Charles Aaron (former editorial director at Spin) tweeted our video for “I Walk Alone” today.
Mecca 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.
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
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
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.
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!
“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
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.
Sonny Boy Williamson (circa 1984)