Come as you are
By Bill Forman
Pulse! Magazine, September 2001
After two decades of uncompromisingly beautiful noise with the bands Live Skull and Come, singer-guitarist Thalia Zedek wasn’t the most likely candidate to go on the road with the Indigo Girls and end up recording an album of torch songs. Yet, here she is with her first-ever solo project, Been Here and Gone (Matador), a singer-songwriterly album that places Zedek’s powerful vocals and guitar work in a haunting, chamber-rock setting.
“We did a pretty big variety of covers, from Louis Armstrong through the Ramones, but done in a different way, real quiet and torchy,” says Zedek of the performances with Willard Grant Conspiracy viola player Dave Curry and pianist Beth Heinberg, which helped inspire her solo leap. “I didn’t want to record all covers, so I started writing songs for that kind of lineup. And then, in the meantime, Come had decided that we were not going to continue, that we wanted to kind of leave the legacy as is.”
Being part of the Indigo Girls’ Suffragette Sessions Tour also opened Zedek’s eyes to the possibility of branching out on her own. “It almost felt like this variety revue,” she says of the tour, in which she sang and played guitar, mandolin and clarinet onstage with an array of women performers from Luscious Jackson to Lisa Germano. “We had come back from a European tour for our last record, Gently Down the Stream, and Amy Ray just called me out of the blue and left me a message: ‘This is Amy Ray from the Indigo Girls …’ I never met her in my life! It turned out that when we played a Matador night at SXSW, she had come to the show and liked it. She’s got pretty eclectic taste in music-I mean, she’s not really into the stuff that’s what the Indigo Girls sound like.”
Nor, for that matter, was Zedek, apart from an early interest in Leonard Cohen. His “Dance Me to the End of Love” is one of three covers that made it onto Been Here and Gone, the others being “Manha de Carnaval” (from the Brazilian film Black Orpheus) and “1926,” whose droney chorus (“Your God hates me”) would make Nick Cave proud. “That was written by Gary Gogel,” says Zedek, “who had a band in Boston in the early ’80s called V [whose Susan Anway went on to join Magnetic Fields]. I used to go see them play all the time, and I always loved that song.”
And while Come is no more, Zedek continues to work with band co-founder Chris Brokaw. “We still like playing together,” she adds, “but not as Come, which kind of took on this big personality of its own.”