Geraldine Fibbers-Vigorous and Diverse

by John Fortunato
Arts Weekly July 30, 1997

Geraldine Fibbers' singer/composer Carla Bozulich projects distraught, apprehensive feelings with the utmost emotional endurance. Gaining exposure and experience through unheralded California bands Neon Veins and Invisible Chains before joining techno/hip-hop popsters Ethyl Meatplow, Bozulich empowered herself as leader of the stylistically diverse Geraldine Fibbers on the challenging '95 debut disc, Lost Somewhere Between The Earth And My Home.

On their sophomore endeavor, Butch (Virgin), the Geraldine Fibbers burst at the seams with Sonic Youth-skewed obsessions (the hypertense "I Killed The Cuckoo", the visceral "Seven Or In Ten" ad the dazed rage "Toybox"), lonesome Country and Western waltzes ("Swim Back To Me" and "Pot Angel"), swirly experimental deconstructions ("The Dwarf Song" and "Butch"), a veiled bluegrass (the earnest, down-home "Folks Like Me"). Withered by lifes cruelties (the AIDS epidemic) and possibly some deep-rooted stress, Bozulich may seem bleary-eyed and disgusted, but hopefulness and vigor manage to seep through each of her compelling songs.

What was the impetus that made you decide to compose and perform music?

C: Well, I never got into music thinking it would be a career. When I started playing in bands, we never thought about making money. The bands I was in early on, like the Neon Veins and Invisible Chains--the names just happen to rhyme--never got money at gigs. We were shocked when we did get paid. Small labels like New Alliance, the Minutemen label, put out an Invisible Chains album and it only cost $500 to record. I'm only shocked when we get paid. Mostly I just think about art and music and feel like the luckiest person in the world.

What artistic hobbies interest you?

C: Sculpting and painting, though I haven't sculpted for a long time. I did when I was younger and had spare time. I was really into painting, but now I tend to focus my attentions and energy in only a couple of directions. I know that things are there if I want to go back to them. I like to write fiction and articles that aren't music related. But that's on the backburner priority-wise. Maybe I'll pick up some of that when I'm touring and have time in the van.

You seem theatrically inclined. Would you consider directing or acting?

C: I directed our new video for "California Tuffy". It was fun. I wanted to direct it because I didn't trust anyone else to make a video I could stand to look at.

Do you think MTV will pick it up?

C: That would be just fine. We basically abandoned or completely defiled all the standard parameters which are usually expected to be enforced.

You mean we won't be seeing the outline of your nipples through a skimpy blouse?

C: There'll be none of that. There's no edits or lip synching, except one line which is done by a small latex cat. And most of the bands performance is done on broken or burning instruments. So there's no sharp contrast focus moves done with the camera: like when the background comes into focus while the foreground is out of focus, and the background is out of focus while the foreground is back in focus. You won't see that. You won't see flashes of big light for a false sense of epilepsy. We try not to use those manipulative ideas. The problem is, that's all been done and it's so ridiculous. But it's all that's allowed in most videos these days. So we tried to make a video that had a sense of humor about NOT doing that. The point was to have a good time not doing the same thing.

Why did you choose "California Tuffy" as the initial single and video?

C: I guess it seemed like an obvious choice. It's a fun Summer tune that's upbeat. I didn't want to release a real slow song as the first single because ... I don't like to do that.

Another cool fast one on Butch is the frenzied "I Killed The Cuckoo". I thought that sounded scintillatingly similar to late 70's arty Brit-punks X Ray Spex.

C: I love X Ray Spex. They should have ruled the world back then. However, the most interesting bands were lost in the shuffle. Punk rock never just caught on because radio couldn't deal with the anti-establishment part. They took it personally and never gave punk any airplay. And now, basically, it has turned into generation after generation ignoring the underground. But what did you expect?

Commercial radio truly eats wretched shit in New York City. That's why Howard Stern is able to beat those jackoffs with his wild antics.

C: Well, KCRW in Los Angeles is national public radio, so that doesn't count. But there's no commercial stations worth jack shit anymore. They base playlists on graft and politics, making sure nothing powerful comes through.

Right! It took Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit' to shove grunge up radio's narrow ass.

C: Beck's on the radio. He's amazing. He's the hero of the world. He's great!

Many of your songs seem based on internal rage and turmoil. Are you really that angry?

C: I'm not really that angry. But there is one thing that really gets me pissed off and that is AIDS. The main factor for rage on Butch is that my friends are dying from this disease and I think it fucking sucks. What's obvious is that if it wasn't a disease affecting homosexuals and junkies, we'd have a cure. If it was touching rich, white men with families and political ties at a more extensive level we'd have some action.

How have you matured as an artist since recording with Ethyl Meatplow a few years back?

C: I don't know. Ethyl Meatplow was one side of my character. It was frustrating because I didn't get to exercise all my strengths. The band operated within the confines of certain limitations. I did write some songs I really liked that were truly mine, like "Ripened Peach" and 'Queenie'. I came through loud and clear on those tunes. But it still was a situation where there were a lot that didn't work. I still think the Geraldine Fibbers have an annoying tendency to be all over the place. But I made sure everybody in the band knew we'd have no limitations. We go from style to style without blinking an eye.

Are you afraid you'll abandon some fans with the eccentric, deconstructed songs near the end of Butch?

C: I'm not afraid. I don't give a crap. 'The Dwarf Song' is cool. I love the last few songs, like the cover of Can's 'Yoo Do Right.'

You get solid support from violinist Jessy Greene and guitarist Nels Cline. Give me a little background information on them.

C: Jessy is a woman who recently quit the band. She was real good at giving me what I wanted in the studio, regardless of her personal tastes. That was really cool. Nels, on the other hand, has played on albums by Charlie Haden and Thurston Moore. And he has his own band, the Nels Cline Trio. He's an angel from heaven.

Tell me what makes your live shows special.

C: I think there's a very unexpected mania that occurs. It's probably worth the price of admission just to see me leave my body while I'm onstage. I generate nervousness before I go onstage, trying to resist the urge to go hide under a table. It's my own personal way of dealing with stage fright.

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