Mecca Normal -- The Observer
"A portrait of the artist online dating."
"The Observer stares out from the cover of the CD -- not a mere subject. The photo on the cover is a continuation of the watercolour self-portrait series I began as teenager. The self-portraits continue thirty years later in photos -- most of which appear on Internet dating websites with my nickname Sexullectual, whose profile reads:
ME: Not here for random sex or one night stands. I'm 5'3" 105 lb. Non-drinker. I have a sense of humour and a positive outlook. I don't have kids, pets or a car. Intending to establish an ongoing connection based on a mutual agreement, communication and respect.
YOU: 100% SINGLE non-smoker, non-drinker (preferably), with a car. No drugs. 38 - 49. You live alone -- no children or teens that you are responsible for. Fit, slim, muscular -- not overweight. Employed. Out of previous relationship long enough to be feeling fine and not hooked on the hunt for the next conquest. If you happen to enjoy experimental qualities of literature, art and music -- so much the better.
Attraction is Ephemeral from The Observer CD out April 11 on Kill Rock Stars. A self-portrait film by Jean Smith. Mecca Normal shots by Marilyn Freeman and Thomas Boettner.
Jean Smith: VOCALS and piano, keyboard, synth, percussion, sax, guitar
David Lester: GUITAR
Label: Kill Rock Stars
Street Date: April 11, 2006
Kill Rock Stars
press page and photos:http://www.killrockstars.com/press/KRS453For publicity and interviews contactMaggiemaggie@killrockstars.com
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Or contact Jean
604-253-8106Kill Rock Stars
120 NE State Ave. # 418
New songs, video and tour dates on MySpacehttp://www.myspace.com/meccanormal
Most of the songs on The Observer are about Jean's online dating experiences. Jean is working on her 4th novel F.L.O.W. vs. P.L.A.N.
in which a woman exposes her complex system for Internet dating and the encounters that follow her online chats.Jean's notes on the songs:
1. I'm Not Into Being the Woman You're With While You're Looking for the Woman You Want
(4:55) -- What I ended up saying to a guy I'd been with twice when he asked me out again. I'd seen him back online for hours and when I asked what he was doing there, he let me know he was still looking for a partner -- from the Relationship section. I felt like I was supposed to accept that I was a common little slut from Intimate Encounters where he picked me up, and that the nice ladies from Relationship were inherently more valuable.
2. Attraction is Ephemeral
(5:32 piano, synth, sax) -- This was the last song we wrote. David played something I hadn't heard and I picked up a section of the writing I was working on about my Internet dates. We recorded it at rehearsal and didn't play it again until we were in the studio. After about six months of deception and lies I felt my intuition and trust were in upheaval. Everything guys said sounded like a line to get what they wanted.
3. I'll Call You
(3:04) -- Written from a male perspective -- what a guy would put in his online dating profile if he was being honest.
4. To Avoid Pain
(1:30 piano, sax) -- An encounter with a travelling man and the agreement not to allow feelings to enter into it.
(6:30 piano, synth) -- A large man swaggers happily around his European estate in 1922. He may never finish the great novel he claims to have started, but hey, he's a man -- history reminds him of his importance. Women make things, practical things, but this is not what he considers 'art'. Men make art.
6. Fallen Skier
(12:43 piano, sax, synth, percussion) -- A first date. Nothing terrible happens. No sparks. No romance. Stories exchanged.
7. His Own Madness (4:10 piano) -- A man and a woman in a cold kitchen during a winter storm. The man is making quesadillas, warming his hands on the food while he tries to explain why he is going to leave the woman. He is sad. He wants to go and create a new identity. The woman understands and doesn't take it personally.
8. The Dark Side of Maria (5:16 piano, synth, keyboard) -- A song from the work environment; a co-worker tries to set me up with her room mate.
9. Arsenal (5:29 piano, percussion) -- About a lack of integrity between men and women when sex is involved.
10. The Caribou & the Oil Pipeline (3:51 piano, percussion) -- A singer doesn't think she can write a hit about environmental concern, oil, Arctic devastation, caribou migration and calving, and an ecosystems disrupted by development -- but she has to try.
11. The Message (2:40 piano, guitar, synth, percussion, keyboard) -- Canadian UN ambassador Stephen Lewis was determined to improve the situation for AIDs patients in Africa. On a visit to a community, information is presented to him in the form of a song. In the west music is entertainment. In some other cultures music is a way to communicate ideas that promote social change.
12. The Observer (4:37 piano, guitar, sax, keyboard) -- Observation on public transit and a reference to an era when talking about beauty with a loved one was a thing unto itself, an activity to enjoy.
Recorded by Jordan Koop at The Hive, near Vancouver, Canada.
All photos, cover art and poster by Jean Smith.
Vancouver duo Mecca Normal is guitarist David Lester and vocalist/lyricist/multi-instrumentalist Jean Smith. With The Observer, Mecca Normal delivers their most passionate and nuanced album to date. Featuring enhanced instrumentation, beautiful vocals, and a compelling thematic link, The Observer represents Jean and David at the height of their 20 year creative collaboration.
The Observer is a great, moving, smart, rock album with perceptive stories and impeccable musicianship. From the imagined dreamscape of 1922 to the wilderness of The Caribou and the Oil Pipeline -- each song is a locus for listeners to focus on and get lost in.
Notes on the CD by Jean Smith
Mecca Normal is a current band -- a rock band as opposed to high art, poetry or performance art.
We don't want to focus on the past, our history, or roles we may have played.
This CD has a theme -- Jean's Internet dating.
We want the focus to be on the content of the CD -- the music, the lyrics, the vocals, the visual.
Dave maintains that this is my best singing ever.
I say this CD has the best Mecca Normal guitar sound ever.
Our creative partnership and personal friendship were at all-time heights during the writing, rehearsing and recording of these songs.
There is a literary quality to the CD -- short stories arrive as beautiful songs.
I have, for the most part, in my music, art and writing been represented (by myself and others) as a feminist. This seems to have meant that very few comments were made in print on my appearance. I recall being called "scholarly-looking" once.
Controversy and provocation. Calling into question: age, sex, feminism and image, self-image, self-portrait. I have wondered if I am responsible to uphold the image feminist role-model -- and will my exploits and photos be perceived as 'using sex to sell' a CD?
The photo on the CD cover is one of many I have had up on an online dating website over the past couple of years. I am writing about my dating experiences for my third book F.L.O.W. vs. P.L.A.N. The songs on The Observer are abbreviated cross-sections of dates, and short relationships. Online dating provides an excellent place to learn about the male / female dynamic when sex is concerned. I am increasing my understanding of respect, self-respect, power, and trust.
At 46, I feel sexier than ever, and yet, by society's standards, I am not doing well at all -- no man, no kids, no car, no house. I have a low paying part time job as a fitness technician to supplement my creative income, but I am a success on my own terms.
Two of the songs that deviate from Internet dating have political content. 1. The Caribou and the Oil Pipeline -- environmental concern, oil, Arctic devastation, caribou migration and calving, ecosystems disrupted by development. The line that reveals that a singer doesn't think she can affect change, doesn't think she can write a hit, but she has to try -- reveals another issue: complacency, and the viability of art/music as protest and as a way to influence social change.
We wrote "The Caribou and the Oil Pipeline" in the summer, rehearsed it a lot, performed it live and then, once in the studio, I added piano, guitar, cymbals and two more vocal tracks. When it came time to mix, I started by saying, "Let's get rid of my guitar -- it's just confusing things." That sounded better. Then Dave said, "I wonder what it would sound like without my guitar." Which, come on, it's a band with one woman singing and one guy playing guitar. Once we got Jordan, our amazing engineer, to understand that Dave didn't mean less guitar or even a lot less guitar... after the playback, Dave was up out of his chair saying how great the piano sounded without the guitar. It was wild. You don't get many guitar players excited by taking out their entire performance. Now Jordan was up outta his chair, were smiling and I said, "I wonder what it would sound like with the other piano track I did." They were skeptical that it could sound any better, but it did. Both piano tracks were originally played as an accent. I just sat down and played straight to tape. So that's how we finished it. Dave is there in the white spaces, creating the unheard structure. In his absence, he's there as much as if he was being heard.
2. The Message -- AIDs in Africa and how the west has the drugs required to reduce suffering but will not make them accessible because of a capitalist agenda. Mecca Normal has a history of writing songs about various social concerns, feminism, injustice, poverty, prison justice, housing, capitalism etc.
And, as always, we want to inspire progressive thought, illuminate issues from an underground perspective, and challenge mainstream perception.
There has always been divided opinion about Mecca Normal -- we accept that, and believe that this is valuable in a larger picture. We don't want to focus on trying to convert people to liking us, per se. This debate is a fan activity and sometimes a media concern -- when a journalist hates us, the fan is riled, lines are drawn, points are made and thoughts become clearer. I believe it serves society / culture to engage in debate over controversial expression -- hey, we never wanted everyone to love us!!! It is healthy to have a love/hate dynamic in areas of culture that are unusual, contentious and marginalized -- and we intend to operate from the margins as part of our life-long process of art-making; we comment on the status quo while remaining hinged to its cultural dynamic.
I am a woman who speaks out loudly, aggressively -- weirdly. I am not planning to stop -- in fact, I believe Mecca Normal's best work is yet to come and that this is our best work so far.
Mecca Normal has always intended to be an element in a larger picture. We are parsley on your plate of liver and onions. -- Jean Smith
Mecca Normal BIO:
20-year participants in the international music scene, electric guitar and voice duo Mecca Normal releases The Observer on Kill Rock Stars. Mecca Normal has released 12 CDs. Jean Smith and David Lester have integrated their artwork into their musical performances and created a lecture on underground culture -- How Art & Music Can Change the World