Legendary LA musician Exene Cervenka is back in Southern California after a four-year stint in Missouri. Now based in Orange County, she returns armed with Somewhere Gone, her latest and perhaps most intriguing album to date. Featuring Joe Terry and Amy Farris, both of whom worked with Dave Alvin, along with Cindy Wasserman (Dead Rock West) and Jason Edge (The Original Sinners), the album is as much a collaborative effort as it is Cervenka's solo project.
" They were great musicians that I knew I could trust to come up with clever and amazing and brilliant parts and they did," says Cervenka. "It was a give and take."
The end result is an album that subtly crosses between folk, psychedelic and orchestral pop sounds. It is also an album tinged with sadness upon its release. Farris, who played cello, violin, viola and fiddle as well as sang with Cervenka on "The Willow Tree," passed away last week.
LA Weekly caught up with Cervenka in Los Feliz two weeks ago to ask a few questions about her return to the Los Angeles area. She will be performing with John Doe at the Echoplex this Friday.
What brings you back to California?
Oh, the hard questions first. It is yet to be revealed. It was a decision I made over the summer. I think it was the people that brought me back. Friends.
Has LA changed for you?
It's too soon to tell and I'm in a different part now, in Orange County. It doesn't seem as crazy as when I left, but maybe it's just my perceptions have changed. I believe that anything that's different is my perception.
What do you mean by crazy?
Well, it's just that the city is so gigantic and there's so many people here and the traffic and the earthquakes. I wanted to get out. I had to get away from people for a while, but I think what changed more was my actual perception of it.
You seem to have a pretty long history with the musicians on this album.
It's a big community, which I didn't realize I missed until I was gone, with Dave [Alvin], The Knitters and all of the extended friends and family of those bands. I think it's neat that everyone shares each other musically. Dave Alvin and the Knitters, my band, Dead Rock West, the people John Doe plays with, everyone plays together. I think that it's a really good time. It reminds me of the late '70s, early '80s, which is saying a lot because that was a special time.
When you say that it reminds you of the late '70s, early '80s, does that mean in terms of the city itself?
It all goes back to the people. LA was an amazing place in the late '70s and early '80s because of the people that are here... I just feel like I'm again in a really strong situation with creative people, wiser, older.
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What struck you about the city when you first came here?
Well, I had never lived in a big city before, so it was pretty insane to see downtown. Westwood seemed like such a big town to me. I just thought that it was incredibly beautiful, and it was in the late '70s.
Do you have a part of town that's your favorite?
Chinatown. I love Chinatown. It hasn't changed at all, it's just a little hipper. I love Chinatown, I could go there all the time. The wishing well is still the same and all that. I hope it doesn't change. All the shops there with the plastic kitchen things. I want to go there right now.