Carla Bozulich - Biography

Carla Bozulich has been an inspired voice within the indie-rock community for ages, and if she isn’t as well known as some of her contemporaries, well, it’s not for a lack of effort, or incredibly high-quality work. Her resume reads like an encyclopedia of crucial music of the last several decades. She’s teamed with Sonic Youth’s venerable Thurston Moore, Wilco’s wildly dynamic Nels Cline, the Minutemen’s (and Stooges stand-in) Mike Watt, avant turntable stylist Christian Marclay, and Wayne Kramer from the MC5. She’s worked with no-wave banshee Lydia Lunch and the one and only Willie Nelson. Yes, that Willie Nelson. Wow. She covers wildly broad terrain: her efforts in the mid-1980s with Neon Vein qualified as art-farty, post-punk aggression; her subsequent work with Ethyl Meatplow played footsies with industrial music; and her renowned stint with the Geraldine Fibbers produced some breathtakingly lush and lovely alt-country atmospherics. She credibly lends her talents to the projects of others, while retaining a distinctive and individual voice. That’s the sign of the sort of rare and memorable artist that ambles through on the rarest of occasions, but makes a striking and lasting impression. Playing genres against each other with subtle skill and discreet mastery, Bozulich is nothing short of indie rock’s preternaturally composed Yojimbo.

Multi-disciplinarians are inspirational creatures, and Carla Bozulich is no exception. She sings, plays guitar and bass; she is a keen avant-garde experimentalist with a fondness for audio samples and sound manipulation; she composes, writes, is working on a novel, and has done time as an illustrator. This peripatetic gusto was vivified with Ethyl Meatplow. The group’s sole effort was Happy Days, Sweetheart (1993 Dali Records), and while it had the impression of being on an indie label, it was manufactured and distributed by a major, Elektra, and it landed with considerable impact. Ethyl Meatplow was a bizarre spectacle of multimedia insanity, dance-floor sweat, bawdy sexual license, burlesque exaggerations and primal shock therapy. They had multiple videos on MTV, toured with Nitzer Ebb, played Lollapalooza, and made it onto Beavis and Butthead (a definitive sign of cultural currency). The band’s reign was brief, but brilliant. All rock groups should politely consider such concise brevity.

Bozulich caught some flack for the sexual politics of Ethyl Meatplow, so maybe her next sizable project shouldn’t have been such a surprise. But it was. The Geraldine Fibbers sneaked peeks up the skirts of punk and the blues, but they were fundamentally a country band, and they had moments of sheer, aching beauty. They had a slew of albums, on two wildly disparate labels: Get Thee Gone (1994 Sympathy for the Record Industry); The Geraldine Fibbers, a.k.a. Bitter Honey (1994 Virgin); Lost Somewhere Between the Earth and My Home (1995 Virgin); Butch (1997 Virgin); and What Part of Get Thee Gone Don't You Understand? (1997 Sympathy for the Record Industry). The group defined the 1990s, alt-country, No Depression vibe, and guitarist Nels Cline’s involvement directly foreshadowed his participation in the best and most popular years of Wilco. Concurrently, Bozulich appeared as guest vocalist on Mike Watt’s solo debut, Ball-hog or Tugboat (1995 Columbia Records), which was an all-star affair that earned her a huge splash in the mainstream media. She continues to be delightfully productive, working in an abstract vein with Cline in Scarnella, and performing as a solo artist. However, of all her work, Bozulich’s cover of Willie Nelson’s classic, The Red Headed Stranger (2003 DiCristina Stair Builders) is the greatest. It’s a tremendous, jaw-dropping feat. In her haunting, eerie, mesmerizing interpretation of Nelson’s masterpiece, she creates a masterpiece of her own, and that’s a testament to her durable talent and far-flung vision.

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