Normal History Vol. 466: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Cripes. If Cobain was still around, even he might agree that the most important thing that came out of the grunge era was riot grrrl.

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

Normal History Vol. 465: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

One could make a case that riot grrrl’s original influence appeared to taper off only to surge again as a sort of macro-nostalgia 20 years after its inception. Now, around the 25-year mark, riot grrrl’s powerful history begins to look both fluid and cyclical. Who saw Pussy Riot (founded in 2011, inspired by riot grrrl) on the horizon? Who imagined that Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile) would record a relaxed interview with Ana Da Silva (the Raincoats) about influence and inspiration all these years later? Let’s say Mick interviewed Paul 20 years after the fact. What the hell would they talk about? This note. That chord. Record sales. Ana’s conversation with Allison effectively connects two revolutionary eras of populist uprising. Never mind that it’s also feminist history!

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

Normal History Vol. 464: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Even though I frequently encouraged women in the audience to start bands with their friends, we had no idea that an identifiable social movement of young women would rise up and connect us to their activities. That Mecca Normal was far enough along in its evolution to be releasing a compilation album of singles (Jarred Up, 1993), added to the fact that Dave and I were 34 and 33, respectively, by this point, it seemed like our trajectory had already transpired in terms of success—something I spoke to Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile, Sex Stains and the new podcast I’m In The Band) about way back in 2009, when riot grrrl seemed totally off the radar, in the distant past.

“From The Surface” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 463: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

As a group that set out to change the world—in equal parts by our sound, our words and our configuration—reaction has always been of significant interest to Mecca Normal. In the beginning, I suppose we thought our worth and viability would be articulated back to us through reviews—and, to a degree, they were, but it was surprisingly polarized. While we were busy assessing this love/hate dichotomy, something happened that we hadn’t imagined. A bona fide social movement was forming around Bikini Kill and Bratmobile, who we met at some point on tour. In a 2009 interview, Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile, Sex Stains, Ex Stains) articulated the impact Mecca Normal had on her evolution.

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

Normal History Vol. 462: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Narrow
She used to have smooth blonde hair
she still does
but it doesn’t matter any more

A man might think she’s singing
while she braids her hair
she is not
she braids her hair while she sings

A smile like a snake’s mouth
make a snake’s eyes narrow
mud dries on my skin
on the bank of this river

Born
don’t remember
I learned to hate
pulled Judy’s hair
I tried to stab the corsage into my heart

A smile like a turn in a wide wide river
mud dries on my skin
on the bank of this river

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

Normal History Vol. 461: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

The way I’ve structured my painting business is part of what I consider a political art project that goes beyond individual pieces of work. I didn’t go looking for a gallery or try to enter the official art world, nor did I raise my prices when things got going sales-wise. In an attempt to swerve as much capitalism as possible, I used what I had at hand, which was Facebook, a community where I’d made connections with like-minded people.

It’s very much like what we did with Mecca Normal’s first record in 1986. We didn’t go looking for a record label because we wanted to do that part of it ourselves. Weirdly, Vancouver (which is on unceded Coast Salish territory) had a record-pressing plant. When we went in to watch them do the initial set-up, we were given the option of adding what was called inner groove writing. We had them write in “we live on Indian land” on one side and placed an order for 500 LPs, which we somehow crammed in my 1973 Toyota Corolla when they were ready. It was all a total thrill and the beginning of long friendships and social change, and I wouldn’t trade it for a traditional career in the music industry.

“Fan Of Sparks” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 460: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

David recently showed me the fantastic illustrations for his chapter in a yet-to-be-published book about radical labor history. I was totally amazed by this particular work!

I have my moments of creating political art, but I definitely factor in David’s fearlessness as an inspiration. I find it completely incredible that he continues to come up with thought-provoking and beautiful political cartoons for this column every week. Maybe it’s time for a Best Of David Lester From The History Of Normal book.

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

Normal History Vol. 459: 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 34-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Back in mid-December, I finished answering questions in an interview I’d been emailed that would at some point appear on the Reality Sandwich site with the title “Artistic Independence And Social Media: Interview With DIY Multimedia Icon Jean Smith,” but I didn’t know that at the time. I’d gone long on most subjects because my painting studio is at home and I live alone. That is to say, I don’t talk very much, and I don’t write as much now that I’m painting full time.

I turned the interview in and within a couple of hours it went live with an intro that said it was the second of two interviews about “cutting edge” artists using Facebook to broaden their reach to those who might not expect to see them functioning there, basically. I’d written about my paintings and given an update to the Mecca Normal situation, but I hadn’t totally been aware of the “artists on Facebook” angle—which is all fine. Nothing happened. No problem. It’s just that it was pre-Christmas and I was ignoring it all by watching documentaries about ancient Egypt and then on Voyager, which I’d totally spaced on back when it launched (pun intended). Between Egypt and outer space, I took a look a documentary on UFOs, but fairly quickly decided the testimony of men who looked like that guy on Trailer Park Boys wasn’t doing it for me, so I moved on to the formation of the universe. Other people have booze and drugs, friends and lovers, rituals and traditions to deal with at Christmas. I just wanted to lay low until the whole thing blows over, hoping to avoid things in my small family blowing up like a volcano on Io (one of Jupiter’s 69 moons), then, all of a sudden, I was a cutting-edge artist successful grappling with Facebook as a utility vehicle to connect with … well, everyone. While reluctant to burst my documentary-induced state of mind, I slide farther down the rabbit hole and began analyzing that success.

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

Normal History Vol. 458: 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.

Mecca Normal is writing new songs, my favorite of which (so far) is “In The Highly Nuanced Life Of The Conqueror,” which is about becoming desensitized to violence, basically. I came up with the words as I heard the music for the first time, and as we always do, I recorded it. This is our longstanding and one of our most solid methods of songwriting. Dave has the music worked out, and sometimes I have lyrics; other times, I “write them” while hearing the song. We’re aiming to record in the spring, and ideally, we’ll use this method of working while we’re in the studio.

“You Heard It All” from Jarred Up (K, 1993) (download):

Normal History Vol. 457: 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’ve recently been writing about song lyrics on my Facebook writer page. Actually, I started here, with Normal History and have carried on over there willy-nilly, reflecting on songs as they come into my awareness. You wouldn’t think there’d be much to say about a song as simple as “Throw Silver” … yet.

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