From The Desk Of Bird Of Youth’s Beth Wawerna: Anya Marina On Food

Bird Of Youth has no business being this good. Really. If writing and recording a really beautiful album was as easy as Beth Wawerna and her crew made it look, wouldn’t everyone do it? That’s sort of the story here. For most of her decade in New York, Wawerna was, in the words of her pal Timothy Bracy, “the consummate green-room insider.” Her background in journalism and her unerring taste had led to a number of indie-rock acquaintances who eventually became friends. It sounds like a pretty good time, hanging out in Brooklyn with the Mendoza Line’s Bracy and Pete Hoffman, Will Sheff of Okkervil River, Carl Newman, Charles Bissell of the Wrens, Nada Surf’s Matthew Caws and others. But it turned out Wawerna had a secret stash of her own songs, which she’d worked on and demo’d and never, ever let anyone hear. Eventually, she decided it was time to set those songs free. Her pals not only liked them, they helped her form a crack band—guitarist par excellence Clint Newman, drummer Ray Ketchem, bassist Johnny North, keyboardist Eli Thomas and accordion player Elizabeth Bracy Nelson—and recorded them. Sheff and Phil Palazzolo (New Pornographers, Ted Leo) produced. Bissell contributed a terrific guitar lead on one song. Caws sang. Members of Okkervil River and the National played. The finished album, Defender, was released in May, just in time to give your summer a worthy soundtrack. Wawerna and Clint Newman will be guest editing all week, and once a day, Wawerna is having one of her famous friends guest blog. Read our brand new Q&A with her.

Anya Marina has released Slow & Steady Seduction: Phase II and the Spirit School EP on Chop Shop/Atlantic. Her song “Satellite Heart” was featured on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack, and her cover of T.I.’s “Whatever You Like” once served as a backdrop for a three-way makeout on Gossip Girl (the song’s video, filmed in NYC sexshop Babeland, features Justin Kirk of Weeds fame). Keep an eye out for her next album, which she produced herself, this fall.

Marina: Like a lot of artistic types, I value a nice meal and I like talking and thinking—sometimes obsessively—about food. Much to the chagrin of the nice people who follow me on Twitter (and maybe even my record label), I regularly tweet about my love of sardines, my dreaded gluten-sensitivity, post-show salads and stevia.

One time I even arranged an entire tour of the U.K. just so I could visit the restaurant where Anthony Bourdain said he’d like to eat his last “electric chair” meal (roast bone marrow and parsley salad at Fergus’ St. JOHN in London; see the photo above).

I recently read an article by Nora Ephron in which she seemed to be articulating my very own thoughts on the matter: “I went to many legendary rock concerts and spent them wondering when they would end and where we would eat afterwards and whether the restaurant would still be open and what I would order.”

When I read this I was ecstatic—I’m not alone! I related to it so much—embarrassingly so. I mean, I’ve had these exact conversations with myself at rock shows, many of them while onstage, mid-song, even.

Maybe musicians in particular are food-focused because touring can be such a culinary wasteland of sadness (“Hey, there’s a tub of processed hummus and a pre-packaged veggie tray backstage”) punctuated by the occasional high point (a Whole Foods a third of a mile from the venue!). We are, therefore, predisposed to be interested in that which eludes us.

During my pre-musician life, I was a DJ on the radio. Whenever interviewing bands, I’d inevitably end up dishing on food with whatever rock star was in the studio. Food was a great ice-breaker, and almost all of my subjects would rather talk about their top-five meals of the last year than the last five albums they bought. Perry Farrell and I talked about how he stays in such exquisitely reptilian shape (swimming, pilates, eating a raw vegetable with every meal); Frank Black and I discussed his pescetarianism; and Against Me! touched on being vegan for what had to be the 1,000th time of their career. I’m pretty sure I talked to Alex Kapranos about his love of cooking before his book Sound Bites: Eating On Tour With Franz Ferdinand came out, but maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’m just remembering yet another food-related pull quote from an interview I read in a lonely hotel room while on tour. I can’t tell you how many cans of sardines I’ve eaten at a Hilton Express after a gig. Using the hotel room key card as a utensil, naturally.

I’m also sober these days, so it’s no wonder I eschew partying til the wee hours with the band in favor of going back to my room to peruse what other, less stranded people are eating in more cosmopolitan parts of the world. It’s like what they say about sex: Those who are talking about it probably aren’t getting any.

You get the gist. I like food. I like reading about food. I like reading about what other people think about food. I wouldn’t even be writing this piece if it wasn’t for a dinner party I hosted during which I met the lovely Beth Wawerna, so there you have it. Food is a connector, a conversation starter, a purveyor of endless gifts! Below are links to some of my favorite food-related interviews, most of which are courtesy of New York magazine’s column on Grub Street, “The NY Diet,” wherein an interesting person who lives—or happens to be in—New York City chronicles their week of meals.

Some are boring, food-wise. Ted Leo, for instance, barely eats and is a vegan; nevertheless his column is one of my favorites (“a really good, quick pick-me-up: mix, say, two fingers of Jameson, a packet of Emergen-C, and a dash of hot sauce”). Some are bizarre (Julie Atlas Muz is obsessed with chocolate chips, Andrew W.K. with peanuts), but they are all fascinating. Sometimes I wonder why I’m so interested, why I rush to the computer on Friday mornings to read the latest “NY Diet.”

I think it’s that, like any artist, I’m ultimately interested in people, their stories, how they get through their lives and how I might be like them. Everyone’s diet is so personal and therefore so revealing. You’ll learn about a character you thought you knew in an entirely new light and you’ll get a window into how they function day to day. What does this person consider a balanced meal? What does that person crave when they’re tired? How do people take care of, nurture and fuel themselves throughout their lives? It’s all endlessly interesting to me (and I hope to you, too). I’ve also included one column of Friday Fives (featuring Emily Haines), from Immaculate Infatuation, which is a more succinct list of a celebrity’s favorite haunts, restaurants and watering holes.

Bon appétit and bonne lecture (happy reading)!

Andrew W.K.
Julie Atlas Muz
Ted Leo
Emily Haines
Aziz Anzari
David Cross
Anthony Bourdain
Agyness Deyn (a model who eats)
Catherine McNeil (a model who doesn’t!)
More NY Diet

Another photo is after the jump.