heart

Descendents Are Back!

Modest Mouse Touring; Album Due in 2004

London Suede Take A (Permanent?) Break

Saul Williams Wants You To Think For Yourself

The 'Zen' Sound Of Calexico

Elliott Smith Dead AT 34

Debut Due From Mark Kozelek's Sun Kil Moon

The Hunches: Music That'll 'Fucking Live Forever'

Vic Chesnutt Speaks His Mind

90 Day Men Cancel Tour

Keith Jarrett, Cecil Taylor Highlight SF Jazz Festival

For My Morning Jacket, It's The Music That Matters

EP Due From The Polyphonic Spree

Bright Eyes, Neva Dinova Collaborate On EP

The Rise & Fall & Rise Of Ben Lee

Catching Up With Cheerfully Defiant Tricky

Hanging Around With The Polyphonic Spree

Sophomore Album Due From The Shins

Noise Rock From Iceland's Singapore Sling

Death Cab To Tour U.S.

Rufus Wainwright's Want One Is 'Family Affair'

Death Cab's Transatlanticism On The Way

Heartfelt Rock From Sweden's Last Days Of April

The Minus 5 Get Down With Wilco

Tywanna Jo Baskette's Southern-Gothic Rock

Xiu Xiu's Stewart Takes On 'Gay-bashing'

Portishead Producer Resurfaces Behind New Diva

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wire, Primal Scream On Buddyhead Comp

Yeah Yeah Yeahs To Tour West Coast

Sonic Youth, Erase Errata Kick Off 'Buddy Series'

The Locust Are One Scary Band

Damien Rice In The 'Here And Now'

Remembering Karp's Scott Jernigan

ATP-NY Postponed 'Til At Least 2004

The Soul Of Chris Lee

Gits' Frenching The Bully To See Re-Release

Stephen Malkmus Is In Control

Superchunk To Release Rarities Set; Teenage Girls To Swoon As A Result

Summer Touring For The Gossip

Babbling On About Deerhoof

Irish Song Poet Damien Rice's O Released In U.S.

Chatting With ATP's Barry Hogan

Former Digable Planets Frontman Surfaces With Cherrywine

ATP L.A. Festival Rescheduled For Fall

Freakwater's Janet Bean Takes A Solo Turn

Lee's 'Cool Rock'

Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs Highlight YES NEW YORK

Mark Romanek's 'Hurt' Revives Johnny Cash's Career

The Rapture's Post-Punk, Post-Dance Sound

R.E.M., Wilco, Modest Mouse Highlight Bumbershoot Fest

Set Fires To Flames' Sleep-Deprivation Sound

Southern Gothic Past Shadows Verbena's La Musica Negra

The Subtle Evolution Of Yo La Tengo

Spring Tour For Jolie Holland (Plus A Live Album)

Liz Phair Still Pushing The Limits

Gold Chains Wants You To Dance And Think

Young People's War Prayers On The Way



peruse archival
 



-
-snippetcontactsnippetcontributorssnippetvisionsnippethelpsnippetcopyrightsnippetlegalsnippetterms of usesnippetThis site is Copyright © 2003 Insider One LLC
-