But besides the tired emphasis on gender, perhaps too much is also made of her technically adept prowess—skills she’s quick to downplay.n
“In terms of general guitar players, I think I’m OK,” she says. And she’s not a “techie.” Stern doesn’t hang around Guitar Center on weekends drooling over the telecaster she would love to buy if rent weren’t due this month—or ever. “There’s tons of equipment I’d love to buy, but I’m so broke. My roots are showing because I can’t afford to get my hair dyed.”n
But Stern’s lack of formal training and passing interest in gear helps inform her unique rock symphonies—right down to the serendipitous acquisition of a double-necked Epiphone, Danelectro Japanese, and trusty old Jazzmaster.
“I lived across the street from a guitar shop and became friends with the owner. He basically sold me on the guitars I got and it ended up shaping my sound,” she says from her Manhattan apartment where she hibernated during August working to refine her manic vocal delivery—beeps, squeals and screeches rather akin to those of Deerhoof’s Satomi Matsuzaki. These days, she’s sticking closer to her natural register.n
“It was so hard to tour and sing like that every night,” Stern says.n
The shift in tone can be heard on her new sophomore LP, This Is It and I Am It and You Are It and So Is That and He Is It and She Is It and It Is It and That Is That, an album whose rambling title Stern settled on when singer/songwriter St. Vincent inadvertently selected Marry Me for her own 2007 debut.n
Stern preferred Marry Me—a line lifted from an episode of Arrested Development in which teenage character Maeby Fünke infiltrates a Hollywood studio and poses as a 30-something film exec.n
“Marry Me,” Fünke tells a superior when his line of questioning threatens to expose her rouse. Stern believed the random reference best captured her decision to record a much looser, less concept-oriented follow-up to In Advance.n
Based on an essay by Zen philosopher Alan Watts, This Is It … reflects Stern’s take on “this weird music time of competitiveness and non-camaraderie. I like the idea of just embracing everyone and everything. It’s like, ‘Everyone’s great—go with it,’” she says.n
Stern isn’t interested in being—or sounding—like anyone else. In fact, even when she attempts to channel other artists (check out her version of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing”) the result is always fresh, fun and a little bizarre.n
“There are those people who are trained from school and can read perfectly and play anything you give them. I am in awe of them,” she says. “It scares me because I feel it would fuck with my creativity.”n
MARNIE STERN w/ Gang Gang Dance @ Kilby Court, 741 S. 330 West, Saturday, Nov. 8, 7:30 p.m.