Monday, April 9, 2007

From the archives: Juliana Hatfield

[Note: The following feature originally appeared in the November 18, 1997 issue of the University of Rhode Island's daily campus newspaper, the Good Five Cent Cigar. At the time, I was serving as Entertainment Editor, and scoring this interview was one of the major highlights of my time there. It had been sitting in a box for the better part of a decade, and now it lives on in all its reborn digital glory. A few very minor edits were made, but other than that, this is the whole article as it appeared in newsprint. Enjoy!]

The long haul of a musician can appear frustrating to listeners who are busy consuming each new hyped-up tune and band. However, a musician's perception of time can run a little differently.

It's been two years since Juliana Hatfield's last release, Only Everything, and a lot has happened since then. Bands have broken up, new ones have occupied the spotlight and some people may have actually changed their music buying habits. But Juliana continues to rock on.

Hatfield is currently on tour in support of her new EP, Please Do Not Disturb, which is due in stores on November 25. Her performance at the Met Cafe in Providence last Saturday was her third live appearance in the city since her 1995 tour with Jeff Buckley. In between live performances, she has been hard at work perfecting her next full-length length album, to be titled God's Foot.

Despite the lack of releases, Hatfield has continued to write more and more new material. She has perhaps written enough songs to fill up two CDs to capacity. Yet she is intent on making sure God's Foot turns out right.

"There was a time when it was finished and it was gonna come out, but I decided that I wanted to do more work on it. Right now the release date is still unknown," said Hatfield in an interview before Saturday night's show. She was able to offer a general description of some of the elements at work in the album's creation.

"I'm just experimenting a little bit with different instruments. Like there's some strings and weird keyboards and there's a flute somewhere, but it's nothing too bizarre or crazy." Hatfield's drummer, Todd Philips, added that "it's a lot like Smile in a way," referring to the legendary unreleased Beach Boys album. "There's so much different stuff going on. It's not like the rock record, it's not a pop record, but there's a focus throughout," said Philips.

So with diligent effort being put into an album that is being created for an artist's satisfaction and not a record company's release schedule, it could be as long as another year before it comes out. That's where Please Do Not Disturb comes in. Hatfield calls it "sort of a pre-album... it seems like [the songs] all fit together somehow. I didn't think they would fit on the album."

The six songs that make up the EP each seem to express a lack or a loss of something different. The opener, "Sellout," is a typical Hatfield rocker that tries to show "what can happen if you stray too far from yourself," as Hatfield stated in a press release.

"Trying Not To Think About It" is a light acoustic tune expressing Hatfield's feelings on the drowning of her friend and former touring partner Jeff Buckley.

In "As If Your Life Depended On It," Hatfield reveals she has "no one to go home to," as the lyric goes, with a cello mourning beneath the verses.

"Give Me Some Of That" could possibly be the most aggressively noisy track Hatfield has released, which is right in tune with the song's lyrics of pure envy ("give me some of that / you're so young / you don't even know / what you have").

Hatfield hopes her new EP "will bring joy to people's lives, to a handful of people who really care. It's not meant for mass consumption, it's not meant for even radio. It's just meant for... the die-hard fans and for music lovers who are lust curious and interested in hearing the development of my music." However, she doesn't go so far as to call it a "thank you" to the fans. "It's self-serving," she says. "I'm just fulfilling the need to have people hear my music... I did it for myself, but I'm glad that people who want it can get it."

The Show

Hatfield took the stage at the Met with her band following sets by opening bands Fuzzy and The John Street Porch Band.

Starting off the her set with "I Got No Idols" from 1993's Become What You Are, Hatfield delivered the goods with a great amount of enthusiasm and confidence, markedly more so than at previous appearances in Providence. "My Sister" received the expected boisterous response from the audience.

Only Everything was well represented, with slightly re-arranged versions of "Outsider" and "My Darling," along with more straight-ahead renditions of "Live On Tomorrow" and "Fleur De Lys."

A few songs from Hatfield's work-in-progress God's Foot were also included in the set, as well as "Sellout," "Trying Not To Think About It" and "Get Off," from Please Do Not Disturb.

Though she rarely performs material from her years with the Blake Babies, she ended with "Take Your Head Off My Shoulder," from the 1989 album Earwig, before returning for the obligatory encore.

The past and the future

So why is it so rare that Hatfield revisits the past on stage?

"That stuff is so old, you know. I don't wanna sing it anymore," Hatfield said. "I feel funny singing it. It's... way different from the person that I am now."

To have songs that one doesn't feel comfortable singing is a sure sign of the amount of time that has passed since that first record hit the stores. It's been 10 years, in fact, since the Blake Babies released their debut, Nicely Nicely. So how does it feel?

Hatfield said, "it just feels like not that much time has passed... I feel like I'm just beginning... I've made a statement, I'm not finished making it yet. It's gonna change a lot over the next ten years. I haven't finished what I set out to do, that's for sure."

As a further testimony to her confidence, Hatfield had this to say when asked if she had any regrets: "I have no regrets and I'm proud of everything I've ever done."

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