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In 1996, Tanya Donelly began a solo career after spending many years in the well-regarded bands, Throwing Muses, Breeders, and Belly. When her first solo album, Lovesongs for Underdogs, was released, I wrote to her and asked if she’d answer a few questions for my website. That website went offline when Geocities closed in 2009. To celebrate the release of the magical Dove, Belly’s first album in 23 years, I decided to reprint that lost interview here. Tanya’s response to my letter arrived in mid-December 1998.

Question: I have the impression that your surname is Irish. Do you know much about your family roots? Do you feel much of a connection to Ireland or wherever else your family roots might be from?

Tanya: Donelly is Irish, but my family came over so long ago that I feel no direct connection to Ireland, other than a romantic one. I just recently developed an interest in genealogy and would like to learn more about my blood. I’m also Hungarian on my mother’s side—easier to trace because my great grandparents came over in the beginning of this century.

Tanya Donelly Interview, 1998

Q: Is it scary having your name on the CD cover rather than having Throwing Muses or Belly on there?

T: Yes.

Q: Do you feel comfortable being a solo artist?

T: More so now.

Q: Or does it just seem natural?

T: It doesn’t feel completely natural to me yet. I’ve got a band again in a way–the people I toured with are playing on this new record and will most likely do the next tour with me, too.

Q: How do you perceive your place in the marketplace? Are record sales important to you? Or do you leave that kind of stuff to your manager and others? Are you happy with a small cult kind of following? Or does having huge record sales appeal to you?

T: I’m more happy with a small cult following and the artistic freedom that comes with that. It’s also important to sell enough records in order to continue to make them.

Q: How different was the transition from the Muses to Belly, compared to going from Belly to solo?

T: Leaving the Muses was an amicable, sad experience. The Belly breakup was a less than amicable, sad experience. I think the Muses split was harder, because I was younger and much more easily freaked out.

Q: Do you feel like you’re writing music more for yourself now, rather than for a band?

T: Yes, although I still keep the people I play with in mind when I have certain noises in my head and when I’m thinking about parts. Dean, Rich, Elizabeth and Dave are very much part of the process on this record.

Interview by Joe Beine, 1998; may not be reproduced without permission.

Go to Belly’s website to learn more about Dove. And check out Tanya Donelly’s website to explore her solo career.

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Sitting on Saturn

Sitting on Saturn Book CoverMy latest book, Sitting on Saturn, is about two young adults who search for magic in their neighborhood and struggle with their changing relationship to each other–moving their childhood friendship into romance. Here’s an excerpt:

Teddie let herself in Emerson’s back door, slipped through the kitchen, and quietly went up the stairs. She stood next to his bed watching him sleep for a moment. He looked like he did when they were kids, messy haired and bashful. Outside the front window, Teddie could see the deep blue dawn approaching. When the first ray of sunlight touched the sky, she noticed a small rainbow shadow on the wall to her left, created by a prism she had left dangling in Emerson’s window months ago. Her presence seemed to rouse him, and he looked at her, half awake, half dreaming.

Nearly whispering, Teddie said, “It’s almost the golden time, Emerson. Let’s go watch the purple.”

“Purple?”

“The sunflower house windows.”

“What?” Emerson yawned. “It’s still dark.”

“If you get up now, I’ll show you my wings,” Teddie said coyly. She said this whenever she wanted to get her way. It usually worked.

Emerson smiled sleepily and stretched. Teddie went to the end of the bed, pulled up the blanket and started playing with his bare toes.

“Stop it. That tickles!”

“Oh, but you’re awake now.”

“Maybe.”

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Sitting on Saturn is available as a paperback or Kindle eBook. For ordering information see: Sitting on Saturn

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Exchanging Van Goghs

Exchanging Van GoghsMy small novella, Exchanging Van Goghs, is now available as a paperback or Kindle eBook. It’s the story of a correspondence between a young artist and a recluse that touches on their shared fascination with painters, music and the nature of light. Here is an excerpt:

I’m a terrible gardener. My grandmother was born to garden. She touched soil and beautiful things happened. It was natural to her. I touch the soil and everything just flops over. But I’m learning. I found a small notebook in her bedroom with sketches and notes about plants she loved. It’s been helpful. I am the plant observer, not the plant nurturer. But they seem to like my presence. They come alive when I’m in the yard with my sketchbook or easel. Maybe they’re just vain. Ooh look, the grandkid is gonna paint us! The peonies are especially aloof. Okay, they are beautiful, but really.

Last year a lone sunflower started growing in the south garden. Maybe a seed blew in from a neighbor’s yard. Maybe it was a touch of Vincent’s spirit. I started noticing the flower would turn itself toward the sun in the morning, waking up. I thought that was magical. This year the sunflower did not return. So its magic was fleeting. I should probably plant some sunflower seeds, but I’m sure they would just flop over. Or the peonies would be jealous. -Rezzie, from Exchanging Van Goghs

For ordering information see: Exchanging Van Goghs

Emily Frembgen and the Language of Termites at the Sidewinder Tavern, Sept. 14, 2013, a Review of Sorts…

Four people, although geographically separated, have found a way to tap into that mysterious connection the best musicians have with each other. Bassist Victor Foster, singer and guitarist Emily Frembgen, drummer Tim Reed and guitarist Farrell Styers formed a band they call the Language of Termites. They move in and out of each other’s lives in pairs or threes, but all four of them are rarely in the same place and time.

Language of Termites at Old Curtis Street Bar, Denver, October 19, 2012

Language of Termites at Old Curtis Street Bar, Denver, October 19, 2012

The Language of Termites played their first live show in October 2012 to celebrate the release of their second album, Pretérito Perfeito. But only three of the band members were there. They recruited guitarist Travis Stevens, who ably filled in for the absent Farrell. Farrell was in Kyrgyzstan and sent secret tones.

But then on September 14, 2013, magic happened in Globeville, that lost Denver neighborhood between I70 and the railroad tracks. Singer and songwriter Emily Frembgen had scheduled a solo show at the Sidewinder Tavern, a bar that comes with an old-fashioned ballroom attached. Victor was going to accompany Emily on guitar, something he had done at two of her previous shows, Titwrench, the previous Saturday, and the ancient but still beautiful Mercury Cafe, the Thursday before that. Emily was visiting from New York and there was talk that Farrell was going to be in town on a visit before moving from Kyrgyzstan to Belgium. Yes, the Termites travel a lot. And since Victor and Tim actually live in Denver, it was decided: the Language of Termites would play their first ever show with all four members of the band.

A quick rehearsal was scheduled the day of the show. They even taught Farrell some of the new songs in the car on the way to Globeville. It was the first day of any real sunshine after three days of fitful rain. And it was Emily’s birthday. A good day for magic.

Language of Termites at the Sidewinder Tavern, Globeville, Denver, September 14, 2013

Language of Termites at the Sidewinder Tavern, Globeville, September 14, 2013

Behind a multicolored scarf draped over her microphone stand, Emily sang her wistful, beautifully written songs with a detached charm. Tim played drums with a hint of jazz tones. Farrell and Victor alternated on bass and guitar, both adding just the right color to the music.

Despite the lack of any real rehearsal time, the Termites played with quiet passion and captured some of the mystery hidden in their two overlooked albums. There were a couple of minor flubs, and one false start, but the audience didn’t seem to care. They watched attentively and gave each song enthusiastic applause.

Emily’s songs had a different sort of shine than when she sings them solo. They work either way, but this band gives them a surge of energy that removes the hush and deepens their melancholy. To really appreciate what Emily is doing you should experience her songs both ways, solo and with this band.

Should the Language of Termites actually find themselves in the same space for an extended time they would likely become a major force, but maybe part of their allure is the mystery their zigzag geography gives them. Farrell is off to Belgium soon and Emily will return to New York.

Emily Frembgen Performing at the Titwrench Fest, Glob, Denver, September 7, 2013

Emily Frembgen Performing at the Titwrench Fest, Glob, Denver, September 7, 2013

I called this band “Denver’s Velvet Underground” because, although the two bands sound very different, it seems the Termites explore similar dark edges as their beloved forebears. The Termites just look at the shadows in a different way. I think if Lou Reed knew what his mischievous grandchildren were up to he’d be smiling proudly.

You can find both Language of Termites albums at: termites.bandcamp.com

And Emily Frembgen’s music is on Tumblr: emilyfrembgen.tumblr.com

Photos and text © 2012-2013 Joe Beine

Sinead O'Connor at a Denver Press Conference in 1988 by Joe Beine

Sinead O’Connor at a Denver press conference in 1988 — this is one of the most viewed and favorited photographs on my Flickr stream. She played an emotional show at the Rainbow Music Hall later that night.

Here is another photograph I took at the same press conference.

Sinead O'Connor at a Denver Press Conference in 1988 by Joe Beine

Camera: Pentax ME Super. Film: Kodak Gold 400.

The Language of Termites by Joe Beine

The Language of Termites taking a break from recording their second album, June 17, 2012. You can download the album from: The Language of Termites at Bandcamp

Peacock Blue

Photograph of a peacock at the Denver Zoo.

Dancing for rain at the Denver Zoo.