Category Archives: DAVID LESTER ART

Normal History Vol. 455: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Turns out Gina Birch of the Raincoats loves this song! As a huge fan of the Raincoats, this is really exciting! She asked me what the music was (on Facebook) in a video of my currently available paintings, so I listed all five songs and she said she hadn’t gotten past the first one, that she’d been playing it over and over. I got her email address and sent her the mp3. She also loves my paintings—says she’s gonna buy one! I’m not gonna try and hide my excitement here! The Raincoats were hugely important to the formation of Mecca Normal. It’s hard to imagine what we’d be doing if the Raincoats’ records weren’t around in 1984 or so—and much earlier for Dave, who lived in London (squatting!!) in the late ’70s and saw them play a Rock Against Sexism show in Hackney.

“This Is Different” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 454: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Many of the songs on Jarred Up are rooted in places. I’m not sure if this was an overarching theme at the time or whether this is something I’m noticing all these years later, looking back.

As with “Broken Flowers,” there’s a lot of nuanced landscape rolling by in cinematic vignettes on the album as a whole. Maybe because we were on tour a lot in those days and lyric writing often “took place” on the road, which is also a very good time to mull over bigger pictures.

Being the daughter of painters—one of them a very strong landscape painter with a solid bent for verbal communication—gives me a unique perspective when it comes to describing what I see around me. I recently completed a series of snow-covered mountain paintings that suddenly turned into sequential art when I introduced another series directly into the landscape—paintings of women in red hats (after Vermeer) slipping around out on a frozen lake. This is my idea of fun—also intended for seasonal gifting strategies, truth be known!

“Broken Flowers” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 453: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

When I arrived at my parents’ (mobile home in a mobile home park) to drive them to my brother’s for dinner they were sitting in the living room. Mom (97) asked Dad (92) who it was, and Dad said, “It’s Jeannie!”

I’d just talked to her on the phone as I was leaving to drive the 45 minutes out there and she said she hoped we’d have a nice time at my brother’s and there wouldn’t be any arguing. There’s never any arguing, so it was weird (in a way that I’ve come to understand more about over the last few years). It is meant to get a rise out of me. A reaction. In the same way that asking me if I’ll come and live with them instead of them going to an assisted-living facility intends to get a reaction. I tried to leave it at “no” but elaborated, saying how much I like my life, how happy I am.

I’m standing just inside the door. It’s not like she doesn’t recognize me because it’s been so long. I saw them about two weeks ago. Somehow she’s surprised that it’s me. I know she knows it’s me, but she asks Dad if it’s the lady who comes to give them their baths. This is to prove that she’s muddled up, which she may be, but this is also something else. Dad assures her it’s me. I’m standing right there. She has excellent eyesight and … she knows it’s me!

She says, “Why do you look like that?”

“Like what?” I ask. I’m wearing red pants (from H&M … not freakish red … nice orange-y red) and a sweater that’s a great murky red with a black pattern.

She says, “You look terrible!”

I laugh and get on with the things I’m there to do. Hem the pajamas I got Dad and take a look at sweat pants I got Mom in May that she claims are too big for her. I show her the drawstring at the waist and the elastic at the ankle. I help her put them on and she seems to like them. They fit. She’s been living in light-blue (deeply filthy and torn) sweat pants I gave her some years back, so this is a big deal.

In the summer, she gave me a bag of clothing to drop off in a charity bin. “Don’t look!” she warned. Of course I looked. There was the colorful top I gave her for her last birthday when she said she wanted a colorful top, and the loose cotton trousers of mine that I figured I see again one day, and several other things she’d indicated she needed. Wow! It kind of did hurt my feelings, and it’s deeply symbolic of the whole thing. Zero validation has been her longstanding m.o. with me. How I look, my “little” band, my friends—she doesn’t like any of it. She does, however, like my paintings, although she can’t work out why anyone is buying them.

“Are they Mecca Normal fans?”

“No, not really,” I say.

“Are you getting paid in real money or internet money?”

“Yes, Mom,” I say. “It’s real money.”

“How Many Now?” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 452: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Continued from last week

In 1986 some of the women who co-founded Riot Grrrl saw Mecca Normal perform in Olympia. Which is also when we met Calvin Johnson of K Records, who ended up putting out quite a few of our records. Here’s the first Mecca Normal show in Olympia where a future member of Bikini Kill—drummer Tobi Vail—first saw us. I think she would have been about your age at the time—or younger! I was in my mid-20s.

We hadn’t done many shows at this point, but as we continued on with songs about feminism and social justice, I spoke more from the stage—and in interviews—to encourage young women to get together with their friends and start bands, to write lyrics about their experiences in the scene and in society. There weren’t very many women in bands at that point.

Our first album was out at that time (on my own label), and one of the main songs on it was “I Walk Alone”—which we still perform at our live shows to this day!

It seems there is a lot on the internet about Riot Grrrl. Maybe check out this series of videos put out by the EMP museum (Experience Music Project) in Seattle. If you search through their material on YouTube you’ll see other Riot Grrrl interviews that should be of interest to you.

Here’s Mecca Normal opening for Kathleen Hanna’s band the Julie Ruin in Portland last year. A new song about feminism.

Good luck with your project, and I hope this helps!
Jean

“It’s Important” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 451: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

I haven’t had any riot grrrl queries for a long time, but maybe there’s another round of new interest from what seemed to be new interest a few years back. I got a Facebook message from 17-year-old Julia in Germany saying she’s working on a school project about riot grrrl, hoping I’ll answer questions.

“As I want it to be as authentic as possible and mirror the mindset of Riot Grrrl and show what it really meant for all those girls, I’m trying to reach out to as much people of the movement as possible. You are one of them.”

Well … here’s my message back, which intends to make a connection between “all those girls” and present-day activities connected to riot grrrl as opposed to simply looking back at it as history. Done. Past.

Hi Julia!
Mecca Normal (my band) is frequently referred to as an early inspiration to the co-founders of Riot Grrrl, but we weren’t a Riot Grrrl band. We’d already been playing, touring and recording since 1986. We had our own thing going called The Black Wedge—anti-authoritarian poets and minimalist musicians on tour in an old school bus.

To be continued

“Follow Down” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 450: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“First, oh my word I love these portraits so, so, so much. Second, Canadian rocker turned painter Jean Smith sells these paintings on Facebook for $100 a pop.” The Jealous Curator

It was a total thrill to have five of my paintings featured on The Jealous Curator‘s site in September—although, I am still “a rocker” (and a novelist), but painting is currently paying the bills. In the month following the feature, I sold almost more than I could handle. Like, nine times what I would normally sell.

A poster of one of my paintings will be included in the Mecca Normal live in Montreal (1996) album to be released in 2018. Dave found the tape last week, and we took it into a studio yesterday to listen to it. Finally, a live album from that era, and it sounds incredible. Until now, not releasing a decent mid-’90s Mecca Normal performance has been one of my biggest regrets.

“He Didn’t Say” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 449: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Forlorn
Collapsed cardboard box house
knife slice for windows
hollow
it’s dark inside

It’s dark inside

You can’t fool yourself
you know all your tricks
a lump of coal in your temple
I huddle near it
like it’s fire

Like it’s fire

Cardboard box house
Cardboard box house
of love

She’s hurt and wondering why
he hurt her
she’s wondering

Men this rough carpet
we women lie on
too close to the fire

Too close to the fire
in the cardboard box house
of love
of love
of love

“Forlorn” from Jarred Up (K, 1992) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 448: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

On a recent list of 33 feminist punk songs that crushed stereotypes and steered progress, 1987’s “Man Thinks Woman” was called a barbed dissection of gender normativity.

Man thinks woman
when he talks to me
something not quite right

I talk to men and the ground
turns to rolling sea
The world is a wave tossing back
whatever I throw in

At a house
at a party
in a hall and drunk
I talk to a man
and he wants me to bite his tongue
I bite his tongue and he wants to know
how I know where the pleasure pain lies

And I said I know like the women in Africa
who carry babies against their bare skin
they know
they can sense
they can feel
when their little baby has to pee

Man thinks woman
when he talks to me
something not quite right

I talk to men and the ground
turns to rolling sea
The world is a wave tossing back
whatever I throw in

Something not quite right

Man thinks woman
when he talks to me
something not quite right

The world is a wave tossing back
whatever I throw in

Man thinks woman
when he talks to me
something not quite right
something not quite right
there’s something wrong with me

“Man Thinks Woman” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 447: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Strong White Male
I want to go beyond the weather
or not at all

I dig myself in deeper
and you want to know why I talk this way
this way

Strong white male
here’s a world for you
and most of us are the ones to lose

Your talk is in the sun and rain
and mine is in the want and hate

Strong white male
here’s a world for you
and most of us are the ones to lose

My cup is empty
thanks again

Your talk is in the sun and rain
and mine is in the want and hate

Strong white male
here’s a world for you
and most of us are the ones to lose

“Strong White Male” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

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Normal History Vol. 446: The Art Of David Lester

Every Saturday, we’ll be posting a new illustration by David Lester. The Mecca Normal guitarist is visually documenting people, places and events from his band’s 33-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Trapped Against
Swing the wax cradle
in the burning tree
Lay flat in rusted cage
Pale moon of a half face wakingyellowed up by fear

He is the thing he hates
He is the thing he hates

Every swing releases
the scent of blackened spice
Fast sweep of hiding
feeding up the sky
Crystal splinter
and hiss against the sun

He is the thing he hates
He is the thing he hates

“Trapped Against” from Dovetail (K, 1992) (download):

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