“SONG FOR EWE”
with KIM COLETTA of JAWBOX
“SONG FOR EWE” is the feature where artists & music people beloved by VELVET SHEEP choose an obscure song they’ve been listening to that day.
Today is a bassist who slayed you with a smile, a founder member of the Washington DC hardcore band Jawbox formed with J Robbins ex of Government Issue (whose Danny Ingram has also featured on these pages) and Adam Wade (who will soon). Originally releasing on their own DeSoto Records label, Jawbox went onto put out a song on a Maximumrocknroll fanzine comp before landing on their natural home Ian McKaye & Jeff Nelson’s Dischord Records (first ever “song for ewe” contributor). Then in the major label grunge gold rush they became one of only two Dischord bands to sign with a major label (Shudder To Think the other), and had an MTV hit with “Savory” from their Atlantic album “For Your Own Special Sweetheart”. When I interviewed Jawbox circa their follow-up album, 1996’s “Jawbox” back at the tail end of the original Velvet Sheep fanzine, she made it a doddle with her effusive enthusiasm and erudite conversation, so I was mega chuffed that she’s chosen a song for ewe, it’s the legendary Kim Coletta!
Before Kim’s song choice and just for shits & giggles I thought it might be prurient to re-publish the text from the original interview with Kim in VS issue 21 (last paper version of the zine published before I left to produce at MTV Europe Alternative Nation). So, apologies for my hyperbolic bollocks, I was only 20, you know finding my way, voice and all that malarkey. Here we go, bear with me:
“Just say your names – “I’m Bill – I sound sick” (Bardot – vox/gtr). “I’m J” (Robbins – vox.gtr). “I’m Kim” (Coletta – bs). “I’m Zack” (Barocas – predictably quiet drummer). Jawbox had already made my day by saying I looked like a UK version of the singer from Jawbreaker – still, he could be an ugly fucker, so maybe it wasn’t such a compliment. Blazing hot outside, Jawbox were later to play a palm-blistering set with Elevate’s staccato crunch gilt-framing it. Jawbox are articulate, genuine DC hardcore, yet still infuse the lettters f-u into the hc (Velvet Sheep is the Children’s Television Workshop). Emo plays its part, but the sometimes metallish melodies, which are also such a badge for Kepone, plus the unadulterated grin quotient of Kim Coletta means that this is a carefully crafted ragrug of intelligent sound that you can dig, whilst not getting het up about such trifles as painting Xs on your hands, or whether this is SxE, or chain wallets. Jawbox carry no such baggage. They just rock.
“Jawbox” (s/t) is the follow up to “For Your Own Special Sweetheart” and it’s on City Slang. Plug it in and go…
Nick: You say you played with Jawbreaker? That must have been confusing?
Kim: It wasn’t confusing to us. We’ve occasionally been misidentified as each other, it’s a bummer when you know someone’s talking about us and say “Jawbreaker” – it’s like “oh no”. Edsel, a DC band just said really nice things about us and said Jawbreaker.
Nick: Is DC very insular?
J: Kinda. It’s a strength sometimes. It’s perceived as a cliquey scene the good side is that evolved an attitude out of creating itself out of nothing – making its own venues and making it from scratch.
Kim: The negative thing is though that other bands from outta DC like Silkworm are such a great band, when they’re there in DC, only 10 of us are at their show, cos DC just lobes its own bands. In the US we count on College Radio and we just don’t have any in DC.
Nick: Was it hard to leave Ian McKaye and Dischord?
J: The relationship was a friendship and it didn’t just end. It was difficult to decide to leave Dischord. It’s turned out really well. We still see those folks all the time. There might be a little scorn on us as outsiders – after an initial period of “I don’t know why you signed to a major label, but good luck”. None of that stuff really changed.
Kim: I still work for Dischord and we play softball with Ian. We see those guys more’n when we were at Dischord.
Nick: Before you left, you said there’d been changes at Dischord but not enough. What changes?
Bill: It’s a blessing and a curse that Dischord makes all the bands self-sufficient – we are anyway, but when it came to us going to book a tour, we’d also have to be our own publicity department – we were always trying to do extra stuff.
Kim: We were all holding down 40 hour a week day-jobs because we can’t pay the rent with the band, we’re booking our own tour and we’re trying to do publicity and radio – there was none of that stuff at Dischord.
J: Kim was pretty instrumental in getting them to try and do more to create a profile for bands.
Bill: When the first Dischord record came out, there was no effort to let people know we were coming to town – no tour posters.
J: I think it’s philosophical – Ian’s ideas about what a label’s supposed to do.
Kim: You’re wrong – whenever I brought those changes to Ian – he’d just not thought of them. It wasn’t that he had moral objections – it just didn’t interest him. We knew Dischord wasn’t going to radically change for us. Ian’s always said “If you’re not happy you don’t have to stay on the label”. You’re not signed to Dischord. There are no contracts.
Bill: It wasn’t really our place to tell him how to run his record label. It’s a system of mutual co-operation. He was “I completely understand why you need to move on” and we were “we completely understand why you won’t change for us”.
Nick: You’ve covered Tori Amos – are you fans?
Bill: Curious admirers.
Nick: Will Tori Amos cover a Jawbox number?
Bill: I hope so. I doubt it. You almost never hear people covering Jawbox songs which is kind of funny. So many bands send us tapes saying “We’re enormously influenced by you guys – we worship you, we think our band sounds a lot like you” – we put in this tape and it sounds nothing like us. But there is one guy in DC who’s threatening to send us a tape of him playing “Savory” with just his vox and acoustic bass.
Nick: Is being pronounced “cool” by Beavis an accolade or a blot on your copybook?
J: They never actually said we were cool. They just didn’t say we were uncool.
Kim: People talk about Beavis & Butthead in the States like they actually exist – it’s the one reason why a lot of people watch MTV – “Oh, I was just channel-surfing, I wasn’t watching MTV right, but…”
Bill: Any avenue where we can get out music into people’s homes is good. If the machine can help us we’ll let it.
Back to 2016, and I got back in touch with Kim through mutual Facebook friends. When I asked her to send me a couple of pics she forwarded on some corkers, including this one she explained thus:
“That’s a photo of Ian and me waiting for the rain to end so we can play softball.”
I asked Kim what she’s up to at the moment:
“I still dabble with DeSoto Records, but mainly I am middle school teacher. I teach 6th grade U.S. History and 8th grade English. I know, not very punk!”
Once a punk, always a punk Kim, you could certainly teach people a thing about it. So without waiting any further to learn Kim’s “song for ewe” here it is:
I am choosing “Gone Gonna Rise” by My Dad is Dead.
This is a cover of a song by Si Kahn (his story is also interesting for the piece).
The full song title is “Gone, Gonna Rise Again.”
All music by Mark Edwards has stuck with me throughout the years and originals I listened to again yesterday include World on a String, Nothing Special and Babe in the Woods. Jawbox did a live cover of the latter song (it’s up on YouTube if you search “Jawbox My Dad is Dead).
THANKS VERY MUCH KIM! (ALSO CHEERS TO WYNDHAM WALLACE FOR ORIGINAL INTERVIEW).