On January 23, Seattle band Ms. Led will play their final show at the High Dive. Respected for their fiercely outspoken support for feminism and gay rights, Ms. Led toured throughout the decade and finished their career with their strongest album, Shake Yourself Awake – a blend of angry political punk rock and bittersweet reflections on love and loss. Ms. Led’s tireless front woman, singer/guitarist Lesli Wood, took time away from rehearsing for Friday’s show to talk with NadaMucho about her band’s history and the future of Ms. Led’s related projects.
NadaMucho: You’ve been on one hell of a ride with Ms. Led. How are you feeling right now, on the eve of closing this chapter?
Lesli Wood: Overwhelmed. I am sad to put this project to rest, but so grateful to look back over these nine years with these three other people and think, wow, we really had a great time. I feel like celebrating what we’ve been through, what we’ve accomplished, and just getting a chance to enjoy playing music one last time with the people who have become my family.
NM: In a way, it seems fitting to put your “Dubya” era project to bed as America’s leadership finally changes hands, but – as you presciently noted in your song “New Agenda”, and as was proven by the passage of bullshit like California’s Prop 8 on Election Day – this isn’t the time to lapse back into complacency and assume that Obama’s gonna magically fix everything. Can we expect to hear any of Ms. Led’s more political songs performed by your future projects, or is it too soon to consider that question?
LW: Ms. Led’s songs will only ever be performed again by Ms. Led or by me solo. What made the songs what they are is the four people in Ms. Led. I’m sure I’ll continue to write political material but I certainly don’t see my next band as being “Ms. Led 2”. I want to push myself in a different direction as a songwriter.
Oh, wait, I lied. Steph and I will likely do at least one more show as Tiger Teenagers and that band has been known to “cover” a few Ms. Led songs. That’s different though, because we’re both in Ms. Led.
NM: If you were going to issue a “Best Of Ms. Led” CD, and it could only feature ten tracks, which of your songs would you choose?
LW: What a fun question! In no particular order:
– New Agenda
– Afternoon in Central Park
– These Things We Say
– Have it All
– This Is What We Get (this only appeared on the Home Alive II comp and can’t be found anywhere else!)
– And Now We Know
– Up to the Old Tricks
– Move Slowly
– Because I Said So
Then i’d love to have a special bonus track of a live recording of one of the covers we did over the years. We always had fun rearranging cover tunes. Maybe “Kids in America” or “In Between Days”.
NM: “In Between Days”! I never got to hear you do that!
LW: Yeah, we performed it at Barbara Mitchell’s birthday show years ago and had so much fun that it was part of our set for awhile. We started it out really spacey and ended it as a powerpop song.
NM: The recording of “This Is What We Get” marked the beginning of Ms. Led, even though the track was credited to “lesliwood”, correct? Hearing you tell that story over drinks at the Mecca last year was absolutely riveting, but I won’t ask you to relate all the details here. Briefly, how did Lesli Wood make the transition to “lesliwood, the band” and then “Ms. Led”?
LW: That’s correct about the credit. I consider it the beginning of Ms. Led because it was the first song we worked on and recorded together. We were invited to be a part of the second Home Alive Compilation (Flying Sidekick) by Steve Moriarty (The Gits) and we were so incredibly honored, we worked damn hard on that song. It is one of the most angry and outspoken feminist songs I’ve ever written – and that’s saying a lot.
So, we go to record it at Hall of Justice studios (woo-hoo!), Chris Walla (Death Cab For Cutie) was even there for a bit. While I was recording the vocals, I suddenly got the worst pain in my side. The pain got overwhelming, I ended up at the ER and 13 hours later was in surgery. It was a terrifying ordeal and it took me awhile to recover.
We were then up against the deadline on finishing the tune. Josh who ran Hall of Justice at the time (maybe he still does?) was very kind and didn’t charge us for the time we spent recording there. Unfortunately, because of all the pain I was in, the tracks were no good and Hall of Justice’s schedule was booked up. Stuart Hallerman at Avast came to the rescue and donated a day of studio time to us to completely re-record the track. And we were ecstatic about how it turned out. The song ended up being the second track on the comp, right after The Gossip.
Then came the release show for the Home Alive comp. We went on right after Carrie Akre and right before The Gossip. It was the biggest crowd we had played to and the response was overwhelming. I still feel that we owe Steve Moriarty everything for putting us on that compilation and giving us the best spot on the bill. Not to mention the kindness of the studios and engineers that donated their time TWICE to help us record that song.
NM: As far as the lineup of the band goes, you and Matt (Menovcik) had already been playing together for some time, right?
LW: Yeah, Matt and I knew each other from when we both lived in Michigan. We met in 1990 and started playing in bands together almost immediately. We’ve always had a great musical connection and he’s definitely one of my favorite people to collaborate with. He’s been a key member of Ms. Led all along. In fact, he was the one that chose to name us Ms. Led when we were just about to release Afternoon in Central Park.
NM: You and Matt also started a record label and an internationally acclaimed musical trio with a sound worlds away from the clamor of Ms. Led. What does the immediate future hold for Fish The Cat and Saeta?
LW: Oh, yeah. Matt and I have also travelled through Europe together nearly starving sticking to our vegetarianism and eventually giving in with my excuse of “I don’t care if it’s made with DOG, I’m so frigging hungry, I need to eat a damn sandwich”. But, yeah, in 1994 we started a record label called Fish the Cat Records, named after a particularly awesome cat named Fishy. After 14 years of learning-as-we-go, we are actually closing our doors as Fish the Cat Records this year. It will give us a chance to focus on our various music projects on the creative level and less on the business side of things.
As for Saeta, our fifth album, Else Another Light Might Go Out is being released on Tarnished Records on January 20. We will be performing our CD release show at the Mars Bar on January 30 (one week after the Ms. Led final show). This Saeta album is probably one of my favorite musical endeavors ever. I love the songs and we had a great time writing and recording it.
NM: So on Friday the 23, the Jameson is gonna be flowing… and by the final encore, emotions are undoubtedly going to be running at full tilt throughout the High Dive. You’re probably going to be too amped up to be able to say everything you’ll want to tell the packed club before you break your gear down and join the farewell party in progress… anything you want to make sure you’ve communicated to your fans and friends before Ms. Led and Fish The Cat become part of Seattle’s musical past?
LW: I just want to say that you, the fans, have a tremendous impact on making things happen. You know that one time you showed up to see some band on a Wednesday night and you were the only one there? You may have made that band’s night, because I can remember many a night when we thought: “this one guy, this one woman, they’re out there and they came here just to see US. They paid $5 just to see US, and we owe it to them.” I want you all to know, we played our heart out to you. EVERY NIGHT.
Ms Led’s final show is Friday, January 23 at the High Dive with Wallpaper and The Camellias.