“The Garment District is the new musical project of multi-instrumentalist Jennifer Baron, a founding member of Brooklyn’s The Ladybug Transistor (Merge). The Garment District’s debut album, Melody Elder, was released on cassette in late 2011, on Iowa City-based Night-People. The sold-out tape is now available via Bandcamp, iTunes, Boomkat, emusic, and Amazon. The Garment District’s music features contributions by Jennifer’s cousin Lucy Blehar (lead vocals) and Jowe Head (bass on “Bird Or Bat”) of legendary UK bands Swell Maps and Television Personalities.
Jennifer is co-coordinator of Handmade Arcade, Pittsburgh’s first and largest indie/DIY craft fair, and co-editor/contributing photographer for the award-winning book, Pittsburgh Signs Project: 250 Signs of Western Pennsylvania (Carnegie Mellon Press, 2010).”
Check out the band at their official Website, Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube, Tumblr, Vimeo, Twitter and BandCamp. The release from the band comes as a 7″: Nature-Nurture [Sonic Boom Remix] b/w Miraculous Metal/Vigor (La Station Radar) with artwork by Jesse Treece. Pick it up locally at Mind Cure and Sound Cat Records. My sincere thanks to Jennifer for taking the time (and schooling me big time on some obscure cool bands in the process!) to participate in this edition of First/Last.
The first album you ever bought?
Growing up, our house was filled with LPs, cassettes and 8-tracks—some of our first toys—so I was fortunate to feel like I had a private listening library or record store to share with my brother. Among the first albums I bought were compilations of “hits” from the 1950s-1970s. One in heavy rotation included Napoleon XIV’s “They’re Coming to Take Me Away” (1966), The Coasters’ “Yakety Yak” (1958) and Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs “Li’l Red Riding Hood” (1966). Those songs all have catchy melodies paired with evocative imagery and narratives to stir a child’s curiosity and imagination. They got lodged in my brain and I still love them, and instantly associate them with childhood.
Your last album bought?
White Fence, Family Perfume Vol. 1 & 2 (Woodsist, 2012) and Swell Maps, International Rescue, a reissue on Alive Records of a compilation featuring recordings from 1977-1979.
Favorite album of all time?
I pretty much stink at best/worst/favorite questions! Too many to fit into one answer, and I think of music as one giant ever-morphing soundtrack to life. I might respond differently if you ask me next week, but for starters: Kaleidoscope: Tangerine Dream; Love: Forever Changes; The Beach Boys: Pet Sounds; Judy Henske and Jerry Yester: Farewell Aldebaran; The Golden Dawn: Power Plant; Syd Barrett: The Madcap Laughs; Gene Clark with the Gosdin Brothers; Donovan: A Gift From a Flower to a Garden; Mayo Thompson: Corky’s Debt to His Father; John Phillips: John, the Wolf King of L.A.; John Cale: Paris 1919 and Vintage Violence; Songs of Leonard Cohen; The Left Banke: Walk Away Renée/Pretty Ballerina; Brian Eno: Here Come the Warm Jets; Kevin Ayers: Joy of a Toy; New Order: Movement & Power Corruption & Lies.
Least favorite/most disappointing album?
Least favorite and most disappointing are different to me, because most disappointing implies an expectation. Least favorite: too many to name, so perhaps left unspoken. Most disappointing might be Liam Hayes’ More You Becomes You (1998), only because I am so in love with his 1994 debut single, “Three Quarters Blind Eyes” b/w “Found a Little Baby.” But I still dig its intimacy and power, and long for more music by him. Cannot wait to get a copy of his soundtrack for Roman Coppola’s new film, A Glimpse Inside The Mind of Charles Swan III, because what I have heard so far is outstanding.
First concert attended?
Peter, Paul & Mary at The Stanley Theatre (now the Benedum) in Pittsburgh with my mom, when I was in elementary school. My mom used to sing “Stewball” to us—my three brothers and me—all of the time when we were children, and she named her dog after the song//horse. My first concert alone with friends getting dropped off by parents was The Kinks, Civic Arena, when I was in junior high.
Will Oldham (Bonnie “Prince” Billy) at Carnegie Lecture Hall on January 26, 2013. Transcendent.
Favorite concert ever?
I am so grateful that there are so many that occupy a portion of the favorite concert spot in my soul. The Smiths, The Queen is Dead tour at the Fulton Theater (now the Byham); Leonard Cohen at the Paramount Theatre in NYC (1994, sat in front of Henry Rollins); all Neutral Milk Hotel shows I saw in 1998; Belle & Sebastian at Angel Orensanz Foundation Centre, NYC (1998); Bedhead at Princeton University (circa 1997); Beachwood Sparks at Mercury Lounge, NYC (1999); Broadcast at the The Bowlie Weekender, Camber Sands, Sussex, England (1999); Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci at Maxwell’s, Hoboken, NJ (circa 2000); Sun Ra Arkestra at the New Hazlett Theater (2002); Khaira Arby at the Thunderbird (2011); and Bert Jansch (RIP) at Thread Waxing Space, NYC (1999) and Shadyside First Unitarian Church (2010). One of the most magical concert experiences I have ever had was seeing Brian Wilson’s very first Pet Sounds show at the Beacon Theater in NYC in June 1999. It was both Father’s Day and Brian’s birthday. Through a friendship with one of Brian’s band members, I got to attend an after-party, with my Ladybug Transistor bandmates, that featured a massive cake decorated with the cover of Pet Sounds. Brian made a brief appearance but I think I was more floored to meet the late great lovely Mr. Paul Atkinson, guitarist for The Zombies. He expressed genuine appreciation to learn that someone my age even owned a copy of Odessey and Oracle. When I told him that “Hung Up on a Dream” was my favorite song, he joyfully exclaimed: “I always loved that one too, because they let me play a little guitar solo!”
Least favorite concert?
Shellac in New York City. Why did I go?
Favorite thoughts, experiences about Pittsburgh?
Recently, being invited to perform at the VIA Music & New Media Festival, co-coordinating the 9th annual Handmade Arcade and eating tacos at Casa Rasta with my husband Greg. The topography, art scene, architecture, neighborhoods, thrift shops, record stores, and the sense that you can truly start or try something here and have a hand in its creative evolution. One of my favorite things about Pittsburgh is its remarkable role in America’s music history, in terms of jazz, soul and funk (Kenny Clarke, Billy Strayhorn, Gene Ludwig, Henry Mancini, Beaver Harris, Roger Humphries), rock and roll (Fantastic Dee-Jays, Swamp Rats, Bo Didley’s guitarist The Duchess, Todd Tamanend Clark, The Cynics) and 1950s/1960s pioneering DJs, teen dance clubs and pop hits. This is where tastemaking DJs such as Terry Lee, Mad Mike and Porky Chedwick created hits for many obscure groups and where songs like Tommy James’s “Hanky Panky” were literally revived and made into hits here—so music is in this city’s fabric. Pittsburgh’s architecture deserves more international attention: with everything from the old Alcoa Building—the nation’s first all aluminum skyscraper—to H.H. Richardson’s jail and church, to Mies van der Rohe’s modern Richard King Mellon Hall of Science and Paul Schweikher’s Brutalist Student Union at Duquesne University, to three Frank Lloyd Wright masterpieces and residences designed by his protégés—along with the signature row houses built for the city’s laborers, and the varied hamlets that surround the region. There is such a distinct intersection of labor, innovation, art, and creativity embedded in Pittsburgh.
Thanks, Jennifer. Love your seemingly endless knowledge of underground music. I have been wanting you on the blog for a long time and I really appreciate it.