“It’s hard to tell the truth about ourselves,” Phair writes.
September 5, 2019 11:55 AM   Subscribe

Liz Phair has _Horror Stories_, the first of two planned memoirs, being released next month. She sat down with former Blender editor Rob Tannenbaum to talk about the book, her music, her image, and her family.
posted by hanov3r (12 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I am not the biggest Liz Phair fan, but I read this interview after someone on twitter highlighted her pushback to/broadening of the Ryan Adams question:

You also write about Adams, “Did he hit on me and try to get me to sleep with him? Yes. Did I take him up on it? No.” What happened when you didn’t take him up on it? That was a sentence that was flagged by my editor, and I’m beginning to see why. That’s nothing. Guys hit on girls all the time. Can I ask a question? Out of everything in the book, why is the Ryan Adams thing such an interesting topic?

Because he’s been in the news, and it’s a pithy way to discuss sex and power. It worries me. There’s an aspect that ends up being reductivist, and it contributes to the problem rather than solving it. It’s gossip. The real aspect is, can women be heard? Can we work and be equal contributors? You’re not the only one singling out Ryan Adams as a hot talking point, and it’s sad. It does need to be talked about, but so do the larger issues.

It does need to be talked about, but so do the larger issues. I'm so glad she said that! Anyway because of that I read the whole interview, it's great, I don't want to steer this thread, just wanted to highlight the bit that drew me in. Happy to see it posted here, so thank you hanov3r.
posted by everybody had matching towels at 1:41 PM on September 5, 2019 [9 favorites]

I was actually going to use that as a pull quote under the fold, and then thought better of it (in the same "don't want to steer the thread" way that you said). But, yeah, I really appreciated how she approached that question.
posted by hanov3r at 1:51 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I enjoyed the way she thinks through her own (and family) privacy alongside how important honesty in art created by others has been to her. When she was creating those early songs she was alone, housesitting, no clue her parents would ever hear these words, and what she wrote was so raw but so gripping, it just wouldn’t be the same without that honesty and wouldn’t offer the same comfort to those of us who can identify with the songs. And in part because she wrote those songs she might never have wanted the whole world to hear, there’s a whole community of younger female artists that arose from them. In a way, it’s a lie that you have to tell yourself to put something so close to your heart outside in public. There aren’t a lot of artists I’ve read who really delve into that, what it feels like to know your parents, your brother with problems, your son are all listening to these songs that express things you might never have dared to say to them. I’m very much looking forward to her books now.
posted by sallybrown at 2:08 PM on September 5, 2019 [4 favorites]

Some interesting comments toward the end about her being adopted, which I kind of generally agree with as an adoptee. I can’t say I recall her talking much about it. I disagree about not searching, though. YMMV, of course.
posted by Thorzdad at 3:49 PM on September 5, 2019

I always feel like I'm learning from Liz. This interview is no different. Thanks for posting this!
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 6:38 PM on September 5, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am really looking forward to this book, thank you for reminding me.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:22 PM on September 5, 2019

This was super interesting, thanks for posting!
posted by banjo_and_the_pork at 5:23 AM on September 6, 2019

Thanks for sharing, I was a huge fan at least up to and including the much derided self titled album and I still didn't know most of what she shared here. Interested in the books! I knew about the stage fright, I saw her touring Somebody's Miracle and she did not seem to be enjoying herself which was a bit of a bummer.

This interview has also caused the author of that 0.0 review to reflect a little on the toxic indie culture that responded so poorly to her pop turn.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:22 AM on September 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

Yep, wrong side of history, and he was only 19. Wise of him to finally recant.

I related to Phair’s decision as a young woman to learn to walk the indie rock walk, drop the names, etc., so that nobody could ever again make her feel inferior for not knowing who Shellac was.

I didn’t like her crossover, but I still liked *her* and I thought what she was doing was smart - trolling the scenesters, specifically male, who policed people’s taste and excluded their work. It’s only now that lo-fi indie rock is done as a cultural force that I can see how successful she was.
posted by ducky l'orange at 8:05 AM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I do think it's okay not to like the two outright pop albums, though. I'm not policing her, I'm not saying she should just keep doing Exile, she can do what she wants. And she can do that for reasons of authenticity, or playing with roles, or just because she thinks it would be lucrative. That's her business.

But for me, that music didn't resonate. And I feel like there's a little bit of overreaction where it gets portrayed that alt rock orthodoxy/shitty misogyny is the only reason to dislike them. Nobody should enforce roles in any direction, do what you like, listen to what you like.

Also, Whip-Smart is super underrated.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:44 AM on September 6, 2019 [5 favorites]

I’ll tell you one thing, I’ll die a cat lady before I ever get in another relationship with someone who’s threatened by my ambition.

Love this interview.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 2:05 PM on September 6, 2019 [1 favorite]

One of my roommates played that album close to the day it came out in 1993. I was living in a $300/mo warehouse and could hear the lyrics through the DIY sheetrocked wall between us. My first thought was, "Finally! Someone who's managed to say "I see you seeing me (/wanting me/using me/fucking me/blaming me) and guess what? I'm going to package my gaze for maximum titillation to increase the chances you actually pay attention to it."" It felt like the female equivalent of launching torpedoes down the exhaust shaft of the Death Star. Using the male gaze as a fucking Trojan horse on itself.

When a reviewer or critic can't put 2+2 together for something so...mundane: Funstyle was part of what was artistically available to Phair so she could parent. And: "I didn’t want to make a record and tour while my son was in high school."

I mean, you still don't get it guys that, as Phair says, "Great, but we made you."
posted by cocoagirl at 3:28 PM on September 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

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