Normal History Vol. 272: 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 30-year run, with text by vocalist Jean Smith.

2014 marks 30 years as Mecca Normal, but prior to that, David and I met in the production department of the WestEnder Newspaper in Vancouver in 1981. Once we got rolling on self-managing our music project, we discovered that we have very different strengths and skills. The division of labor seems to fall quite naturally to one or the other. For instance, I do all the driving on tour and David does all the lifting. We motivate each other by understanding our propensities while encouraging each other to do our best work. The general sense of partnership and accountability create structured methods that working entirely independently wouldn’t provide.

After an intense decade or so of putting out a record every year and touring regularly in the U.S. and periodically in Europe, we needed to find better ways to keep everything in balance, ways to step back from the chaos to work on evolving on a number of fronts simultaneously. When we’re not doing Mecca Normal, David is a graphic designer, and I am a writer and painter. In 1994, I rented the apartment that I live in to this day. After sharing the rent as part of two relationships over a six-year period, I needed to live alone. Within those relationships, I realized that I was drinking wine to tolerate the living situations. I calculated that I could pay the rent myself if I stopped drinking and carefully returned to the work force after 15 years of scrambling to survive playing music and writing. I discovered that part-time and seasonal work allowed for, and sometimes encouraged, creativity. Plus, living alone I was free to go to bed at 8 p.m. and get up at 3 a.m. to write without bugging anyone.

From 2000, I feel like I’ve exiled myself in this room to soberly work on writing. Sure, I gave online dating a try and remained happily single after figuring out enough about myself and how I selected romantic partners. But even working through the dating experiences occurred in writing, and those episodes found their way onto one album and into two (unpublished) novels.

“The Caribou And The Oil Pipeline,” from The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) (download):