Category Archives: Books

“We Oughta Know” by Andrea Warner

An entry in an appendix of Canadian women in music, in the book “We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the ’90s and Changed Canadian Music” by Andrea Warner (Eternal Cavalier Press, 2015)

Mecca Normal, 1984 – present
Key 90s songs:
“Vacant Night Sky ” from Sitting on Snaps (Matador Records, 1995)
“Waiting for Rudy” from Flood Plain (K Records, 1993)

“Underground art-punk rock duo Jean Smith (vocalist) and David Lester (guitarist) have been crafting weird, tightly coiled but loosely structured songs about gender, feminism, politics, and social justice isues since 1984. Anybody who knows Beat Happening, Bikini Kill, and Sleater-Kinney should know Mecca Normal, almost nobody does. I’m ashamed to admit that up until last year, I barely knew them either. They’re a hometown band and I’m a feminist who writes about music and still I never came across Mecca Normal until someone alerted me to their existence after I wrote an essay about how much I missed the political fire of music from the ’90s. Mecca Normal were riot grrrl and DIY before those movements existed, and they were tireless in their commitment to their art, releasing seven records in the ’90s alone. In fact, Mecca Normal were basically doing the 90s in the 80s. Consider the still-relevant subject matter of their mid-’80s tunes like “Smile Baby,” which calls out street harassment (yes, three decades ago), “More, More, More” which addresses the privilege of white men and the American Dream, and the simple, chilling, and inspiring “I Walk Alone” which affirms a woman’s right to safety in a public space. It’s important music that still matters today.” – Andrea Warner

 

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David Lester interview on CBC radio

“Comics are a form of social activism,” says graphic novelist David Lester in a GREAT interview with the CBC’s Sheryl MacKay about “The Battle of Ballantyne Pier” — David’s contribution to the anthology Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle.

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David Lester’s graphic novel about Emma Goldman

Some of the first drawings we’ve seen from David Lester’s graphic novel in progress.

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Emma Goldman and Alexander Berkman by David Lester

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Emma Goldman by David Lester

Mecca Normal’s collaboration for Normal History, Magnet Magazine May 28, 2016 Vol. 375

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Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle.

Part of David Lester’s contribution to a new book called Drawn to Change: Graphic Histories of Working-Class Struggle.

“This evocative collection of the struggles and achievements of labour organizing should inspire us to ‘dream of what might be’ and to act to bring it about.” – Noam Chomsky

BallantineGraphic Histories book

Mecca Normal’s collaboration for Normal History, Magnet Magazine May 28, 2016 Vol. 375

 

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I Can Hear Me Fine

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“A great novel,” David Lester

Twenty years ago this month, I founded Get To The Point Editions expressly to publish Jean Smith‘s first novel I Can Hear Me Fine. I am as excited about her book today, as I was reading the manuscript back then. Crisp, expressive prose full of elegant, sensual description and insight. The text shares the same strong aesthetic sensibility as her lyrics – and many of the songs on Mecca Normal’s third album “Dovetail” appear within the story.

Buy Now Button with Credit Cards

Smarten UP! & Get To The Point Catalogue

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Amplitude Equals One Over Frequency Squared, David Lester interview, 2012

The Listener 2.pmd
Page from The Listener – a graphic novel by David Lester
DAVID LESTER interview
of MECCA NORMAL, 2012
conducted via e-mail
by Dan Cohoon

Dan Cohoon: How did Mecca Normal come about? Talk about what was going on in music/art at the time that inspired you to start a band.

David Lester: I met Jean Smith while we were both doing graphic design in the production department of a weekly newspaper. So in a way, our collaboration started then, nearly 30 years ago. We were both visual artists (Jean is an excellent painter) and we shared an interest in hearing live music, which at the time included a lot of hardcore punk bands. I was also designing album covers and posters for some of these bands, most notably D.O.A. There was a very active, radical political scene in Vancouver at the time, which was reflected in the lyric content of many of the cities punk bands. Jean and I took inspiration from this convergence of music and politics by deciding to start our own band. But it would be a band without drums or bass. We wanted to challenge the very notion of what makes a band, and demonstrate that a single guitar, a voice and ideas could unleash a powerful fury against social injustice.

Continued: Amplitude Equals One Over Frequency Squared

 

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David Lester Book Tour 2011

David Lester’s video at Type Book in Toronto, 2011. Featuring Canadian sensation  Robert Dayton.

Two Stories by Jean Smith

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Family Swan and other songs
by Jean Smith
isbn 0-9697112-5-5
$10

Smith ascends to a new level of willingness to reveal accounts of family tension giving readers a new vantage point to view their own history from. Specific and personal, the adult does the remembering. Family Swan is powerful – anger, pain and funny recollections are allowed to surface. Most of these pieces are on “The Family Swan” the new Mecca Normal CD, out August 20, 2002 on Kill Rock Stars. Jean hand printed her lino-cut cover at Community Print in Olympia, Washington with the assistance of Nikki McClure.

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Best known as something of a mid-wife to the Riot Grrrl movement, many might not know that Vancouver’s Jean Smith (Lester’s band mate in Mecca Normal) is also an accomplished author and zinester. Good to know! Literal to the point of tears, Smith’s Two Stories is just that–two tales that in a weird, roundabout way mirror the aggressive and artsy nature of Smith’s music but with a whole lot more humour and a heaping helpin’ of street smarts. Firstly, the fabulously-titled “Carton of Creamo and Red-Jell-o Setting” tells the story of helping and humping in the computer age, with seriously sexy results. Secondly, “In the End He Says ‘Attraction is Ephemeral'” speaks of mini-skirts, kitchenwares and other musts for the modern man. Aesthetically speaking, both works share a headspace and drip with a weirdo relationship humour that’s miles away from the tripe you’d see on network television. Smith does well by keeping these stories short and razor sharp, prodding at the reader with a seasonal blend of black humour and heart. Amusement is paramount and Two Stories definitely will strike a nerve with hipsters and other indie art fans looking to bust a gut. – Cameron Gordon, Broken Pencil, 2007

The Ghost of Understanding

“The Ghost of Understanding” fiction by Jean Smith (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1998)

“Smith’s second novel brings back Claudine, who again traipses through a subjective world where the tension that arises from the collision of feminism with a male-centric world is what makes life both interesting and maddening. Smith is nothing if not an acute observer of gender roles and interactions, and her dialogue, both external and internal, consistently rings true.” – Fred Mills, Magnet Magazine Volume 6, Number 35, 1998

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LA 1990 – 94

1990:
8121 Club (LA)
“Cardboard Box House of Love” 7” released by K Records
35 shows played in 1990
16 interviews in 1990

1991:
Rhino Records (LA)
Raji’s (with Distorted Pony and Slug)
Shamrock (with The Enemies)
“Water Cuts My Hands” released by K Records
“Narrow” on Kill Rock Stars compilation
“Bright Like Ice” 7″ released on Smarten UP! Records
“I Can Hear Me Fine” 7″ released on Smarten UP! Records
“Orange” 7″ released by Harriet Records
52 shows played in 1991
20 interviews in 1991

1992:
Munchies (Pomona)
Rhino Records (LA)
live set on Andrea ‘Enthal’s 12 O’Clock Rock on KPFK
Jabberjaw
Club With No Name
Jean turned down interview offers from the Maury Povich Show (talk show format)
and Esquire Magazine
Jean on Jane Whitney Show
Jean produces Cub’s first release “Pep” a 7” EP for Mint Records
“Rose” 7″ released by K Records
Armchairs 7″ released by K Records
“Dovetail” LP released by K Records
split 7″ with Kreviss released by Sub Pop singles club
“Carboni Angel” Jean Smith solo 7″ released on Kill Rock Stars
USA Today interviews Jean on Riot Grrrl
LA Times interviews Jean
Spex (Germany) interview with Jean
47 shows played in 1992
38 interviews in 1992

1993:
UCLA
Munchies (Pomona)
Jabberjaw (with Distorted Pony, Morning Champ)
“I Can Hear Me Fine” Jean’s first novel, published by Get to the Point Editions
“Jarred Up” compilation of singles LP released by K Records
“Flood Plain” LP released by K Records

Rolling Stone
Rolling Stone photo shoot – photo by Robert Karpa
The New York Times interviewed Jean
56 shows played
30 interviews

1994:
Jabberjaw
Alligator Lounge
Rhino Records (Pomona)
71 shows played in 1994
? interviews

Reviews, articles and interviews between 1990 – 94:
Flipside, Option, LA Weekly, Seventeen Magazine, Raygun and Rolling Stone.