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October 12, 1994 - Image 5

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1994-10-12

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's

Spell makes music pure m-a-g-i-c

By Kari Jones
Thepressrelease forSpell, atrio of
high energy rockers from Denver, con-
tains the following statement: "Spell
refers to its music as 'sexually charged
noise pop energy,' and nowhere in that
description will you find the word.
'grunge.'
Perhaps because drummer and co-
vocalist Garrett Shavlik's former band
the Fluid was once signed to Sub Pop
he Seattle grunge band's label of
choice), Spell would like to make it
clear that their sound should not be
pigeonholed so easily.
"That whole thing about bands be-
ing defined as 'grunge' is weird," said
guitaristTimBeckman. "Spell'smusic
is pretty noisy pop."
Noisy pop, it is. "Mississippi," the
band's premiere release on Island
,cords, is a thrill ride of turbulent punk
power. The drumming is fast and furi-
ous, the guitars crash wildly into
Shavlik's and Floyd's dual vocals.
Because "Mississippi" features the
shared vocals of Floyd and Shavlik,
Spell has drawn comparisons to sev-
eral well known bands. "We've been
compared toX just because Garrett and
I sing together," Floyd laughed.

"The band was also compared to
Sonic Youth just because there's a
woman in the band. I really don't think
we sound like them at all," added
Beckman.
When the subject of being a woman
in a band came up, Floyd's formerly
lighthearted tone changed. "I feel like
justoneofthe guys. Idon'tlike(receiv-
ing extra attention for being a woman
in a band)," she sighed.
Like it or not, in a world where
women who can rock are somehow
considered a novelty, Floyd may be
marketed as the "front woman" in Spell.
Every picture in the artwork for "Mis-
sissippi" features pictures of the darkly
beautiful Floyd standing at least two
steps in front of Shavlik and Beckman.
"I don't understand the whole
'women in rock' thing," Floyd con-
fessed. "It's not knew. It's been going
on ever since music's been around. I
don't go to concerts to see a woman in
a band. I hope people don't come to see
us just because there's a woman in the
band."
When inviting comparisons to fel-
low male / female rock combos, Spell
does, however, have one thing in com-
mon with Sonic Youth. Like the

Thurston Moore /Kim Gordon combi-
nation, Floyd and Beckman are mar-
ried.
At the time Spell was formed in
early 1991, Shavlik (still with the Fluid
at the time) and Beckman (with a band
called Rope) were just a couple of
swinging bachelors jamming together
and searching for a bassist. It suddenly
occurred to Beckman that Floyd, then
his girlfriend and bassist for a band
called '57 Lesbian, could do it.
The three recorded a few songs
together, and a cassette of Spell's early
work ended 'up being featured in the
"CMJ New Music Report" in February
of 1992. Things escalated from there,
and the band soon found themselves
courting several record labels.
"We have actually been talking to
labels since '91," Beckman said. "Ini-
tially we got the vibe of being more
honest (than other labels) from Island."
Spell signed with Island in April of
1994, and Beckman, for one, seems
happy with the decision. "At Island all
of our ideas have been actualized on
our own terms. They have basically
given us everything we want."
The contract with Island includes
videos, and Spell has just finished the

first one for "Superstar." The song was
written by Shavlik and it tells of his
feelings about the chemistry between
Spell's band members after a some-
what rocky musical past (there were
apparently bad feelings associated with
Shavlik leaving the Fluid when Spell
took off).
"We just finished filming the video
in New York. It was filmed in a race
track ... with sprint cars, and then
there's the 'Spell car.' It was basically
blue screen type stuff," Beckman said.
At present, the band is also on tour
with the MeatPuppets. "They're a great
band! We're delighted that we get the
opening spot on the bill," said Floyd.
"We played with them before in Boul-
dersixmonths ago. They're great guys."
Now that things are picking up for
Spell, the natural question is what comes
next. Long, long ago, in Shavlik's Fluid
days, his band played host to an open-
ing act called Nirvana. With Kurt
Cobain's recent suicide, does the pros-
pect of future 'superfame' sound men-
acing to a little old band from Denver?
"That's not something that we re-
ally think about," Beckman said,choos-
ing his words carefully. "If you go into
a record store and look at the racks and

A Spell will be cast on you, the humble listener. Or something like that.

racks of labels, then you get the full
impact of just how hard it is to make
money. We tend to think on amore day
to day basis."
"('Superfame') is a kind of scary
proposition," Beckman continued.
Then, perhaps recalling the chemistry
between Spell's punk "superstars," he

added confidently, "If that did happen,
I think we're headstrong enough to
handle it."
SPEL will be opening up for the
Meat Puppets at St. Andrew's hall on
Thursday, October 13. Tickets for the
18 and over show are $10 in
advance. Doors open at 8 p.m.

'Something to Kill For'in Ann Arbor

BY HELEN PIKE
This novel has one very obvious
appeal: it's set right here in Ann Arbor,
"a real (some might say surreal) city
where even the most ordinary events
are often conducted with high octane
intensity."

of Ann Arbor antique dealers, one of
whom ropes in her friend Anneke
Haagen to help find collectibles at vari-
ous garage sales. The "something to
kill for" is every antique collector's
dream - the item on sale for $5 which
could actually fetch $50,000. The search
for bargains (and the odd murderer)

takes us around Ann Arbor-Leidy's,
Zingerman's, South Main and Trea-
sure Mart are all in there; the best thing
about this novel is its familiarity.
Students and professors are inevi-
tably involved, but the main characters
are fortysomethings with careers and
See KILL, Page 2

US

.~ ~ ~ . '...>
Not only is Ani DiFranco a talented singer and songwriter, she keeps reaching for the brass ring of success. Get it?
iFranco bares her soul in song
By ELLA DE LEON to taking on "Like I Said," saying that personal)" with her audience.
"I leave for a living / music's just shererecorded those earlier works "be- "I've come to the conclusion tha
something I do." - Ani DiFranco cause ... (listening) to the first album there's nothing that's too personal. Al
She's come a long way from Buf- or two, I can hear other people in me." that ... we call private and personal,
falo, New York. And she still has to hit DiFranco made clear, however, that just means difficult; we don't want t<
the Midwest, the East and West Coasts "it's kind of a long road to get to what talk about it. But there's nothing that'
and Europe by the end of this year. you meant to say. It's not as simnea nronlomervoornyn h
p. ,a- vsa tR me -o- y-- ray

Something to
Kill For
Susan Holtzer
St. Martin's Press, 1994.
Most students can identify with that.
I was intrigued.
"Something to Kill For" is a detec-
tive novel; despite the weird doll on the
cover, this is not a Stephen King-style
story. It won Holtzer the 1993 St
Martin's award for the "best first tradi-
tional mystery novel." Violence hap-
pens offstage, and the most gory sights
are a bit of matted blood and a strangled
corpse.
The story is based around a group

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at
11
it

* "My life is one big tour," said singer/
songwriter Ani DiFranco, who was
taking a welcome break from the jour-
ney that started in 1991. "We've had a
lot of fun ... hanging out and just going
from one kind of party to the next."
Judging from her shaved head,
strong animated features and the en-
ergy that radiates from her being, how-
ever, there's obviously much more to
is woman's life.
Born in Buffalo, DiFranco began
playing guitar when she was nine and
composing music at 15. She then relo-
cated to New York City after exhaust-
ing the local bar scene. Her unique
sound- a blend of acoustic guitar and
straightforward lyrics sung in an un-
predictable voice-drew interestfrom
both independent and major record la-
he s, but she turned their offers down
start her own Righteous Babe
Records. Her 1990 self-titled debut was
followed one year later by "Not So
Soft," succeeded by "Imperfectly" in
1992, and last year's "Puddle Dive."
DiFranco also released "Like I Said," a
compilation of rerecorded songs from
her first two LPs. Her latest effort, in
stores since May, is "Out of Range."
DiFranco has overseen every inch
*f every project; she writes, publishes,
and produces all of her songs, designs
the cover artwork and releases the fin-
ished product on Righteous Babe.
DiFranco expands her usual lone-
woman-with-guitar sound on "Out of
Range" with the addition of drummer
1 _ t.. ..,,....4A -..- - - -

it seems to sing something in your own
voice, to write a song that's essentially,
truly you," and that "over years of
writing, I have become myself."
DiFranco's lyrics are so personal
they can't do anything but hit the heart
head-on. Her songs aren'teasy to swal-
low, but every woman can relate to
them. For example, there's "Lost
Woman Song," which deals with the
issue of abortion, while in "Gratitude,
she asks a male who takes her in, "what
does my body have to do with my
gratitude?"
On her newest album, DiFranco
tackles abuse with "Out of Range,"
rape with "Letter To A John," and of
course, relationships in "Hell Yeah"
and "You Had Time." DiFranco did, in
fact, "used to worry about (getting too

r------------i1-J./-l"
millions of people haven't done or felt
before," she declared. DiFranco ob-
served, "None of us are all that unique,
including myself, so ... why not just
come out and say it?"
So what's next? DiFranco hopes to
release another album as soon as pos-
sible. "I've already got all these new
songs, and I want to go back to the
studio ... The earliest I can do any
recording is December." Her devoted
fans can expect, as she put it, "Just
more Ani DiFranco songs, I haven't
started writing rock operas or anything."
But don't put it past her.
AN DIFRANCO plays Alvin's on
Thursday October 13. Doors open at
8p.m., show starts at 9. Tickets are
$10 for 21 and over with ID. Call
(313) 832-2355.

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