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Industrial Goes Country

By Steve Hochman
Illustrations by three

could weep that I'm gonna see Patti Smith," says Geraldine Fibbers's singer and songwriter Carla Bozulich. Over the phone from New York, Bozulich speaks with reverence of the punk priestess, whom she'll soon see perform in Central Park.

"The mid-to-late '70s were all about Black Sabbath and Ted Nugent and stuff like that for me," Bozulich says. "Then I saw Patti Smith on Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. That changed my life."

Smith's influence on the Fibbers is obvious to those who have seen the Los Angeles-based band in concert or heard its debut album, Lost Between the Earth and My Home. The Fibbers certainly don't sound like Smith - their music has a more rustic feel - but Bozulich shares Smith's intensity and artistic ambition.

Not far from where Smith will perform, there's another New York stage that means a lot to Bozulich: "My biggest aspiration in life is to go to the Met and see La Traviatta or something," Bozulich says, "That would be it for me."

That might come as a surprise to some, but Bozulich's move toward the Appalachian country music that influences the Fibbers probably shocked fans of her previous band - the brutal and industrial trio, Ethyl Meatplow.

"I don't know how to make this a clever quote," Bozulich says with the shyness that marks her speech but never her music, "but I think of life as a big salad bar - an amazing salad bar - so big that you can't imagine how many things there are. And I want to taste it all."

anting to be the girl with the most salad, so to speak, is important to Bozulich's music as well as her musical taste. On Lost Between the Earth and My Home, Bozulich moves through a vast array of female characters, projecting down-and-out despair on "Lilybelle" [282k .aiff] ("In the dark she is rocking/Not to records but to voices in her head"); unhinged nihilism on "Dragon Lady" [225k .aiff] ("I'm stopping everything/Making fun of myself/Drinking lipstick/Tipping bookshelves/Ripping up words that I thought were important"); and see-ya-later bravado on "Dusted" [287k .aiff] ("I'd like to curl you up with a better book/But there's no finer fish to hook/And I'm gone gone gone gone/I'm dusted").

Bozulich says all these characters are her, though. "When I started writing really seriously for this band I really started writing the record that kind of summed up my life to date," she says. "This record is really me."

Bozulich has had a varied life. Born and raised in San Pedro - the same Los Angeles harbor community that spawned the Minutemen - Bozulich was kicked out of her house at 16 by her mother and stepfather. She worked minimum-wage retail jobs, eventually finding work as a live-in housekeeper for Ella Fitzgerald's pianist.

"I don't really want to get into the whole sob story thing with people, so I tend to shy away from being too specific with what the songs are about," she says. "But it's safe to say I tend to draw from reality rather than hypothetical situations."

Many of the songs of Lost Between have an eerie desperation, but things are better now for Bozulich, who is close with Fibbers Daniel Keenan (lead guitar), Kevin Fitzgerald (drums), and William Tutton (acoustic bass). "Daniel's my best friend, Kevin is a dear friend, and so is Bill. The only person who is just sort of joining the family is Jessy Green, the violin player, who we found by calling McCabe's [music store] and asking if they could recommend someone."

Bozulich and her friends formed the Fibbers just as it seemed Ethyl Meatplow was on the verge of big things, and Keenan, Fitzgerald, and Tutton were also involved in other bands. "We were doing it just for fun," Bozulich says, and at first the band played covers of such country minidramas as George Jones's "The Grand Tour," Dolly Parton's "Jolene," and Bobbie Gentry's white-trash-but-proud anthem, "Fancy."

When Ethyl Meatplow's record company crumbled last year and the band itself did the same, Bozulich got serious about the Fibbers.

"I started to think of music as a career when Ethyl Meatplow started touring 10 months out of the year," she says. "People would say, What do you want to do when you grow up? I would make something up to answer, but in my head I'd think, I'm not going to grow up. I'm gonna be dead first. But when I got honest about it, I knew I wanted to work with art ... I always had this voice saying, You don't have a chance at that. But at the same time I had this other voice saying, That's the only thing you could be doing. I feel very lucky, because it worked itself out."


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