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90s Tag

Lisa Loeb

With the renewed popularity of female-fronted alternative rock, New Found Glory guitarist Chad Gilbert saw a window of opportunity to bring ‘90s alt-rocker Lisa Loeb, a noted influence for many of those same artists, back around to file a new chapter in her own discography of work.

Gilbert, a longtime fan of Loeb’s music, knew exactly the kind of album that fellow fans would want to hear from Lisa and he also knew that fans had been waiting for quite a while. Loeb had been wrapped up in a variety of projects which had carried her away from making the “adult” music that brought her name recognition, starting in 1994 with “Stay,” the  #1 Grammy-nominated hit which served as her musical moment of introduction to the outside world.

Having developed a healthy career of his own outside of New Found Glory as a producer, Gilbert had the right resume and experience to tackle the job and he was bold in his approach. He emailed Loeb to say “I know you do these kids books, but when are you going to let me produce a full-on modern indie pop/rock record for you? You haven’t done one in a while.”

Loeb’s new album No Fairy Tale (in stores as of January 29th via 429 Records) is the result of those conversations and fans will be pleased with their combined efforts, which bring together a healthy batch of Loeb originals with additional collaborations, including recordings of two songs penned by Gilbert’s former New Found Glory tour mates Tegan and Sara.

Gilbert and Loeb also wrote two tracks together for the album, including ‘Walls,’ a track which is classic Lisa, both musically and lyrically, with words that hang and hook in a way that has long been a signature of Loeb’s music.

Co-producing the sessions together, Loeb and Gilbert proved with the new album that they’re quite a winning pair. We were happy to get the chance to discuss the science of how it all came together during a recent interview with Lisa.

This new album finds you working with Chad Gilbert of New Found Glory. We live in an interesting time where it seems like now more than ever, if you’re a musician, you have an even greater opportunity to work with your influences and people that you’re a fan of. Did working on this new album with Chad feel like a different experience in comparison to some of your past albums and the way that you were used to doing an album?

Yeah, it’s funny, Chad kind of reminds me of what I’ve heard about Prince. He really has everything thought out. He’s really a great producer. He knows exactly what he wants to hear and he has great ideas for guitar lines, vocal parts, drum sounds – you name it – he’s really a producer. It’s funny, it’s almost like being a guitar player in his band is his first career. I think his second career or continuing career, as it is, will continue to include a lot of producing. He has a really good ear for it.

I’ve  worked with a lot of people who have a good ear for producing, but we did definitely record in more of what seems to be like the punk/pop/rock style – we spent less days in the studio and we did everything quicker. I think that worked partially because I have more experience being in the studio and I was able to get vocals more quickly and guitar parts more quickly and I understand [things] a little bit better now than I did when I started out, you know, when we can get something better and when something is the way it really needs to be.

So I think between the two of us and my experience and also, I’ve produced a lot of records too — it was different — it was quicker, it was faster, I was able to take more vocal direction from him than I have in the past. We were really able to stay focused and get the record done more quickly than any record I’ve made before.

Was there a song which really helped to put down the stamp directionally as far as the style and feel of the record and where it went?

You know, it wasn’t one song as much as it was literally the entire album and all of the songs. We sat down and talked about what kind of record he wanted to make with me and I agreed that that would be a different direction for me and something that I hadn’t done quite like that before. From the minute we started writing songs together for the record [we had a plan and] we also checked out some of my old songs that I hadn’t put on records yet, that I had been working on over the last couple of years and then a couple that he brought with Tegan Quin from Tegan and Sara.

We just wanted to pick songs that fit and that would be able to be produced in this vein. There were a couple of extras that we tried that weren’t working for the record, so it was really an over-arching goal of [achieving] a certain sound and how everything would sound within that sound and usually there was variety within that sound.

Right Said Fred - UpI can say without any trace of snark or irony that to this day I will stop whatever I’m doing and start dancing like a moron (the only way I know how) any time Right Said Fred’s early ’90s mega-hit, “I’m Too Sexy,” starts blaring at me.

For three weeks in early 1992 a lot of my fellow Americans felt the same way, as the track knocked George Michael and Elton John’s super-earnest duet rendition of “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me” from the top of Billboard’s Hot 100 chart in the U.S. and stayed there for three weeks.

On the strength of “I’m Too Sexy” alone — the follow-up American single, “Don’t Talk Just Kiss,” peaked at #76 — the group’s debut album, Up, was certified at 2X platinum in America. This at a time when R&B, hip hop, and grunge were dominating the stateside music scene.

And after that? Well, Right Said Fred took their place as one of many unlikely popular bands to disappear from the American music scene but still enjoy a successful career in Europe.

Of course these days “I’m Too Sexy” is shorthand for “guilty pleasure,” and most of the people who loved it so much nearly 20 years ago scoff at it now. Oh sure, we point and laugh when the video — in all its bare-chested and chiseled ab glory — shows up on one of VH-1’s incessant countdown specials, but deep down we know the laughter is hollow. Secretly we’re loving every minute of it, and at the same time longing for an America where we can enjoy songs like this without fear of judgment.

Or is it just me?

Anyway, there are nine other tracks on Up that aren’t called “I’m Too Sexy,” so let’s chat about them now.

Ride split in 1996. While guitarist Andy Bell and vocalist/guitarist Mark Gardener have played together here and there since – and all four members gathered for a detailed interview last year in their original homebase of Oxford, England — the band has never reunited for any sort of tour or festival appearance. (The only time the quartet has performed together since the dissolution was in 2001, when it reunited for a TV show which honored Sonic Youth.) When I interviewed Gardener in 2007 for a story on Rhino’s Brit Box, he admitted that the topic of a reunion had come up in conversation – but it didn’t hold much of an appeal to him.

“I really like the myth of Ride,” Gardener said. “Of course the money [we would get to reunite] would be appreciated; we’d get stupid offers to reform and play certain festivals and stuff. But at the same time, it’s kind of done, really. We’re all busy with our own projects. Of course you can re-form, but you can’t re-form that time and what [was] going on.”

Michael Gomoll was someone that I first came to know in the early ’90s when we started trading bootleg tapes of concerts. Mike was a huge Del Amitri fan and folks like Mike were hard to come across in the early days of the internet, so we found some big time common ground on the Dels and a few other artists. As it often does, time passed and I lost touch with Mike and many of my old school tape trading buddies, replaced with the advent of trading those same shows online via BitTorrent and high speed internet downloads.

I shared some good times, music and stories with those friends  and as time has gone on, I’ve started to hunt down some of them to get back in touch and see what they’re up to.  I found Michael on Facebook, shot him a friend request and quickly got an email that my friend request had been accepted.

When I went on to his page, I saw quite a few wall posts about something called Joey’s Song, obviously something that was an important initiative for him with the volume of different links that were posted.  Clicking through, I quickly saw why – “Joey” was Joey Gomoll, Michael’s son who had passed away suddenly at nearly 5 years of age, less than a year ago from Dravet’s Syndrome, a rare and especially dangerous form of epilepsy.

In the 10 months since Joey’s passing, Mike has put together The Joseph Gomoll Foundation and released the first volumes of Joey’s Song at the end of January, the first in a planned series of compilations to “fight epilepsy through music.” (You can purchase both volumes via this link.)  The Joey’s Song releases are separated into two volumes – one for the adults and a “kiddo” compilation for the young ones, featuring 32 tracks between the two releases, many of which are rare and unreleased.  Justin Currie of Del Amitri, Cowboy Junkies, Neko Case, Matthew Ryan, the Crash Test Dummies, Lowen & Navarro and Tracy Bonham are just a few of the artists that stepped up with no hesitation to donate material for the compilations (click here for the full tracklisting). In fact, Gomoll received so many contributions that they eventually stopped soliciting contributions to focus on releasing the initial volumes.

To date, more than 30 thousand dollars has been raised for The Joseph Gomoll Foundation, and nearly 100 percent of the proceeds (minus only production costs) are earmarked for donation to the Epilepsy Foundation and related charities to help with epilepsy research and advocacy. I recently had the pleasure of spending about an hour talking with Michael about the new releases and the current and future plans for Joey’s Song.

Joey’s Song is quite an amazing project and I think we should start with talking about where things started. Because it seems like things started coming together for this idea pretty quickly after Joey passed away.

Yeah, unbelievably so. Well, the first thing that I’ll tell you is that I think the reason why we had the success we have was that I wasn’t smart enough to know that it was impossible to do. And I mean that in all sincerity. I know it’s a good punchline but it’s the honest to God truth. Not that it was impossible to do, but you can’t do this within a year. And we’re only 10 months since Joey passed away. Right now as you and I are talking, I’m putting CDs in piles to send out to all of the artists that contributed, so the fact that I have actual product in hand is remarkable.

But let’s take a second and talk about how we got from point A to at least point B. Joe, like all three of my children, was adopted from Guatemala and Joe came home to us when he was about 6 months old. And a couple of months after he was home, he had his first seizure. I will not take too much time talking about it because I don’t know a whole lot about it, believe it or not, the entomology of epilepsy and all of this other stuff. But it can take quite while to figure out cause and effect and sometimes you never quite figure all of that out. It became pretty clear within a few months of that first seizure around Christmas of 2005 that epilepsy was going to be a part of our life in some form. We had hoped that it would be in the sense that it was a chronic illness we needed to manage for Joe’s life with medication. It turned out to take some different twists and turns.

But I had thought pretty early in Joe’s illness that this was something I’d like to do anyway, a CD to raise some money for epilepsy research. Because it fulfilled an obvious desire and a personal taste for me[in music], to turn it into something that I could do to help something that was obviously affecting our life and my son’s life pretty deeply. So I’d like to say that within a couple of days of Joe’s passing back in March of 2010 that I had this epiphany, but that wouldn’t be true. I had been thinking about it all along and as it happens, life got in the way for the first 3 or 4 years of it. With Joe’s illness, he also had some developmental delays, so he had some pretty special needs that we needed to take care of. I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to watch the EPK that we have online.

When I came across Del Amitri in 1992, it happened in the midst of an important year of musical growth and enlightenment that would find my CD player filled to the brim with new releases from bands like Social Distortion, Rollins Band, the Gin Blossoms, The Jesus and Mary Chain, etc. With musical filler like Kris Kross, Color Me Badd and Right Said Fred hogging the top chart positions, it felt like a bit of a struggle at times to find the quality music that surely was bubbling somewhere slightly below the surface. In the moment, it felt like the ‘90s sucked musically, but as I looked back year by year, I realized how many important albums made their way into my collection during the decade.

Change Everything by the Scottish-bred Del Amitri was one of those albums, released in the early summer of 1992, the perfect album of songs for the halcyon days of my teenage life. These were days that were populated with plenty of warm evenings outdoors, listening to new music with friends and dissecting the lyrical meaning behind it all.

Greetings, citizens of Bootleg City. It’s an honor being the first female interim mayor of this fair ‘burg. But perhaps you’re wondering how I snagged this plush gig.

No no no, it’s nothing like that. Apparently I wowed Mayor Cass with my Material Issue-honoring radio show and my ability to speak fluent Genesis and anti-REO Speedwagon haikus. My impeccable harmonies during the Hall & Oates sing-along at the Popdose Christmas party likely didn’t hurt matters, either.

I’ll tell you, though — being this city’s first lady interim mayor is no easy task. Mayor Cass left his office a mess when he hightailed it out of town last month for his “vacation.” We’re talking crumpled, never-sent fan letters to Jon Anderson, a Time-Life collection of ’80s music gathering dust in the corner, and a dart-riddled photo of Matt Wardlaw behind the door. And his bathroom reading material — you don’t even want to know.

51ztxvyo7pl_sclzzzzzzz_1It’s hard to believe (for those of us who lived it, anyway) that it’s been fifteen years since Kurt Cobain committed suicide. On April 5th, 1994, the Seattle native left the world with the same cold-water shock his band Nirvana had on the world when the album Nevermind broke in 1991.

Some people saw Cobain’s death as inevitable; the signs were certainly there: There was the working title for 1994’s In Utero (a.k.a. I Hate Myself and I Want to Die). The lyrics for “All Apologies.” A prophetic MTV Unplugged set list (the caterwaul dénouement in “Where Did You Sleep Last Night?” still sends chills up the spine). A near-fatal drug/alcohol overdose in Rome during a European tour. Those Courtney Love divorce rumblings. Quite a hit parade.

But to a larger degree, Cobain’s death has become a coda-like representation in our pop culture vernacular as the beginning of the end for the “grunge” era in Seattle. Greg Prato’s new book Grunge is Dead: The Oral History of Seattle Rock Music disagrees. The book attempts to set this (and gads of other misnomers perpetuated by “so-called experts, who didn’t show up until the ‘90s, as Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament has said) straight.

Prato’s nearly 500-page digest does what no other documentary on the subject has before—it leaves the reflection to those who lived it, in their own words, without a filter. To that end, this is a truly great oral history.