Category Archives: Normal History

Jean Smith on Political Art

From my post on my regular FaceBook page

Political art. I sometimes think my work [paintings] should be more political. Political in a more overt way.

img_5444-vvv

Jean Smith self-portrait age 13 (1973)

I started painting portraits (in my room) at the very loaded age of 13. I looked in the mirror and made translations that flew in the face of what models in magazines looked like. My dad, by this point, was no longer an ad agency art director. He was painting large abstracts and watercolor landscapes, and doing freelance commercial art jobs in his studio in the back yard. My mom (an art school graduate) was painting still life from nature in her studio. Neither of them painted portraits at that time.

Fast forward to a point in the early 00s when I took 11 x 17″ laser copies of those teenage self-portraits on tour and put them up at Mecca Normal shows. There was a night at the Smell in LA where I could see them, my teenage faces, from the stage while I was singing songs from The Family Swan album. Songs about my family in those years. I realized (while I was singing) that I had inadvertently found a way to talk to my teenage self, to offer an adult perspective (mine) to her.

In current times, between the deaths of my parents, (with my dad losing his marbles and the difficult nature of being around while this happens, trying to help him and protect my own marbles etc.) it seems like painting faces (and all the historic energy involved here) is prit near the best thing I can be doing. It’s political in the way that finding something that works, something that’s right, fairly early in life is political (self-expression) and then returning to it years later for some of the same reasons is political.

Comment on the post:
I think of pretty much everything I’ve ever seen you do as being political. Maybe the portraits aren’t specifically “political” in content, but the motivation behind them – $100 paintings to avoid having a day job and to work towards a free artist residency program sure is! The art and music and writing and living are all congruent expressions of your political integrity. Or to paraphrase Godard: …not to make “political” films, but to make films politically.” – Steve Peters, the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center, home to the Wayward Music Series, Seattle

Tagged ,

Man Thinks Woman

Snippet of “Man Thinks Woman” at Tobi’s birthday

Tagged

early photos

MN, 1993, photo by Jon Snyder

photo by Jon Snyder, 1993

MN, Hamburg, Germany, 1994, photo by Moni Kellermann

photo by Moni Kellerman, Hamburg, Germany 1994

MN, photo by Jeff Bagato, Mole Magazine

photo by Jeff Bagato, Mole Magazine

MN, Vera, Groningen, Holland, 1995

photo by Snorkel, Vera Project, Holland, 1995

first show

first show photo by Ian Smith, Vancouver 1984

first show s

first show photo by Ian Smith, Vancouver 1984

Tagged

Video: D-I-Y assembly line 2014

1 NEW March-2014

Empathy for the Evil” (M’lady’s Records, 2014)

“…Smith’s characters deal with the inequality and power imbalances that mark modern society.” Colin Joyce, Pitchfork (USA)

“…the songs speak to understanding the inherent nature of frayed humanity.” Eric Risch, PopMatters (USA)

“Turning long, thick passages of prose into singable, memorable songs, Mecca Normal have revolutionized their music again. If you think you’ve already heard everything this band is capable of, you need to hear Empathy For The Evil and find out just how wrong you are. After a long-delayed release, you will finally get a chance. Do not miss this one.” – J Neo Marvin, Ear Candle Productions (San Francisco)

“For the thoughtful listener who appreciates both a good work of fiction and a nice dose of indie folk ‘Empathy for the Evil’ is the record for you.” – Mark Anthony Brennan, Ride the Tempo (Canada) rated 4 out of 5 stars

“… Smith’s words are full of wisdom and humour and cut right through the materialism of the world of rock.” – Tucker Petertil, The Big Takeover (New York)

“Duo Jean Smith and David Lester have been making raw, stripped-down garage rock since the mid 1980s. It’s rare to have this much power and emotion come from one guitarist and one singer. They always keep it real.” – Dawn Jewell, NPR-affiliate WOUB (Athens, Ohio), Top Albums of 2014

“The songs on Empathy are mesmerizing, with Smith sucking you with her trance-like vocals and poetic lyrics backed by Lester’s equally as spellbinding guitar riffs.” Steve Long, Red Dirt Report (Oklahoma)

“Songs like the rollicking “Art Was the Great Leveler” and the more subdued “Normal” focus on the intricacies of the artist’s life – the things that connect, join folks together and perhaps drive wedges between them. I can think of no one better than Smith and Lester to show us the way.” Alison Lang, Broken Pencil (Canada)

“It’s not really important that Mecca Normal has hung around for thirty years, what is important is that they’ve weathered the constant assaults on a disabled industry, and the destructive powers of time, which can eat away at your passion and your partnership. You put on Empathy for the Evil, and it’s like your listening to Mecca Normal at the height of the Riot Grrrl movement, when the Northwest was the center of the music world, when people appreciated the ingenuity and the artistry of artists like Jean Smith and David Lester.” Brian Snider, Secretly-Important (Seattle)

“Art is the Great Leveler, is a beautiful tale weaving Smith’s love for art and relationships, how art can bring two people together.” Troy Michael, Innocent Words (Chicago)

“This is a masterpiece of story and manifesto, a lesson in life…” Sean Michaels, Said the Gramophone (Canada)

“Mecca Normal is not a normal band. They’re free of clichés, unconcerned with catchy pop hooks or mass appeal. They have made some art, and they’d like you to enjoy it on their terms. It’s refreshing, and I’m digging it.” Abe Beeson, Nado Mucho (Pacific Northwest)

“If you’re interested in an adrenalin experience which features angst rock themes that challenge the slow flow of our society, look no further.” Eden Gillespie, Happy (Australia)

“Their sound is now and ever shall be weird, unhip, oddly alluring and precise.” Patrick Rapa , Philly City Paper

“Empathy For The Evil is as pure an expression of conscious, intelligent rock music as you’re likely to hear, with every track, from Art Was The Great Leveller to Odele’s Bath, providing food for mind and soul alike.” The Crack Magazine (UK)

“The uncompromising art of Mecca Normal has been one of the more inspiring stories of the last 30 years.” Bob Ham, The Weekly Spin (Portland)

“It’s interesting to hear a group from THEN — the ’80s—continuing to play into the NOW. Like, Mecca Normal have been together for 30 years, and in context with contemporary “indie” groups, they sound like fucking GIANTS! Their maturity and immediacy screams in the face of contemporary “indie,” which, as it became pop music, has become parody. Mecca Normal never conceded to pop-radio aims, they just kept growing their own.” Mike Nipper, The Stranger (Seattle)

“I had never seen Mecca Normal perform live before, and I was totally thrilled and blown away. They mostly performed songs from their new record Empathy for the Evil, which is fantastic…” This is Fag City (New York)

“This is a thoughtful, moving, and reflective album completely out of step with anything in commercial music which is, of course, a good thing.” Allan MacInnis, Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

“A fascinating piece, minimalist and upsetting. This new album is beautiful.” K-Fuel, webzine (France)

“Moved inside for Mecca Normal. What can you say? Listening to Jean intone a phrase like “Art Was the Great Leveler” (1st song on the new album, Empathy for the Evil) while David whacks the elasticity out of what always sound like brand-new strings has been one of the consistent pleasures of my music-going life.” Franklin Bruno, live review of a show at Troost, New York City

“Mecca Normal has been speaking truth to power since 1984. By day Mecca Normal is mild-mannered writer Jean Smith and graphic artist David Lester, by night the duo wield voice and guitar as weapons of mass provocation, spreading their message of change and social justice far and wide.” Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun

“They remain in fine form on the provocatively entitled new album Empathy for the Evil, again mixing the personal and political.” Kerry Doole, New Canadian Music

“Their insistence that a punk group could be made up of just two people following their own rules — no bass player, quiet guitar/loud vocals, storytelling as a performance art — challenged the prevailing definitions of “punk,” re-enforcing an alternate, more radical definition rooted in the DIY ethic.” — Wondering Sound (New York)

“But instead of celebrating or castigating evil, Smith traces how the absence of empathy manifests as something that looks very much like it: narcissism.” Bill Meyer, Magnet Magazine (USA)

“The new album’s guitar- and organ-driven single ‘Wasn’t Said’ offers an introspective introduction to their lyrically focused and poignant rock realism. Their set should be a charmingly unhinged, rare treat. Recommended.” by Brittnie Fuller, The Stranger

“Her (Jean’s) performance is like a thunderstorm, breathtaking and powerful, in which every lightning bolt is politically-charged.” Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“With this awe-inspiring show of moral and musical strength, Mecca Normal concludes Wrong Wave 2014 in all the right ways.” Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“The overall vibe of this interview is testament to the fact that Mecca Normal is definitely not some relic of bygone times but a vibrant and prolific artistic force. I’ll admit that I was only familiar with their musical output, of which I consider to be absolutely necessary to listen to if you haven’t already. I have had my eyes opened to the other artistic outputs of this duo — Jean Smith and David Lester.” Getting Past The Static (Austin, TX)

“In the early nineties I bought my first Mecca Normal album, the cassette tape of “Dovetail,” released in 1992 by Olympia-based independent record label K Records. I was 13 or 14.”

Tagged ,

Video: Between Livermore and Tracy

1 NEW March-2014

Empathy for the Evil” (M’lady’s Records, 2014)

“…Smith’s characters deal with the inequality and power imbalances that mark modern society.” Colin Joyce, Pitchfork (USA)

“…the songs speak to understanding the inherent nature of frayed humanity.” Eric Risch, PopMatters (USA)

“Turning long, thick passages of prose into singable, memorable songs, Mecca Normal have revolutionized their music again. If you think you’ve already heard everything this band is capable of, you need to hear Empathy For The Evil and find out just how wrong you are. After a long-delayed release, you will finally get a chance. Do not miss this one.” – J Neo Marvin, Ear Candle Productions (San Francisco)

“For the thoughtful listener who appreciates both a good work of fiction and a nice dose of indie folk ‘Empathy for the Evil’ is the record for you.” – Mark Anthony Brennan, Ride the Tempo (Canada) rated 4 out of 5 stars

“… Smith’s words are full of wisdom and humour and cut right through the materialism of the world of rock.” – Tucker Petertil, The Big Takeover (New York)

“Duo Jean Smith and David Lester have been making raw, stripped-down garage rock since the mid 1980s. It’s rare to have this much power and emotion come from one guitarist and one singer. They always keep it real.” – Dawn Jewell, NPR-affiliate WOUB (Athens, Ohio), Top Albums of 2014

“The songs on Empathy are mesmerizing, with Smith sucking you with her trance-like vocals and poetic lyrics backed by Lester’s equally as spellbinding guitar riffs.” Steve Long, Red Dirt Report (Oklahoma)

“Songs like the rollicking “Art Was the Great Leveler” and the more subdued “Normal” focus on the intricacies of the artist’s life – the things that connect, join folks together and perhaps drive wedges between them. I can think of no one better than Smith and Lester to show us the way.” Alison Lang, Broken Pencil (Canada)

“It’s not really important that Mecca Normal has hung around for thirty years, what is important is that they’ve weathered the constant assaults on a disabled industry, and the destructive powers of time, which can eat away at your passion and your partnership. You put on Empathy for the Evil, and it’s like your listening to Mecca Normal at the height of the Riot Grrrl movement, when the Northwest was the center of the music world, when people appreciated the ingenuity and the artistry of artists like Jean Smith and David Lester.” Brian Snider, Secretly-Important (Seattle)

“Art is the Great Leveler, is a beautiful tale weaving Smith’s love for art and relationships, how art can bring two people together.” Troy Michael, Innocent Words (Chicago)

“This is a masterpiece of story and manifesto, a lesson in life…” Sean Michaels, Said the Gramophone (Canada)

“Mecca Normal is not a normal band. They’re free of clichés, unconcerned with catchy pop hooks or mass appeal. They have made some art, and they’d like you to enjoy it on their terms. It’s refreshing, and I’m digging it.” Abe Beeson, Nado Mucho (Pacific Northwest)

“If you’re interested in an adrenalin experience which features angst rock themes that challenge the slow flow of our society, look no further.” Eden Gillespie, Happy (Australia)

“Their sound is now and ever shall be weird, unhip, oddly alluring and precise.” Patrick Rapa , Philly City Paper

“Empathy For The Evil is as pure an expression of conscious, intelligent rock music as you’re likely to hear, with every track, from Art Was The Great Leveller to Odele’s Bath, providing food for mind and soul alike.” The Crack Magazine (UK)

“The uncompromising art of Mecca Normal has been one of the more inspiring stories of the last 30 years.” Bob Ham, The Weekly Spin (Portland)

“It’s interesting to hear a group from THEN — the ’80s—continuing to play into the NOW. Like, Mecca Normal have been together for 30 years, and in context with contemporary “indie” groups, they sound like fucking GIANTS! Their maturity and immediacy screams in the face of contemporary “indie,” which, as it became pop music, has become parody. Mecca Normal never conceded to pop-radio aims, they just kept growing their own.” Mike Nipper, The Stranger (Seattle)

“I had never seen Mecca Normal perform live before, and I was totally thrilled and blown away. They mostly performed songs from their new record Empathy for the Evil, which is fantastic…” This is Fag City (New York)

“This is a thoughtful, moving, and reflective album completely out of step with anything in commercial music which is, of course, a good thing.” Allan MacInnis, Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

“A fascinating piece, minimalist and upsetting. This new album is beautiful.” K-Fuel, webzine (France)

“Moved inside for Mecca Normal. What can you say? Listening to Jean intone a phrase like “Art Was the Great Leveler” (1st song on the new album, Empathy for the Evil) while David whacks the elasticity out of what always sound like brand-new strings has been one of the consistent pleasures of my music-going life.” Franklin Bruno, live review of a show at Troost, New York City

“Mecca Normal has been speaking truth to power since 1984. By day Mecca Normal is mild-mannered writer Jean Smith and graphic artist David Lester, by night the duo wield voice and guitar as weapons of mass provocation, spreading their message of change and social justice far and wide.” Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun

“They remain in fine form on the provocatively entitled new album Empathy for the Evil, again mixing the personal and political.” Kerry Doole, New Canadian Music

“Their insistence that a punk group could be made up of just two people following their own rules — no bass player, quiet guitar/loud vocals, storytelling as a performance art — challenged the prevailing definitions of “punk,” re-enforcing an alternate, more radical definition rooted in the DIY ethic.” — Wondering Sound (New York)

“But instead of celebrating or castigating evil, Smith traces how the absence of empathy manifests as something that looks very much like it: narcissism.” Bill Meyer, Magnet Magazine (USA)

“The new album’s guitar- and organ-driven single ‘Wasn’t Said’ offers an introspective introduction to their lyrically focused and poignant rock realism. Their set should be a charmingly unhinged, rare treat. Recommended.” by Brittnie Fuller, The Stranger

“Her (Jean’s) performance is like a thunderstorm, breathtaking and powerful, in which every lightning bolt is politically-charged.” Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“With this awe-inspiring show of moral and musical strength, Mecca Normal concludes Wrong Wave 2014 in all the right ways.” Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“The overall vibe of this interview is testament to the fact that Mecca Normal is definitely not some relic of bygone times but a vibrant and prolific artistic force. I’ll admit that I was only familiar with their musical output, of which I consider to be absolutely necessary to listen to if you haven’t already. I have had my eyes opened to the other artistic outputs of this duo — Jean Smith and David Lester.” Getting Past The Static (Austin, TX)

“In the early nineties I bought my first Mecca Normal album, the cassette tape of “Dovetail,” released in 1992 by Olympia-based independent record label K Records. I was 13 or 14.”

Tagged ,

Video: Wasn’t Said

1 NEW March-2014

Empathy for the Evil” (M’lady’s Records, 2014)

“…Smith’s characters deal with the inequality and power imbalances that mark modern society.” Colin Joyce, Pitchfork (USA)

“…the songs speak to understanding the inherent nature of frayed humanity.” Eric Risch, PopMatters (USA)

“Turning long, thick passages of prose into singable, memorable songs, Mecca Normal have revolutionized their music again. If you think you’ve already heard everything this band is capable of, you need to hear Empathy For The Evil and find out just how wrong you are. After a long-delayed release, you will finally get a chance. Do not miss this one.” – J Neo Marvin, Ear Candle Productions (San Francisco)

“For the thoughtful listener who appreciates both a good work of fiction and a nice dose of indie folk ‘Empathy for the Evil’ is the record for you.” – Mark Anthony Brennan, Ride the Tempo (Canada) rated 4 out of 5 stars

“… Smith’s words are full of wisdom and humour and cut right through the materialism of the world of rock.” – Tucker Petertil, The Big Takeover (New York)

“Duo Jean Smith and David Lester have been making raw, stripped-down garage rock since the mid 1980s. It’s rare to have this much power and emotion come from one guitarist and one singer. They always keep it real.” – Dawn Jewell, NPR-affiliate WOUB (Athens, Ohio), Top Albums of 2014

“The songs on Empathy are mesmerizing, with Smith sucking you with her trance-like vocals and poetic lyrics backed by Lester’s equally as spellbinding guitar riffs.” Steve Long, Red Dirt Report (Oklahoma)

“Songs like the rollicking “Art Was the Great Leveler” and the more subdued “Normal” focus on the intricacies of the artist’s life – the things that connect, join folks together and perhaps drive wedges between them. I can think of no one better than Smith and Lester to show us the way.” Alison Lang, Broken Pencil (Canada)

“It’s not really important that Mecca Normal has hung around for thirty years, what is important is that they’ve weathered the constant assaults on a disabled industry, and the destructive powers of time, which can eat away at your passion and your partnership. You put on Empathy for the Evil, and it’s like your listening to Mecca Normal at the height of the Riot Grrrl movement, when the Northwest was the center of the music world, when people appreciated the ingenuity and the artistry of artists like Jean Smith and David Lester.” Brian Snider, Secretly-Important (Seattle)

“Art is the Great Leveler, is a beautiful tale weaving Smith’s love for art and relationships, how art can bring two people together.” Troy Michael, Innocent Words (Chicago)

“This is a masterpiece of story and manifesto, a lesson in life…” Sean Michaels, Said the Gramophone (Canada)

“Mecca Normal is not a normal band. They’re free of clichés, unconcerned with catchy pop hooks or mass appeal. They have made some art, and they’d like you to enjoy it on their terms. It’s refreshing, and I’m digging it.” Abe Beeson, Nado Mucho (Pacific Northwest)

“If you’re interested in an adrenalin experience which features angst rock themes that challenge the slow flow of our society, look no further.” Eden Gillespie, Happy (Australia)

“Their sound is now and ever shall be weird, unhip, oddly alluring and precise.” Patrick Rapa , Philly City Paper

“Empathy For The Evil is as pure an expression of conscious, intelligent rock music as you’re likely to hear, with every track, from Art Was The Great Leveller to Odele’s Bath, providing food for mind and soul alike.” The Crack Magazine (UK)

“The uncompromising art of Mecca Normal has been one of the more inspiring stories of the last 30 years.” Bob Ham, The Weekly Spin (Portland)

“It’s interesting to hear a group from THEN — the ’80s—continuing to play into the NOW. Like, Mecca Normal have been together for 30 years, and in context with contemporary “indie” groups, they sound like fucking GIANTS! Their maturity and immediacy screams in the face of contemporary “indie,” which, as it became pop music, has become parody. Mecca Normal never conceded to pop-radio aims, they just kept growing their own.” Mike Nipper, The Stranger (Seattle)

“I had never seen Mecca Normal perform live before, and I was totally thrilled and blown away. They mostly performed songs from their new record Empathy for the Evil, which is fantastic…” This is Fag City (New York)

“This is a thoughtful, moving, and reflective album completely out of step with anything in commercial music which is, of course, a good thing.” Allan MacInnis, Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

“A fascinating piece, minimalist and upsetting. This new album is beautiful.” K-Fuel, webzine (France)

“Moved inside for Mecca Normal. What can you say? Listening to Jean intone a phrase like “Art Was the Great Leveler” (1st song on the new album, Empathy for the Evil) while David whacks the elasticity out of what always sound like brand-new strings has been one of the consistent pleasures of my music-going life.” Franklin Bruno, live review of a show at Troost, New York City

“Mecca Normal has been speaking truth to power since 1984. By day Mecca Normal is mild-mannered writer Jean Smith and graphic artist David Lester, by night the duo wield voice and guitar as weapons of mass provocation, spreading their message of change and social justice far and wide.” Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun

“They remain in fine form on the provocatively entitled new album Empathy for the Evil, again mixing the personal and political.” Kerry Doole, New Canadian Music

“Their insistence that a punk group could be made up of just two people following their own rules — no bass player, quiet guitar/loud vocals, storytelling as a performance art — challenged the prevailing definitions of “punk,” re-enforcing an alternate, more radical definition rooted in the DIY ethic.” — Wondering Sound (New York)

“But instead of celebrating or castigating evil, Smith traces how the absence of empathy manifests as something that looks very much like it: narcissism.” Bill Meyer, Magnet Magazine (USA)

“The new album’s guitar- and organ-driven single ‘Wasn’t Said’ offers an introspective introduction to their lyrically focused and poignant rock realism. Their set should be a charmingly unhinged, rare treat. Recommended.” by Brittnie Fuller, The Stranger

“Her (Jean’s) performance is like a thunderstorm, breathtaking and powerful, in which every lightning bolt is politically-charged.” Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“With this awe-inspiring show of moral and musical strength, Mecca Normal concludes Wrong Wave 2014 in all the right ways.” Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“The overall vibe of this interview is testament to the fact that Mecca Normal is definitely not some relic of bygone times but a vibrant and prolific artistic force. I’ll admit that I was only familiar with their musical output, of which I consider to be absolutely necessary to listen to if you haven’t already. I have had my eyes opened to the other artistic outputs of this duo — Jean Smith and David Lester.” Getting Past The Static (Austin, TX)

“In the early nineties I bought my first Mecca Normal album, the cassette tape of “Dovetail,” released in 1992 by Olympia-based independent record label K Records. I was 13 or 14.”

Tagged ,

Video: What’s Your Name?

1 NEW March-2014

Empathy for the Evil” (M’lady’s Records, 2014)

“…Smith’s characters deal with the inequality and power imbalances that mark modern society.” Colin Joyce, Pitchfork (USA)

“…the songs speak to understanding the inherent nature of frayed humanity.” Eric Risch, PopMatters (USA)

“Turning long, thick passages of prose into singable, memorable songs, Mecca Normal have revolutionized their music again. If you think you’ve already heard everything this band is capable of, you need to hear Empathy For The Evil and find out just how wrong you are. After a long-delayed release, you will finally get a chance. Do not miss this one.” – J Neo Marvin, Ear Candle Productions (San Francisco)

“For the thoughtful listener who appreciates both a good work of fiction and a nice dose of indie folk ‘Empathy for the Evil’ is the record for you.” – Mark Anthony Brennan, Ride the Tempo (Canada) rated 4 out of 5 stars

“… Smith’s words are full of wisdom and humour and cut right through the materialism of the world of rock.” – Tucker Petertil, The Big Takeover (New York)

“Duo Jean Smith and David Lester have been making raw, stripped-down garage rock since the mid 1980s. It’s rare to have this much power and emotion come from one guitarist and one singer. They always keep it real.” – Dawn Jewell, NPR-affiliate WOUB (Athens, Ohio), Top Albums of 2014

“The songs on Empathy are mesmerizing, with Smith sucking you with her trance-like vocals and poetic lyrics backed by Lester’s equally as spellbinding guitar riffs.” Steve Long, Red Dirt Report (Oklahoma)

“Songs like the rollicking “Art Was the Great Leveler” and the more subdued “Normal” focus on the intricacies of the artist’s life – the things that connect, join folks together and perhaps drive wedges between them. I can think of no one better than Smith and Lester to show us the way.” Alison Lang, Broken Pencil (Canada)

“It’s not really important that Mecca Normal has hung around for thirty years, what is important is that they’ve weathered the constant assaults on a disabled industry, and the destructive powers of time, which can eat away at your passion and your partnership. You put on Empathy for the Evil, and it’s like your listening to Mecca Normal at the height of the Riot Grrrl movement, when the Northwest was the center of the music world, when people appreciated the ingenuity and the artistry of artists like Jean Smith and David Lester.” Brian Snider, Secretly-Important (Seattle)

“Art is the Great Leveler, is a beautiful tale weaving Smith’s love for art and relationships, how art can bring two people together.” Troy Michael, Innocent Words (Chicago)

“This is a masterpiece of story and manifesto, a lesson in life…” Sean Michaels, Said the Gramophone (Canada)

“Mecca Normal is not a normal band. They’re free of clichés, unconcerned with catchy pop hooks or mass appeal. They have made some art, and they’d like you to enjoy it on their terms. It’s refreshing, and I’m digging it.” Abe Beeson, Nado Mucho (Pacific Northwest)

“If you’re interested in an adrenalin experience which features angst rock themes that challenge the slow flow of our society, look no further.” Eden Gillespie, Happy (Australia)

“Their sound is now and ever shall be weird, unhip, oddly alluring and precise.” Patrick Rapa , Philly City Paper

“Empathy For The Evil is as pure an expression of conscious, intelligent rock music as you’re likely to hear, with every track, from Art Was The Great Leveller to Odele’s Bath, providing food for mind and soul alike.” The Crack Magazine (UK)

“The uncompromising art of Mecca Normal has been one of the more inspiring stories of the last 30 years.” Bob Ham, The Weekly Spin (Portland)

“It’s interesting to hear a group from THEN — the ’80s—continuing to play into the NOW. Like, Mecca Normal have been together for 30 years, and in context with contemporary “indie” groups, they sound like fucking GIANTS! Their maturity and immediacy screams in the face of contemporary “indie,” which, as it became pop music, has become parody. Mecca Normal never conceded to pop-radio aims, they just kept growing their own.” Mike Nipper, The Stranger (Seattle)

“I had never seen Mecca Normal perform live before, and I was totally thrilled and blown away. They mostly performed songs from their new record Empathy for the Evil, which is fantastic…” This is Fag City (New York)

“This is a thoughtful, moving, and reflective album completely out of step with anything in commercial music which is, of course, a good thing.” Allan MacInnis, Georgia Straight (Vancouver)

“A fascinating piece, minimalist and upsetting. This new album is beautiful.” K-Fuel, webzine (France)

“Moved inside for Mecca Normal. What can you say? Listening to Jean intone a phrase like “Art Was the Great Leveler” (1st song on the new album, Empathy for the Evil) while David whacks the elasticity out of what always sound like brand-new strings has been one of the consistent pleasures of my music-going life.” Franklin Bruno, live review of a show at Troost, New York City

“Mecca Normal has been speaking truth to power since 1984. By day Mecca Normal is mild-mannered writer Jean Smith and graphic artist David Lester, by night the duo wield voice and guitar as weapons of mass provocation, spreading their message of change and social justice far and wide.” Shawn Conner, Vancouver Sun

“They remain in fine form on the provocatively entitled new album Empathy for the Evil, again mixing the personal and political.” Kerry Doole, New Canadian Music

“Their insistence that a punk group could be made up of just two people following their own rules — no bass player, quiet guitar/loud vocals, storytelling as a performance art — challenged the prevailing definitions of “punk,” re-enforcing an alternate, more radical definition rooted in the DIY ethic.” — Wondering Sound (New York)

“But instead of celebrating or castigating evil, Smith traces how the absence of empathy manifests as something that looks very much like it: narcissism.” Bill Meyer, Magnet Magazine (USA)

“The new album’s guitar- and organ-driven single ‘Wasn’t Said’ offers an introspective introduction to their lyrically focused and poignant rock realism. Their set should be a charmingly unhinged, rare treat. Recommended.” by Brittnie Fuller, The Stranger

“Her (Jean’s) performance is like a thunderstorm, breathtaking and powerful, in which every lightning bolt is politically-charged.” Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“With this awe-inspiring show of moral and musical strength, Mecca Normal concludes Wrong Wave 2014 in all the right ways.” Dillon Ramsey, Master’s candidate at SFU’s School for the Contemporary Arts, Vandocument (Vancouver)

“The overall vibe of this interview is testament to the fact that Mecca Normal is definitely not some relic of bygone times but a vibrant and prolific artistic force. I’ll admit that I was only familiar with their musical output, of which I consider to be absolutely necessary to listen to if you haven’t already. I have had my eyes opened to the other artistic outputs of this duo — Jean Smith and David Lester.” Getting Past The Static (Austin, TX)

“In the early nineties I bought my first Mecca Normal album, the cassette tape of “Dovetail,” released in 1992 by Olympia-based independent record label K Records. I was 13 or 14.”

Tagged ,

David Lester’s Self-Referential TOP 25 List

My Self-Referential TOP 25 List of 2018 (in random order)

1. Designing an anti-fascist poster for the Montreal International Anarchist Theatre Festival.

2. Mecca Normal’s “In January” used as a soundtrack for White Death (2:40), a film made by Amsterdam-based Jocelyne Moreau. White Death is about passion, tuberculosis as ‘consumption’ and ‘romantic disease’.

3. Surpassing 500 columns in the Mecca Normal collaboration for MAGNET Magazine online.

RRR11-Goldman-Web

4. My poster of Emma Goldman included in the “Remember | Resist | Redraw: A Radical History Poster Project” exhibit at the Peel Art Gallery, Museum and Archives (PAMA) (Brampton, ON).

44766987_10156873879062509_7603174149325848576_n

5. Collaborating with the Graphic History Collective to illustrate a 93 page comic, in 53 days, on the Winnipeg General Strike of 1919.

Joelene 5 800

6. Mecca Normal performing a set at my art exhibit at the Heart of the City Festival (Interurban Art Gallery, Vancouver).

Ballantyne

7. My illustration of The Battle of Ballantyne Pier used in promo for the musical version by Vancouver playwright Sherry MacDonald.

8. Mecca Normal’s “I Walk Alone” is slanted for use in next season’s feminist FX series Better Things.

9. Seeing my book cover for “1919: A Graphic History of the Winnipeg General Strike” on display at the Frankfurt Book Fair and on the cover of the Spring 2019 catalogue of publisher Between the Lines.

10. Another year of friendship and collaboration with Jean Smith. We worked on new Mecca Normal songs and we were asked by Patrick Maley to play YoYo a GoGo in 2019.

11. Completing a 5 x 3’ mural commission for an exhibit at Cumberland Museum and Archives.

Best Praxis rehearsing “Strong White Male” before the show (below)

bp

12. The thrill of hearing London-based UK band Best Praxis (“We are non-binary and female people of colour taking up space”) cover Mecca Normal’s Strong White Male.

13. Performing with Wendy Atkinson as Horde of Two, playing two poems by Bud Osborn at the Vancouver book launch of “Busted: An Illustrated History of Drug Prohibition in Canada” by Susan Boyd.

HERE

14. Seeing the great cover art by Jean Smith for Calvin Johnson’s solo album, featured in articles and reviews in Rolling Stone, SPIN, Stereogum, and Pitchfork.

15. Being approached to illustrate a graphic biography on the life of radical anti-slavery activist Benjamin Lay.

16. Jean Smith’s excellent cover art for Lisa Marr and the Tranzmitors‘ benefit 7″ for the Girls Rock Camp Vancouver.

17. The great Seattle cellist Lori Goldston uses two of Jean Smith’s paintings as album covers.

18. Another year of the amazing paintings by Jean Smith and the fun of seeing the diverse range of people responding to her art. It gives me great hope for this world that people buy art.

0001 crop 1200 NO TEXT

Jean Smith $100 USD paintings (11 x 14″) for sale on FaceBook

19. Putting together the insert art for the upcoming Mecca Normal live in Montreal album on Artoffact Records.

20. The challenging and profound 3-night sold-out stand of Tanya Tagaq/Laakkuluk curated by my partner Wendy Atkinson for her Beyond Words series at The Chan Centre for the Performing Arts at UBC. The 2018 season also included an evening with Laurie Anderson.

Paul%20Robeson

21. South Korean publisher Book Sea releases an edition of “Celebrate People’s History: The Poster Book of Resistance and Revolution” which includes my poster of Paul Robeson.

22. UK-based artist Rita Isaac asks Jean Smith for a painting to be used in an art book series by Laurence King Publishing “that aim to shed a new light onto the contemporary practice of different art forms and use of materials.”

18192734_10213153277165593_1032969709904792759_o

Jean Smith, Rose Melberg, Jon Manning, Wendy Atkinson, David Lester

23. Celebrating 20 years with my partner Wendy Atkinson by cycling in Germany and Holland and travel to Shanghai, China.

6365.JPG

24. The fun of doing a Mecca Normal interview with Allison Wolfe for her podcast, I’m In The Band.

25. Another year of work on my graphic novel about Emma Goldman. I’m getting closer.

Tagged

Video: In Canada

“In Canada” is from “Who Shot Elvis?” (Matador, 1997). Jean Smith vocals. David Lester guitar. Charlie Quintana drums. Video by Jean Smith.

Tagged , , ,

Cover: Strong White Male

Late last year I got a FaceBook notification that someone had mentioned Mecca Normal. It was very early in the morning, and when I clicked on the link, I really did have a sense that I was still in dreamland. The video snippet (Instagram) showed London band Best Praxis rehearsing Strong White Male “a cover by the amazing Mecca Normal” for a fundraising show two days hence. The band description: “non-binary and female people of colour taking up space. We make DIY punk music.”

Very timely with the Man Thinks Woman / Strong White Male / I Walk Alone medley on Mecca Normal’s new album: Live in Montreal, 1996!

Best Praxis rehearsing Strong White Male before the show (below)

The show!

Mecca Normal opening for The Julie Ruin in Portland, 2016

Tagged , ,