Puremusic interview with
Neko Case
by Frank Goodman

Everybody needs a singer that makes their blood race, and their heart pound, and this is mine. The unbridled power and raw passion of Neko Case is the antidote to the poison the world is offering me one sip at a time.

I've been going back and forth this morning between studio and live cuts, and it's shockingly consistent. The studio cuts are so charged and the live cuts are so well sung and played, the biggest difference comes down to the sound of the room sometimes! (And the clapping, of course.) This new and glorious record, The Tigers Have Spoken, was cut live with the amazing Sadies (!) as the backup band. It's more upbeat than some of her records (I like the darker ones every bit as well), and it's already swelling the crowd that's coming to their feet. Sisters in arms Kelly Hogan and Carolyn Mark are slaying as the backup singers, unreal. I hope I don't have to fly all the way from China to catch this band, but I will see a couple of shows by hook or by crook. Jon Rauhouse is also kicking musical ass on pedal steel and banjo on this live record. (If you don’t know by now how much we dig The Sadies, you might circle back to our interview with them a couple of months ago.)

Neko has worked with The Sadies a lot of her career, which now spans five records: The Virginian (1997), Furnace Room Lullaby (2000), Canadian Amp (2001), Blacklisted (2002), and The Tigers Have Spoken (2004). She also tours and records with a Juno-awarded pop band called The New Pornographers, and has recorded old time country with Carolyn Mark as The Corn Sisters. She's a sexpot and a wild child, but first she's an artist, art school trained (she did the cover for the new record), a songwriter and a musical interpreter with a high IQ and a deep integrity. She doesn't have to be concerned with putting herself across, because you can't take your eyes and ears off her. She's all about the song, and the players--she digs deep, and you can hear it on every tune.

Neko is often and rightly associated with the Canadian music scene, but is American. She lived a number of places in her youth, but Tacoma was the closest thing to home. She left there at 15, drifted to Vancouver, punk bands (she first sang and played drums in Maow, a trio) and art school, B.A. from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in 1998. There's still plenty of edge in her traditional Country debut and fans of the punk side of Country need to have The Virginian. By the sophomore release, she had all the glossies behind her, like Esquire, GQ, and Time, not to mention The New York Times, Interview, and People. And that's how her press has been ever since.

Progressively, the radio exposure has grown with each record. On the new CD, she went to #1 on the CMJ's Top 200, Core, and AAA charts. Now she's on Anti Records in L.A., one of the homes of the ultracool (Tom Waits, Joe Henry, Jolie Holland, Marianne Faithfull, etc.), with a big L.A lawyer, she has definitely gone downtown. But if anyone is unspoilable, if any woman singer is uncompromisable, it may well be Neko. Anti's slogan is "real artists creating great recordings on their own terms." The Tigers Have Spoken certainly fits the bill, it's one of the best live records we've ever heard. (God Bless the Sadies--and Kelly Hogan, Carolyn Mark, and Jon Rauhouse, too.) And it bodes well likewise for the next studio record, due most likely in the Fall.

This record's originals and covers, including an outstanding Buffy Sainte Marie song, "Soulful Shade of Blue," rendered with true verve here. (We'd love to talk with her, if anybody out there runs into her...) We consider Neko Case to be as soulful, musical, and otherwise crucial a singer as can be found today. New Yorkers, don't miss those two dates at The Bowery Ballroom on February 13 and 14. We may see you there, with a little luck.

We caught the artist for a conversation en route to a gig in Ohio, with the girls, mid-afternoon to them and 5 a.m. Shanghai time on a Sunday morning.   continue to interview