Italian article on cinema

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photo by David Boswell

Mecca Normal, the Canadian duo of Vancouver, is one of the seminal bands of the nineties riot movement. Active from the first half of the 80’s, they produced during their career a series of D.I.Y video clips. inspired by the best American and Canadian underground tradition

Jean Smith and David Lester of Vancouver, Canada, formed the Mecca Normal in 1984, transforming the fanzine curated by Smith himself “Smarten UP! “How to Change the World Publications” on a label, just to publish their first, homonymous album, just two years later.

Speech and guitar duo within the complex context identified in the “nineties” riot grrrl movement, Mecca Normal contributes to the “official inauguration” of the concept with all the women who in 1991 opened the International Pop international convention in Olympia Underground, but they have been in the language since the beginning, with an unambiguous, politically and feminist approach, combining activism with direct forms of expression such as poetry, painting, writing, so that it immediately becomes a reference point inspiration for musicians such as Kathleen Hanna.

Absorbed by Calvin Johnson’s K Records (Beat Happening, Halo Benders), they republish their first Ep titled “Oh Yes You Can,” and immediately produce three video clips to promote it.

Video clips, which will become a distinctive sign in the duo career to date, exploit the techniques, materials, and language of underground cinema (from found footage to gratage, from reduced media to home movies). Regarding “Oh Yes You Can” accompany every EP song, but they do not come close to the longer structured forms (Devo, The The) because they reject the digested form for the market so as to remain fiercely out of touch broadcasting circuits.

Directly by David Lester or Smith himself, who often introduces his work as a painter, are small “expressionist” experiments, in line with the tradition of the American Underground Cinema, with which Mecca Normal and Lester certainly look devoutly, like all the underground American movement born around the musical scene of those years (Dave Markey, Richard Kern) while maintaining a strongly materialistic approach to the images.

Between the spring and summer of 1986, Mecca Normal participates in the Black Wedge Tour along with a crew of poets, anarchists, musicians moving on a bus across the states, bringing together music and political activity. Part of the images contained in the videos, document that journey, while the sounds of that tour can be heard on the Band band band profile.

Tensely D.I.Y. in “Man Thinks Woman”, song and video made in 1987, try to overthrow some gender norms from verbal communication: “Man thinks” woman “when he talks to me / Something not quite right”

In a parallel dimension, compared to a time when “ism” are almost always formal and formally empty to fit into social containers, the Mecca Normal are still active. A sip of fresh water.

Original article in Italian September 19, 2017

(google translator)

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charles aaron

Charles Aaron (former editorial director at Spin) tweeted our video for “I Walk Alone” today.

Live album in the works

Mecca Normal poster Montreal, BNW, 1996Mecca Normal live in Montreal (1996) album (LP, CD, extra tracks on BandCamp) will be released in 2018. Dave found the tape last week and we took it into a studio yesterday to listen to it. Finally, a live album from that era, and it sounds incredible. Until now, not releasing a mid-90s Mecca Normal performance has been one of my biggest regrets.6878

Tentative tracks

1. Water Cuts My Hands
2. Prize Arm
3. Don’t Shoot
4. Tower Island
5. Revival of Cruelty
6. The Dogs
7. Drive At / Peach-A-Vanilla
8. Breathing In The Dark
9. Ribbon
10. Medley: Man Thinks Woman / SWM/ I Walk Alone
11. Armchairs Fit through Doorways
12. When You Know
13. Are You Hungry Joe?
14. Crimson Dragnet

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The Black Wedge 1986 & 87

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West coast line-up, 1986

Black Wedge Tour 1987

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Canadian tour, 1987

David Lester’s Super 8 footage of a stop along the way in the middle of Canada in a Mecca Normal music video.

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Riot Grrrl

I haven’t had any Riot Grrrl queries for a long time, but maybe there’s another round of new interest from what seemed to be new interest a few years back. I got a FaceBook message from 17 year-old Julia in Germany saying she’s working on a school project about Riot Grrrl, hoping I’ll answer questions.

“As I want it to be as authentic as possible and mirror the mindset of Riot Grrrl and show what it really meant for all those girls, I’m trying to reach out to as much people of the movement as possible. You are one of them. ”

Well… here’s my message back which intends to make a connection between “all those girls” and present day activities connected to RG as opposed to simply looking back at it as history. Done. Past.

Hi Julia!

Mecca Normal (my band) is frequently referred to as an early inspiration to the co-founders of Riot Grrrl, but we weren’t a Riot Grrrl band. We’d already been playing, touring and recording since 1986. We had our own thing going called The Black Wedge — anti-authoritarian poets and minimalist musicians on tour in an old school bus.

In 1986 some of the women who co-founded RG saw Mecca Normal perform in Olympia. Which is also when we met the guy who wanted to put out our records on his label. Here’s a link to the first Mecca Normal show in Olympia where a future member of Bikini Kill — drummer Tobi Vail — first saw us. I think she would have been about your age at the time — or younger! I was in my mid-20s.

We hadn’t done many shows at this point, but as we continued on with songs about feminism and social justice, I spoke more from the stage — and in interviews — to encourage young women to get together with their friends and start bands, to write lyrics about their experiences in the scene and in society. There weren’t very many women in bands at that point.

Our first album was out at that time (on my own label) and one of the main songs on it was “I Walk Alone” — which we still perform at our live shows to this day!

It seems there is a lot on the internet about Riot Grrrl. Maybe check this series of video interviews put out by the EMP museum (Experience Music Project) in Seattle. If you search through their material on YouTube you’ll see other Riot Grrrl interviews that should be of interest to you.

Here’s Mecca Normal opening for Kathleen Hanna’s band The Julie Ruin in Portland last year. A new song about feminism.

Good luck with your project, and I hope this helps!
Jean

The Jealous Curator

 

 

It was a thrill to have 5 of my paintings featured on The Jealous Curator‘s blog today.

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“First, oh my word I love these portraits {acrylic on canvas panel} so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop. WHAT? Yes, true story. Are you wondering what you’re still doing here and why you’re not over there buying a whole bunch of these 11×14 beauties? Me too. Here you go… Jean’s Facebook page. You’re welcome.” – The Jealous Curator

$100 USD paintings currently available

Singer #4 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.comNo Hat 200 500No Hat 167 500No Hat #116 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.comNo Hat #79 by Jean Smith throwsilver@hotmail.com

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7″ record covers

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Cardboard Box House of Love 7″ (K Records, 1990) art by Jean Smith

Malachi (K) 2010,Paris In April (K) 1996, The Bird That Wouldn’t Fly (Matador) 1995, Echo (Jettison) 1993, Rose (K)…

Posted by Mecca Normal on Saturday, May 11, 2013

All Mecca Normal 7″ covers

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Kind Words

“I just wanted to say thanks-a-million to Jean Smith and David Lester for responding to my comments A N D sending a [FaceBook] friend request. For those unfamiliar, Smith and Lester form the inimitable and fearless duo Mecca Normal (BC, Canada). They’re now inching toward their 35th year of activity, and continue to repudiate any form of guile that would rescind the raw rudiments of their real-time rock ‘n’ roll; the kind of harbingers of ‘Riot Grrrl’ that make Nirvana’s In Utero, sound like 5 Seconds Of Summer.

On a personal note, after reading about them in Trouser Press, this was the first song I ever heard, and remains among my favorites. Smith is also a noted artist and author, Lester also a respected graphic artist, nominated for his work.
— feeling thankful.” – Doran Scott, PEI

Video: In January (long, 2003)

The long version of “In January” from the Janis Zeppelin CD (Smarten Up! Records, 2003) with paintings by Jean Smith.

Carl Wilson’s Globe and Mail review of the shorter version on The Family Swan (2002)

A new protest song is blowin’ in the wind

February 20, 2003

Today’s protest soundtracks require impromptu cacophony and knife fights with broken mirrors. Here’s 10 to march to, but not in formation.

7. Mecca Normal, In January ( The Family Swan, Kill Rock Stars): The veteran Vancouver anarchist duo was prescient last year to name this tense, abstract piece for the time, months later, when the world’s nerve endings would really start to shred. The track captures singer Jean Smith’s and guitarist David Lester’s roiling intensity the way it sounds in small live rooms across the continent — this time with Smith’s stinging tone pushing from the inside against lips that seem almost to be sewn shut.

 

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