Lucid Nation is a Los Angeles based band founded by Tamra Spivey a feisty blonde artist whose idea of music is all about collaboration of voice. The band is a revolving ensemble of characters who lend their talents to individual compilations. Part jazz, part punk, part bitch, part vixen, Tamra believes in practicing total improvisation in the style of the Doors or the Patti Smith Group. She provides the voice of Lucid Nation as well as playing guitar and bass.
Tamra is also a writer and artist. Her zines T.V.I. and Eracism have been reprinted in A Girl's Guide To Taking Over The World: The Zine Revolution by Karen Green and Tristan Taormino and in Hilary Carlip and Francesca Lia Block's Zine Scene. Her artwork: Autopsy Stamp Mandala series, the complete India Ink Dimensions and several free standing assemblages were featured at the opening of the Oren Gallery in Venice Beach, California.
I recently spoke with Tamra about collaboration and her band's latest collection Tacoma Ballet.
3AM: Where does the name Lucid Nation come from?
TS: It was heard in a dream.
3AM: There is a very guttural place that you go in your music. It is an enigmatic place, it gives one goosebumps, or turns one on, or makes one wet or cry, or whatever. It is the precise place I strive for in my writing. How do you explain what takes you there?
TS: When you face your fears the energy that kept you uncreative becomes creative. Also free styling allows the part of the mind that dreams to sing.
3AM: Let's talk about your latest compilation which will hit stores Late March, early April 2002. I understand it will be a double CD including your last demo New Return and will be called Tacoma Ballet. Tell me about it.
TS: Hit stores? Yeah, we'll be throwing it at Walmart windows from a speeding car. There are 16 songs to a CD, like double broken towers. It turns out to be the story of a girl who finds a terrible secret in her town, in her lover, in herself. Patty Schemel of Hole plays drums and Greta Brinkman of Moby's band and Unseen Force plays bass.
3AM: In your song Point of No Return your message is "Where there's a will, there's a way." That song makes me think of dreams and how the only necessity required to reach your heights in any passion, is the intention, the motivation. I totally agree with that and think that song is an inspiration to that. Tell me where that song comes from in you?
TS: In one way it's actually cynical about how empty that phrase is when it replaces actual change, a cliche repeated by people who don't understand the economic and political context of their lives. But on the other hand I am talking about the passion it takes to break away from conformity. So far men seem to only hear the cynical side of the song while women hear the creative encouragement.
3AM: The first time I spoke with you, you had just finished a jam session with two women from New York. You said that it was so good, it was like falling in love.
TS: LaFrae Olivia Sci on drums and Jezabel Kipp on bass. I'm going back to New York in spring to record with them again.
3AM: Tell me about collaboration? What is essential for collaboration to work? Like minds? Like places that are visited during the creative process? What? How do you define chemistry?
TS: It's not necessarily about having compatible taste or personalities. I've played with people of every race and all ages, so it's not about those things. Listening is part of it. It's like everyone settles in a group meditation that borders on telepathy. There's a recognition of being open to something outside you that inspires the whole to be greater than its parts, and it's such a beautiful experience to be part of something so pure that even grizzled old bastard musicians smile when you talk about it.
3AM: I like the idea of a bunch of different voices juxtaposed into one working instrument. Your music reminds me of what would have happened if punk grew up and evolved.
TS: Punk evolved me. Made me better, smarter. Honed my cynicism. Taught me what Gertrude Stein proved about words and Jimi Hendrix proved about guitar, there are no mistakes.
3AM: In your song Kindred, you sing "When I break these ties that bind, anything can happen." What ties are those?
TS: Families, lovers, schools, jobs, all the relationships that keep us in unhealthy situations. The conformist judgements, external or internalized, that limit us.
3AM: In Welcome to America you sing about the pop culture portrait of blanket denial the American attitude can become at times. "Give us your poor huddled masses and we'll give them designer sunglasses". Tell me about that song.
TS: Welcome to America is a truth in advertising U.S. anthem for the new millenium. As we create the corporate equivalent of an international American empire it seems overly sentimental to cling to an anthem about when we were puny and under attack. But seriously folks, as Steppenwolf said before punk was born: "there's a monster on the loose", and it's us.
3AM: Your song Seven Stringer reminds me of Annie Oakley on acid, Gwen Stefani after sucking helium. It's the kind of song you can't stop dancing to. Tell me about music that makes you dance.
TS: Capricorn double Taurus, I don't dance. But I like dance music, I like the motion swirling around me.
3AM: If you had a slumber party, what kind of music would you play at it?
TS: I would have everybody bring a mix tape of their favorite songs. Mine would include some Bikini Kill, Sleater Kinney, Team Dresch, Godspeed, The Gossip, Free Verse, Mahalia Jackson, Kerouac, Eddie Izzard, Tricky, DJ Shadow, and Fatboy Slim.
3AM: Tell me about your other album, Nonpoetic Rain?
TS: Live on KXLU at midnight in February. Hell of a rainstorm, we don't get many like that in L.A. Tarp comes off the fucking truck on the freeway, the wind is freezing. Bass, drums, and sax were the old rhythm section of The Countdowns, they opened for JSBX all over. The other guitar player was Troy Taroy from a long gone notorious LA punk band called LA Times. We improvised for an hour. Meandered into covers of songs by CCR, AC/DC, Pere Ubu. The theme was Children of the Night, an organization that helps runaways.
3AM: Tell me about your art.
TS: Art is the bitch that makes me jump when she wants me to. You can see a few of my Autopsy Stamp Mandalas on a French gallery site, the link is at http://www.lucidnation.com.
3AM: Are you planning to tour at all in 2002?
TS: If the current Lucid Nation's love proves true I'm sure we'll be doing some touring, otherwise we'll be recording with interesting musicians. One thing about this band, it decides what it wants to do next, no matter what I want.
More information on Lucid Nation can be found at www.lucidnation.com.