Crumbled Up and Thrown Away

A Geraldine Fibbers Biography

Speaking as the West Coast's foremost authority on The Geraldine
Fibbers, I can assure you that if you get nothing from their music,
you must understand that they are clinically irritable people. Virgin
has shipped them repeatedly to see a backwater holistic guru up in
Modoc County; it never does any good. They return to Los Angeles
bearing backpacks full of dung beetle pills and cheap clothes from
thrift stores, which they sell for a tidy profit. Access to this group
is therefore best left denied, both for the sake of the band members
and professional journalists everywhere. Sitdown discussions with the
Geraldine Fibbers terminate more often then not with a half dozen
disgusted people storming away in opposite directions. If anything,
they have mastered the fine and annoying art of second-guessing.      
  My own experiences with them have been only a tad less unproductive;
one doesn't get to know all there is to know about The Geraldine
Fibbers without developing a high tolerance for bossiness. For my most
recent encounter with the band, I figured I'd finally confront them
directly about all the cryptic references to secret societies buried
in their lyrics. There were also a few rumors I wanted to nail down,
most notably about the making of their new album, Butch, recorded by
Steve Fisk and John Goodmanson. I heard that Carla had flown to Europe
and waited for an opportunity to beg on her hands and knees outside a
recording studio where Steve was finishing up a session with SinSad
O'Connor. On the phone prior to our meeting, all she could do is
praise Steve's playing of the Celeste on three of Butch's songs. "It
makes this beautiful childish ringing," she said, "like a cross
between a toy harpsichord and antique vibes." I tried to push for
details but my sloppy penmanship had already cost me one faux pas (I
misread the title of Butch as Butoh) and I feared fouling out of the
game early. 

According to one source, the working title of the album had been
Bitch, in tribute to Meredith Brooks, whose people didn't understand
and threatened a lawsuit. The name was then changed to Batch (which
seems a little too electronic, if you ask me). Thanks to a blessing in
disguise-hallelujah typographical error!-the album was inadvertantly
re-christened Butch before anyone noticed the difference.         

And then there was the legendary mixing session in New York. John
Siket was joined by a second engineer while Carla was joined by an old
friend, homicidal depression. Supposedly, the Virgin recording artist
was convinced that she was not being taken seriously. She was picking
up a major get-a-load-of-this-chick vibe and felt resented for having
an opinion that went beyond "make it sound pretty." In upbeat, well
medicated versions of the story, John fulfilled Carla's requests to
the letter. Carla insists that the experience was comparable to
pleading in Swahili to a toaster oven. A lesser person might have been
tempted to suggest she rename the album Botch and throw her out;
instead, he bought her peppersteak sandwiches and lemonade on more
than one occasion. Three mixes from the delusional sessions appear on

Carla Bozulich met me at Bud's Spuds with her sense of humor in tact.
Before the door had even shut behind her, she said, "If it wasn't
absolutely essential to our label that I talk to you, I'd rather boil
in oil." What a kidder. I asked if I should run out and pick up some
extra virgin olive, or perhaps something a little lower in saturated
fats. Silence. Nervousness flashed through me as I recalled the number
of times I'd seen this woman go off the deep end about her past. In
addition to details about the Geraldine Fibbers' new album, it was my
job to squeeze out some sort of career overview. For instance, in the
early 80s she was in Neon Veins with Richao Polysorbate, Gary Kail,
and Dan Dobrin, a lawyer who went on in mid-decade to form Doberman,
regarded in some circles as the Shaggs of metal. How the hell was I
going to make that seem like an attractive topic?          

"So, Carla," I said, "Are you excited about Butch?"         

"I have mixed feelings about it," she confessed. "The things that were
written about Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home made me
ill. Even when the reviews were filled with praise, people were saying
the most idiotic things in the world about us."         

Actually, she had a valid point there. I can't imagine anyone who'd be
happy to have their band called cowpunk, the only thing worse than
which are its synonymous variants. One writer favored the term bovine
rock, while another excitedly referred to the Fibbers' music as waltz
fusion. Yet another was beside himself at having thought up
cattleprog. Granted, these seem like the harmless gropings of
sub-literate numskulls; at the time, maybe the writer thought he or
she was coining a phrase that would eventually become part of the
lexicon. But you know how singers are: thoughtful, aggressive, bossy,
predisposed to homicidal depression. I silently thanked whoever's idea
it was to let her do something else besides sing on Butch (guitar,
electric bass on a couple songs, glockenspiel on "Heliotrope," and
Ensoniq 16+ loaded with looped samples of whatever: short waves radio
and submarine poop).         

Carla has been described as "an ex-dominatrix" and "an ex-performance
artist," which are fourth generation interpretations of descriptions
of opinions of what she did with her previous band, Ethyl Meatplow.
There were a lot of weird people involved at some of their shows, but
more often than not, they were just audience members that no one
bothered to hurl off the stage. Carla just sang. No dominating, no
yams. Just singing.         

"That anyone would think I am or ever was a performance artist is the
horror of my existence. It makes me want to kill myself and then kill
the person who said it about me."         

"Well, you know, the only difference between doing what you just said
and performance art is the grant money."         

She asked if I wanted to know the most hilarious term used to describe
The Geraldine Fibbers and, being a hilarity aficionado, I said yes.   

"An all-lesbian country band."         

What's so hilarious about that? Of the five people in the band, only
two are women. In order to qualify for lesbianism, one has to first be
part of the larger subset of humanity known as females. Statistically
then, the maximum percentage of the Geraldine Fibbers who have the
potential to be lesbians is 40 percent, not even close to a majority.
Rounding up from 40 to 100 percent is just bad science.        

Use of the word country seems a little unwarranted as well. But
understandable. Even though The Geraldine Fibbers are clearly more
uncountry than country, if their music contains so much as 40 percent
country, that's well within the accepted parameters of inferential
completeness. The Fibbers toured with Golden Smog last year or maybe
it was the year before (it all blurs together). Featuring members of
such non-all-lesbian country bands as the Jayhawks, Soul Asylum and
Wilco, Golden Smog inherited Butch's clutch hitter, violinist and
viola-player Jessy Greene, who has subsequently batted clean-up with
all three of those bands. In a perfect world, the sports metaphor
would prevail, and the Golden Smog franchise would send the Fibbers
one of their designated hitters, maybe surrender a draft choice, or at
least convince Jessy to wait until the end of the season before

Since the release of their last album, the Fibbers also lost guitarist
Daniel Keenan to tendonitis and enlisted Nels Cline to cover for him.
Nels's discography is all over the map, from orchestral jazz ensembles
to skronky trios released under his own name. One notch above the
nadir of all-lesbian country band would be the time he spent in
Homogenized Goo with his twin brother, drummer Alex Cline, sporting
then-au courant accessories like nehru jackets and rainbow-colored
afro wigs. He and Carla met while recording their parts for Mike
Watt's wrestling album, Ballhog or Tugboat, and got to be friends. The
Fibbers went on to open for Watt's band on the Ballhog tour last year
or maybe it was the year before (it all blurs together).         

"Another thing that irked me about the reviews of Lost Somewhere,"
continues Carla, "We were complimented on our cello-playing. They said
our album had some really excellent cello-playing on it."         

"Ouch. That's gotta hurt."         

"There's not a lick of cello anywhere on Lost Somewhere. None."       

"What's that upright bass thing that looks like a huge violin?"       

"The upright bass thing is called an upright bass played with a bow." 

"What's the difference between a cello and an upright bass played with
a bow?"         

"Fifteen or 20 cubic gallons."         

Gallons? I didn't know we were talking about an upright bass filled
with water played with a bow. Under normal, arid circumstances, or at
least on Butch, Wm. Tutton played both upright bass and cello and even
some piano. Well, one note. A low C on "Claudine." Wm. was once a
member of Buffalo, New York's most beloved Elvis impersonator band,
Big Wheelie and the Hubcaps. Big Wheelie's costume included a
weightlifting belt decorated with rivets and rhinestones, which was
actually an old wagon wheel with a big E on it. Big Wheelie also
padded his crotch (purely in the interests of verisimilitude, of
course; he was, after all, supposed to be Elvis). One night on stage,
Wm. noticed that the King's codpiece was slipping down the pantleg of
his lycra jumpsuit. By the end of the song it had drifted all the way
to his kneecap. That's when he realized there had to be an all-lesbian
country band with his name on it somewhere.         

Flint Loving, Jr., was like any other kid in Fairbanks, Alaska, where
he'd been born and raised, except that he was in Demon, a band that
could and did pull off true-to-form covers of both heavy metal and
disco hits. "Iron Man," followed by "Jive Talkin'," followed by "The
Ace of Spades," followed by I don't know, something by Donna Summer.

When he was 17, the entire band moved to Los Angeles, having heard a
rumor that their sort of thing went over big there. He knew he'd found
a new home the first time he laid eyes on the Sunset Strip-as far as
the eye could see, longhairs running around with laced up leather
pants and Nels Cline in a rainbow-colored afro wig. Before he knew
what hit him, Flint found himself the victim of a pyramid scheme that
went belly up prematurely. He then found session work as lead
dishwasher at Millie's, where you can catch his act on weekends to
this day. Within a few years he'd be the drummer for Geraldine
Fibbers, who insisted that he change his name to something safe and
normal like Kevin Fitzgerald so they wouldn't get hassled at customs
during international tours. In addition to drumming on Butch, "Kevin"
also played upright bowed glockenspiel on "The Dwarf Song" and sang
"Pet Angel."         

In a way, Carla shouldn't expect much from us mainstream journalists.
We're just hacks who tread water between mass murder scandals by
interviewing a few rock bands on the side. Some of us will inevitably
overlook a detail about the band, even if it's printed right there on
the lyric sheet in plain English, or we'll try to peg the music as
"power imbalance ballads" or "psycho torch," completely oblivious that
our bon mots are the co-signers of her destruction.         

"One reviewer," she shudders, "said my vocals were indebted to Axl

That's the price of being in the public eye. Even if you don't owe
anything to a male Janis Joplin impersonator, you can't go around
telling the rank and file of the entire journalism community how to do
their jobs.         

"Can I tell them to stop asking me the same idiotic questions all the
time?" she wonders.         

"Which questions?"         

"What the name of the band means."         

"What does it mean?"

"Shut up."

I sure could use a peppersteak sandwich right now.  --

Ned Sporin
Earlips Are Go magazine

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