In between tours and mothering, I’ve been working on a new album. Sorry I don’t have anything to play for you yet but that’s just the nature of how I work. I tend to compose, record and refine all the songs/pieces/doodads on an album simultaneously. For a depressingly long period it’s a mess while all those hundreds of cello snippets gradually coalesce into a larger whole. Then at some point, the shape of things starts to emerge and I continue hacking and polishing until the album is revealed. But not until the end is any of it ready to be heard, and I’m not at the end yet.
I do have something else to share with you though, a 2-song collaboration I recorded with my friend Jane Woodman.
Jane and I first met in 1996 when I answered a listing in the San Francisco Bay Guardian for “moody, darkwave band seeking strings”.
A few months before, my dreams of a music career (I wanted to be an orchestral cellist) had been crushed at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. After a couple post-college years playing cello at weddings and struggling to make ends meet in foodservice jobs, I had decided it was time to go to grad school. I put in an application to the conservatory, spent several months practicing and hauled my cello on the bus over to the audition. But when I sat down to play, my old nemesis, Mr Performance Anxiety, appeared. I seized up, like the proverbial deer frozen in the headlights. I could barely play any notes and the few I squeaked out sounded like the inexperienced scratchings of a beginner.
I know this happened, but I hardly remember it. All I remember is waiting for the bus afterwards, in the freezing cold San Francisco fog, and at that moment vowing never to play classical music again.
So that was that. I got an entry-level job at a software startup and thought maybe I could handle playing in a rock band. I started looking for other musicians who shared my love of the Cocteau Twins and English shoegaze. That’s how I found myself playing the cello through an amplifier in the living room of an Italian ballet dancer-turned-bassist named Gianfranco Pescetti and his friend, guitarist Jane Woodman, who was already well known as the founder of a hard-hitting, two-guitar, all-girl rock band called “Van Gogh’s Daughter”.
We hit it off. I roped in my college friend Tony Cross to play violin and Jane brought in Kat Zumbach to play drums. After calling ourselves a variety of (possibly) pretentious names, we landed on “Alfred”…for very important reasons that I can’t remember.
We quickly zeroed in on our sound, which consisted of long and intricate arrangements of dark, distorted guitars, dramatic strings, and harmonized vocals between Jane and I. We were invited to perform our very first show in 1997 at a warehouse/art space at 964 Natoma. Things seemed to be going well but with four songwriters in the band, the inevitable happened and just as we were gaining momentum, we broke up.
"Alfred" didn’t last, but my relationship with 964 Natoma did. I fell in love with the guy who invited us to play in his warehome (which apparently was his plan all along), moved in with him, married him, built a studio there, developed my sound and recorded my first album. We’re still together, and now we have Alex, a.k.a. #cellotoddler.
Anyway, fast forward into this millenium. Jane and I have meant to collaborate again for ages, but you know how life gets in the way. Over the summer she asked if I’d like to play on a cover of Sister Europe. We did that and in addition, decided to complete an unfinished song from our Alfred days called “Tango”.
It was fun to take a break from my solo project and do something different…to sing, and to make little bleepy electronic beats on my headphones while #cellotoddler took his nap. Here it is, on Bandcamp or iTunes, or just listen below: