To know her is to love her…
Cuando encaras un disco de versiones normalmente sólo es señal de una cosa: cierto hastío o cierta dejadez creativa por parte de quien lo ejecuta. Con Juliana Hatfield, como dije en alguna ocasión, qué duda cabe de que algo de ésto habrá, pero hoy por hoy Juliana se puede permitir hacer lo que le venga en gana (como también comenté en cierta ocasión).
Este disco de versiones, además, tiene el aliciente de que está autoproducido y editado por su propio sello, pero contando con la colaboración de Pledge Music, el portal dedicado a colaborar con causas benéficas, y es que este Juliana Hatfield (2012) es un disco que colabora con una organización benéfica.
Por lo demás, un buen puñado de temas no necesariamente clásicos, un pequeño recorrido por un reducido puñado de influencias que han dejado huella en la música de JH. Desde Teenage Fanclub a Nada Surf, pasando por la ELO, The Who, Bad Company, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Foofighters, I Blame Coco o Liz Phair.
Y lo cierto es que el disco, además, no está nada mal. Me esperaba algo mucho más acústico, a tenor de las presentaciones que llevó a cabo con Evan Dando hace un par de años, pero no. Las canciones están perfectamente ejecutadas y oírlas representa un verdadero placer, porque, aun sin alejarse demasiado del espíritu original, Juliana no podía menos que llevárselas a su terreno y de alguna forma reinterpretarlas.
Un ejercicio más que interesante. Recomendable.
I am going to make my first all-covers album and I hope you will follow me here as it happens. Once I begin recording, I will be updating you with photo, video and audio documenting my progress. I am humbly offering some of my painting experiments, and other interesting stuff – as well as CD, record, and digital versions of the future end product – to help fund this project.
Also, a percentage of the money we raise will be donated to IMPACT Boston, which teaches self-defense and self-empowerment to people who really need it (I took a weekend self-defense course there a few years ago and it was really great and I was able to see with my own eyes how much it helped the women who were enrolled.) IMPACT offers scholarships for those who can’t afford the workshops.
I want to thank everyone who made possible the creation of my last album and I hope you all are as excited as I am about my first album of other peoples’ songs. Juliana” (pledgemusic.com)
Juliana lo ha vuelto a hacer. Sé de sobras que con la Hatfield me puede la subjetividad y el afecto personal hacia una música que me lleva acompañando desde hace ya dos décadas. Podría decirse que hemos madurado juntos en estos últimos años. Y es que en este There´s always another girl (2011), Juliana Hatfield ha vuelto a saciar mi hambre de estar cerca de su voz susurrante, de sus cálidas melodías, de sus frases de guitarras descarnadas. Ha vuelto a componer otro puñado de canciones que sin duda pasarán desapercibidas para el gran público Indie, pero que a mí realmente me emocionan. Esas pequeñas píldoras dulzonas que Juliana lleva facturando desde aquellos lejanos tiempos de Juliana Hatfield 3 o las Black Babies tienen aquí su exponente en cortes como Someone else´s problems, Sex and drugs, Don´t wanna dance, Candy wrappers, Stray kids, Taxicab, There´s always another girl…
En este nuevo álbum, Juliana huye de la languidez algo cansisna de Peace and love (2010) para acercarse algo más a la soberbia altivez de discos más juveniles. Cualquiera de los temas antes citados podría ilustrárnoslo.
El único pero que le pondríamos al disco es su producción un tanto descuidada (hay un tema en el que se oye los ladridos de su perro de fondo, a ver si averiguais cuál), aunque éso, en estos tiempos, más que un defecto, podría pasar por ser una virtud. Por lo demás, disco absolutamente de madurez, Juliana canta como nunca, su forma de interpretar su música sigue siendo tan sencilla como su punto de vista sobre el Pop: compromiso tan sólo consigo misma y con los que la rodean.
“For Juliana Hatfield fans, the release of There’s Always Another Girl should feel like an accomplishment. The songwriter’s been in a near-daily conversation with them about the album’s recording process through her PledgeMusic website and raised money by selling unique items and experiences on the site. Things fans could “pledge” for through the site ranged from a personal Skype session with the singer to the downright-weird “certified” lock of hair. These die-hards got the VIP treatment right up until the album’s completion, hearing There’s Always Another Girl a month early, and now Hatfield will see what the rest of the world thinks of it this week.
With these pledges funding a lot of the project (Hatfield’s PledgeMusic site says 489 percent of her fundraising goal was met), Hatfield created an album that was truly hers, and there’s a lot of good (and bad) that is tied to that. Not surprisingly for Hatfield fans, the album leans heavily on guitar-based songs that include razor-thin guitar tones and acoustic-led tracks. The singer’s pristine voice shines through on the album’s best track, the quirky, bopping “Sex and Drugs,” which doesn’t quite turn out to be the party its title promises. Instead, the song slams the “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” culture and its effect on women in both its lyrics and an anti-guitar solo that puts buzzes and whirrs in the place of full-note string bends.
But There’s Always Another Girl abstains from the rock and roll spirit in another way that isn’t as beneficial to the music—the album’s rubbing alcohol-sterile production. Tracks like “Candy Wrappers” and “Taxicab” are perfect in all the wrong ways. With its corny synth parts and a straightforward rhythm, “Candy Wrappers” sounds like a Pinkerton-era Weezer track without all the charm—the dirtied-up downstroked guitars and fuzzy, almost-clipping drums. And whether Hatfield likes it or not, she has a piercing clarity to her voice that makes her harmonies either angelically smooth or too much to handle all at once.
But beyond these issues, there’s a songwriter who has been honing her craft over several decades. “Don’t Wanna Dance”’s wiry guitar intro is interrupted by Hatfield’s dog’s incredible timing (think “Been Caught Stealing” by Jane’s Addiction) before launching into a relaxed, timeless rock groove. “Batteries” builds and builds before introducing a heavily modulated synth that sounds like it was built to induce paranoia. It’s moments like these that show Hatfield’s ability to take advantage of her own intentional, focused ideas and meld them with spontaneous moments of creative opportunity. There’s Always Another Girl isn’t perfect, but it is an awfully focused effort coming from an artist that is doing it for the right reasons” (pastemagazine.com)
Juliana Hatfield’s work ethic continues to amaze her loyal fans and those just discovering her. Since her Berklee years in 1986, Juliana has played in three touring bands: Blake Babies, The Lemonheads & Some Girls. Each one received significant mainstream and underground exposure, not to mention consistent critical acclaim. The same can be said of her solo-work, which she continues to this day. According to my count, Juliana Hatfield has written and recorded 179 songs. This doesn’t include soundtracks, maxi-singles, songs from the the much sought-after but never released album God’s Foot, and the many songs she’s released via her website. She’s played the role of producer, engineer, cover designer, and now runs her own label, Ye Olde Records. On her most recent album, Peace & Love, she not only produced and engineered it all, but played every single damned instrument to boot. In late 2008, she tacked another line on an already impressive resume by publishing a 336 page memoir.
Sounds Good Ink recently interviewed Juliana over the phone. Aside from a couple minor distractions from her dog (she was speaking from her Cambridge apartment), Ms. Hatfield spoke in detail of a wide range of topics, from her hatred of mp3s to her love of good books. Though wide in it’s range, this interview is still just a peek into the life and mind of one of the hardest working talents in the last 20+ years of pop/rock history.
You’ve written and/or recorded a lot of songs. These include songs for Blake Babies & Some Girls, songs for soundtracks, etc. Then there are all those songs you released on your website, using that whole Radiohead-esque “name your price” strategy…I did it before Radiohead did it. I think I was the first one who did it. Say what you want [chuckles]. Well, maybe not the first, but I never heard of anyone doing it before. I did this at least five years ago or something, maybe even six.
How did you decide to do this? It might have been my manager’s idea. I call him my manager, but he’s really one of my best friends. He’s kind of agenius. He wrote a sort of manifesto about the honor system and put it out on my website. He’s always coming up with these ideas. It was kind of an experiment. We wanted to try something new. I had so many unreleased songs and they were sitting around. We just figured, “Why don’t I just put them out there?” At least let people hear them. And if they wanna, you know, be generous and give money to the cause, let them do that too.
Was it worth it? Well, I mean, I’m not doing it anymore. It’s something that I would do in between legitimate albums as a way to keep letting people hear stuff, and also to generate a little bit of income. But, mostly just to give people something to listen to…I mean, so many people are taking music for free; taking music that they’re supposed to pay for. People leaking albums before their release date and sharing them. Which is shady, and can potentially come away from the artist. I’m not stating any position here, I’m just saying that people are leaking albums before their release date and sharing them, and that goes on…that’s widespread, obviously. I think that people do this and they feel empowered. “We’re taking the power away from the evil record companies.” But what they may not realize is that not all artists are affiliated with record companies, [so] they’re actually taking money away from the artist. But, when people find unreleased music and they download it, they feel like they are in the position of power. I think when you offer them the choice to donate you give them the music and you say, “You can pay for this or not. Give what you can afford or not, or maybe do it at a later date. Here you go.” I think that also makes them feel a little bit empowered that they have the choice. That can make them feel good about themselves. My fans are so cool; they want to pay for music. They know the income is going directly to me and they want to support my future music, and whatever they pay me goes directly back into making more songs and recording albums.
For your newest album, Peace & Love, are you focusing on a particular medium? Digital? CD? Vinyl? Also, will the market be mostly internet or music stores? As of now there are no plans for vinyl, but that’s something I might do for the winter, possibly. I really, just generally, am not focusing on either. I’m just sort of making it available digitally and also CD form. I know there are a lot of people who still want CDs and they can buy directly from me, from my website. People know that I run my own record company. And they know when they buy a CD through my website that it’s all going through me and to me. And that’s a big part of the sales for me. But then, you know, I’m also distributing them in mostlyindependent record stores this time. Last time I had a large distributor who was putting the CD in all kinds of stores. Borders and things like that. But this time I’m going through mostly independent record stores. Fewer and fewer people are buying CDs. The CD sections in the big stores are shrinking; they’re just getting smaller and smaller. They are squeezing out people like me. The CD sections have shrunk, even in the past year or two.
Right. It is accurate to assume that CDs are on their way out. But they do still sell. They do. It depends on what you’re looking to sell. To me, whenever I sell one CD, it’s exciting for me. I’m not aiming at one goal. I was surprised at how many CDs my indie distributor wanted. I thought it would be a lot fewer, but I was pleasantly surprised at the total number of CDs that the indie stores are buying for the first shipment.
Do you have nostalgic connection to CDs? Do you want them to stay? Well, at this point I don’t really care because I hardly ever listen to music anymore. I know that it’s stupid to get attached to any technology these days because it’s gonna be obsolete. With the internet there will always be ways to find things. You know, you can find vinyl, you can find CDs, you can find cassettes if you want. With cassettes, we’ve learned that they don’t age very well. I love cassettes. I was still putting all my mixes onto cassette even up until the early 2000s. I always thought the cassette mix sounded better than CDs. When CDs came out I thought they sounded like crap. And now, I think MP3s sound like crap and MP3s make CDs sound better. So, it’s like, I think that technology is going in the direction of crappier and crappier sounding files. I’ve never downloaded an album because I think digital, downloaded music sounds like crap. I just don’t buy it, unless I really, really need to hear something. I can’t get behind it. I think it’s simpler to have a CD. You get this bunch of songs in a certain order, and it’s very compact and it’s simple. But when they are all mixed together in cyberspace then it’s too complicated to me. I just want to hear an album from start to finish.
Do you own an iPod? No, I don’t. I never have. I’ve listened to other people’s and they sound like crap. And I don’t like the little buds in your ears. I know you can use different ones, but…I’m not into the iPod. It’s not something that appeals to me at any level.
Have you noticed that the people who are considered revolutionaries in sound usually go backwards? Like Steve Albini….I mean, there are people that go forward. But who are they? Do they matter? I mean, the people using the latest technology…who are they and do I care? The technology is not what matters. And the people who are celebrating the very latest technology, are they writing good songs? Can they make do with very little? Cause, who knows? When the electricity goes out then what are you gonna do? When your hard drive crashes then what are you gonna do? I’m just always preparing for things to break down and things to get lost in cyberspace.
What about social networking sites? You’ve had a tight following for quite a while and have always had something of a punk aesthetic, as far as meeting people face to face and having some sort of community vibe. Have those sites had any good impact for you? I ask because I know some very good, yet unknown musicians whose music careers were benefited greatly by social networking sites.
I think so. I mean, I started my record label in 2004. I think that was the first time I set up a Myspace. I don’t even know if I had a website before then. So I kind of had to utilize the internet in order to get the word out; and it definitely helped me. Then, a couple of years ago, I started to make a point to interact with people directly. I started writing this blog where I’d write about a song a week. Just talking about a song every week that was mine. I’d ask people to get involved. So I kind of started interacting and I think people liked that a lot. Then I started selling CDs directly through my website. I think people really like it when artists have a lot of accessibility. Where you are on the same level with your fans…when they are not even fans anymore, they just become people. They are people out there interacting with you, and you are just a person. And then I started Twittering. I got into it for a while…and then I recently quit Twitter and Facebook. It just started to overwhelm me. It just became a distraction. You start twittering with people, then you’re getting in all these arguments, then you’re talking back to people, then you get in fights, and the whole thing just becomes too negative and distracting from the work. So I don’t do anymore, and I hardly deal with Myspace at all. All of the interaction becomes a big distraction from the work, which is the most important thing. I’ve decided that I need to cut off a little bit of the access to the people that I was giving them because it was intruding into my life and into my work. And I really think a lot of people are doing that. A lot of people are quitting Twitter and they’re just realizing, “Shit, I’m just getting into these debates with people that are totally pointless.” People don’t need to know what I think about everything. They don’t need to know what I’m doing. All they need to know is when my album’s coming out and that I’m grateful for their support.
I mean, you wrote a book… I wrote a goddamn book, isn’t that enough for you people? (laughs) No, I’m just kidding. And I started up another blog on my website in which I write about whatever I feel like. People can read that and know what’s going on.
Ok, these next questions are things that I’ve been curious about for a while. Do you write really quickly? You’ve got all kinds of albums, and you’re also on several soundtracks. I mean, do you just get up early, write-write-write-write-write? Sometimes it takes a really long time to write a song. Especially the lyrics. They are the hardest parts. The music comes a little bit faster.
You can hum a melody a lot quicker than pen a lyric. Yeah-yeah-yeah. Exactly. Or, you know, sometimes it takes time to work out the music to a bridge or something. But the lyrics definitely take me the longest. I’m not one of those people who can just spit them out when I’m improvising.
Did writing the book come naturally? Have you been writing prose or anything of that nature for a while? I actually wanted to be a writer before I wanted to be a musician. I mean, from a very early age I was writing prose and I was also singing and playing piano. At first I wanted to be a writer. But then, when I started playing guitar, I completely gave up the other writing. I did not develop my writing skills over the whole time I was making records, until I started writing this book. I feel like I have potential as a writer, but I really need to focus on it and develop it because I’ve put it on the back burner for so long. I’m actually working on another book now. I want to be a writer when I grow up. I really do.
What’s the future book that you are working on about? It’s another non-fiction book about a certain thing that happened to me, a certain period in my life. It’s more specific to a certain period of time than the last time was. In the future I want to start writing fiction.
Have you fooled around with fiction writing at all? Not much. Not a lot. But I’ve always wanted to.
Who are some of the fiction authors you’ve been reading lately? You know, a great book that I read was Under the Skin by Michel Faber. I really like William Gaddis; I think he’s great. I just read this really harrowing memoir about a woman who had serious anorexia. It’s called, Wasted: A Memoir of Anorexia and Bulimia, by Marya Hornbacher. She ended up at about 52 pounds; the worst anorexia I’ve ever heard of. She also wrote another book about her extreme mental illness called Madness. They are both pretty interesting.
Now, you mentioned that you don’t listen to music much anymore. Did you just have enough of it at one point? I just got a little burnt out. It was just music-music-music-music for so many years. I kind of hit a wall. The older you get, the faster time goes by. And, if I have some free time, I want to read or watch a film or write. There’re things I want to do, and I don’t have time for music anymore. I can only listen to music when I’m working on something else. Like, if I’m painting, that’s when I’ll put on a record. When I’m at home I can’t sit still and just listen to music. I’m too restless.
But you’re still getting the music out there, though. I mean, you have over a 20 year long music career and are still at it. It’s incredible. I feel so lucky that people even care still. But, I also feel like I’ve improved a lot over the years. I’ve been working on it. it’s not like I was fully formed at the beginning. I had to work on it for 20 years. Attain some mastery over it.
And you do have a loyal following. Also, I think most fans of music have at least heard of you or heard a few of your songs. Yeah, it’s a weird thing. They know my name more than they know my music or my face.
El último trabajo de Juliana Hatfield se titula Peace and Love, un título demasiado evidente y tópico, quizás, o bastante clarificador sobre el actual estado de ánimo de la americana: algo así como un estado de calma interior quizás reconducido por sus ya más de cuarenta añitos. Ese estado de paz interior es el que la lleva a componer líneas emocionalmente interesantes como las de Why can´t we love each other, en la que desde un planteamiento sencillo se propone por qué no amarnos mutuamente, tras renunciar a las discusiones y a los enfados. ¿Demasiado simple? Quizás. Pero esa sencillez emocional y musical es la que nos propone la Hatfield en este nuevo disco: un álbum desnudo de artificios musicales y que rebosa emoción y sentimiento a flor de piel. Algo así como esos ramalazos acústicos con los que de vez en cuando se descuelga Neil Young, un acercamiento a los sentimientos contados en primera persona (Evan, Peace and Love, Butterflies, I picked you up, The end of the war, What is wrong, Let´s go home, Faith in your friends…) Musicalmente, está lejos de su anterior disco, How to walked away (2008), mucho más rico en matices, sonoridades y arreglos, pero ese alejamiento es buscado e intencionado, como ya mencionábamos antes. Particularmente, prefiero aquellos temas algo más arreglados y en los que aparecen más variedad de sonidos (Faith in your friends, Why can´t we love each other, Let´s go home, I´m dissapearing, Dear anonymous) Un disco, en fin, que musicalmente baja un peldaño con respecto a su antecesor pero que con sucesivas escuchas va ganando enteros en el aspecto emocional. Además, Juliana es una de nuestras debilidades, por lo que casi cualquier cosa que editase de seguro que nos seguiría emocionando. Por cierto, por si no lo había mencionado antes, Peace and Love está compuesto, interpretado, producido y arreglado por Juliana Hatfield.
PEACE AND LOVE I try always to learn from painful experiences, and to forgive – both myself and others – and to move on, with an open heart and mind. At some point one realizes that anger is a real waste of energy, it’s draining and damaging, and one learns to deliberately let go of it, and the letting go brings a lightness, a new freedom and hopefulness that may unfortunately be hard to sustain at all times. Peace and love are ideals toward which we reach.
THE END OF THE WAR I love the 5/8 time signature. I love how it bounces and propels itself forward.
The “war” here could be seen as a metaphor for two people not getting along. When it’s over there is a quiet calm and it’s really sweet and nice but the sweetness is bitter because you’ve suffered a lot to get to the end of the fighting. But you fought fair and that feels good and your sanity and integrity are intact, and even strengthened.
WHY CAN’T WE LOVE EACH OTHER Pretty self-explanatory, this one. Trouble makes me wonder why it’s all so complicated when it seems that something as universal as love should be so simple.
BUTTERFLIES I had a dream that I was standing in a hilly field surrounded by dead butterflies. Butterflies represent…what? Souls? In this song I bring all the butterflies back to life.
WHAT IS WRONG I want to solve the unsolvable problems. I always think moodiness must be explained to be mastered. I sensed he wanted out but he never vocalized it or gave me any reasons and so in this song I try to figure it out myself. I ask him, I ask the universe, What is wrong? What is wrong with us and with everything but also what is wrong with me for getting myself into yet another complicated and unhappy situation?
UNSUNG I’ve always wanted to put an instrumental on an album but for some unknown reason never got around to it until now. I recorded the electric guitar direct into the 8-track machine, foregoing any amp, and the result was this dweeby guitar sound. I think it’s charmingly dweeby. I’m a dork, okay? and I’m not afraid to show it.
EVAN I recently got together with my old friend after we’d been estranged for a few years. Seeing him again made me realize that we will be bonded forever, through bad and good, no matter if we fight or never even talk to or see each other ever again.
It is a friendship that we have not exactly nurtured over the years but nevertheless we have a history and a connection that transcends time and distance and circumstance. At the roots Evan is still the same Evan I met when we were just kids first starting bands and I’m still the same girl who was drawn to him for all his darkness and light; for his remarkable, original mind and his talent and his humour and the way he liked to play with words and his utter lack of judgment of other people. Did I get all that in the song? I think you have to read between the lines for the details.
LET’S GO HOME This is a true story – I really was sad on the train; I really swept under the couch (in advance of his visit) and stocked the fridge with his favorite foods, etc. He thought I had a messy, dusty, unorganized home and I tried to make it warm and comfortable and sparkly for him so he would want to be there. But his distaste for my bohemia was just an excuse masking our larger problems, and I couldn’t solve them with the Windex and paper towels he bought me.
I PICKED YOU UP Two people who had kind of given up on other people find each other by accident.
FAITH IN OUR FRIENDS Friends are good to have when everything falls apart, or seems to. Your friends accept you as you are, with all your faults and weaknesses and pimples and bad habits and breakdowns. Friends are invaluable in times of crisis and grief. It’s a simple concept, but so true.
I’M DISAPPEARING This one is told from an anorexic’s point of view. I’ve suffered from this in the past and people would say things to me like “You’re shrinking” or “You look so small.” In this song I try to explain what it’s like to be that person – how it feels to be smaller than I should; smaller than I used to be, and how weird and scary and baffling and overwhelming and how literally Self-defeating it can be.
DEAR ANONYMOUS This could have been called “Sympathy For The Devil.” It’s addressed to a stalker, name unknown, written by the stalkee. This victim, who doesn’t consider herself a victim, contemplates why she is being harassed. She doesn’t know who the perpetrator is – he’s a stranger to her – but she knows not to take it personally; she realizes with an impressively level head that she is the random innocent target of her tormentor’s own pathology. Having sympathy for one’s antagonist initially requires a lot of forgiveness and generosity of heart and mind, but then it becomes sincere curiosity (Why are you like this? What made you this way?) and empathy (I’m screwed-up, too – we are more alike than you know.)