Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Contraband kitties: A chat with Jolie Holland

Posted By on Tue, Feb 1, 2011 at 4:42 PM

It's been just over two years since I last spoke with the enigmatic ANTI- recording artist Jolie Holland. Late last week, we caught up a bit, chatting about her forthcoming cookbook, early gospel recordings, rogue cats and the upcoming Super Bowl.

So what have you been up to in the past two years?
I started writing a book ... I dunno, I probably moved a couple times. Just keep moving within Brooklyn.

What's the nature of the tour with Kyp Malone -- is it collaborative?
We're friends, and we've been talking about playing music together for a while and -- Oh, no! A kitty just snuck in the room! I'm staying with some friends who have cats, and everyone I'm on tour with is allergic to cats. This is a contraband cat. Yeah, Kyp got me to sing on a TV on the Radio song a while back, and it went on the European version of the album, so it's not something a lot of people would be familiar with.

What's the book you're writing about? Are you at liberty to talk?
I really love to cook, and I kind of have to cook, because I've had so many weird health problems over the past few years. I got poisoned by a car, and my liver was super-sensitive, so I was trying to eat in a way that wouldn't hurt me. And before that I was a vegan, so I've always had to cook a lot for myself. So this cookbook is based on the work of a couple of nutritionists I really admire -- really amazing nutritionists whose work really runs counter to what a lot of people consider to be healthy food. Like, when I first started working with this woman Freida Lee, she gave me a lecture about how I needed to drink more coffee. It's been really fun being on her program, because I love coffee.

So you're hyped-up all the time.
No, no. When you get your thyroid working properly it doesn't affect you that way anymore. It's weird.

What have you been listening to lately that you've been particularly affected by?
Over the past few years, I've been really crazy about the Georgia Sea Island Singers, and I'm extra crazy about them right now. I looked for them on Facebook because I was writing about them and thinking about them and I thought, "I wanna 'like' them, on my page" -- not even my band page, but my friend page. Then I found them, and they didn't even have a picture, and I was the 22nd person that liked them. Then one of their main singers is a lady -- she wrote books and stuff, she was really cool, her name is Bessie Jones -- she really passed on a lot of beautiful cultural notes about how she grew up, and Georgia Sea Island culture. I went to look for her and seventy-some people liked her. And there was a picture of her. So I "liked" her too.

So she was like the Diana Ross of the Georgia Sea Island Singers.
[laughs] Yeah, sort of.

So what about this group moves you?
It's super early gospel recordings from a culturally isolated place -- it's from an island. And almost the entire slave population was from Sierra Leone, because they were brought over to grow rice, so they were brought from a rice-growing region. So unlike a lot of other ex-slave communities -- and, like, Bessie Jones's dad was a slave, and born in Africa -- there's a lot more cultural cohesion than a lot of other communities. When you hear the music, it's mostly clapping, stomping and singing, and some of the songs, you're not used to hearing that kind of music with English words. It's really beautiful. Often you hear African-American music and it's so much more "American" than "African." This is so African. And it's so beautiful.

You're going to be here with Kyp, who's a native Pittsburgher, two days before the Super Bowl. Are you guys excited? Are you going to play a Steelers song? I've been working on a story about local bands writing Steelers fight songs --
That's so cute! [laughs] Maybe we will! My uncle played professionally, he might've played for Pittsburgh, I can't remember the story. But yeah -- Kyp keeps saying "I'm going to the Super Bowl!" just because his town is going to the Super Bowl. And there's tragic story of [tourmate] Grey Gurston -- he's from Chicago, and the Bears bombed so horribly.

Jolie Holland and Kyp Malone appear Friday, Feb. 4 at Club Cafe, 56 S. 12th St., South Side. Look for my interview with Kyp Malone in this week's CP.


click to enlarge PHOTO: SCOTT IRVINE
  • Photo: Scott Irvine

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