lifeblood: listlogs: 2001v04n060-news


ig-news-digest          monday, april 2 2001          volume 04 : number 060

today's subjects:
-----------------
  [ig-news] amy girlfriends mag article                    [btfenton@aol.com]
  [ig-news] echo lounge set list/review                      [mrowan@gmu.edu]
  [ig-news] stag interview/review in the boston phoenix    [btfenton@aol.com]
  [ig-news] very rare record for sale  ["kovacs, mirinda" <mirinda.kovacs@we]

----------------------------------------------------------------------

date: sun, 1 apr 2001 13:05:58 edt
from: btfenton@aol.com
subject: [ig-news] amy girlfriends mag article

[sherlyn's note: this message was originally sent to the indigo
girls mailing list at netspace.org.]

i can't remember if this has already been posted! sorry if it's a duplicate.
enjoy, brenda

______________________


amy ray does it her way
the brunette indigo shows her punk roots.
by brooke shelby biggs

back in november 1999, amy ray told girlfriends she would be working on a
solo punk album in 2000 to be recorded on her 11-year-old georgia-based indie
label, daemon records. it didn't help my nerves that ray was also talking
about her new girlfriend and how she was considering settling down and
starting a family. of course, i was thinking: "oh no, it's the lesbian
equivalent of yoko and john. god save the indigo girls."

i needn't have worried. ray's solo album is out, the indigo girls are working
on an acoustic album to be recorded this summer, and ray is still baby-free.
(she's also still with girlfriend jennifer baumgardner, a 30-year-old new
yorker who coauthored the recent overview of third-wave feminism,
manifesta.sorry, girls.)

the new album, stag,is a very lesbian record--from the cover art of a
butch/femme couple dancing, to the lyrics within. but the most interesting
thing is the richness of the material, drawn from a tangle of genres: folk,
rockabilly, punk, and riot grrl righteousness. guest musicians include the
butchies, luscious jackson, some of daemon's own bands (rock*a*teens and mrs.
fun), and punk legend joan jett.

if you're expecting stagto be a 10-song marathon of the angry thrash that was
"compromise"--a song ray wrote for indigo's last studio album, come on now
social--you'll be disappointed or pleasantly surprised, depending on your
taste. the album is radical more for how it was made than how it sounds.

at its center, stagis about values and politics, as is just about everything
ray does or says. and the freedom of going solo and working beneath the
corporate radar seems to have calmed and focused this part-time indigo.

i won't say 'so much for that; what do you do when it's done?' 'cause i know
we grow when it's over.

how was it for the 36-year-old ray to write and record without using her
indigo girls partner emily saliers as a sounding board and collaborator, as
she has for 20 years?

"it was strange. i did try to keep it separate, but she would always ask how
it was going, which was cool. and i'd tell her, 'i'm having trouble with this
one thing,' and she would be supportive and sympathetic, but she didn't get
involved in the specifics."

saliers recently told ray she loves stagand has been playing it constantly. i
can hear in ray's voice the pleasure that idea gives her, and the mutual
admiration that makes these two work together so well. ray likens it to the
early days of the indigo girls when they would record their own songs on
cassettes and trade them. "we'd wear out each other's demos."

says saliers, "i love it. it's very raw and honest and emotional. i keep
skipping around to a new favorite song. they stick in your head. right now,
i've got 'late bloom' in my head." "late bloom," evocative of early nineties
seattle grunge, isn't exactly an "emily" song.

"amy has really turned a corner in her songwriting on this album, but also on
songs [from the last indigo girls' album] like 'gone again,' and even 'go.'
those songs are really well constructed," said saliers. "i'm really proud of
her."

ray says writing for her solo album was a new experience. "when i would be
writing for an indigo girls album, i would be thinking about leaving space
for harmonies or counter melodies, for emily to come up with a riff, things
like that. but there is a self-consciousness about the way i write for the
indigo girls, that i can't put my finger on, that dilutes the intimacy. i
need to be less self-conscious."

going solo has helped. although collaborating with saliers is enjoyable,
challenging, and productive, ray says the relationship creates undeniable
tensions--who's playing or singing lead on a given tune, for example.
"writing for this album, i could be less like a dog on a chain. i didn't have
to protect my territory."

the final product shows the differences in relief: amy's voice and guitar are
so prevalent, you hardly notice--outside the obvious stylistic
influences--that anyone else of note is even on the album. "unlike with
emily, the harmonies on this album are really just harmonies. i mean, it's
strictly background."

and sometimes that's exactly what ray needs. the punk rhythms stitched
together by experienced punk babes like the butchies' kaia wilson and
luscious jackson's kate schellenbach are precisely what amy's shrieks need to
give them context. who hasn't gone to an ig concert, seen emily walk offstage
to let amy cut loose, and wondered, "where did thatcome from?" ray is
obviously in her element free from the narrow confines of the indigo
identity, and it's a relief to hear.

stagsounds unfinished, like a demo, or one of those session tapes that
established artists put out to buy time between studio albums. but in ray's
case, that feel is exactly the point. the unfinished edges are part and
parcel of the underground charm of indie music. case in point: as soon as the
indigo girls were signed and started producing their albums in
state-of-the-art studios, critics were on them like vultures for selling out.
in the punk world, if even one yuppie has heard of you, you lose your street
cred.

the album works in part because ray tried to preserve the raw, organic sound
she and her collaborators achieved in the chilly basement studios where they
put down the tracks. that was easy enough, since she was quickly running out
of time and the $10,000 she'd allocated for the project.

"i put limits on myself financially, because it's just not fair to spend five
times more on my record than we do for the other artists," she says. daemon
has put out albums for a raft of southeastern bands, including lesbirock
icons like the ellen james society (with amy's ex, cooper seay) and michelle
malone. amy herself was born and raised outside of atlanta and currently
lives on a ranch in the country on the outskirts of nearby athens, georgia.

ray says the production of staghas taught her something about running an
indie label. for once, she could see the process from the other side: as the
musician instead of the ceo.

the time and financial limitations also helped ray resist her tendency toward
perfectionism. still, she admits, she sometimes "fell back on an obsessive
need to overthink a mix, or i mistakenly rerecorded songs. but the music that
i kept coming back to was the music that came out unlabored and spontaneous
and organically rebellious."

lucy stoners don't need boners, ain't no man could ever own her; with the
boys she had the nerve to give the girls what they deserve.--"lucystoners"
from stag

there isplenty of identifiable, clash-evoking punk rock on stag,but there are
also some of the most sensitive and gentle melodies, arrangements, and lyrics
ray has ever recorded. "lazyboy," for example, could have been a simon and
garfunkel song, with its whispered vocals and spare, single guitar. this is
punk?

"punk is as much an approach or philosophy as a musical style," ray says.
"punk is a grass-roots movement; recording an album on an indie label for
less than $10,000 is an implicitly political statement."

whether staggets high-profile press or succeeds commercially doesn't concern
ray much, although the better it sells the more profit she can reinvest in
daemon, a not-for-profit business. she says she already considers the album a
personal success, simply because she finally did it.

the album's birthing process not only gave ray the freedom to explore some of
her own creativity which doesn't get airtime with the indigo girls, but also
forced her to do some personal soul searching. "the songs on stagdeal frankly
with my confrontations with the oppressive elements of the music industry, my
frustrations with imposed standards of gender all around us, and the
shortcomings i see in myself."

as far as shortcomings go, ray has always been frank about her musical
ability. she once told a music industry magazine that when she and saliers
were playing coffeehouses in the early eighties, emily would work on
ever-more sophisticated chord changes and fingering, while she was practicing
the same three chords. recently, ray has been pushing herself beyond her own
perceived limitations.

"on this album, i wrote all the harmonies and i played lead guitar--things i
didn't know or maybe didn't believei could do before," she said.

but the album's lyrics also have to do with other personal shortcomings ray
was feeling. "you know, the songs 'hey castrator' and 'black heart
today'--they're about that solitude and doom that are important to me
somehow."

"hey castrator" is bound to be misinterpreted as a man-hating dyke anthem.
but it's really about ray's struggles with her inner guy.

"i can sometimes identify with things our society sees as stereotypically
male, the male part of myself," ray said. "you know, when i would catch
myself objectifying my girlfriend or leering at women on the street. i was
offended by myself for relating to that kind of energy." that inner struggle,
she says, is expressed in the song's haunting refrain: "hey, castrator, take
this strong out of me." (strongrefers to aggressive or exploitative male
energy.)

still, there is a gut kinship ray feels with her inner--and, let's face it,
outer-- masculinity. as she says in "mountains of glory," "i'm gonna miss
being the boy, i'm gonna miss being the man." she adds with humor, "of
course, a small amount of objectification never hurt anyone. we all want to
be objectified a little."

while conceiving stag,ray says she was frustrated by the sudden collapse of
the riot grrl movement of a decade ago. bikini kill, luscious jackson, the
breeders, team dresch: they had all broken up and most had fallen off the
radar. not only was ray feeling alienated from her masculine side, she was
hungry for a woman-friendly arena she could funnel some creative expression
into.

"i was feeling like i wanted that riot grrl sensibility back, and wondering
where it had gone, that punk, tough, female energy. that energy that was
tough, but not exploitative," she says.

to capture on tape the sound and sensibility she heard in her head, ray drove
around the southeast with a guitar and amp in her trunk, hooking up with the
famous and not-so-famous progenitors of the riot grrl movement in dingy,
brick basements. a raw, powerful female sensibility informs the finished
product, one that resonates with sexuality.

janny wenner, janny wenner, rolling stone's most fearless leader; gave the
boys what they deserved, but with the girls he lost his nerve . . . . testing
1, 2, 3, in the marketplace, it's just a demographic-based disgrace, and a
stupid, secret whiteboy handshake that we9ll never be part of.
- --"lucystoners"

the most rebellious moment on stag is the raucous "lucystoners," in which ray
vents her frustrations with the corporate music industry. the lyrics
castigate rolling stoneeditor jann wenner--who, it's worth noting, is
gay--for his complicity in the music industry's institutionalization of
sexism and homophobia.

the title "lucystoners" comes from lucy stoner:a woman who doesn't take her
husband's name, from the 19th-century feminist lucy stone, the first woman to
keep her maiden name after marriage. back in the bikini kill era of riot grrl
punk, there was a band named the lucy stoners.

last year, before stagwas recorded, ray and saliers expressed the same
anti-wenner sentiment in my interview with them for this magazine. but epic
asked that ray's opinion that wenner is "sexist and homophobic" be stricken
from the interview. aren't they nervous about this song?

ray might not admit it, but she enjoys throwing down the political gauntlet,
particularly when it comes to the industry. she says she recently played
"lucystoners" for saliers and their publicist at epic. "they smiled and
laughed a little nervously and said they loved the song. then they never said
anything about it again. i thought to myself, 'the song sucks, they hate it.'
but after a while they started joking about it."

saliers says she had no reservations about the song when she heard it, and no
love is lost between her and the magazine. "it's aimed at teenage boys,
certainly not me," she says. "women have it hard. there aren't any
alternative women in their magazine. the only women they profile play up
their sexuality and conform to traditional gender roles."

and if wenner is provoked, so much the better. "any press is good press,"
saliers laughs.

of course, rolling stoneand wenner are just flashy symbols of a music
industry both ray and saliers are simply fed up with. ray admits that
straddling that line between indie and big-label music is an ongoing inner
struggle for her. on the one hand, major labels "have this incredible
infrastructure that can't be matched" in the indie world. but she chafes at
the homogenization of mainstream music and vacuousness of labels' efforts to
market artists.

"just because you work for [the major labels] doesn't mean you can't
criticize them," ray reasons. "i mean, that's what unions are." she says
she'd love to see the big artists at major labels unionize, as session
musicians already have, to put some of the soul back into the industry. but
she won't hold her breath.

and all that faggot-bashing poetry but the boys are just saying 'love me,
please.'
- --"lucystoners"

i'm still on the phone with ray when over in the living room i catch the
flickering of mtv, which is showing for the umpteenth time this week a
fictionalized movie about matthew shepard's murder. mtv has been on
self-imposed probation all week in response to the outcry over its
willingness to promote the women-hating, gay-bashing artist eminem. i ask ray
for her thoughts on the white rapper and the critics who would censor him.
she quickly channels her dislike for the man onto the corporate structure
that makes such a phenomenon possible.

"i don't think he should be censored, but i think he's a pig," she says. "but
it's pointless to argue what mtv thinks it should or shouldn't do. it is just
responding to what it perceives to be what the public wants to see. anything
they have ever done that might have been groundbreaking they only did because
they thought it was a trend they could make money on."

ray makes it clear that after the indigo girls' next two albums are done and
their commitment to epic is satisfied, they'll be seriously considering going
to an indie label themselves, although probably not daemon, because of ray's
closeness to the label. ray has mentioned similar women-run, queer-centric
labels such as kill rock stars as possibilities, but holds out the
possibility that some new label may come along that would be a perfect fit.

in the meantime, she looks to the artists who have advanced the cause of
indie music while taking advantage of corporate largesse. "i give rage
against the machine heat," she says, because they preached an anticorporate,
anticommercial message while promoting themselves on mtv and other commercial
outlets. "but we're always hardest on those who are trying to do the most
good."

ray is careful to distinguish message from method. it isn't enough, she says,
to talk about revolution; you have to put your mouth where your money is. she
points to fugazi as a role model. that band refused to sign with a major
label and puts on all-ages shows where tickets are never more than five bucks
a pop. "they really set the standard."

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
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------------------------------

date: sat, 31 mar 2001 14:36:36 -0500
from: mrowan@gmu.edu
subject: [ig-news] echo lounge set list/review

[sherlyn's note: this message was originally sent to the indigo
girls mailing list at netspace.org.]

> anyway...those of you that weren't there missed a great show that
> was well worth sitting in the rain for!!!!!!
amen to that! the entire concert was so unbelievable! too many details
still floating around in my head to describe coherently at the moment,
but i do have set list info for y'all-
the butchies:
intro (entirely instrumental)
more rock
disco
galaxy
forget
wedding disaster
insult
it's over
madame
anything anthology

i wish i knew their music better. they exude such energy, cleary devoted
to their fans, very sweet...
next came amy:

johnny rottentail
lucy stoners
blackheart today (joined by kelly hogan)
hey castrator
measure of me
laramie
ever fall in love
lazy boy
mountains of glory
on your honor
then, foregoing the typical encore, amy said she wanted to play a few
more songs w/some other people, and was joined by 1945, for late bloom.
then, 1945 played one of their own songs, which amy explained that she'd
specifically requested (i don't know if she meant that song or just for
them to perform something). then, 1945 departed, and the butchies came
back on stage, and they closed w/refuge. after the last notes faded, amy
just sorta gazed out at the crowd, and said, 'that's all we know! hope
you'll stick around for the party' (or something to that effect).
group sex was so much fun! those women give off such an energetic, sexy
yet playful vibe! when amy and emily joined them onstage at various
points, it was apparent that they were enjoying the band's performance
as much as the audience! gs opened w/my sharona, brought out emily to
accompany them on 'school's out', emily played bazouki, amy played
mandolin on 'maggie mae', big jam session w/all the musicians who'd been
on stage at some point during the evening for 'rock and roll all night'.

i think the different feeling at this show as compared to an ig show can
best be summed up w/the observation made a day after the concert had
ended- instead of issuing the trademark 'thanks, y'all' or 'y'all are
the best', amy was still extremely gracious and humble as ever, but said
very little after she finished playing a song, maybe uttering  'thanks
for bein' so sweet' or something to that effect at the conclusion of one
or two songs. mostly, she just deflected the crowd's cheers and applause
by giving thanks to all the folks who'd been supportive of her solo
effort- the daemon staff- andrea, stacey, carla; emily; the butchies and
all the bands who played on the album, and her personal assistant, who's
name i can't recall.
amyray, it was definitely not and indigo girls show, i think amy very
successfully put together an event w/its own distinct character, which i
hope everybody else enjoyed as much as i did!
still rockin'-
marian

- -----------------------------------------------------------------
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------------------------------

date: fri, 30 mar 2001 18:03:54 est
from: btfenton@aol.com
subject: [ig-news] stag interview/review in the boston phoenix

[sherlyn's note: this message was originally sent to the indigo
girls mailing list at netspace.org.]

stag party
indigo girl amy ray takes a solo trip
by lois maffeo

few successful recording artists would, in their
right mind, turn even temporarily away from a
thriving mainstream career to chase down an
indie dream. but amy ray, half of the immensely
popular folk duo the indigo girls, has done just
that with her new solo debut, stag. just about
any major label (and almost certainly the indigo
girls epic) would have been happy to hand ray
a blank check to make a solo album. but she
chose to follow her heart and her instincts by
releasing stag on daemon, the indie label she
founded 11 years ago. recorded with friends
and cronies ranging from veteran tough girl joan
jett to alterna-country belle kelly hogan to the
dyke-rock trio the butchies, stag also lays to rest
any lingering doubts about whether girls with
acoustic guitar can rock. when i was younger,
says ray, phoning from her home in rural
georgia before setting off on a tour thatll bring
her to lillis in somerville next saturday, i was
listening to the clash and patti smith. i didnt
really fit in musically with them at all, but it was
really inspiring music. so the way i approached
this record was to follow that energy.

>from the mandolin-based folk punk of johnny
rottentail to the nostalgic, straightforward guitar
rock of late bloom to laramie, a song ray
wrote in response to the murder of matthew shepard, the songs on stag are a
showcase for her gifts
as a songwriter. i started playing with [indigo girl] emily [saliers] when
i was 15. but i dont think that
i tapped into how to get my feelings out until much further into our
career. i wrote in a folk way and
moved into writing rock songs. when i first listened to patti smith and
neil young, i thought, thats
the way i feel, but i cant figure out how to write that [kind of] song.
it took me a long time to figure it
out.

as ray grew as a songwriter, she also came to realize that a solo album
might be something to
consider. sometimes id start writing a song and think, this isnt an
indigo girls song.  as her stash
of non-indigo material grew, so did her cynicism and dissatisfaction with
the commercial music
business. i felt completely burnt out with my association with the
major-label industry. i just needed to get my music out into the indie
world. so after years and years of steady touring in support of successful
indigo girls albums, and a long-time involvement in the day-to-day running
of daemon,ray found herself ready to begin a new project.

setting off with guitar in hand, she began her drop-by recording sessions
in durham, north carolina,
home of the butchies, whose albums are we not femme? and population 1975
(both on mr. lady) are modern-day diy dyke-punk classics. the band had
toured as an opening act with the indigo girlsin 1999 and were eager to
work with ray. were not the band that a normal promoter person would even
think to add to an indigo girls bill, admits butchies guitarist kaia
wilson, who also runs her own
mr. lady label. but they have a lot of control over what they do, and they
want a lot of different                        people opening for them.

by the end of the tour, ray and the butchies had bonded both on stage,
where the butchies were invited to blast through joan jetts do you wanna
touch me in encores, and off. i dont know why that strikes me as so
funny, says wilson. i guess its just the idea of the indigo girls
singing, do you wanna touch me there?/where?/there!  as for ray, her
confidence in the butchies was one of thethings that inspired her to begin
work on her own album. when i first started working with the
butchies, we thought wed do three songs because we wanted to be realistic
about our schedules. but it worked so well and they were so well versed,
musically, that we did half the album together.most bands have a specific
sound and thats their sound. but the butchies were able to morph
intodifferent things. its really a tribute to their musicianship that we
could work together so well.

the next stop on rays project itinerary was new york city, where she was
joined in the studio by joan jett, luscious jackson drummer kate
schellenbach, and breeders bassist josephine wiggs. the foursome had met in
1998 on a one-off tour ray and saliers had put together called the
suffragette sessions. we sort of created this band with 12 women and went
on tour in clubs. it was
incredible fun. id have these jams with joan and kate and josephine as a
way to get out of the normal way of playing i had in indigo girls.

in new york, ray recorded hey castrator, a darkly sexual rocker with a
brassy vocal coda by jett,                        who joined the recording
session after her rehearsals for the broadway production of the rocky
horror picture show. jett had been a big influence on the adolescent ray:
she was kinda that bridge between all kinds of people in high school  the
football team, the girl jocks, the
cheerleaders . . . everybody loved her. it was such an adventure to work
with her.

returning to the south, ray finished her album with songs she recorded with
atlanta garage-popsters the rock-a-teens, birminghams lushly melodic 1945,
and the droll south carolina singer/songwriter danielle howle, all of whom
have recorded for daemon. working with such a variety of musicians could
have resulted in a collection of recordings that dont cohere, but the
focus and tenor of rays songwriting remained consistent throughout the
scattered stag sessions  in large part because of
the consistency of her personal and political beliefs. throughout her
indigo girl career, ray has been                        as open in her
support of ethical business practices and philanthropy as she has about her
sexual orientation. and as an out lesbian, shes been an icon to thousands
of women and men who have searched for gay role models among rocks
major-label stars and come up largely empty-handed.

the political outlook on stag is always in tune with rays personal
integrity. in laramie, the song she
wrote in response to the gay-bashing murder of matthew shepard, she focuses
on the nature of hate crimes rather than the event itself. on a general
level, i empathized with someone getting killed in that way. as a gay
person, that really touched me. i read a lot of articles about it, and the
most interesting one i read was about classism, and how his murder was a
symbol of something wrong in a community. in the song, ray rails against
the prejudiced attitudes that are fostered in small-town
america by groups like the christian coalition. its over for me, she
says, referring to the intolerance
that she believes helped foster the crime. im going to stand up to it.

rays anger also comes across in lucystoners, which is about the male
hegemony that holds sway both in mainstream music and in the media. taking
a shot at rolling stone editor jann wenner, the song sums up her view of
the prevailing atmosphere in the music industry: a demographic-based
disgrace/and a stupid, secret white-boy handshake/that well never be a
part of. but ray remains aware that, as an indigo girl, shes part of that
world. i definitely recognize the hypocrisy of constantly touting
anti-corporate philosophies and being on a major label. but ive been able
to use my partnership in the indigo girls to benefit the things that im
interested in benefitting. rolling stone                        happens to
be a symbol in the rock world and in the press world of a form of sexism
that people like me have to deal with all the time. a lot of people would
like to believe that gay people are automatically politically correct, but
jann wenner is part of an old-boys network, and i dont think it has anyt
hing to do with his sexuality. its just sort of a happy accident that i
was commenting on an industry and i happened to choose jann wenner as the
symbol.

elsewhere on stag, the songwriting is more reflective, as ray deals with
issues related to her childhood and the path of self-discovery she has made
through both her music and her struggles with sexual identity. songs like
late bloom and measure of me look back to a time in her life when she
was trying to understand the tomboy impulses that were guiding her behavior
the best time of my life was when i was pre-pubescent. it felt like i
could do anything, like i had some autonomy in the
world. when your sexuality kicks in, a weird thing happens  your parents
treat you differently, your
friends treat you differently, and there are all these complications. i had
a very confusing time in my 20s, when i went through a lot of struggles
with my sexuality. i think in these songs im just yearning for a simpler
time.

she may have found some version of that in her partnership with the
butchies, who are joining her on
her current east coast tour. theyre the opening act, and theyll also join
ray for her all-electric set.but is she nervous about what staunch indigo
girl fans will think of her in this quasi-punk incarnation? there will be
some indigo fans that wont like it at all, but thats fine. our crowd is
pretty open. a lot of times our opening bands will be like the butchies. so
our audience is used to that. i dont think theyll be all that surprised
at what im doing

amy ray and the butchies perform next saturday, april 7 at lillis. the
show is officially sold out.

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------------------------------

date: fri, 30 mar 2001 10:54:28 -0600
from: "kovacs, mirinda" <mirinda.kovacs@westgroup.com>
subject: [ig-news] very rare record for sale

[sherlyn's note: this message was originally sent to the indigo
girls mailing list at netspace.org.]

hey there fellow listees.  how are you doing?  i was scanning ebay to see
what interesting items i could find and i came across a real gem.  it's too
bad i don't have $350 dollars laying around.  but i thought i would give all
you rich folks a heads up.  there is a red vinyl strange fire for sale.
like i said, bidding is already up to $350 but it is totally worth it.  good
luck to y'all, i wish i had one!

mi rinda

"what lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to
what lies within us. and when we bring what is within out into the world,
miracles happen." ~ henry david thoreau

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