Saturday, March 20, 2010

Article: Venus In Fur (November 16, 1995, Metro Vancouver)

Venus In Fur
Vancouver's indie pop-punk Cub chafes at cute label
By Todd S. Inoue 

In the 70's, former Partridge David Cassidy was so desperate to shake his clean-cut image that he posed naked, pubic hair peeking up into the frame, on the cover of Rolling Stone. The '90s indie-pop equivalent, shockwise, took place when Cub, a squeaky-clean pop-punk band from Vancouver, retaliated against an insulting fan at a concert in Houston.

"Someone in the back started shouting," explains bassist and lead vocalist Lisa Marr. "You know, 'Show us your tits,' 'you suck,' 'get off the stage,' blah, blah, blah. And he's hiding in the crowd so he can yell the stuff and not deal with us."

Not to be played like suckers, after the show, then-drummer Neko confronted the loudmouth, who called her a "whore." Neko responded with a roundhouse right. The story circulated wildly on the Internet. One small punch for a man, one giant skull crack for Cub's spotless image. 

Cub has a reputation for being a "cute girl band," a label that Marr, drummer Lisa G. and guitarist Robynn Iwata want to deconstruct. The Houston incident wasn't the first time they've been abused. They just reacted as they normally would. What surprised Marr was the outrage by some fans. 

"It became this weird media ploy," Marr says. "People were saying it was concocted, like we have a Hollywood studio system with publicists cranking out falsehoods for our image. It did surprise people, because, number one, girls aren't supposed to hit people, and number two, especially not Cub."

Cub's on the Web--well, almost! They have a tentative Official Home Page, but it's currently under construction. The Webmaster promises to put up a biography, pictures, sound clips, and other fun stuff. Check back soon! 

 When not brawling with the paying customers, Cub spreads its musical message of love through spry, minimalist punk pop with a sweet melody layered over the din. Following the examples set by the Ramones and Tiger Trap, Cub rocks lo-fi style--three-chord bliss with distortion-addled stomp boxes thrown into the mix. 

Cub can spin off cool pop songs in less than three minutes, something that bands like Smashing Pumpkins can't do in eight. On Betti-Cola (Mint Records), the band's compilation of old and new tracks, the minimalist singles-going-steady approach showcases Marr's warm, campfire-cozy voice and the band's jelly-bean jam. 

The 1995 release Come Out Come Out (Mint) reveals a steady maturity, ditching the goofier topics for traditional pop aesthetics. The latest split-CD with the Potatomen, The Day I Said Goodbye (Lookout! Records), finds the trio wrapped tight in traditional punk-pop wool with a black-dye job. "The stuff we're doing now is getting a little bit harder," Marr says. "It's more blatantly [saying], 'This is not a happy song, okay?' "

The band got its start in 1992 at a University of British Columbia college-radio station where Marr met Iwata. The two hooked up with a longtime friend, drummer Valeria Fellini. Valeria couldn't tour because she ran a candy store, so the band picked up Lisa G., an art-gallery proprietor and fanzine editor. 

The trio played basements around the Vancouver area, releasing numerous 7-inch singles and appearing on compilations in Canada and abroad. The band has garnered a rabid fan base and is currently on its 11th tour, sharing dates with The Queers and the Potatomen. (The tour comes to San Francisco's Trocadero Transfer on Nov. 21.) 

Cub fans are as dedicated as the ones who inhabit Wrigley Field. At a recent Slim's show with the Muffs and Queers, the fan quotient was Cub heavy. Lunchbox-carrying mopes swung their barrettes and pony tails, as if paying homage to the high priestesses of lo-fi pop. Fans don't just like Cub, they love Cub, worship Cub, be Cub. 

As a result, Cub gets a lot of mail. "I was joking a month ago that we've yet to receive our first letter from prison," Marr says, "and sure enough, a week later, one showed up. He's written us two letters. He likes U2 and Cub, and is in jail for killing someone with a baseball bat." 

Being held up as icons of cuteness leaves Cub in a quandary. The band has been heralded as the leaders of the emerging indie-pop subgenre called "cuddlecore," a style of jangly pop infused with idyllic, sometimes childish images--think Shonen Knife and Pest. 

True, Cub has played into that cuddly image, singing songs about parties and picnics, and even getting Archie comics kingpin Dan DeCarlo to do the cover art on Betti-Cola. The band's publicity photo shows the trio lounging in a bubble-filled tub. Ain't that cute? 

But Marr doesn't want Cub to go out like Shonen Knife, a band she perceives as cartoonish and one-dimensional. "I consider it entertainment," Marr says. "I'm not opening up my heart to everyone on stage, and it's not necessarily autobiographical. People think you are that person on stage, and that everything you write is true." 

Unfortunately, the "cute" factor isn't going away. In fact, when Marr uses the word, you can see the quotation marks dangling in midair. "That's something that's evolved over the course of the band," she says. "It'd seem like no matter what we'd say in interviews or what the music was saying, people were reading it on this very basic level: 'three cute girls.' Some people even thought we were still in high school." The band members are actually all in their late 20s. 

"I've had some trouble," Marr continues, "with people who come up to me and say, 'You're smoking?!' Or we'll run into people, and they'll say, 'Hi, Cub'--like we don't have names, like we're this thing that pumps out music and is always in a good mood, and all we eat is candy and run around singing all the time. Myths seem to self-perpetuate and soon you're pigeonholed and so many people are thinking you're one way." 

Cub is quickly sprouting claws to slice through the cute shrink wrap. The songs on the The Day I Said Goodbye are harder and faster. There's a techno remix of one of their earlier songs, "Go Fish," on Come Out Come Out, and the trio poses with Fugazi's legendary straight-edger Ian MacKaye inside the CD jacket.

"I think it surprises a lot of people," Marr says, "because it's not what they're expecting, which is my favorite thing to do--to come out and change expectations. People should think how they were three years ago and ask themselves if they'd want to be the same person. If you do, there's nothing I can help you with; if you don't, you can understand what we're going through." 

Marr believes that Cub sets an example for the Do It Youself movement in indie rock. Anyone can do this; just get together with some of your friends, strap on, plug in, and rock out. "It's always going to be a mystery," Marr says, of Cub's appeal. 

"It's more of us getting out there and having fun," she adds, "not being into the rock-star trip, not putting ourselves in a weird space or on a pedestal, and encouraging people to get involved. We meet a lot of people who say, 'I saw you play and now I have my own band.' I think we inspire that in people." 

And with all the pressure and expectations of being in a band, "cute" or not, it's still cool being Cub.

"Despite being tired or having a bad show, something going wrong, or being away from home all that time," Marr says, "each and every one of us sits back and says, 'I can't believe I'm doing this.' Just to record songs we've written, make videos, and travel around and meet people, it's an amazing way to live your life."
From the Nov. 16-Nov. 22, 1995 issue of Metro, Copyright © 1995 Metro Publishing and Virtual Valley, Inc.
Taken from Copyright the original publisher.

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