As we've all found out over the years, Alica has a whole lot of stuff going on. While Lost Sounds are certainly her full-time project, and rightfully so, there's also MOuserocket, River City Tanlines, Destruction Unit, at least a half dozen other bands (both past and present), recording at the Tronic Graveyard with Jay, seemingly constant touring, running the Contaminated label and distro, and more. After seeing them twice on their recent East Coast tour I had a chance to bombard her with some questions before she and the Lost Sounds left on yet another West Coast jaunt.
TB:The new Lost Sounds LP is obviously sounds cleaner than previous efforts, and the songs seem to be a little more accessible and pop-structured. Was this a conscious decision or just the natural musical evolution of the band? What instigated the change?
Alicja: In a sense it was a conscious decision, not that I mean to have mainsteam acceptable songs, but just that I personally was getting bored with all the evil shit. My life was starting to scare me, so I wanted to make happy melodies. People kept saying “Why won’t you play ‘Satan Bought Me’ or ‘Disease’?”, and I felt like they reminded me of a fearful way of thinking I was trying to get away from. Also, we all can be pretty funny and out of control, and we don’t want to come off as too dark all the time, it just becomes cliché. Andy Earles (Ed: Mastermind behind one of my all-time favorite zines, The Cimarron Weekend) said it was a good aspect of Nervous Patterns: less dark, and it gave Jay and I some eye-opening confidence to soften up a little. Our live delivery will still slaughter you.
TB:Are you guys happy with the way it turned out?
Alicja: Just nervous about it being poppy and people thinking it misses that dirty raw home recording sound we get when we aren’t trying to make something for an album, like Demos 1 and 2 and Nervous Patterns was.
TB: You've just released your fourth official LP, plus tons of singles, demos, etc....Did you think Lost Sounds would be this enduring and prolific when you first started?
Alicja: When it started we were all just trying to play instruments we weren’t used to. I never had pre-conceived notions. I knew Jay and I were prolific on the 4-track, but I never thought people would be hearing my trash songs on vinyl.
TB: Great steps (musically) have happened with the group from the first LP through the current record. Is it tough to keep improving and find ways to keep moving forward/progress without falling into a stylistic rut?
Alicja: That’s another reason we went poppy on a few, to prevent a stylistic rut. I just switch to a new instrument if my ideas become boring or repetitive.
TB:Lost Sounds have evolved into one of the more popular bands in the underground. How long do you think the band can keep going? Another five years, ten years,...?
Alicja: Hmmn…I hope we can all keep creating together whether it’s with Lost Sounds or something else. Look at Memphis band's track records, they’ve got a 4 year life-span. Oblivians, Grifters, they break up when they are on the brink of reaping the benefits of their hard work. People say Jay and I are stronger as a band than in individual efforts, and we finally sound good live after years of drunken shows and shitty gear. I am most excited about the new Destruction Unit EP, which is Ryan and Jay and I, but it’s a whole different format and method of recording… some of the songs we all sing different parts, like Prince’s ‘1999.’ So it’s a break since Lost Sounds has become kinda strained lately.
TB:How much does the future of the band rely on your and Jays personal relationship?
Alicja: By chance he and the Oscars got a house one street over from mine, so we have to live close by. We have to share the equipment we bought as a band, and Jay and I record bands together…so I’d say it’s pretty important. We know each other’s methods now so writing and recording is fast. I gotta do stuff away from him and alone though. We’ve known each other for 8 years or more now, and it’s really important to keep friends with people that knew you before anyone gave a shit about your music because your friendship is real.
TB:Lost Sounds have created a definite post-apocalyptic/futuristic mood that pervades the releases and songs. Was this part of the original concept, or something that evolved as the band went along?
Alicja: I think we just jumped into it and we really had no pre-conceived notions, just similar likes and dislikes, and we wanted to use my keyboards. We used to do a Squires cover when we started, and some old Toys cover, “Frankenstein Twist”. Then Jay got a Screamers 7” and Jason Craft (Persuaders) left his Ashes tape in my car.
TB:Sometime between the first two LP's the band really took off, with people scrambling for copies of your demo CD-R's even. Were you at all surprised that a band's demos created that much of a stir, and that labels wanted to put them out officially on CD/LP? Are you happy with those releases?
Alicja: I couldn’t believe when people wanted the CDRs. There are lotsa handmade covers out there, that’s what I hope makes them really unique to the people who got them. Home recordings that are not meant for the public have a different sound, they have flaws and they have the original inspiration and naiveté, they are how I got really interested in music from more than just a consumers view. When I first heard home recordings in high-school it was like the best music I’d ever heard in my life, that lo-fi bedroom sound.
TB:What instigated the label switch to In the Red, and how has it helped?
Alicja: We needed a change and we wanted that money for recording equipment and publicity, not to mention he liked us and we liked his bands. Empty was a very honest and helpful label as well, but ITR was running in our direction.
TB:You did the paintings for the cover of the new LP, and artwork for other releases. What kind of art background do you have?
Alicja: I’ve drawn since day one, I was that kid in school that could draw and would always go overboard on visual projects, but now I spend time on music so I don’t do visual stuff much. I went to grad school for art and won this grant to study in NY one semester, and I did computer graphics as a job for 6 years. Problem is I HATE stodgy art openings. I like rock shows, so the art world was not for me. At first I wanted to keep it a secret, kinda like a punk rock kid doesn’t want his friends to know his dad’s a millionaire or something, but now I don’t care what people think, just thought it’s funny to add in my self-conscious paranoia.
TB:Have you always lived in Memphis? If not, how'd you end up there?
Alicja: My parents moved here when I was 7. I moved from Baltimore, I lived in New Orleans for a year, met the Royal Pendeltons and Jason Craft there, and he keeps telling Jay I had purple hair and dreadlocks which is not true. Where’s the proof, buddy!
TB:How has Memphis influenced your music?
Alicja: The decay, abandoned buildings, it’s a shitty vacuum with no culture, but working at Sun Studio and learning about Rock’n’Roll has really influenced me, seeing Panther Burns and the Hell on Earth Halloween parties with bands until 5 AM, and going to the Antenna, being near New Orleans, having lotsa great bands play Barristers, knowing some of the most talented fucks in the world here. All my friends were into music.
TB:I feel I have to ask everyone from Memphis this question. How important were the Oblivians to you, and how did they influence you?
Alicja: I loved the Oblivians and Greg was nice enough to play music with me when I sucked, and play me records, like Love, and give me some Oblivians seven inches. Jack was really productive, and that was a good influence to watch, and Eric was always bringing the great Japanese bands through Memphis. And besides that, I just liked the songs.
TB:How did you get involved in the Clears? What happened to the band? Was it your first band? How was that experience?
Alicja: It actually wasn’t my first band. I played in the Satyrs, who had a 7” on Loverly, and the song came up again on the ‘History of Memphis Garage Rock: the 90’s’ comp, and they put out a record on Black Dog, a Mississippi label, after I was gone. I had some others too, the Chisellers were supposed to make a record for Safe House records, but Misty sent a blank tape to the guy there, and he already thought she was crazy, and I don’t think he got an actual tape ever.
The Clears were my first touring band with publicity, and it was fun while it lasted. I backed out of the second album, and I never was happy with the first anyways, and Steve Shelley got really mad at me for quitting and cussed me out via e-mail…kinda sucks because he was a nice guy. Shelby moved to Africa and Brad fixes computers. They made 1 solo record each. It was a great experience until it ended. I broke up with my band and boyfriend all at the same time, so it seemed shitty, but it worked out for the best because I wanted to play fast loud rock.
TB:Did the Fitts exist at the same time as Lost Sounds started? I know other Fitts recordings exist, will they ever be released?
Alicja: I think we started after Lost Sounds, a band for like 8 months. If there are other recordings, I lost them. There was a ballad. That got nixed.
TB:Will we see more Fitts stuff, or was the Big Neck single the last of the project?
Alicja: That would be the last, lucky for you all.
TB:Does the second Fitts 7" have an intentional (and kind of humorous) sort of Riot Grrl vibe, or am I imagining it?
Alicja: All those songs were to make the drummer Savana laugh. I think in a way, as embarrassing as it is to admit, I was parodying all the misongynist lyrics in garage-punk, and I just wanted to be reverse gross…I mean there is a Limp Bizkit “did it all for the nookie” breakdown in “Contaminated by your Dick.” It was supposed to be a stupid way for me to make light of the crap I’d fucked, and that I’d gotten out of a relationship that had me constantly paranoid he was cheating on me.
TB:How did you meet Jay and end up doing Lost Sounds?
Alicja: First time I met him I ran up and started singing “Eye of the Tiger” I think, and throwing my arms in the air to the beat, and he looked at me like he was scared to death, or thought I was weird…next time I met him though Greg…he needed a drummer for the Reatards but I couldn’t play fast enough and I sucked at guitar then…later he played in my band the Ultracats, and became my roommate. Somewhere down the line he wanted a break from the Reatards, so he and Rich and I started playing in my kitchen with no particular intentions.
TB:How did 'Memphis is Dead' come together, and how did Big Neck come to release it?
Alicja: It came together pretty fast, recorded on my 8 track reel to reel. Jim Hollywood was getting recruits for Big Neck and he heard our demos (like the stuff on Hate’s Demos 1 record). He primed Bart for us.
TB:Can you explain the rodent motif that recurs in your stuff? Mouserocket, 'Rat's Brains...", etc...
Alicja: Rats go with old cities, garbage, and decay. They also are incredible survivalists. Some scientists think humans evolved from rats, I said this once to Jack and he was very upset by this
theory, so it stuck with me extra hard.
TB:How long have you been doing Mouserocket stuff? How and why has that project changed from its onset (the first single was supposed to be a children's record?) to the LP?
Alicja: Well, that name shoulda changed a long time ago, but I was sick of adding to the roster of band names by the time we were a 5 piece. Now it’s a noisy band, but I try still to keep it lighter in subject to Lost Sounds. No war.
TB:The Mouserocket LP (and a lot of your other stuff) has a great kind of early-Nineties indie rock dynamic that always has me thinking of Sonic Youth, Sebadoh and the like. Is that era particularly inluential?
Alicja: Yes, I was very influenced by stuff that had unproduced home recorded sounds, and home recording was more atypical back when I was forming my musical taste, so it stood out. I liked the way those bands went back and forth between screaming and being quiet.
TB:Mouserocket is pretty accessible compared to some of your noisier stuff, and the Lost Sounds have definitely developed a pop dynamic of sorts. Would you be willing to take a stab at a mainstream/major label deal if the opportunity arose? If not, what would it take? Would you be at all worried about being accused of 'selling out'?
Alicja: I’m not worried about being labeled a sell out, I mean, I’d do a Mitsubishi ad if the opportunity arose, but I would never want to put money in the pockets of a buncha stuffed shirts at Sony, drones who make more money then the creators. So the answer is no. I think if you stick with a strong indie label you can still make money, which I want to, but I hate the MTV rock star culture. I just want opportunities to get records out and maybe one day make some weird videos, make more record covers, do my mailorder, and expand my label.
TB:Is Mouserocket a full-time unit, or more of a side project? Will their be future Mouserocket endeavors? (Albums, tours)
Alicja: I treat it second to Lost Sounds, but I still care a lot about it and we will tour in the spring and make more records. We have some new recordings now.
TB:Do the Ultracats still exist?
Alicja: Whew, I’m getting tired here…We don’t really exist. Lori and I just like singing these old 50’s and 60’s songs together so we play special events like weddings and birthday parties by special request.
TB:River City Tan Lines just released a single, and have another upcoming. Who else is in the band? Where'd you get the name?
Alicja: Terrance and Bubba from Tearjerkers/Subteens/Kenny Brown Band (RL Burnside’s blonde-haired blue-eyed son) play with me now, the recordings were done with Matt Melton from the Memphis Break-Ups and Patrick from Lost Sounds/Care. I got the idea for the name sitting in the bath and looking at my tanlines. I thought it was a funny name.
TB:RCTL are more garagey than most of your other bands. Is it fun to still play garage rock, sans keyboards and the wave influence?
TB:You and Jay seem to have done well with the Tronic Graveyard. Who have you recorded recently? Any bands/recording you're particlularly proud of?
Alicja: Evil Army, Original Three, Reigning Sound, Memphis Break Ups, Catholic Boys.
I wanna record the Feelers.
TB:What's upcoming on the Contaminated Label?
Alicja: Feelers/Blank Its split, Willowz 7”, one last Ponys “So Sentimental” repress.
TB:You have a great and diverse selction at Contaminated Mailorder. How do you decide what to stock/put out? Is it tough to stay above water running a small distro?
Alicja: I don’t think I’m making much more than money to eat on, but I love it because it keeps me excited about music. I pick bands that are reviewed by you (TB) and Horizontal Action, and I get a lot of people sending me their 7”s for distro, and I pick European labels that have that 7” color vinyl collectible vibe, obsessed labels, and I pick music made by friends and bands that are branched off from them. I try to get things that won’t be in the record stores.
TB:You've managed to become a notable and respected woman in the underground rock scene without succumbing to the obvious cliches some tend to fall into (slutty hard rocker chicks, dykey Riot Grrrl-ism, twee girlie pop). Does it bother you when you see girl bands that personify these stereotypes? Do you think girls/bands that take those avenues immediately discredit themselves? Are there any girl groups/artists that particularly influenced you?
A: When you see a girl play who is really into the music, she might not seem as sexy or hot as someone more image conscious, maybe you even forget she’s a girl for a moment and you just watch her and her band play.
I hate preachy people in general, sexism is mammalian reality and I don’t see it as my job to save the world for women, it’s just my job to create. It’s hard to overcome preconceived notions, but it’s rock’n’roll, so you can just say “fuck you!” There’s nothing wrong with the basis of the Riot Girl movement, it just got carried out like a big “we hate boys” club, and I love boys, so I don’t relate and never did.
Personally, I prefer guys that are entertaining to pretty boy fashion plates. It’s hard to rock out in a micro mini skirt because there is no place for your picks and money to tip the bartenders, and you’ll freeze after getting so sweaty. I’ve worn skirts and put picks in my bra, but then you get in bed that night with your boyfriend and he’s like “What the fuck is that stuck to your boob?” Girls into rock just need to go get their own identity and I think it’s big waste to get a bunch of expensive jeans, pointy shoes, hair products, etc. when you could buy a guitar or start a label.
When I was in 3rd grade I heard Joan Jett and thought she was a bad ass, now I think she’s pretty silly. Later I saw/listened to Poison Ivy, Wendy O, Tina Turner, Ronettes, Irma Thomas, but mainly I was just influenced by local girls or girls I knew. When I saw the Hellcats play, that was Lorette Velvette and Misty White’s band in the late 80’s, I couldn’t believe how insane they were. I didn’t care what they sounded like, they were just making a bunch of noise and clatter, they were wasted and running around on stage yelling about motorcycle accidents and boys and I was mesmerized.
Thanks to Alicja for taking the time from her obviously jam-packed schedule to answer these questions. Of course, check out her most recent releases/projects, namely the new self-titled Lost Sounds LP/CD on In the Red, the River City Tanlines single on Misprint, and her solo "Pop" CD-R on her own Contaminated Label. And of course go check out the Lost Sounds live whenever you get the chance.
Interview by Rich Kroneiss
Pics by Canderson
Lost Sounds on the web: www.lostsounds.net
Contaminated Distro: www.contaminatedrecords.com
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