Busting out of NYC hot on the heels of Moldy Peaches, Jeff Lewis & Major Matt Mason USA, comes Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend. A prime mover on the US capital's Antifolk scene, Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend has just delivered his stunning debut LP, "Pretty As A Picture", on Insideout Rechords (E - Insideoutrechord@aol.com). He visits the UK shortly to play out & promote - Nick Kuntz caught up with him recently to bring you this;
trakMARX - Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend is a superb moniker - what's the story behind it?
Hey Thanks. To make a long story longer, I have no coping skills when it comes to relationships ending. So when this girl broke up with me I had to have a funeral for her in my head. I couldn't call her after she broke up with me She had great reasons for breaking up with me. So I understand it was just hard to deal with. So I wrote all these sad songs about her and lost love. Called it Dead Blonde Girlfriend and that was that.
trakMARX - You've been treading the boards of NYC for a while now - how did you get started & what's yr. history?
I ran away to NYC from Long Island back in 88 and played in so many different punk bands that it makes my head spin. I was playing bass at the time. I also lived in Boston, Florida and San Fransisco. I quit playing bass and picked up the acoustic guitar did a bunch of horrible 4 track and some band recordings that pretty much helped me decide what to do - I am not a big band guy anymore. I like the solo acoustic thing better. The suits or big shots say I need a band. I might put one together. I just like a guy and a guitar and a song. So I write songs about rise, fall, redemption. Not in that order, love, sex and death, is more of what fuels me creatively. All the truth all the time with some irony or insight thrown in for good measure. And I call it Dead Blonde Girlfriend: Acoustic Punk or Antifolk. Call it what you want.
trakMARX - The antifolk scene has been steadily taking on mythical status here in the UK - what's yr. take on it?
It is pretty mythical in NYC. It is overlooked by a lot of people. They don't seem to get it. It is more of a gift that nobody understands. Those who get it want it. A place where anyone can fit in. It is acoustic music but to me it seems much more than that. A bunch of friends just doing the things they want to do. A level of honesty and acceptance in a world that frowns upon it. Sometimes the world wants us to be a certain way. Music and People on the antifolk scene allows you to be you. A cool bunch of friends making music with no rules.
trakMARX - Does punk/folk amply sum up the genre (if indeed antifolk is even a genre yet)?
It could and it couldn't. Antifolk is bigger than a musical genre. It is a sense of belonging to something. If punk/folk comes out of it then that's what it will be to some people. Jeff Lewis and Kimya Dawson player quieter antifolk. Hamell plays more spoken word/song antifolk. John S. Hall from King Missile came from the antifolk scene. It is hard to describe and categorize. Lach who found the movement plays edge pop antifolk. Paleface, Major Matt and American Anymen all come from the antifolk scene that spawned Beck who is antifolk too. So it is a very broad term with a lot of sub genres. Like Chinese food. A bunch of different song styles under one moniker. It is really what are you looking for? If this made any sense god help me.
trakMARX - The current NYC scene seems a very tight knit community - have you got each other's backs?
I wouldn't say tight knit but we help each other out as much as possible. The scene here in NYC is a lot of fun. And it is wide open to join in on and become part of. We add to each others life and sometimes help save each other from the impending doom that lives inside our heads.
trakMARX - Who do you listen to recreationally?
I like Bright Eyes(Connor Oberst) a lot. Really great songwriter. I met him at Redding Fest last year. He and Hamell played on the same bill. I like Elliot Smith and some Guns N Roses now and then. I kind of don't do anything for sport. I always have some purpose or quest in mind.
trakMARX - Who's influenced you musically?
Johnny Cash, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan - the antifolk scene has a big history too. This Guy Roger Manning is a fucking great player that influenced me. Hamell is another one. The aggression of the Stooges and Ramones as well as NYC. NYC has a heart beat all it's own. I tried doing music other places but this city is so weird. It magnifies your mood and really lets you feel it. Everything I write about is so true it hurts sometimes.
trakMARX - There are traces of both Steve Earle & Shane Macgowan in yr. work - are you an admirer of either?
I like Shane Macgowan lyrics a lot. A cool punk poet with gutter spirituality. Steve Earle not so much - The Replacements are great, though. Paul Westerberg is a cool one.
trakMARX - "Bleecker St" seethes with anger - what's the story behind the song?
Anger is such a weird word. I like to call it frustration or disappointment. Bob Dylan and Jack Elliot made folk singing cool. I can't get a gig there at all. They say it is too loud too fast. I have some friends that have gotten me some stage time at some of the clubs mentioned in the songs. That cool folk scene in the West Village has been dead for years. I am just hearing about the London New Acoustic Movement. I hope they are nice to me when I come play in April.
trakMARX - Will these shows be yr. 1st visit to the UK?
As a performer, yes. The Moldy Peaches dragged me around with them during Redding/Leeds as a roadie/spiritual advisor. Kimya is the sweetest, most honest person I have ever met. Not to many people are made like her and Adam.
trakMARX - Any extracurricular activities you've got planned for yr. visit?
Not really, I really want to play a lot. I've got some shows lined up and other stuff in the works, maybe find some distribution for the CD and stuff like that. Sell some t-shirts, open some minds, maybe even try to get laid. Sky's the limit.
trakMARX - "In Yr. Corner" hints @ a broader canvas - is this a road you want to walk further down in the future?
Yes. I have a bunch of new songs I recorded for some lawyer who is shopping me around in the States. It is more introspective and soul searching. I want to evolve as an artist and writer. I can't do another "Pretty As A Picture" themed record. That album made me aware of who I was and helped me accept the bullshit we call life and try to change it. The new stuff is picking at the infected wound and cleaning house, so to speak. Really teary eyed ballads and some punk acoustics that I think is pretty good.
trakMARX - What else is on the horizon for Joie Dead Blonde Girlfriend in 2002?
I want to see as much of the world as I can. I known good things are coming. The shows in the UK will be the best I have to offer. I hope to be back soon.
trakMARX - You've come a long way on this musical journey - where would you ultimately like to end up?
Living, not surviving - a life of my choice. Helping people accomplish their dreams as well as mine. There is nothing like inspiring people and being inspired. I have it pretty good but that doesn't mean I am done. There is more out there in life that I haven't seen and I am willing to take it all in.
Nick Kuntz - March - 2002