Jen Schande, the indie songstress who split a 7” with The Cribs, and played in San Francisco’s Boyskout, recently launched her debut solo project 19: Songs for and Inspired by Valencia Chapter 19. Schande’s musical take on the autobiography by Michelle Tea displays complete ownership of 1990s indie rock – where mood, tone and angular guitars weave a narrative of attitude, wandering, wondering, lust and cycles. Valencia will be receiving film treatment as well, with each chapter filmed by a different director and different casts. Among those involved with the film are Michelle Tea herself, Margaret Cho, Jill Soloway and many others. The film has already gained support by SF Magazine and Curve and is currently being shopped around for Summer 2012 film festivals.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Schande prior to the July 17 self-release of the album to discuss the amazing food, incredible weirdos, and hidden treasures of her home city, San Francisco. Read the interview while you listen to this: Jen Schande – “Nice Fez”
1. What’s your town’s nickname?
San Francisco has many, actually…. Let’s see, there’s: The City, SF, Sucka Free, San Fran, Fog City, Frisco, City by the Bay….I know I’m forgetting some, but these are the main ones that come to mind.
2. What’s your nickname for your town?
The City. I haven’t made up my own nickname, unless “Home” counts, so I’m prepared to wear the boring hat on that one.
3. Why do you live there?
Countless reasons really, it’s tough to know where to start! The city of San Francisco itself is really beautiful – it’s full of parks, trees, interesting architecture, is on the coast and is full of breathtaking views. So there’s definitely aesthetic motives for living here. Another huge bonus is that there’s fun stuff to do pretty much always – there’s interesting cultural events (City Arts & Lectures being my favorite), there’s great diverse food, great diverse people, tons of music, theater, art, politics, activism….there’s tons of everything really….I’m into it and love the depth of what this city has to offer. San Francisco is also not too far from where I grew up and where my family still lives, so living in a city with easy access to them was an influential factor as well.
4. Did you grow up there? If not, what brought you there?
I grew up in Ventura, California which is about 360 miles south of San Francisco. Other than also being located along California’s coastline, the two cities have nothing in common. I went to college in Davis, California, which isn’t far from San Francisco and a lot of my college friends wound up moving here after we graduated. After college I lived in a lot of different places and had a lot of fun giving in to nomadic whims, but when I figured I’dl try sitting still and see how that worked out, picking San Francisco as a place to call home was a no brainer. A dynamic, beautiful city with an interesting history where I knew people, had friends, had friends to play music with and was close to my family? Done and done.
5. What’s the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you there?
Ha, oh man….Honestly, and I know this is gonna sound like a cop out, but based on stuff you see around San Francisco day to day there’s very little that strikes you as weird. I’m seriously stumped on how to answer this question because life here completely alters your barometer for measuring “weird” versus” “normal”. Walking around my neighborhood every day I see a group of nudists, stunning drag queens, a guy that walks around with a parrot on his shoulder, an elderly man that walks his huge black cat on a long red leash and, as of recently, there’s been a completely mental ventriloquist performing on the sidewalk. This is my normal and it’s to the point where if I don’t see any of these people when I’m walking around something feels genuinely off. So yeah, I’m really not convinced I have any credibility as to what is or isn’t weird about interactions that happen here. To that point though, it’s what I love about San Francisco and I think it’s why most people live here – be who you are, do what you want and not only will it all be ok, but you are probably a huge square compared to the next person.
6. What is your favorite local attraction (monument, park, etc)?
While Dolores Park, Chrissy Field and Golden Gate Park are top choices, my ultimate favorite is the Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building. Once you strip away the fact it’s jam packed with tourists and consequently there is a disproportionate number of non-ironic fanny packs and t-shirts bearing the names of cities, the setting is really stunning. The Ferry Building is right on the Bay so you can look at the water, see the Bay Bridge, see the East Bay (Oakland, Berkeley) and on sunny days there are lots of boats out on the water with the sunlight bouncing and reflecting everywhere…it really is beautiful. The produce is always top of top quality, all organic and from sustainable farms. The food is a bit overpriced, but the market is so charming I’m a sucker for it and chalk it up to a bourgeois-y indulgence.
On a side note – who knew that being able to get the best kale, spinach and almonds would suddenly becomes life’s key to happiness and top priority? The involuntary shift of priorities that come with aging works in mysterious ways I suppose…
7. What is your favorite local event or festival?
I really like the Rock Make Street Festival, an annual street fair that happens in September. The focus is all local – local bands, local crafts, local arts and local food. I also really love the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival, which happens in October, and is something everyone should get a chance to see at some point in their life. There’s also a monthly dance party called Hard French which is one of the best times you will ever have. It’s all Soul music, all vinyl and always one of the most delightfully debaucherous days you’ll have. What I love about Hard French is that other being an amazing party, the organizers are completely community minded so there are always fundraising and donations being made for local charities and organizations.
8. What is the best time of year to be there?
October. Oddly enough I don’t have a compelling argument as to why October’s the best, it just instantly popped into my head after reading the question. October is warmer than most months here in the city, so there’s that…
9. Who is your favorite local celebrity?
The man in my neighborhood who walks his cat on a leash, even though he’s a celebrity only in my eyes. Hands down. I am so fascinated by him that actual celebrities pale in comparison. Runners up would be Frank Chu and the Tamale Lady, but as it stands walking a huge house cat on a leash is the key to winning my unwavering fandom.
10. Where is the best place to drink and what’s their specialty or happy hour?
Regarding happy hour I honestly don’t know ’cause while I live in San Francisco, I work in Cupertino (about 45 miles south) and so because of the commute I’m never back home in time for happy hour. As for places to drink, this city is in abundance of fun watering holes, which is good for fun times ad maybe not so good for your liver. Off the top of my head I would list El Rio, The Knockout, Bar 821, Pop’s, The Liberties, LiPo Lounge, Phone Booth and Hemlock Tavern as my favorite places to meet up for a drink. I mainly go to bars where there’s bands also, as it’s killing two birds with one stone.
11. Who has the best jukebox (and what’s in it)?
That would be the Phone Booth and their jukebox has everything you’re in the mood to hear. I realize that’s not very specific but it’s a really great eclectic mix of all genres. Lucky 13 has a solid jukebox as well, with much more of a rock bend to it: Melvins, X, stuff like that.
12. Do you play music there? If so, where is your favorite place to play?
I do play music with my band Schande and I DJ as well (vinyl only, thank you kindly). I DJ twice a month at a bar called El Rio, which as mentioned above is one of my favorite bars, so getting to DJ there and play shows there as is pretty awesome. The Hemlock Tavern and The Knockout are also among my favorite places to play, but pretty much anywhere our friends are makes a place fun to play.
13. Does where you live influence your music?
That’s tough to say really. I feel like in many ways the answer is no, but that also feels impossible as no one is immune to their environment and its influence. I think San Francisco influences me in a more inadvertent way – like being inspired by the people I know being in incredible bands, or DJs, or community activists and feeding off of their passion and energy. Truth be told, that kind of influence could happen anywhere so the only thing that makes this San Francisco specific is that the people that influence me live here.
But yeah, as far as there being any kind of distinctive San Francisco sound that has influenced my song writing, style or lyric content I really can’t pinpoint any influence.
14. What is your favorite place to see live music and what was your favorite show there?
I love seeing small shows at Hemlcok Tavern, The Knockout and El Rio. For bigger name shows hands down it’s Great American Music Hall- that places is so beautiful. Archers of Loaf, Electrelane and Pavement stand out as great shows I’ve seen there.
As for the Hemlock – my favorite show there was seeing Shannon & the Clams. This band is amazing and if we’re all lucky they will rule the world one day. I recently saw Kristen Hersh play at The Knockout which was surreal since it’s a tiny bar, so that would be my favorite show in recent memory that I’ve seen there. As for El Rio – so many great shows there…Mist Giant and Night Call right now stand out as favorites.
Thee Parkside is also fun for shows – not only do they have a really great kitchen but they sell kale chips behind the bar which will always, always win points with me. I saw Grass Widow play there over the summer and, as should be the case with anyone who can hear, I do love that band.
15. What is your favorite local band?
Street Eaters, Mist Giant, Al Lover & the Haters, Bam! Bam!, Night Call, Shannon & the Clams, Li Xi and Big Drag are among the many great local bands that have palace in my heart.
16. What is your favorite diner or restaurant and what is their best dish
For sushi it has to be Sushi Zone. I don’t eat meat, dairy or gluten but every now I’ll bend and eat sushi here because the words to describe how delicious their food is do not exist. It’s that good. All fresh and handmade, it’s the kind of place where you eat yourself into a food coma stupor because you want everything. The Hawaiian Roll #2 was my favorite – Tuna, Mango, macadamia nut, avocado…oh so good…..
Cafe Flore makes an Avocado Salad with Tempeh that I dream about somewhat regularly
Club Wazeima is my favorite for Ethiopian
Esperpento is amazing for Tapas
Taqueria Poncho Villa has my favorite tofu and veggie tacos
Eddie’s Cafe was my favorite diner – the best eggs, bacon & sausage.
Zadin is a great modern Vietnamese restaurant that makes a gluten free green curry with tofu and spinach noodles. It actually make me hungry just thinking about it. Their tofu spring rolls are crave-worthy also.
I should come clean and admit I’m the world’s most boring eater so this list doesn’t even scrape the surface of all the great food you can get in SF.
17. What is your favorite record store and what was your best find there?
Rooky Ricardo’s is my favorite for old soul/r&b records. The owner Dick is the nicest guy ever and often gives you CD mixes of music he likes, which of course are gems you’ve never head but always love. “You’ll Lose a Good Thing” by Barbara Lynn on 7″, as well as the Solomon Burke and Gary Bonds 7″s I recently found, are my favorite finds. Recycled Records is cool for all genres and the dudes who work there are really nice, which is always a perk. My best find there was probably Nebraska by Bruce Springsteen. We’re lucky enough to have Amoeba Records in town, so even though I know it’s a chain and isn’t 100 percent San Francisco specific, I cannot count the number of great records I’ve bought from there. Free At Last and Uh Uh Baby by Little Willie John top the list for sure. I also really like The Explorist International – they have cool art, books and really great vinyl. Their selection is mainly Soul and International, and the store is full of beautiful vintage 45 players and phonographs. My favorites from there have been Jacques Dutronc and Francoise Hardy 7″s.
18. What is your favorite local publication (alternative weekly, zine, website or blog)?
Wiretapmusic.com. It’s on a bit of a hiatus right now, but it’s a great site that focuses entirely on local music. One of my closest friends started the site, another very close friend is the main editor and in its initial stages I wrote a few reviews for them. So, truth be told, I’m a bit emotionally tied to the site and biased. However, it is a clever site with great writing, great video interviews and a great focus on local artists.
19. What is your favorite local shop?
There’s a great store on Divisadero called The Other Shop. They have antique and vintage furniture, vintage clothes, vintage knick knacks, records and just really cool stuff. Accident & Artifact on Valenica is also a place I really like. They sell a combination of art and antiques – the kind of stuff you can stare at for hours and work on very creative economic justifications for how and why you should buy everything you see. I got a couple of really cool old geometry posters from there and I love stopping in any time I’m in the neighborhood.
20. If you could live anywhere else, where would that be?
St. Petersburg, Russia. I’ve never been but I hear it’s beautiful and similar to San Francisco in a lot of ways. Russian architecture is so stunning and to be surrounded by that, while being able to wander around Dostoevsky’s stomping grounds, seems dreamy. I haven’t spent loads of time in Eastern Europe, but from my experiences there I felt an air that was so mesmerizing and energizing. I’ve only been in the winter time, so I have limited perspective, but the east still feels very rustic, even in the cities, charmingly behind the times, slightly cold and sharp, slightly dark and mysterious, obviously rich in history and just kind of exotic in its own way. Exotic metropolitanism, if that makes sense. The cobbled streets and old buildings that have survived modern warfare all tell their own stories and they distribute an energy that just runs through your veins. Being surrounded by so much history, I dunno….I’m nerding out now, but it does a lot for me.
(For more on Schande, visit her Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/SchandeMusic.)