Normal History Vol. 517: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“The activity of not attempting to get somewhere in terms of what already exists presents an opportunity to make things up as we go along. It was a thrill to get a playlist in the mail from Moscow, Idaho—a place we’d never even heard of—and a strange sensation to get a letter from a guy in Arkansas who’d been beaten up for wearing one of our weirdo T-shirts. We went on tour because it was a scary adventure, not to sell records.” —Jean Smith, “Surviving The Underground,” Monitor Mix, NPR, 2009

“In January” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

Normal History Vol. 516: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“The value of being creative is not the object that remains at the end; it is the time engaged in the process. Really, it shouldn’t matter if anyone else is exposed to it, let alone if it is deemed good enough to sell. Commerce doesn’t inherently apply to every aspect of life. There can be quality without an imminent exchange of goods for money.” —Jean Smith, “Surviving The Underground,” Monitor Mix, NPR, 2009 

“Revolution#Pine” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

Normal History Vol. 515: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

“Historically, artists have been put into categories invented by the media, defined by journalists who grapple with language to supply the general public with impressions. Naming groups and movements makes it easier for the media to chronicle versions of history in terms of beginnings, leaders, influences and demise. Beginning a group practically demands that it end, to make room for new groups, new terms, new fashions—all required to keep selling product.” —Jean Smith, “Surviving The Underground,” Monitor Mix, NPR, 2009

“What About The Boy?” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

Normal History Vol. 514: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

The history and power of image-based communication is overwhelming. I set out to make a short video about several of my favourite brushes and ended up off topic and all over the map in “It’s OK”—the first in a new series of behind-the-scenes stories from my studio in East Vancouver.  

“Is This You?” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

Normal History Vol. 513: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Things went missing, things got replaced, and a few people struck down the law of the land with only a butter knife in hand in Canada.

“In Canada” from Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1997) (download):

Normal History Vol. 512: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

This is probably our longest song title and, considering it’s loaded up with two analogies (like a dog and like a horse) when, as a writer, I steer clear of such things in general, it was somewhat distressing when in several written reviews at the time the title appeared as “Don’t Heal Me Like A Dog Just To Brake Me Like A Horse” when I felt that peddling (not pedaling) commonly used phrases was supposed to be safer (as far as being understood) than inventing one’s own original language.

“Don’t Heel Me Like A Dog Just To Break Me Like A Horse” from Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1997) (download):

Normal History Vol. 511: 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 35-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

Late last year I got a Facebook notification that someone had mentioned Mecca Normal. The beauty of the faint cultural presence we enjoy is that we see and savor any and all references to our history, whether it’s radio play (a station in Newfoundland recently played all of Flood Plain—what a thrill!) or inclusion in historical overviews that alter our legacy. I bet bigger bands regard a near-constant flow of commentary on their doings as something of a burden to keep track of. Maybe even boring or irritating. And what about those bands that get so big that they’re trapped within their own infrastructure with employees who depend on regular output (albums and tours)? Mecca Normal has always been more of a group (than a band), I think. I regard this weekly collaboration as the work of Mecca Normal as much as any song or show.

It was very early in the morning, and when I clicked on the FB notification, I really did wonder if I was still in dreamland. The video snippet showed a band in London rehearsing “Strong White Male” (“a cover by the amazing Mecca Normal” for a fundraising show two days hence). The band description: “non-binary and female people of colour taking up space. We make DIY punk music.”

“OK Here We Go” from Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1997) (download):

Normal History Vol. 510: 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.

When Melody Maker (U.K.) called Mecca Normal “a two-person guerrilla campaign against apathy” it’s likely they were referring to the music and lyrics, but Mecca Normal has always been a group whose visual output has run concurrently, augmenting philosophies of resistance, feminism and culture with varying degrees of success and attention. 

We were on tour when we got the news from the label that the cover art I created for Who Shot Elvis? had been rejected by the printers. To be fair, the label gave me the option of moving forward with it as it was (I forget what that entailed) or opting for an extended run on a poster of the original image. I decided to go for the poster and turn the cover art into an ear to avoid distribution issues. 

“All About The Same Thing” from Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1997) (download):

Normal History Vol. 509: 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.

Who Shot Elvis? simmers with captivating parables that knowingly portray regular folks and their deepest passions.” —Ray Gun magazine

“The Way Of Love” from Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1997) (download):

Normal History Vol. 508: 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.

“Step Into My Sphere”
“Step into my sphere,”
said the lady to the guy. 
“Don’t send your sphinx my way. 
Don’t send your sphinx to town.” 

It’s a confusing thing
when you believe in someone
because you trust them. 
Fire comes with fire. 

“Are we always drawing backwards?”
said the lady to the mirror.

“Ruby-Lucille,
don’t send your sphinx to town.
Ruby-Lucille,
you picked a fine line to wheel.” 

It’s noon now and it feels like 7:00 a.m.
Got another whole day
on that tiny little stage
you call your town.
We’re not following you around. 

“Ruby-Lucille,
don’t take your sphinx to town.
Ruby-Lucille,
you picked a fine hand to deal.” 

“Step into my sphere,”
said the lady to the guy.
“Come into my sphere,”
said the lady to the guy.

“Step Into My Sphere” from Who Shot Elvis? (Matador, 1997) (download):