BY LISA CRYSTAL CARVER
Click Here for more stills from "Stay".
We look to pop icons to find our opposite, to break us out of our identity shells. I listen to Iggy Stooge and am transformed into a tofu-and-heroin-driven insanity gymnast. In real life, I am none of those things. Through Iggy, for a few minutes or hours, my intellect is trumped by raw power.
Lisa Loeb, on the other hand—I don’t like her, I don’t dislike her. I don’t even see her. Ergo, according to my theory, the reason I don’t see/hear her is because I am her. I am perfect inside. I am a fairy princess with a superior vocabulary. Also: lithe, compact, and gentle must be I, in body, voice, and lyric. I obviously also own oodles of fancy friends and radiate skewed purity.
There is a different type of good girl I do like, need, and fantasize uncontrollably about: Olivia Newton-John, because she is loyal and submissive. I am neither. Nor is Lisa Loeb, at least not as the symbol she represents (in our culture, singers are trash and we’re crows). “Do you eat, sleep, do you breathe me anymore?” LL sings to some poor guy she’s still living with. She doesn’t even glance his way, she doesn’t care—that’s why she doesn’t know if he’s breathing. Yikes! Good girl got pushed too far.
I listen to Olivia Newton-John and actually believe, in the fading ripples of her lilting words, that I could be a good girlfriend, even after the lovin’. I listen to Iggy and fire licks at my heels, pushing me outward into the dark, and to the unnatural light of the city. I use them the way my busted Irish drunken male friends use Lisa Loeb... as a tunnel out of where I actually am.
For the drunkest, Irishest of the lovers of imaginary Lisa Loeb, she croons the soundtrack to his girlfriend’s abortion, and the obliteration of its ugliness. If only the bespectacled brunette would glide out of her video and into his mess of a life, his mess of a heart, and love him back, then he would be transformed into the good man he would be if only he weren’t so bad. He’d never beat anyone up again.
For a high-powered businessman whose life is dedicated to backstabbing deals, only one obsession interferes: Lisa Loeb. A hint of the siren call from the little girl who means no harm, and this DC hard-ass abandons his priorities and his company and turns into a West Coast schoolboy ditching class to catch a wave.
From atop lofty anthropological headquarters on Mount Porno, a prevert (yes, prevert) observes the people below scrambling down the portal to anarchy that Lisa Loeb represents to them, what with her barren apartment and tilted glasses.
After speaking to LL, I realize that even if any of these gentlemen did snatch her and somehow make her love him, it probably wouldn’t do a damn thing to his life or his character. She is a human being busy with business and just... stuff; she’s not a lyric, not a ticket out. I hope the poor guys I interviewed here never read what follows and find out. That’s why I think no singers should ever be interviewed again. We don’t need to kill our idols—just lock them away.
Click Here for more stills from "Stay".
Vice: Tell me about the filming of the “Stay” video. It’s all over MTV right now.
Lisa Loeb: Everything was led by Ethan—Ethan Hawke. He came up with the concept and presented his idea to Ron Fair, who is the head of RCA Records. He wanted to do it all in one take. It was a great idea. A simple idea, but one that hasn’t been done before.
How did you get your look and your way of carrying yourself?
I always wear glasses because I can’t see. It’s just an easy and comfortable time. Betsey Johnson and Anna Sui make these dresses that you can throw over leggings with big platform boots like John Fluevogs or Doc Martens. Downtown boots. It’s cool—you can wear just heavy black leggings and throw on a dress and you have a whole outfit. It’s kind of cute but not frilly or cloying.
You look like a dancer.
Maybe because I stand up straight. I do have a background in dance, but I’m 5'2": I have to stand up straight. I have a lot of tall friends. Before I moved to Christopher Street I was living on Bowery and Bond with four really tall guys. When you hang out with tall people and you look really young, it’s good to stand tall.
There’s one moment in the video where you’re sort of crawling and you snarl slightly at the camera.
Yeah, although that makes it sound like “Hungry Like the Wolf.” I think I sink to my knees in emotional desperation, not crawl. Shooting the video in one take, it didn’t make sense for me to carry my guitar around. I generally sing with my guitar. I’m not a lead-singer girl out in front with no instrument. So it felt a little strange. It possibly creates the impression that I don’t play—I’m just a girl who sings, and I’m all sad in an apartment.
It evokes a feeling. A lot of people can play a guitar; not as many can evoke.
It’s rare now, in 1994, for a girl to play guitar. I remember talking to Steve Miller from the Steve Miller Band, and he dismissed me as “oh yeah—folk singer.” Implying that a girl with a guitar must be folk. I played all through high school and college and had bands and recorded. Part of me wanted to show that I’m actually a musician, I’m in a band. Women can do that. We’re not all folk.
Are you a rebel or a good girl or a dirty girl?
I’m a good girl. I think being managed by Courtney Love’s manager pushes me even more into good-girl area. And I am one. I’m a businesswoman, I work hard, and I intend to be a good girl.
What kind of fan letters do you get?
Young girls who really love me and Mariah Carey and... Who is that R&B guy who recently got in trouble for marrying a 15-year-old? Letters from a lot of guys, some in prison, in the military, and in seminary. Like, priests.
Are you Jewish?
I am Jewish.
Does that have anything to do with anything?
It’s very important to me to take my work seriously and to know everything I can about being a musician, about recording, writing, the business, the creative process... which is also very Jewish. I took a lot of voice lessons, guitar lessons. It harks back to Torah study, where you take everything apart, you have to look at everything from a zillion different angles.
There are these bad boys in trouble all the time—they feel that you possess the love of a good woman who could, should you bestow it on them, redeem them. But you’re sort of “out there” a bit beyond mere good girl, in that perhaps you could understand them.
Honestly, I think that’s on the money. I don’t get in trouble myself. I can’t seem to get arrested; I’ve never even gotten a speeding ticket—but I definitely relate to people who do. From skateboarders to classical musicians to cross-dressers. People like that are often creative, see life in a different way, don’t fit in. I grew up in Dallas in the 80s, Republican era, super-conservative, I saw people rejected in a blanket way because they did something they shouldn’t have done, something unexpected. I definitely didn’t fit into that conservative society, yet I didn’t stick out like a sore thumb, either. I just ignored it. My friends and I just did our own thing. I was raised in a close-knit family; respecting people is important to me—all the things you learn in summer-camp songs. Everybody is somebody’s brother or sister or friend. Just because someone’s off the beaten path doesn’t mean they aren’t just as valuable or doing a great job and having a great life in an interesting way.
One person said your lyrics are perfect for people in their 20s who are no longer what they used to be but are not yet what they’ll become.
That’s nice—transitional, overthinking, angst-ridden. That’s me!
Can you describe the feel of New York City right now, in 1994?
Living on Christopher Street, that is its own world. It’s a fun, exciting time to walk out the door and step into a limousine to go to a job and have people around me appreciate it and yell, “You go, girl!” from the gay bar downstairs. It’s a fun time to be going through a popular success, being commercial. People are wearing long cutoff blue-jean shorts and cowboy boots and mock turtlenecks. It’s the era of Deee-Lite, so you see a lot of big plastic earrings and platform shoes and leggings and little dresses. I hang out with Ethan and my friend John Sherman and a large group of actors and musicians and playwrights. We stay up really late, drinking, going to Corner Bistro, having long conversations, going to see each other play music. Ethan has a theater company that a lot of us are a part of.
Do you go back to Dallas at all?
I go back for the High Holidays.
What’s the tone in Dallas, compared with New York?
I don’t even know. I spend my time in Dallas doing really normal things within a mile radius of my house—hanging out with my friends, go to see a movie, go to the drugstore, go to the Mexican restaurant.
Sounds like what you’re doing in New York.
I was in Houston with my boyfriend, Juan Patiño, to promote “Stay,” and we pretended we weren’t dating because we didn’t want to diminish his role as a producer or diminish my choice as an artist who was working with my boyfriend. The record company flew us down there and we met our radio-promo guy named Bubba and he picked us up in a white limousine, including white interior and multicolored lights, and my song came on the radio. It was the first time I heard it on the radio, ‘cause in New York City you don’t drive around in cars much. At the hotel, Juan and I stayed in separate rooms to maintain the illusion that we weren’t dating, and the radio-promo guy went up in the elevator alone with Juan and asked him if he wanted to go to a titty bar.
If this were the future, he’d be asking you, not Juan.
THE SQUAT-DWELLING ABORTION-GUILTY DREAMER
Scott Doyle: You [Lisa Carver] have called Lisa Loeb “Natalie Merchant lite.” Now here’s the thing. Natalie Merchant you want to sleep with but you kind of don’t because she’s too matronly. Lisa Loeb... You could fuck Lisa Loeb. You have a shot. Lisa Loeb is like the girl who works at the coffee shop. She’s fuckable but accessible. Nice but dirty.
Vice: Do you seriously think you have a shot with Lisa Loeb? You don’t think she’d be scared of you?
No. I could fuck Lisa Loeb. Lisa Loeb is like one of the guys. She’s smart, she’s funny, but she’s one of the guys. And I think Lisa Loeb is a dirty little girl deep inside. Hearing Lisa Loeb, for the first time in my life I want to live in New York City. Your 20s are all about having shitty relationships. Lisa Loeb sings the way you want to make a girl feel. You want to make a girl sing those songs to you. You imagine the people you left behind going, “Stay!” Or to hear those songs and think of me. She sings the songs I want other girls to feel about myself. “Do You Sleep?”—one of the most brilliant songs ever written.
Do you operate a squat?
How many times have you been arrested?
Actually I was PC’ed for attempted suicide. I had a pregnant girlfriend and we were splitting up. It was the night she was getting an abortion.
Oh my God! Well, I’m not going to include this in the Lisa Loeb interview!
Why not? Why not! As I said, I’m 22 years old, in the middle of this horrendous relationship where I don’t know if I want it to last or if I want it to end. You’re in the middle of a lot of life choices at 22. Your life could go either way. You’re at that cusp of either entering real adulthood or “I want to drink coffee and listen to Soundgarden all day.” Lisa Loeb sings to that. She’s like bubblegum, but she’s deeper than bubblegum. She’s one of those girls that a lot of guys listen to but don’t talk about. Tori Amos is one of those girls. Liz Phair. Angry women, but you could hang out with them. It’s a new thing in 1994.
Protective custody. Means you’re going to hurt someone else or yourself. When you spend a night in the drunk tank, you’re usually PC’ed.
Do you think your lifestyle makes you more or less qualified to love little Lisa Loeb?
More. Oh, definitely, more.
Could you describe your ideal date with Lisa Loeb?
She would sing to me as we sat in fucking Battery Park by the Hudson River.
Keith Newell: While on a business trip in Austin, the vice president of debt and loan collections blew off a dinner meeting with clients, leaving me alone to deal with them. What was he up to? I gave the night auditor at the hotel desk $5 to ring me when he came back in. I already suspected his defection had to do with Lisa Loeb, as I’d previously caught him blowing off another client lunch only to return with two Lisa Loeb CDs, which he’d tried to pass off as presents for his wife. I checked the listings, and sure enough Lisa Loeb was playing that night in another part of Texas. He was obsessed. His love for Lisa Loeb was a dark secret as he was such a ladies’ man, and her cutesy head tilting and advanced-style glasses were not what our sexist, high-earning male coworkers would consider hot. The desk clerk rang, and I rushed downstairs. In an effort to wring a confession from him in the middle of the night, I told him I thought Lisa Loeb was hot in an unattainable way and he need not hide his infatuation with her from me.
He sullenly kept staring at the lobby floor and said, “I’m over her.” He wouldn’t say anything more. Seeing her live, I guess, he got too close to the wizard behind the curtain, and the reality was too much for him—or too little.
THE DEGENERATE CURMUDGEON
When did you first hear or see Lisa Loeb?
Mike McPadden: In my office at Hustler. “Stay” came on the TV. I thought it was this perfect hunk of despicability. There are things I really fucking hate, but they’re works of genius. Flawless execution of their creator’s vision that serve to successfully masturbate the audience. I had that reaction to “Stay”—there are no words to convey the grunting horror that I felt, yet admiration for its brilliance. You have this dress; you have the cat; you have these glasses. The thing that struck me first is she does this semi-cocked-eyebrow/Elvis snarl. At one point she does it on her knees and just looks in the camera and warbles: “Sta-a-ay.” That moment stayed with me and I hated it so much I got a little turned on by it.
Who is the audience it was aimed for that it perfectly manipulated?
The media are trying to tell Generation X that people like you and me—these fuckups—are cool and they should want to be like us. It’s for mainstream people of our age who think it would be a good idea to leave society... but they don’t actually do it. So you could watch the video of her empty apartment and pretend that’s your crash pad. I’m appalled by Reality Bites, the concept of it. I really hate it.
You have a real work ethic, as pretty much everybody in the porn industry does, and people in Reality Bites do not.
These succubi find fringe-dwelling artists/writers/musicians “cool” and therefore co-opt legitimately interesting work, boil it down free of toxins, and splatter the castrated version back out into the mainstream under the guise of “alternative” culture. These are the white people who listen to public radio and shop at food co-ops and think they’re leaving the mainstream but they’re not. They’re just another formatted lifestyle/belief system. There’s no difference between liberals and Republicans, if you’re in lockstep with your party.
My take on Lisa Loeb is she represents to fallen Catholics in and out of jail, the fighting Irish of your kind, what a normal life would be like, how her love could transform you. But from listening to you, I’m feeling more that her message is to normal people that they could transform themselves into someone like you!
She’s a double-edged blade. No, no, I think you’re right. She serves as a portal. There’s the ragtag, seceded-from-society folk, and then there’s society folk themselves, and let’s meet in the middle, in this womanly portal... with the glasses and the dress and the cat.