Eventually she wound up roadie-ing for Dumptruck, a band she even joined for a short time (at one show, both she and Juliana Hatfield sang back-up for the group). Then came Chupa, a short-lived group she formed with Dumptruck’s rhythm section. Most recently, she giggled last fall with a grunge-folk outfit called Strumpet. They played only two gigs (one at Billy Ruane’s Middle East bash last fall) before the members scattered, but the mix of Lord’s vocals with a fierce guitar sound (also hers) was impressive indeed.
“At the time I was hearing these women singing in bands, like Babes in Toyland and L7, who had really growly voices; nobody had a voice like mine. So the idea was to have that kind of sweet vocal, with the guitar from Hell. But I still wasn’t writing exactly what I heard in my head.”
When we talked last week, Lord was energized from a recent trip to Olympia, Washington (about an hour from Seattle), home of a zillion misfit bands. “It made me realize I had to get everything I knew out of my head and develop a style out of nowhere. The only way I can find my own voice I to break the rules I’ve structured around myself. I just have to take it all and rip it apart-all the assembly-line, muso-wizard shit I learned at Berklee, all the covers I learned for the subway, I have to do my own songs now; I’ve played all the covers I’ll ever want to do.”
In between these adventures came the sessions for Real. It began when Lord was in Los Angeles, hanging out with idol-turned-friend Shawn Colvin, who was hanging out with her idol-turned-friend Joni Mitchell. (Yes, the three of them hung out, no, they never sang or recorded anything.) “I used to worship Shawn, the same way she used to worship Joni Mitchell. Anyway, one night Shawn asked me why I didn’t just take my guitar down to the Promenade in Santa Monica and just start playing. So I went there and must have played for about 20 minutes, and some guy came up to me and said he was from a record label. I thought, ‘Yeah, right,’ took his card and forgot about it.”
“A while later I was back here playing at Nightstage and another guy (namely Steve Ball, Deep Music co-founder and Robert Fripp guitar protégé) came up to me and said ‘Remember the guy you didn’t call in Los Angeles? I’m his partner, and I think we can help you.’” She recorded the tape a few weeks later in another LA trip. “We did 14 songs in about two days. I really thought the production would turn out better than it did; it sounds so vacant and hollow and disturbing. Plus, I was having bad allergy problems at the time, and I was coming out of a fucked-up situation with a relationship…”
Ah yes, that relationship. It’s not a subject she avoids, and neither is it one she overplays; but the subject is bound to come up (it’s even mentioned in her press bio, which bugs her to no end). Because it just so happens that the guy who swept Lord off her feet, took her around the world, and then left her for another singer also happened to be in the process of selling a few million albums, changing the face of alternative rock and… well, nevermind.