SMITH, Jean




Jean Smith, vocalist/lyrcist in the acclaimed literary rock duo Mecca Normal, is the author of two novels I Can Hear Me Fine (Get To The Point Editions, 1993) and The Ghost of Understanding (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1998). She has received two awards from the Canada Council for the Arts as a professional writer of creative fiction (2000, 2007) and a grant from the B.C. Arts Council (2000) to complete her third and fourth novels. Smith was named one of the “Top 50 Writers in Vancouver” (Vancouver Magazine), one of the “Top Ten People Who Matter” (San Francisco Weekly) and “one of Canada’s best-kept secrets in the arts” by the Globe & Mail. Her artwork has been exhibited in galleries across North America. Her “Self-Portrait” watercolour series was shown at Ladyfests in Olympia, Seattle and Los Angeles. Jean Smith’s fiction, poetry, interviews, reviews and articles on music and culture have been published extensivly.

DATE of BIRTH: 1959
PLACE OF BIRTH: Vancouver

Books:
- Two Stories (Smarten Up! & Get To The Point) fiction, 2006
- Glasspool Freighters (Slow Toe Press) poems by Jean Smith & Matthew Wascovich, 2005
- Family Swan (Smarten Up! & Get To The Point) poems, 2001
- The Ghost of Understanding (Arsenal Pulp Press) fiction, 1998
- I Can Hear Me Fine (Get To The Point) fiction, 1993
- Hot Pink (Smarten Up!) fiction,1987
- The Squishing (Smarten Up!) fiction, 1986

Fiction, poetry, interviews, reviews, articles in Anthologies (books):
- The Art of Touring (Yeti Publishing) 2009
- Interrobang: Anthology on Music & The Family (Decomposition) 2008
- The Gruesome Acts of Capitalism (Arbeiter Ring Publishing) book intro (2005)
- Ritual in Contemporary Performance (Western Front Performance Art) 2005
- Only A Beginning (Arsenal Pulp Press) 2004
- Rendezvous Reading Room (Tenth Avenue Press) 2002
- Exhibitions (Arsenal Pulp Press) 2000
- Canadian Fiction (Quarry) 1999
- Alt-Rock-A-Rama (Rolling Stone) 1996
- Word Up (Key Porter) 1995
- Sounding Off (Autonomedia) 1995 American Book Award Winner
- The North (England) 1989

Writing in Magazines / Publications:
- Magnet Magazine (online) USA, 2010
- Ong Ong (Seattle, WA) 2010
- MungBeing (online) USA, 2010
- Monitor Mix, NPR (online) USA, 2009
- Nanomajority (online) 2009
- Thee Flat Bike (poetry magazine,Cleveland, USA) 2005
- 3AM Magazine (Coral’s Cabins – fiction) 2004
- New York Foundation of Art, The Current (fiction) 2004
- Sound Collector (reviews of Au Pairs, Meredith Monk, Handful of Dust, GTOs and Vomit Launch), USA, 2002 – 2004
- McSweeney’s (online) 2003
- The Rain (book reviews) 2004
- Review of Contemporary Fiction (reviews of Life of Pi by Yann Martel and Clara by Janice Galloway), USA, 2002
- Your Flesh (Godspeed You Black Emperor — exclusive US interview), USA, 2000
- Globe and Mail (Where’s Rocks Rebel Yell), Canada — national newspaper
- Raygun (articles on Peter Jefferies and Calvin Johnson), USA
- Sub-Terrain, Vancouver
- Re-sister, NYC
- Village Voice, NYC
- Georgia Straight, Vancouver
- Broken Pencil, Toronto

Mecca Normal
“…an unbending advocate of thoughtful indie culture for almost two decades now. The Vancouver guitar-and-voice twosome doesn’t just make demanding music, they also make books, paintings, photos, cartoons, among other things.”— SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
“Arguably the greatest rock band without a rhythm section ever, the duo of acid-voiced singer Jean Smith and guitar hero David Lester must be seen to be believed.” — Douglas Wolk

OVERVIEW:

1990 – 2010:
- Editor — Smarten Up! & Get To The Point Press — publisher of fiction, political graphics and poetry including poverty rights activist Bud Osborn, whose book of poetry “Key To Kingdoms” won the City of Vancouver Award.
- Author and co-presenter of “How Art and Music Can Change the World” – a lecture, music and art event for classrooms.

2010:
- Founder and co-curator of The Black Dot Museum of Political Art — launch and month-long art four-person exhibit — Political Artists From Vancouver at Northern, in Olympia Washington.

2009:
- Vancouver Art Gallery performance.
- The Art of Touring (Yeti) published a story with paintings and DVD of live performance.
- Ong Ong Press published a story.
- Thirty performances including How Art and Music Can Change the World – a lecture, music and art event in high school and university classrooms, and art galleries.

2008:
Interrobang?! Anthology on Music and Family (Decomposition) published a story.

2003 – 2007:
- Performance art segment at Vancouver’s Western Front
- Co-curator of “Does It Help When You Close Your Eyes?” — a five-person art exhibit at Vancouver’s Word On The Street, 2003. Mecca Normal performances and workshop elements were presented.
- Editor of “Gruesome Acts of Capitalism” by David Lester.
- Art included in “Only a Beginning” (Arsenal Pulp Press) — anthology documenting over a quarter-century of grassroots activism.
- Book and CD reviews written for Sound Collector (NYC), The Rain (Vancouver), and The Review of Contemporary Fiction (Normal, IL).
- Short stories published online at McSweeney’s (“We Haven”) and 3AM (“Coral’s Cabins”).
- New Media, spoken word performance collaboration with Linda Montano (Western Front, Vancouver).
- “In January” (20:22) included in Art in the Air International Festival of Audio Art — a curated presentation of new media and sound (Struts Gallery, Sackville, New Brunswick).
- Poem digitally archived by the Arts Council Poetry Library in London, England.

2001 – 2002:
- Five tours in North America — approximately 100 performances, many of which included art exhibits and a lecture or workshop.

2000:
- Release of solo Jean Smith CD (Kill Rock Stars)

1999 – present:
- Publicist and booking agent for the music duo Mecca Normal.
- Editor at Smarten Up! & Get To The Point, the publisher of books of fiction, poetry and illustration — including “Key To Kingdoms” the City of Vancouver Award-winner by poet and poverty rights activist Bud Osborn.

1997:
- Publicist at IMD record label, New Zealand.

1986 – 1990:
- Tour manager, booking agent, and publicist for The Black Wedge — a group of musicians and poets touring in the US, Canada and England.
- Leader of a writing workshop for women through the local council in West Yorkshire, England (1989).

1980 – 1986:
- Newspaper production — North Shore News, the West Ender, and the Courier.
Lecture: “How Art and Music Can Change the World” – co-presented with David Lester

Lecture / performances: 2009
- Vancouver — The Vinegar Factory
- Vancouver — Windermere High School
- Olympia — Evergreen State College
- Salem, OR — Willamette University
- San Francisco — Modern Times Bookstore
- LA — CalArts
- Durham, NC — Duke University
- New York — Bluestockings Books
- Philadelphia — Nexus Gallery
- Holyoke, MA — Mount Holyoke College
- Providence — Rhode Island School of Design
- Boston — Megapolis Audio Festival
- Toronto — Over the Top Festival

Lecture / performances: 2002 – 2006
- World Peace Forum, The Roundhouse Vancouver, BC, 2006
- Richmond Art Gallery — Arts for Life keynote presentation to high school art students, Richmond, BC, 2005
- Word On The Street, Vancouver 2005
- Emily Carr Institute of Art & Design, Vancouver, BC 2004
- Grand Forks Public Art Gallery, Grand Forks, BC 2004
- Vernon Public Art Gallery, Vernon, BC 2004
- David Thompson Cultural Centre, Nelson, BC 2004
- Denman Island Community Hall, Denman Island, BC 2004
- Bean Scene Coffee House, Kelowna, BC 2004
- Burnaby Central High School, Burnaby, BC 2004
- The Western Front, Vancouver, BC 2004
- St. Vincent College (poetry class), La Trobe, PA, 2002
- Chatham College (sound art class), Pittsburgh, PA, 2002
- Balazo Gallery, San Francisco, CA, 2002
- Flywheel Gallery, Easthampton, MA, 2002
- IMC (Indie Media Center), Urbana, IL, 2002
- Capitol Theater, Olympia, WA, 2002
- The Smell, Los Angeles, CA, 2002
- AK Press, Oakland, CA, 2002
- Empty Bottle, Chicago, IL , 2002
- Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle, WA, 2002

Graphic Design:
- 13 LP & CD packages for Mecca Normal, 2 Foot Flame, Jean Smith solo with related promotional material
- Kathy Acker CD cover art (Kill Rock Stars)
- Chia Pet cover art (Shimmy Disc)
- Scarlet Drops cover art (Harriet)
- Some Songs cover art (Kill Rock Stars)
- Certain Songs cover art (Kill Rock Stars)
- Catalogue covers (Pulp Press); book covers, calendars, t-shirts, theatre and performance posters.

Mecca Normal discography: Albums
The Observer (Kill Rock Stars) 2006
Janis Zeppelin (Smarten Up! Records) 2004
The Family Swan (Kill Rock Stars) 2002
Who Shot Elvis? (Matador) 1997
The Eagle And The Poodle (Matador) 1996
Sitting On Snaps (Matador) 1995
Flood Plain (K) 1993
Jarred Up (K) 1993
Dovetail (K) 1992
Water Cuts My Hands (Matador) 1991
Calico Kills The Cat (K) 1989
Mecca Normal (Smarten Up!) 1986

Jean Smith solo
CD (Kill Rock Stars) 2000
Carboni Angel (spoken word 7”, Kill Rock Stars) 1992

2 Foot Flame discography (Jean Smith — vocals, lyrics & guitar):
Albums
Ultra Drowning (Matador) 1997
2 Foot Flame (Matador) 1995

Records Produced by Jean Smith:
Peter Jefferies “Elevator Madness” (Emperor Jones) 1996
Duane Crone “Give Me a Call” (Smarten Up!) 1996
Cub 7″ debut (Mint) 1992
Co-producer of all Mecca Normal and 2 Foot Flame releases (1986 – 2004)

Selected Music Performances, Literary Festivals and Solo Readings:
- Under the Volcano (North Vancouver) 2009
- Antimatter Film Festival (Victoria, BC) 2007
- World Peace Forum (Vancouver) 2006
- Xeno Gallery — “Inspired Agitators & the Pantomime Horse” opening reception, 2004
- Placebo Reading Series (Vancouver), 2004
- Interurban Gallery — “Drawing Resistance” touring art show, 2003
- CMJ Music Marathon (New York) 2002
- Word on The Street (Vancouver) 2002, 2003, 2004
- Shawnigan Lake Writers Festival (Vancouver Island) 1998
- Bumbershoot Festival (Seattle) 1998
- Sechelt Writers Festival 1996
- Talk With Tomorrow (New York) 1995 Special performance for German Futurists
- Fast Forward Festival (Holland) 1994
- CMJ panelist — Women In Rock
- Yo-Yo-A-Go-Go Festival (Olympia) 1994, 1997
- International Pop Underground Festival (Olympia) 1991
- La Quena Festival (Vancouver) 1987
- Ultimatum Poetry Festival (Montreal) 1987

Art Exhibits:

2004: (“Inspired Agitators & the Pantomime Horse”, Two person, touring art exhibit with David Lester of Mecca Normal):
Xeno Gallery, Vancouver, BC – March 25 – April 26
Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, Vancouver, BC
Grand Forks Public Art Gallery, Grand Forks, BC
Vernon Public Art Gallery, Vernon, BC
David Thompson Cultural Centre, Nelson, BC
Cumberland Arts Centre, Cumberland, BC
Bryce’s Barber Shop, Olympia Experimental Music Festival
Denman Island Community Hall, Denman Island, BC
The Crooked Cafe, Kaslo, BC
Bean Scene Coffee House, Kelowna, BC
Wild Indigo Theatre, Hornby Island, BC

2004 (Group Shows):
Counterfeit Gallery, Seattle
Interurban Gallery, Vancouver
Ministry of Casual Living, Victoria, BC
Department of Safety, Anacortes, WA
Lombardi Gallery, Austin, Texas
Ladyfest, Seattle – 30 years of self-portraits from 1973 to 2003

2002 – 2003 (“Inspired Agitators” – two person art exhibit with David Lester):
Western Front, Vancouver
Balazo Gallery, San Francisco
Flywheel Gallery, Easthampton, MA
The Middle Gallery, Indie Media Center, Urbana, IL
Capitol Theater, Olympia, WA
The Smell, Los Angeles
AK Press, Oakland
Empty Bottle, Chicago
Center on Contemporary Art, Seattle
Knitting Factory, New York

2002 – 2003 (Group Shows):
- Interurban Gallery, Vancouver (2003)
- Maltwood Fine Arts Gallery, Victoria (2003)
- Word On The Street. The Moat Gallery, Vancouver Public Library – co-curator of a group show: Jason MacLean, Carel Moiseiwitsch, David Lester, Shayne Ehman and Jean Smith. (2003)
- Ladyfest, Los Angeles — 30 years of self-portraits from 1973 to 2003 (2003)
- Tart Gallery, Vancouver – Post No Bills – exhibit of posters (2002)
- Fine Arts Gallery, Edmonton (2002)

Mecca Normal videos:
- Attraction is Ephemeral (Kill Rocks Stars) 2006, directed by Jean Smith
- In January (Smarten Up! Records 21 minute version) by A.D. Jameson
- No Mind’s Eye (Kill Rock Stars) 2003 by A.D. Jameson and J. Roman
- Revival of Cruelty (Matador Records) 1997
- Vacant Night Sky (Matador Records) 1996 co-directed by Jean Smith and Michael Morley
- Waiting for Rudy (K Records) 1993 by Pat Maley
- 20 Years/No Escape (K Records) 1991 by Jean Smith (award winner at Pima College, Tucson, AZ)
- More, More, More (K Records) 1987 by Heather Conrad
- Man Thinks Woman (K Records) 1987 by David Lester
- Strong White Male (K Records) 1987 by David Lester

Related Films:
The Shield Around the K — DVD (Secretly Canadian) 2004
I Wanna Be Adored (E Motion Films) 1998
The Shield Around The K documentary 1998
The Dogs (Much Music) 1995 solo reading
Harakiri (Germany) 1994 Mecca Normal performance
Terminal City Ricochet (E Motion Films) 1989 Design of opening credits

Television profiles:
Vicki Gabereau Show (VTV) performance and interview 1998
Much Music performances and features 1998 and 1993
Jane Whitney Show (NBC) “Women in Rock” 1993
BCTV News Hour feature on Mecca Normal 1993
Imprint (TV Ontario) reading “The Dogs” 1992

Radio Interviews and Performances:
BBC (England)
CBC (Ideas, Nightlines, Brave New Waves, North By Northwest)
Bavarian State Radio (Munich, Germany)
NPR (U.S.A.)
Austrian State Radio (Vienna)
College radio all over Canada, U.S., New Zealand, Australia and Europe.

Mecca Normal references published in:
Mix Tape edited by Thurston Moore
She’s A Rebel by Gillian Garr
On The Road To Nirvana by Gina Arnold
Spin’s Alternative Record Guide
Rock She Wrote edited by Evelyn McDonnell & Ann Powers
Vancouver Book by Chuck Davis
Trouser Press Record Guide of Music of the 90’s
The Graphic Art of David Carson
Women In Rock (Rolling Stone Press)

Highlights and Summaries:
- Named one of the “Top 50 Writers in Vancouver” (Vancouver Magazine)
- Named one of the “Top Ten People Who Matter” (San Francisco Weekly)
- Featured in Rolling Stone as “a band to watch” along with Radiohead and Liz Phair

Selected Music Reviews:
“The compositions of this Vancouver duo include enough literary references, linguistic artistic expression and avant-garde free verse to satisfy the synapses of both highbrow scholars and social outcasts, yet seem earthy and accessible while still maintaining intensity.” –NEW CITY (CHICAGO) 2002

“Over 10 years, Mecca Normal have presented a consistent, evolving, and luminous challenge to the reigning social order.”—ROLLING STONE (1996)

“When the mix is between brainy lyrics and a meaty beat, between mind and body, pleasure and awareness—that’s when Mecca Normal revs up. Like Odysseus, they have a clarity of vision that’s rare.”—VILLAGE VOICE (NEW YORK)

“Long before Bikini Kill, the Northwest band Mecca Normal was churning out shards of minimal noise (no bass or drums) with a confrontational edge, and would eventually end up influencing many of Olympia’s current female artists.”–LOS ANGELES TIMES

“Oh, what a lovely sparse sound”– NME (ENGLAND)

“Smith is damn near visionary”– SAN FRANCISCO WEEKLY

“Mecca Normal has inspired a larger movement of feminists in their teens and early 20’s who call themselves Riot Grrrls.”– NEW YORK TIMES

“Smith is angry with an evil world.”– DER SPIEGEL (GERMANY)

“A two-person guerrilla campaign against apathy.”– MELODY MAKER (ENGLAND)

“Without a doubt Who Shot Elvis? is my choice for best record of 1997.” –Lois Maffeo, THE STRANGER

I Can Hear Me Fine (Get To The Point, 1993)
Reviews



Claudine's thoughts have a strange power over her former lover. He is out of control. Claudine walks through her New York studio tracing her way back to the hot Arizona summer when she and Marcus met. Her memories and dreams send Marcus spilling through time and space. This 103 page book explores the relationship between two fictional characters as they travel around North America. ISBN: 0969711204

“Turning the information age into poetry.” -- VILLAGE VOICE (New York)

“Gritty, blunt and sensitive at once, the book rails against the banal at every turn, developing a strident and important voice.” -- B.C. LIBRARY REPORTER

“The indie star-turned-author has produced a distinctively female book. Strong but far from flowery, a wonderful read.” -- COLLEGE MUSIC JOURNAL (New York)


The Ghost Of Understanding (Arsenal Pulp Press, 1998)
Reviews



As lead singer of the two-person band Mecca Normal, Jean Smith is regarded as one of the forerunners of the Riot Grrrl movement-unapologetic, in-your-face music by women rockers who are front and center, no strings attached. Her long-awaited second novel attempts to find the razor's edge between order and chaos in a complicated, male-dominated world. Impressionistic sound-bytes combine with colorful, hyper-aware riffs in which Claudine, the narrator, invites the reader to participate in her subjective world of memory, vision, and flashback. 1551520508

“Mecca Normal band member Smith has proven to be as good a writer as she is a musician — one of several non-conflicting juxtapositions in her life and work.” -- VANCOUVER MAGAZINE

“The elegance and power of Smith’s writing is shockingly gorgeous. She is no art girl pretender, but a fine and unusual novelist who could easily quit her day job for this sideline.” -- THE LOOP (Vancouver)

“A poetic document swirling with ideas and images. By jettisoning the linearity of realism, Smith gives herself opportunity to explore dream-like existence outside the usual order. The meaning of the dream may be ambiguous, Smith knows, but that makes it worth thinking about further.” -- GLOBE AND MAIL (Canada)

“…if you’re a Mecca Normal fan, this book offers insight into the mind behind the voice…you’ll appreciate this original experiment at the boundaries of anarchist drive, political debate, and pseudo-scientific poetry.” -- GEORGIA STRAIGHT (Vancouver)

“Jean Smith is a woman who deals in innovation — she hurled convention out the window decades ago.” -- Jill Dixon, SEE MAGAZINE (Edmonton)

"Excerpts within this fragmented novel reveal aspects of the cutting edge musician's life deftly. Much of this book is a sort of dream quest by a character named Claudine that is sometimes profound, and sometimes too stream-of-consciousness to be easily understandable. Some thoughts seem to be poems hiding amid prose. The disparate pieces in this non-linear jigsaw include everything from an explicit film scene that is meant to portray a feminist attitude to sex (but which only succeeds in showing male-dominated porn), to some truly insightful meditations on life as intelligent artist and woman. Smith's stylistic variety leads both to brilliant lines like "Men have a way of trying to get what they want by correcting women," and to the indecipherable mystery in another section: "The case before us involves the ultra drowning of the spiritualist's immortal body of tricks." Feminist perception is represented well in some sections, but elements like Claudine's relationship with a hard-drinking man in love with another woman suggests someone not liberated from negative patterns with men. If you can get through the extremely esoteric passages, the revelatory nuggets make this fractured mirror of a book worth a read. One senses Smith is on the edge of something unusual -- you want her to complete the journey and tell us about it in a way we can relate to our own lives." -- Independent Publisher (Traverse City, MI)


Short Fiction
Review



“…brilliant and profound”– Rob Payne, CANADIAN FICTION MAGAZINE


Family Swan & Other Songs (Smarten Up! & Get To The Point, 2001)
Review



Family Swan contains the lyrics to ten songs by Jean Smith - the "vocal half" of the duo Mecca Normal, from Vancouver. The lyrics are lovely and often startling. Perhaps if I had heard some of Jean's songs before, I would just relax and not try so hard to conceive of these lyrics as songs. I really want to be content with reading them on the pages of this beautiful little pink and sepia-toned chapbook with wood carvings interspersed throughout. But it's a bizarre thing to reprint lyrics as though they were meant to be read alone, with no tunes swelling them into songs and no performance aspect to set the ambience. Stubbornly, I try to find the rhythm, and imagine simple, urgent, and powerful guitar music - maybe punk rock? I think this would be a super cool book to buy after seeing Mecca Normal in concert.

[Emily Pohl-Weary, Broken Pencil]

Two Stories (Smarten Up! & Get To The Point, 2006)
Review



Best known as something of a mid-wife to the Riot Grrrl movement, many might not know that Vancouver's Jean Smith (Lester's band mate in Mecca Normal) is also an accomplished author and zinester. Good to know! Literal to the points of tears, Smith's Two Stories is just that--two tales that in a weird, roundabout way mirror the aggressive and artsy nature of Smith's music but with a whole lot more humour and a heaping helpin' of street smarts. Firstly, the fabulously-titled "Carton of Creamo and Red Jell-o Setting" tells the story of helping and humping in the computer age, with seriously sexy results. Secondly, "In the End He Says 'Attraction is Ephemeral" speaks of mini-skirts, kitchenwares and other musts for the modern man. Aesthetically speaking, both works share a headspace and drip with a weirdo relationship humour that's miles away from the tripe you'd see on network television. Smith does well by keeping these stories short and razor sharp, prodding at the reader with a seasonal blend of black humour and heart. Amusement is paramount and Two Stories definitely will strike a nerve with hipsters and other indie art fans looking to bust a gut.

[Cameron Gordon, Broken Pencil]