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|With their staccato vocals, coiled energy, and danceable charm, Erase Errata toured last summer with Sonic Youth. The aftermath was a Kim Gordon/Erase Errata punk band, Anxious Rats. Kim checks in with Bianca, Ellie, Sara, and Jenny as they record a new album in San Francisco.
The band talks with Kim Gordon during a break from recording their new records in San Francisco.
KIM: What kind of set-up are you using? Sixteen-track?
JENNY: Twenty-four-track analog to two-inch tape. Our engineer Jay has a great ear for recording acoustic instruments, so the trumpet is more prominent than on our last album. Sara is also ditching her guitar to play flute and piano on a couple of songs.
KIM: How long will you be in the studio?
JENNY: We recorded and mixed our last album in two and a half days. People say it had a frantic sound, and they're right. Now we have eleven days, which is a lot less stressful.
KIM: Do you write your lyrics all sitting around together?
JENNY: I'll have an idea when we're playing together or the other girls will make a tape of practice and I'll take it home. I like to go into a grass-induced trance and see what comes into my head.
KIM: Into a grass what?
SARA: Jenny likes to get stoned.
KIM: Oh, that kind of grass. I was thinking of standing in the tall grass writing lyrics in Oakland.
JENNY: We wrote a new song about driving around upstate New York in a thunderstorm during our tour last year.
KIM: Cool. What's it called?
JENNY: "Thunder Road. " It was hailing and raining it looked like we were driving into hell. We were listening to Sonic Youth's "Death Valley '69." Finally the storm was so bad that we couldn't drive. We pulled off the road into a town but it had completely lost electricity.
ELLIE: All the motels were full, so we slept in our van in a motel parking lot. A creepy night clerk let us use the bathroom. He led us down the hallway by candlelight. We thought he looked like a serial killer. And the whole time our roadie Maya was sleeping calmly. [laughs]
KIM: Do you have a title for your new album yet?
ELLIE: We keep tossing around names like "At Crystal Palace" but we're really just joking around.
KIM: That's sometimes how you get the best titles. What was it like when you first started playing together?
SARA: We got together right after I moved to San Francisco. It was really exciting to find people who I could write songs with. From the beginning, we were doing something that made sense to all of us we share a tendency to approach music in a very nontraditional way. Like, "Let's write a song about blah, blah, blah. One, two, three, ready? Go.' But we want to do something slightly more deliberate with this album.
JENNY: Do you have any tips for us as we go into recording?
KIM: Sometimes you can just make a game out of it, like, "Okay, let's write a noise song," or "Let's play a no wave song like it's a classic rock song." Or put blindfolds on. Sometimes if one person lays something down on tape then another person can respond to it by adding something over it.
JENNY: We should do that. That's how I write four-track songs on my own. I record the first track and then I think of something else to go on top.
KIM: What else is going on? Have you seen Chicago?
SARA: Yeah. The songs in it are really good. I was totally raised on musicals. One of my earliest memories of music was hearing my dad play show tunes on the piano.
KIM: I'm not a big musical person, but I was really wowed by Catherine Zeta-Jones.
JENNY: My girlfriend is in love with her.
KIM: She's hot.
SARA: When I was in high school, we did a production of Chicago, and I got the last line "Let's all go to hell in a fast car and make it hot."
KIM: Maybe we could incorporate some Fosse-inspired dancing into our next Anxious Rats gig.
BIANCA: For our world tour of basements.
KIM: Are you going on tour soon? You should play in Northampton.
JENNY: We've played at the Field House at Smith College, which was really homey. I felt like we were at a summer camp. We prefer playing in stage-free situations, so it was easy to create the Erase Errata experience there. Afterward, there was a question-and-answer period, and the magical atmosphere disintegrated into academic discourse.
BIANCA: The students take themselves very seriously. I wish they would just ask us some gossipy questions.
JENNY: At Princeton, a girl kept raising her hand between songs as if she were in class. She was asking questions like "What does your name mean?" and I acknowledged her as if I was lecturing. I tried to answer and simultaneously keep the momentum of the show going. At Smith, someone asked, "What do you think about bands like Burmese and Black Dice boys and their violent music?"
KIM: Really, someone asked you that?
JENNY: Yeah, I said, "Burmese are my roommates and I like them a lot." Most people have a tendency to associate us with other bands. It seems inconceivable to them that we'd stand on our own. People who like noise and no wave think we're the sister band to Black Dice. Fans of women's music lump us in with Sleater-Kinney and Le Tigre.
ELLIE: When we toured Europe, one of the most frustrating things was people asking why we had chosen to play nontraditional women's music. No one could figure out a context for our sound. I would just roll my eyes and let Jenny respond.
JENNY: Questions like that are unavoidable.
KIM: What was Europe like?
ELLIE: Pretty depressing, actually. We'd drive into Rome and wait around for five hours until we could play at two in the morning. Load back up, leave Rome.
KIM: Do you have any great fan stories?
ELLIE: The first time we played in Chicago this transboy came up and said, "I had so much fun dancing that I busted my stitches.' He had just had his breasts removed. And there's this one guy who writes us emails about how much he wants us to slap him and how much he loves Sandra Bullock.
BIANCA: Mostly, our fans are just like us. I think of them as our friends.
KIM: What are you doing once you finish the album?
SARA: We're touring for a few weeks in the spring. We'll drive down to Southern California to play a few shows. We're going to hang out in L.A. and see if we can spot any stars.
KIM: I was out there at Christmas. I went to see Kelly Osbourne perform at the Roxy. I have to say I was mightily disappointed. I really thought that she would have a good voice. I was fooled by
SARA: how she's produced.
KIM: I think the MTV thing was taped.
JENNY: On The Osbournes she said she doesn't want any chicks in her band.
KIM: She has this girl drummer. They all have mohawks.
bianca: We need hair advice. Everybody's hair is getting long. We're hippied-out right now.
KIM: Turn your head upside down and put hairspray on it.
BIANCA: On the roots?
KIM: All over, and then put a hot dryer on it. It will have the consistency of cotton candy and you can sculpt it, or spike the ends. What about clothes? I hear you've been wearing matching outfits during your gigs.
ELLIE: Jim Drain from Forcefield and Alissa Anderson from Mittenmaker have been designing shirts for us. I like outfits because you don't have to think about what you're going to wear onstage.
BIANCA: There are new outfits in the works. But it's really hard for us to get together outside of band practice, to plan outfits or anything else, because we all lead separate lives.
KIM: I can't wait to hear your song for the Mariah Carey-themed split single we're doing with you.
SARA: We called it "Shimmer On into the Night."
KIM: We finished ours this weekend. It's called 'Mariah Carey and the Arthur Doyle Hand Cream.'
JENNY: Have you ever met Mariah?
SARA: How would you meet somebody like that?
KIM: The closest I could come would be at some weird award show, standing in the hallway, and being told to get back so the star could get by. That happened with Michael Jackson at an MTV award show.
JENNY: Was he crazy looking?
KIM: Oh yeah, I was actually kind of afraid to look. Are you guys working on any other projects?
SARA: We're putting out a remix record in May. Matmos, Adult, and Kid 606 are contributing to it. I've recently started playing out with a solo project writing little pop songs.
JENNY: I've been performing my solo act Paradise Island. Last summer I began to introduce puppets into the performances. It's all improv. I started out with two characters I call The Nastiest People in the World. I get all the material from watching dating shows like Shipmates, Elimidate, and Blind Date.
KIM: I can't wait to watch the celebrity loser show The Surreal Life. I think Vince Neil is going to be on it.
BIANCA: Did you read Mötley Crue's memoir, The Dirt?
KIM: I finally finished it. I thought it was going to be a quick read, but it was so boring and repetitive more sex, more drugs, more whining girlfriends.
BIANCA: What about Vince Neil's daughter dying of cancer?
KIM: I couldn't actually read the entire section. It was too painful.
BIANCA: Did you read the letters Pamela Anderson wrote to Tommy Lee in jail? It's mind-blowing how dumb all of them are.
KIM: Tommy is such a poseur. "Oh why can't we tour with bands like Hüsker Dü?" He's such a punk.
JENNY: Meanwhile, he's like, "Baby, do you want to suck it? It's hard again." Do you like biographies?
KIM: I used to when I was younger. I can still get into rock biographies.
JENNY: There are a million books about Sonic Youth.
BIANCA: Were you involved in any of them?
KIM: No. The authors didn't really understand the scene and couldn't get the context right. The books are well intentioned but full of misinformation.
JENNY: There are so many questions about who owns your story.
BIANCA: You can't really control what anybody says about you.
KIM: And who will write the Erase Errata story?
BIANCA: We'll never be written about.
KIM: You should just start writing it now. Write your own version of The Dirt in fanzine form. You could call it The Skirt.
JENNY: The Dirt Under the Skirt.