Courtney Love

pat and lois at CBGB, november 1990
photo: Jim Testa

Early 1991,Writer's Block #7
by Mike Appelstein

More interviews with Lois Maffeo:
Caught In Flux #3
Net #17

"Uncrushworthy/That is what you are to me..." So goes the title track from Courtney Love's first single, a song about constantly falling for people who are impossible to get along with. It's also the tip of the iceberg from a band that’s managed to produce some of the best, most unaffected music you could ever hear.

Courtney Love is Lois Maffeo, who sings and plays guitar, and Pat Maley on drums. Both have spent a lot of time in Olympia, WA, although Lois lives in Washington, D.C. now. Like Olympian peers Beat Happening and Some Velvet Sidewalk, there is no bass player, though that’s about as far as the similarities go, since Courtney Love are as soft as the other two are noisy. Lois has a remarkably pure voice that seems to float over her rudimentary acoustic guitar chords and the simple drumming, and her songs are about things like motorcycle boyfriends, sunny days, Goofus and Gallant-type relationships, Bridget Fonda, and falling in love. The end result is sparse, yet dynamic enough to remind me of the Marine Girls with slightly less songwriting variety. Live, Courtney Love covers Beat Happening's "Don’t Mix the Colors," and Lois is a chatty, relaxed front person despite her admitted shyness when it comes to singing live. It’s really something to see.

Besides Courtney Love, Lois Maffeo can be heard on the Go Team's "My Head Hurts" (arguably the best song on Archer Come Sparrow), has directed videos for Beat Happening, and writes for Puncture.  Pat Maley produces Olympia bands, including the Go Team and Calamity Jane.  By the time this sees print, Courtney Love should have a second single out on Feel Good All Over.  In the meantime, Lois answered a few questions about music, cities and trivia contests. Archer Come Sparrow), has directed videos for Beat Happening, and writes for Puncture.  Pat Maley produces Olympia bands, including the Go Team and Calamity Jane.  By the time this sees print, Courtney Love should have a second single out on Feel Good All Over.  In the meantime, Lois answered a few questions about music, cities and trivia contests.

Is Courtney Love a "love rock" band?
I think so, although I'm not altogether sure what love rock is. The best Courtney Love show ever was at a Love Rock show organized by Al Larsen of Some Velvet Sidewalk, who is the instigator of the whole love rock thing. But I'm willing to say that whatever his hidden agenda is regarding love rock, Courtney Love is willing to go along with it.

How long have you been playing guitar and writing songs?
I was walking by a guitar store in Portland, Oregon in 1985, and saw a black guitar that was the fulfillment of my "I am the secret girl Everly" dream, so I walked in and bought it. The shop was owned by Fred and Toody Cole, who were in this cool band called the Rats, and are now in Dead Moon. They are the only people I have ever known who ran music stores that did not treat you like an idiot if you didn't have a poodle perm and 8 x 10 glossies to post on the wall. Anyhow, even though I was totally in love with my guitar, I never learned how to play it even though both my friends Argon and Calvin had tried to give me lessons. So finally, in 1987, I hauled out the three-chord diagram of rock and roll that Calvin had scrawled on a piece of paper, and taught myself to play them. Then I learned a couple of more chords out of a book he had given me that also gave the stern advice that girls should always play either sitting down or standing with a foot riser in a long skirt. So I knew how to play five chords, sitting down, and I decided that it was tine to meet my fate in the dog-eat-dog world of rock and roll.

Were you in any groups prior to Courtney Love?
My only experience being in a hand had been the 45 minutes I spent crashing out an instant classic called "Karate 3" with my friends Sam and Ginnie. We called ourselves the Zebras, and we were wild. So with this enormous experience under my belt, I convinced these girls at work to make up a band for our Christmas talent show. I played guitar, Jan played drums and Sharon played accordion. We decided to stick with it and Jan had the brilliant flash that we should he called Lumihoops. So we were. We played two shows – one at the Smithfield Café and one at KAOS. We recorded six songs and then Sharon had to move to New York. The loss was devastating, because Lumihoops was the limit in terms of what is great about being in a hand. All we did at practice was sit around drinking tea and reading tabloids. It was heaven.

How long did you live in Olympia?
I arrived in Olympia or my 18th birthday – September 20,1981 – from my home in Phoenix, AZ. I stayed for eight years. The music scene in Olympia is pretty well documented, as far as the spontaneous quality of bands and venues, but the thing that most impressed me about it was the freedom to fail. If you did a dumb performance or had a party with a ridiculous theme, there were always people around who would go along with it. No matter what.

When did you move to Washington, D.C.? Could you compare it with Olympia?
I moved in 1989 because I felt it was time to see whet else was happening in the world. I chose DC because it was the only place whore I got a favorable response to the scene questionnaire I sent to my friends in cities where I was interested in living. I got the impression from my friends in D.C. that if I moved anywhere besides there, my name would be mud. I can't think of any obvious comparisons between D.C. and Olympia except that they are the only two places that vie for first place in the Coolest Scene in the World contest.

How did you and Pat Maley meet?
Pat has a memory like an elephant and could probably tell the exact place and time that we met, but I haven't the faintest. Most likely it was on the street in Olympia, where all the action takes place.

How did Courtney Love begin?
After Lumihoops, I had a couple of great songs that I never had a chance to do anything with, so I called Pat to see if he wanted to do a one-off performance for a party, so I could get all the songs out of my head. Our ambition must have gotten out of hand.

How did you end up singing "My Head Hurts" on Archer Come Sparrow? Were you an unofficial Go Team member?
Everyone who was ever in the Go Team was an unofficial member. In the early '80s, there were a bunch of punk rock brainiacs who competed in a trivia contest on our college radio station, KAOS-FM. We were called the Go Team because we would congregate at a house called the Go Home, which was named in protest to all the terrible hippie house names like Sunny Muffin and Walnut House. The Go Team ruled and we even won a trophy. So when Calvin Johnson started putting out these crazy cassettes under the nom de guerre of the Go Team, I think his concept was that the band would have a revolving membership, something like the trivia team. Calvin handed me a cassette one day and asked if I'd make up some words to one of the instrumentals on it. I came out to Patrick's studio one day and sat in the barn finishing the words while Pat and Calvin set up. I came in and sang, and two years later I beard the mixed version for the first time when the cassette came out. It felt like a million years had passed from the time I sang it.

How did the "Uncrushworthy" EP end up on K?
Calvin made us an offer we couldn't refuse.

Was "Uncrushworthy" based on personal acquaintance?
I came up with the word "uncrushworthy" to describe myself in an awkward telephone conversation, but the idea behind the song was based upon a tremendous revelation I had that the people I am always smitten with are utterly impossible to deal with.

How do you enjoy playing live? Do you enjoy it or perhaps find it frightening?
Playing live is terrifying. I like the talking part, but the singing part is murder. I learned how to play and sing standing up for the Courtney Love shows on the East Coast, and it was very hard for me to do, and I must have looked very contorted. How do you get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Practice.

How was the tour in November? Any memorable experiences?
Courtney Love did a bunch of shows on the East Coast with a girl band from D.C. called Autoclave and it was astonishingly fun, but not something I would take up as a permanent practice. My very favorite thing from the trip was walking on the beach in Narragansett, Rhode Island. My second-favorite thing was at our show in Chicago. I got to talking to the audience about my thing for Patti Smith and this bearded fellow walked up to the stage and put a Creem magazine photo with a picture of Patti clutching an Iggy Pop record in it at my feet. The caption said something like how she was holding the King James Version of the Bible. It was a very kind and very cool gift.

Are you very familiar with early-1980s stuff Like Marine Girls, Raincoats or Young Marble Giants? Have they had any affect on Courtney Love?
The Marine Girls, Raincoats and Young Marble Giants are like the air that I breathe, so if breathing has any effect on a person, then yes.

Why the live cover of Beat Happening's "Don't Mix the Colors?"
"Don’t Mix The Colors" has always said something to me about friendship and confidence, and I would just walk around humming it like it was a jazz tune, and somewhere between that and cranking a few guitar strums around it, it just happened. It has never been released, and at present there are no plans to do so.

What are your future plans for Courtney Love? In general?
Courtney Love will have a new 7" out on Feel Good All Over, and another K single in the spring. The Courtney Love remake of the film Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter should be in local theatres at the end of the year.

Where does the name Courtney Love come from, anyway?
Straight out of nowhere.