Normal History Vol. 525: 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.

Over on Facebook, it was a thrill to have Bikini Kill Records share a video snippet of “I Am Here” on International Women’s Day.

“Feminism was not a phase or a failed experiment. We are here!” 

“Attraction Is Ephemeral” from The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Normal History Vol. 524: 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.

Mecca Normal began touring soon after we released our first album in 1986. The urge to play live quickly evolved into Black Wedge Tours with like-minded poets and minimalist musicians, but by 1996, we felt like we’d been on the road a very long time. Music industry years are much like dog years. 10 equals 60. Which, regarding the new album: LIVE in 1996, translates to incendiary intensity by three veterans (David and I are joined by Peter Jefferies on drums) of a handful of overlapping scenes including PNW DIY, riot grrrl, poetry, feminist punk, grunge and NZ noise when we headlined this beautiful little theatre in Montréal. 

“I’m Not Into Being The Woman You’re With While You’re Looking for The Woman You Want” from The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):

Normal History Vol. 523: 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.

I love this pairing! David’s illustration of the quote by Martin Luther King Jr. and “Convince Yourself” with its simmering ambiguity. The image and the lyrics don’t intend to create a combined impact on a single topic, but the elements feel united against injustice and apathy.

Ambiguity in art can be annoying, but it’s also part of what makes art in any form resonate with an audience. I suppose that’s true of the portraits I’ve been painting for the past three years. For the most part, they’re not overtly political, but the historical context of my work as a cultural activist of the feminist variety is understood because I primarily exhibit them on Facebook, where either people already know me or they can get to know me. 

Convince Yourself
In a dream you’re swimming
Through a pool of wax
This night sky dazzles onward
Convince yourself that you’re awakening
Convince yourself you need not sleep

David: guitar that sounds like an organ
me: vocals and guitar “solo”

“Convince Yourself” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

Normal History Vol. 522: 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.

For a few years in the ’90s, Mecca Normal headlined (and sometimes sold out) shows, yet, until now, there hasn’t been a live album, let alone one from that era.

“Ice Floes Aweigh” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

Normal History Vol. 521: 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.

With Bikini Kill playing shows in L.A. and New York, it feels like great timing to be releasing Mecca Normal’s live in 1996 album. In 2016, Mecca Normal opened three shows for the Julie Ruin (Bikini Kill members) at which Kathleen Hanna said from the stage: “Their music is still as relevant as it was 25 years ago when I first saw them. It makes me happy that their music is still relevant because they’re doing it better than ever. And their new songs are so fucking great and hilarious, and Jean’s got such an awesome sense of humour.”

“No Mind’s Eye” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

Normal History Vol. 520: 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.

Artoffact Records first contacted me in 2014, and we’ve been working on this album ever since. Originally, it was supposed to be a CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) studio session for the iconic national radio show Brave New Waves, but the tape couldn’t be located. Then, in 2017, David found a tape of a show we played in 1996 (with Peter Jefferies on drums) in a small theatre in Montreal. I dunno why exactly, but this has been a freakishly long time in the making.

Not having a live album of Mecca Normal circa mid-’90s has been one of my biggest regrets, but now it’s here!

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

Normal History Vol. 519: 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.

Known for the intensity of our live shows, this one (Montreal 1996 with Peter Jefferies on drums) borders on incendiary. Maybe it’s just me, but I figure the guitar and the drums are both trying to get the last word, while I felt I needed to elevate my performance to justify the drama.

“I Hear You” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

Normal History Vol. 518: 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.

“When we put out our first LP, it was promptly called the worst record ever made by a reviewer who added that my guitar player should kill me. Meanwhile, the same city’s college-radio station had us at number one. Being disliked and appreciated have both contributed to our intensity and longevity.” —Jean Smith, “Surviving The Underground,” Monitor Mix, NPR, 2009

“Every Wrong Word” from The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars, 2002) (download):

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):