The Geraldine Fibbers: Cuts Like A Life

by Jason Pettigrew
Photo by Marina Chavez
(Alternative Press, November 1997)

Thanks to Randall Hixson for scanning the photo!

Over the course of three albums and a handful of singles, the Geraldine Fibbers have piled their chameleon-like ability to link disparate musical styles while desperate journalists wield hyphens to make sense of it all. You see, this is the band that has covered country legends Dolly Parton and George Jones, as well as German prog-rock geniuses Can.

"The point where George Jones and Can intersect is above the thighs and below the ribcage," lead singer/guitarist Carla Bozulich explains in carefully articulated college-professor English.

Well, Doctor, that would be the gut.

"Exactly," she continues. "I really don't think that people are so narrow-minded with what they listen to. You only live once, so you might as well do what the fuck you want to do. I've been loving Can ever since I was 16, and I'm gearin' up to do a version [of George Jones'] 'Good Year For The Roses' next."

The Fibbers -- Bozulich, guitarist Nels Cline, bassist Kevin Fitzgerald, drummer Bill Tutton [transcriber's note: their mistake, not mine] and violinist Leyna Marika P. --have been wrongly lumped as either No Depression-style mongrels ("I don't care about soft country rock at all," says Bozulich) or denizens of the non-scene of Silverlake ("When somebody wants to talk to me for a 'Silverlake scene' story, I tell them to fuck off"). But Butch (Virgin), the follow-up to last year's [transcriber's note: see above] Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home, is a vibrant collection of songs suited for either a lazy afternoon on a back-porch swing located in White Trash America, or a blood-spilled crime scene blocked off by yellow police tape.

the fibbers at rest

"Everybody's taking [the album] so seriously," Bozulich says in mock petulance. "I didn't put any limitations on what the songwriting was going to be. People ask if I took the band through a different course. When we had all the songs written, it scared me. I was keeping my fingers crossed that there was some sort of cohesiveness that I couldn't perceive."

Perhaps it was the gestation period between the Fibbers' records that may have been responsible for Butch's schizophrenic turbulence. Original guitarist and former Bozulich love interest Daniel Keenan developed tendonitis [sic] and left the band to pursue a career as a chef in Alaska. He was replaced by the wonderfully diverse Cline, whose resume includes solo records for jazz labels as well as amp-burning freakouts with Thurston Moore and Mike Watt. It's Cline's melodic sense, as well as his ability to throw in seemingly wrong notes at the precise time, that give the Fibbers a renewed dynamic.

But it's Bozulich's sing-and-seethe vocals and harrowing lyrics that can turn a listener's blood to freon. Five years ago, as an editor for the L.A.-based 'zine Ben Is Dead, Bozulich wrote an appreciation of classical composer Gustav Mahler that detailed her own sociopathic junkie-whore past and subsequent salvation through his music. When she spits out lines like "I stand here naked at attention/Is this my only skill?" (from "Toy Box") or evokes bittersweet death-bed manners in "Trashman In Furs," one wonders if making records is cheaper than hiring a personal therapist.

"Maybe I wasn't talking about me," defends Bozulich. "Maybe I was just writing fiction. I love to write. I've written a lot of pretty gnarly fiction that has nothing to do with my life. There's plenty of musicians," she erupts in laughter, "that are singing about stuff they have no clue about! Why not me?" She then drops the bomb. "I don't tend to write about things unless they've touched my life or my friends' lives in a way that has had a distinct effect on them."

After the album's completion, longtime violinist Jessy Greene abruptly resigned -- allegedly to work on her own music -- but ended up as a hired gun for the Jayhawks. "She would've gotten nowhere near [Butch] if we had known she was going to quit immediately after it," says Bozulich. "I wish her well." Her replacement, Leyna, is a Kansas City resident who impressed Bozulich five years ago with a Ben Is Dead submission about bad luck. Yet for all the cruel twists and irritants real life throws at the Fibbers, Bozulich finds solace in honesty.

"I met an A&R man -- at his request -- when I was still in Ethyl Meatplow, about five years ago," reveals Bozulich. "I met with him and he gave me the opportunity at that time to be Alanis Morissette. I told him to fuck off. So he signed Alanis. Somebody else asked me to be the frontperson in their band, and I politely declined. They went on to massive record sales. It's okay with me; I'm happy where I am," she resigns. "I go to sleep at night proud."

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