By J. Church
The stress and strain of being a professional musician is nothing to scoff at. Between traveling hundreds of miles to play late-night gigs, writing material, collaborating with other musicians who have conflicting schedules, and having a personal life, an artist must produce something tangible in order to keep the fan base and record company happy. “And it is difficult in that you better have serious stamina for being in that recording studio for however many months it is,” states Neko Case, reached by phone in the recording studio. The Twangfest artist is as busy as any musician, if not more so. Consequently, it has been over six months since she’s produced an entry for her official Web site.
In the mid-’90s, Case began playing drums in the punk rock bands Cub and Maow. Since the demise of the latter trio, she has averaged over one recording project per year. The alt-country singer/songwriter has released five solo albums and recorded with several other artists, including the Corn Sisters and The New Pornographers, whose third CD is slated for a 2005 release. Her last solo effort, The Tigers Have Spoken (Anti-, 2004), was a live venture. Case continues her musical evolution with another, yet-untitled, solo album.
“I actually just got [The New Pornographers album] in the mail the other day. We’re supposed to go out on tour in September, October, or so. You can’t put them out at the same time, because that could create a conflict of interests. We wouldn’t be able to go on tour. Obviously I can’t be in two places at once.”
Case generally controls all aspects of the recording process—including songwriting and instrumentation—except when it comes to production, a task she shares with co-producer Darryl Neudorf. “It’s weird; people think that if you did it along with someone else, you didn’t do any of it or something,” notes Case. “You know, it’s weird the way the politics of that kind of stuff works. You could just handle this job by yourself, but he, as the engineer, has a lot of input on how it sounds. That’s production.”
Differentiating herself from the conventional country crooner (you know the one: that long-haired Madonna figure with a wimpy voice), Case belts with forceful aggression. The early punk contribution shimmers under the surface. Reflecting on the early influence, she surmises, “I don’t know if I really feel any less aggression, to be honest with you.”
The new product, considered to be a “North American record” by Case, possibly won’t be completed until “next springish.” Why the postponement? “Deadlines get moved a lot. You can’t really tell what’s going to happen, if you’re gonna have more ideas or if there’s going to be technical problem in the studio. Like, a while ago, we had the city turn the power off for the entire block. And when they turned it back on, they didn’t ground it, so it was just freestanding electricity… We were without the studio for about a week.”
When asked about her expectations for this year‘s Twangfest, Case affirms the indications of her fatigue. “You know, honestly, I’ve been in the studio, and only in the studio. I haven’t even thought about going on tour. I’m so excited, I can’t wait to get out of here.” A short tour will take Case and her band to Arizona, Texas, and Indiana. “We’re going to head out to the [bass player’s] family farm and going to the church picnic. Which I’m really excited about, because I want some pie from Indiana.”