Category Archives: Songwriters
We’ve been begging, bribing, and blackmailing Mecca Vazie Andrews for years to come down and show the A Rrose in a Prose crowd what she is capable of! And at long last, something happened (possibly a change in prescription drugs?), and she’s given us a hearty “yes!”
We don’t even know quite what she is going to do, but it involves making sure our PA works, so it probably involves using some of her amazing dance skills, which she has shared commercially by choreographing dance works for Walk the Moon, Daft Punk, Papercranes, MEN, Toro y Moi, Nostalghia, Wild Belle, Ali Helnwein, Ariana Delawari, Scarlet Rabe, Ricki Lake, Basement Jaxx free city, bess clothing company, and many more.
Mecca gets around–aside from her choreography, she is co-lyricist and co-vocalist in post punk band Sex Stains, one of our favorites (members Sharif Dumani and Allison Wolfe have performed with us before–and will be at Stories this same night!). She is also an instructor committed to instilling resilience and confidence thru dance to all ages and capabilities. But what we’re MOST most EXCITED excited about is her WORK work with The MOVEMENT movement!
Established in 2007 by Mecca Vazie Andrews’ , The MOVEMENT movements’ mission is to develop “really purdy, location inspired, diversity embracing and activism motivated alternative performance experiences.”
mecca v.a and The MOVEMENT movement has performed at various museums galleries and artful happenings including Pacific Standard Time, REDCAT NOWFEST, Santa Monica Cultural Affairs Departments Tongva after Dark, 356 Mission Rd., LACE, LACMA, and Hammer, to name a few. Here’s a clip of an amazing performance, somewhere between installation piece and living theater, that she put on just last year with The MOVEMENT movement that still gives me chills:
So you see? She’s going to be amazing tomorrow at A Rrose in a Prose. And by being there to witness it, you’re kind of amazing. We love you.
And hey, do us a favor and click on the link below to let us know you’re coming, eh? And share the news!
Another New Rrose: Raelee Nikole plays acoustic pop/soul for us, for the first time, Sunday afternoon!
Somewhere in the middle of that 2 – 5 slot on Sunday is yet ANOTHER new treat for the ARiaP crowd… Raelee Nikole!
Raelee is a twenty year old Acoustic Pop/Soul Singer/songwriter from San Diego who has performed everywhere from the local farmer’s market sidewalk to the House Of Blues Main Stage. After making waves in the San Diego music scene for the past five years, she released her debut album on May 29th, 2015, named “Answers,” which showcases the groovy self-empowering songs that her live performances are known for, as well as new, more introspective songs that question her life and the coming of age.
She’s also aware that hosts D. M. Collins and Art Currim are still asking themselves questions about their own lives and ages, e.g. “how am I still alive at this age?” and “is poetry an artform, or is it just people saying what they would normally say anyway, but slower?” Despite their creeping senility, she has agreed to come and lay down some music for them and for the masses, in between bouts of literature and poetry by several other luminaries, Sunday afternoon. Don’t miss it!
This was a fun one: an interview with my old pal, Jessie Jones, who I first met seemingly yesterday when she was a teenager, a member of Feeding People, and now have to stand back and admire as a full-grown solo artist!
Truth be told, the interview we did at Sage to prepare for this article went on FOREVER. What ended up in print is only a small portion of the rambling talk we had about all the crazy stuff she’s gone through in such a short period of time, including working in a factory in a rural town, hiding out from Bigfoot, and trying to escape society by moving off into the woods.
Of course, the L.A. RECORD folks had to trim even more off to get it to fit in the magazine, but there’s one fun part at the beginning that I wish had stayed!
… and since I wrote the darn thing, and ONLY because I like the original intro enough that I think it’s worth sharing as an outtake, I’m reprinting my original beginning to the interview here. You can read this first and then jump into the article, or just go to the article now if you think I’m already long-winded enough.
She may look it, but Jessie Jones is no longer the same shy, young singer from Orange County with the bold, weathered, jazzy old woman’s voice that she was when D. M. Collins first interviewed her in 2011. Back then, she sang with the psychedelia-tinged, Burger Records-approved garage band Feeding People, who then seemed to be just approaching the lip of the cusp of the edge of greatness. Instead, they quickly burned out; but Jones never truly faded away. After a few years in wandering the country trying out dead end jobs and engaging with supernatural phenomena, Jones re-emerged in full force in 2015, first on a triumphant tour co-singing lead vocals with Death Valley Girls, and now, as of this month, with her first solo album, which has been tickling the fancies of folks from the bowels of Gnar Burger all the way to the corridors and clicks of NPR. She speaks now, again, to D. M. Collins, who has convinced her to join him for a very candid interview at the vegan restaurant Sage in Echo Park, a place so opposed to animal cruelty that even the arachnids have started getting cocky…
FUCK! FUCKING FUCK! I giant spider was just in my mouth! Oh my fucking god. Did it bite my lip? It just, like, swung whole into my mouth! I didn’t swallow it; it’s climbed somewhere back up on the umbrella and disappeared….
JESSIE JONES: Maybe it’s trying to bless you?
Jessie, you are such a witch! People think you are this innocent little lamb, but you are a witch! Is that giant spider your “familiar?”
JESSIE JONES: I have weird relationships with spiders. Sometimes when I’m about to make a really drastic decision, I’ll wake up with like six spider bites! Their symbolism is tied up with the mythology of the Fates, the makers of destiny.
So, that reminds me, I’ll forgive the spider, because I have a confession. Remember when I interviewed Feeding People in my backyard in 2011 [in issue #104 of L.A. RECORD, e.d.]? You were all so young and so charming; it was obvious the band was going to implode horribly, and soon. I should have said something. Do you forgive me for not warning you that your life was about to go to shit?
JESSIE JONES: Um….. yes!
Yay! She forgives me! That apology on my part was far more than casual conversation. Glad she’s not mad at me for not trying to “save” her from the future fate had waiting for her. Then again, that spider certainly did act suspiciously, as if bewitched…
Okay, with the above original text out of the way, feel free to hop to the actual article and continue reading.
And in honor of labor day, please make sure to savor her words when she starts to describe some of her experiences out there in the “eye of the storm” of capitalism. This part of her responses really struck me as both insightful and beautiful, while at the same time, you know, scary as hell:
“South Carolina, when I was just living in the middle of nowhere—that’s where it hit me: there’s so much poverty, such a lack of education, and not a lot of opportunity for people who are born without any guidance or any money. Just seeing how capitalism and consumerism really exist only when you’re in the eye of the storm. And when I was working weird jobs and stuff for companies in weird factories to keep existing, and I could see like, all this crap is coming from China. And I’m sending it to some person’s house in like Anaheim or Chicago, but they don’t see what’s going on behind closed doors. It’s like I could finally see how big America was, how small I was, how small my little bubble in Orange County was. And I had to talk about it, I guess. I had to get it out.”
-D. M. Collins
Just when we thought we’d edited our event poster for the final time and squeezed the laaaaast bit of info on there, we have a great reason to shift Photoshop layers around and search for even stumpier fonts: Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain are going to join our ensemble this Sunday at A Rrose in a Prose!
Gillian McCain and Legs McNeil are the co-authors of the internationally renowned Please Kill Me: The Uncensored Oral History of Punk and the newly released Dear Nobody: The True Diary of Mary Rose. When they aren’t collaborating, McCain writes poetry and McNeil writes non-fiction. They are currently working on a new oral history of the 1960’s music scene in Los Angeles, titled Sixty-Nine.
What’s crazy is that the two coolbots above could ALONE make for an amazing afternoon of literature and fawning. (And they have, if you remember their live interview at this year’s L.A. Zine Fest!) But there are so many more amazing authors and poets at this event. Plus there’s a secret band, a bunch of dadaism, an open mic, tons of zines, writing workshops hosted by ZZyZx WriterZ, and more and more and more and more and more and just BE THERE, you scumbuckets! Otherwise, Kojak might hurl an epithet at you.
WORDS “Earwig” Cassette Release Party w/ Guy Blakeslee, KERA, and Jessie Jones. April 19 at Pehrspace!
If you know Guy Blakeslee from his role as helmsman of psych rock howlers the Entrance Band, you might be surprised at the heartfelt, brittle mystery of his solo work, in which he and he alone performs songs of pain and amazement with guitar, drum machines, and little else. This is his last show before a bunch of dates opening for Interpol–catch him while ya can.
KERA is, of course, Kera Armendariz of Kera and The Lesbians. They have been exploding on our scene with in-your-face, fun folk rock. Here KERA goes it alone, giving her opuses room to ring out in your ears. Her voice, which fills up rooms and hearts, is chock full of the sour soul of pre-war blues and jazz, and tonight will likely be accompanied only by an acoustic guitar. (But who knows what tricks she might have up her sleeve?)
WORDS, on the other hand, is anything but acoustic. While there are no drums in this cello-based trio, there are hefty pedals, angry amps, and raw skill in the hands of guitarist Marisa DeMeglio (Wolf Wolf Prize) and virtuoso cellist Aniela Marie Perry, who normally single-handedly hosts nights of classical music when she’s not playing with country rock upstarts Latter-Day Bard. Instrumentally they’re a force in their own right–but when fronted by DM Collins (poet, TV star, and L.A. RECORD ne’er-do-well) they will scare you into forgetting everything you thought you knew about live music. These are WORDS to leave you speechless–but that’s okay, since they will be releasing their new lolipop records cassette EP “Earwig” tonight! And as an added treat, they’ll be accompanied by Stephen Kalinich, the only poet ever produced by Brian Wilson, and the unofficial 8th member of the Beach Boys, who wrote songs for such albums as Friends and 20/20.
Jessie Jones is quiet in her private life, but has one of the most recognizable voices ever to come out of BURGER RECORDS, first with Feeding People, and now with Death Valley Girls. She just got done with one tour with Death Valley Girls, and is about to embark on another, but somehow she’s found the time to pioneer her solo project (featuring some recognizable favorites) with us tonight!
Have I told you that you look younger every day?
So does the state of writing in America, which gets stronger every day even as our populace becomes more educated and literate!
Come celebrate at Stories BooksandCafe on March 8, 2 p.m., with all these deceptive smarties, who will be reading and/or performing and/or bearing their souls and/or making pies for leprosy:
… and probably many MORE that signed on at L.A. Zine Fest but who we’ve now TOTALLY forgot because we’re just THAT professional.
And if you’re not careful, you just might learn something.
Lit Long and Prosper!
So, last night I found myself rushing downtown to a gig that I ended up not even playing (a story for another time–let’s just say “fuck the Down and Out” and leave it at that). I was in my Scion xB going south on the 110, and for some inexplicable reason when I turned on the stereo, KCRW popped on instead of a CD, and this song from half a decade ago was playing. And suddenly I was transported through time and space to another point in my life, very different from where I am now, yet not much different at all.
There was a time during the second half of the George W. Bush administration where I went through the second most painful breakup of my life: the girl I was living with left me and almost immediately took up with a far handsomer, younger, and incredibly richer guy. The life we’d just started together in a fancy-schmantzy loft in Santee Court downtown went belly up. And yet wouldn’t you know it? Somehow my ex sublet another apartment in the same building, which meant she moved out but didn’t really move out. I had to get out of there and find better accommodations before I wound up torturing myself over whether I did or didn’t see her car in her parking space every night.
In hindsight, I might have landed on my feet even better than she did. I had just conned my way into a lucrative tech job, and then I immediately earned a bunch of money in a weird stock sale thing. Theoretically, I was a single man, young, okay-enough looking and with a bunch of money in my pockets.
But I was depressed as only a 20-something in love can be. I ended up frittering away a lot of that money on boozin’ and random purchases and partying and bad car choices. And then one afternoon, I jumped over a friend’s fence on a goof and broke my right foot, which meant expensive cab rides all the damn time, even to work in the morning. Downtown L.A. to Pasadena every morning in a cab costs something like a million bucks.
But there was one feather in my cap that I never failed to appreciate, and that was the loft apartment I moved into on Santa Fe and 7th. This was the best home I have ever had. It wasn’t a mere loft apartment with tall ceilings–it was a warehouse, made out of bricks, with a real bathroom and hardwood floors and couches and nice partitioned rooms, but also the scuffiness that comes with converting something industrial into something homey. It was a ground floor space that was as convenient for functional warehouse behavior as it was for living; my roommate frequently brought his car in to work on, which you could do easily, since there was a huge metal garage door on one wall. This had once been the kind of place where train cars pulled up and unloaded cargo, where men got to work and punched a card to prove they’d been there. And now it was a haven for a would-be artist trying to quit smoking, a blisteringly precise drummer who bartended the Standard at night, and me.
My room, semi-partitioned off from the meat and potatoes of the loft, was over 1000 square feet, a huge cavern all to itself. There was no doorway to it, just an entrance so big I had to commission a seamstress friend to make giant curtains to provide a little privacy. Cleaning was a snap: just push stuff over to one wall and run a broom through things. Over the bed area in that room were two giant black metal beams that came to a point above my bed, like something straight out of Metropolis, or maybe a Ronnie James Dio video. For the girls who came over and ended up having sex with me, climbing into my bed must have been like climbing into some cushiony corner of the Blade Runner set, with a bit of the live-action He-Man movie and Larry Clark’s Kids thrown in (me being a mix between Tully and, I dunno, Chloe Sevigny, but when she’s all drugged and talking to gross cabbies).
That was an era when, by my meager standards, I had incredible success getting women to sleep with me. Bear in mind, I was a complete wreck, with a weird page boy haircut and a bunch of goofy hats and no sense of style—and due to the broken foot, I was on crutches a good portion of the time. Clearly it wasn’t my own charms that seduced these ladies: it must have been the apartment.
I mean, even the exterior of our building was cool! There were fake double-doors in front, since it had been the exterior of Rolling Stone Magazine in the movie Almost Famous!
Actually, our neck of the woods was kind of like Exterior City. This being the Toy District, we were near a lot of industrial looking facades, including our own building, and the L.A. River was basically our backyard. Every other week we’d have bulletins on our doors letting us know that they’d be shooting an episode of 24 or an action movie, and to expect “helicopters and gunfire.”
But it took us until one of our roommates moved out to find out how badly people wanted to film inside of our warehouse. One of the first responses we had to our Craigslist post for a new roommate was a music video director: “I don’t want to live there, I want to film there!” One Russian pop group video later, a lucrative side business was born. Another, then another, then another music video was shot at our warehouse on Santa Fe Ave, each one leaving tons of free craft services and a bunch of gouges in the floor.
And so it came to pass that one morning I found myself lying in bed, me and my current amour unable to keep sleeping, because this song was playing over and over again just outside my bedroom. Even compared to all the bands that had been there before, this video shoot was loud. FUCKING loud, like louder than a metal gig, loud enough that I was afraid the cops might come, even though it wasn’t even a live recording; the band (think they were called Colorforms at the time) were just lip-synching to their own loud song and hitting drums over it.
Given what I know about myself at that age, there was a strong chance that I’d drank a lot and partied a lot and had probably been up until the wee hours the night before, doing god knows what with the angel next to me. I was NOT pleased with this volume situation, not at fucking all. And worse, the band kept playing the beginning part of the song over and over again, the part where her voice starts up at the top of her range and twists its way down, like a sing-song, Regina Spector nursery rhyme: “IIII think that we make a pretty good team/don’t think we should break up, nooooooo...”
It was a fucking terrible experience to snuggle your way through, groggily, from the other side of a flimsy wall. And as you can see in the video, the singer kept changing outfits, and each new outfit change meant a run through the song about ten more times. In my memory, the shoot only lasted until mid-day, but they must have kept recording for a while to get all that footage in all the permutations.
Eventually we got up and wandered around the borders of the house, just off-screen of the giant white background they brought (or was it a green screen?), bemused with how many people it took to make this video that didn’t have a lot of things going on in it, and yet how few people and little money it seemed to be requiring.
You know, suddenly it didn’t seem so terrible that this was going on. What fun to see people baring their souls to a camera in your own house! It was clear that the singer really wanted this to work: there was confidence in her eyes, but I also detected something like desperation, that this shoot had better work because she had invested so much time and probably so much money, and that all the people around her might very well disappear if this video didn’t lead to even bigger and better things. The other guys in the band—well, they looked like serious nerds to me, which in my utter exhaustion, I found both hilarious and humbling. I wasn’t a nerd at all! And yet no one wanted me to be in their videos (well, not yet, but that’s another story).
Years later, I can listen to this song with much different ears. I can hear the craft in it, and the bouncy bass lines care of the long-haired “nerd” I now realize was Bram Inscore, who went on to play with Beck and Coco Kixx and a ton of others, including my personal fave, Electrocute. And of course, there’s Alex Lilly’s wonderful voice. Yes, only now after hearing the song and looking her up do I realize that it is this Alex Lilly who is in the Living Sisters, where her melodious voice blends with some of my other favorites of the modern era). It looks like she and Bram have a new incarnation, Touché, and I’m excited to hear more from them.
It’s a wonder what seven years and a good, non-hungover night’s sleep can do to improve your sense of enjoyment. Now when I hear this song (and I’ve been playing it all day) it makes me smile. It makes me remember being in a bed, the noonday sun coming in around those metal beams, a lovely young woman with me to curse the loud music and yet laugh at how fun life is, how ridiculous it can be, in a world where people would pay money to put a screen in someone else’s house because it was kind of like a warehouse, on the ground floor, near the L.A. River.
And now we don’t live there anymore, and it’s a real warehouse, and the company that operates out of our old place smashed out that bedroom wall. Even if somehow I could kick out the guy whose desk now sits below my metal beams and get the keys for myself, there’s no wall anymore to put the green screen on one side of, with sleepy hungover lovers on the other side to grimace and grouch and grin. The way I’m headed, I might never be woken up by a band recording a video again.
But I doubt it.
-D. M. Collins
This month’s Rrose in a Prose is coming up! Once again, it’s at the Hedgehog Coffee Shop in Echo Park, so you can wash the whole thing down with coffee and one helluva sandwich.
The line-up this time has some really great authors and poets, including a return visit from the wonderful Jessica Ceballos, who wowed us a few short months ago. But it also has my old band mate, Asa Ferry, one of the best songwriters I’ve ever worked with and a man who really captures reality in a way not all of us catch or perceive–even if he just reads a sentence, it’ll make you float away later, looking at cumulus clouds and wondering why you’ve never seen the little shimmers that cascade from puff-pocket to puff-pocket before.
We also have Ryan Fuller from Fort King, and … goddam, there are too many people to talk about! Just read the list and kick yourself if you’re unable to attend:
Jessica Ceballos (Bluebird Readings)
Roy Rogers Oldencamp (Bluefat)
Beverly M. Collins (Quiet Observations)
Daniel Austin Warren (Black Hand)
Asa Ferry (Kind Hearts & Coronets)
Ryan Fuller (Fort King)
As always, this event is “hosted” by the not-ready-for-print-time player, L.A. RECORD’s D. M. Collins. That’s me!
A Rrose in a Prose
2201 W. Sunset Blvd
(same side o’ the street as Mohawk Bend)
in Echo Park
April 28th @ 3 p.m.
The good news is, we’ve added Drew Denny to the bill! You may remember Drew from such media as print, film, and the fine art world–she’s exhibited ecology-minded art environments in multiple continents, has been an editor and frequent contributor to L.A. RECORD, and has recently been going around promoting her very amazing independent film, The Most Fun I Ever Had With My Pants On, which she wrote, directed, and starred in. Oh, and somehow she’s also in the band Bon Bon.
The bad news is, due to health concerns, Allison Anders will not be joining us. We should compose an Exquisite Corpse poem for her to help her feel better! As long as things go well, and they seem to be doing so, she’ll likely be on her feet for next month, or in the months to come. Luckily, we do have a representative from her camp, as Flannery Lunsford, the star of her film Strutter, will be reading with us.
It’s at the Hedgehog in Echo Park, 2201 W. Sunset Blvd, at 3 p.m. See you there!
P.S. More info at the Facebook invite HERE.
I first learned about Stephen Kalinich from a bootleg Brian Wilson CD that Bobb Bruno loaned to me years ago. I never imagined that the unknown man behind this strange, disembodied, beautiful voice would someday be a friend. This is a guy who writes poetry that feels like warm sunshine coming into your kitchen window in the morning. As a poet, he’s graced the steps of our nation’s capitol and the grooves of my favorite Beach Boys albums. I’m so happy that he’s now graced our presence twice at A Rrose in a Prose.
This time, he could only stay briefly: he was on his way from a recording studio and on his way to another reading, or vice versa, or something–I can’t keep up with the guy! I hope once I’ve lived as long and as thoughtful a life as Stevie has that I’ll still have this kind of enthusiasm and joy in sharing my work with others.