The Bastard Fairies
Undeniably, the most original, entertaining collection of music I've heard recently is on The Bastard Fairies' debut Memento Mori. The band is made up of Yellow Thunder Woman (Yup, that's her real name --- she's a Native American) who does vocals and writes the lyrics and Robin Davey who writes all the music and plays the instruments. The pair met when their mutual love of film-making drew them together to create the award-winning documentary The Canary Effect (http://thecanaryeffect.com/).
Memento Mori is stuffed full of 17 songs that are quirky as they are gorgeous. Yellow Thunder Woman's cutting humor is quickly evident on such gems as "We're All Going to Hell" and "Guns and Dolls". The sparse instrumentation fits the material like a glove, augmenting but not overshadowing the message and her sassy yet seductive vocal.
The band has become an Internet sensation due to a couple of things. First off, they decided to release their record as a free download. Before you knew it, they had over 200,000 single song downloads and over 50,000 complete album downloads. Then they cut their own homemade videos and posted them on YouTube. All are terrific but none better than their seven minute promo video which features Davey as the eccentric host.
If there was ever an example of indie music exerting its new found muscle over the big boys, this is it. If you're not familiar with the band, get your fingers flying on the computer keyboard over to their websites and get acquainted. You will definitely benefit from the experience. Then order the CD which has five bonus cuts and a DVD where you can enjoy The Bastard Fairies in all their glorious quirkiness.
I spoke to Yellow Thunder Woman recently and found out that despite the band's instant success, she's far from your average rock star.
antiMUSIC: I got your CD last week and I love it. It's the only thing I can play right now. Congrats. It's awesome.
Yellow Thunder Woman: (laughs) Thank you. I feel the same way. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: Who are the Bastard Fairies and how did you come to be a band?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Well, basically. Me and Robin Davey met like about five years ago. Maybe a little bit more than that. He produced my brother's and sister's albums and we met then. And I always wanted to be a director and he did a couple of short films and stuff so we started talking about doing a documentary together and I wanted, ever since I was 15, I wanted to do a documentary about you know Native American issues. And so we talked about that. And we decided to do that eventually. And then we ended up both moving to L.A. and we just kinda got together and we said let's do it, let's just make the documentary and so we started working on that. And towards the end of the production of that, we, well actually I said, I want to have a band, and I want to make an album and I would really love it if you could co-produce it, or produce it with me. And he was just like, "Ah, I don't think I really want to work with you in that way." (Laughs) Because he'd known me for so long. It was like, "You know, you hate musicians and you hate music. I don't think I really want to work with you…" (laughs). I was like "But that's the point! The point is I want to make a f---ing great album. You know, I want to make an album I can actually f---ing listen to." And you know, after a month solid of us editing the film, and me just bugging the s--- out of it and just saying: it's going to be f---ing amazing, it's going to be cool and you know, trying to sell the whole idea to him, eventually he just gave in. The first song we recorded was "The Greatest Love Song" and then after that he was just like, "Yeah this is f---ing amazing." (laughs)
antiMUSIC: So you had not done any music prior to that?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Ah, no. I grew up with musicians and stuff and I always hated music. I hated my brothers' and sisters' music and I just really didn't want to have anything to do with it on that side of things because it was all just a bunch of f---ing bulls---. But I never sang before or anything. For some reason I just wanted to do it. Sometimes I don't really think things out in a more psychological way. I kinda did it on more of an impulse just like: "Hey I should make an album." (laughs) That's kinda how I work. And this is the craziest thing---I always come out with these ideas like this and I am so persistent that I always finish them. And then people always laugh at me when I say: I'm going to do this, and I'm going to that. And people will go, "Yeah right". And then I end up doing it and they're going, "Oh wow". She actually f---ing did it, that crazy bitch. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: That's nuts that you didn't even have any musical background and just started doing it. How did the songs come about then? Did you have a lot of ideas before that?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Well actually I came up with music video ideas before I even came up with the song. (laughs) I wanted this director. And I wanted this music video and I wanted it to look like this and I had all these ideas and stuff for all these music videos. And that was the first thing I came up with and then just writing was really weird, because I wanted to be an author my whole childhood. I wanted to write novels and I used to write a lot of short stories and stuff. So writing lyrics, writing things that you know had to rhyme and s--- like that was a bit weird but I guess that's why a lot of the lyrics are strange and you know kind of a bit off. (laughs). But yeah, I mean, it was really fun just doing something new and doing it in a completely different way to any other, you know, band or whatever. You know the way they get so serious about it and they think it's you know that they're going to be big, when really the percentage of people that actually make it is actually quite small. And more likely than not, you're not really going do anything and end up being a f---ing session player or something. But yeah, I didn't like think that anything was ever really going to come of it and I never expected it to and to be honest I still don't. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: So it must surprise you to keep getting all this press and everything else then?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Yeah, it is weird because I really don't quite know how to handle it, cause I don't think about s--- like that. I'm more into the creative process, you know, I don't really care about the press or anything like that. I just enjoy the creative process and just f---ing having fun because I think that's the whole point of it. I mean, musicians are f---ing basically you know, Peter Pan kinda victims. You know, they never f---ing grow up and you know you see all these f---ing musicians who are a lot older than me who will never f---ing grow up and they're stuck in that f---ing thing where they want everyone to love them and they want to be loved by millions of people because you know, being loved by just one person isn't enough. Because Daddy didn't love me enough or something like that. But yeah, musicians basically suffer from the Peter Pan syndrome and then they take it so seriously. It's a little game. It's a fun little thing they do. And if you can't have fun with it, what's the f---ing point?
antiMUSIC: So when you started writing music, were the division of duties fairly split?
Yellow Thunder Woman: It was definitely Robin doing like most of the, cause you know I don't play any instruments, so he kinda did all that side of it. He'd come up with a cool guitar line that had a nice melody and then I'd write a melody over that and come up with the lyrics and everything. It's pretty funny when I come up with lyrics first, and then the melody, because he'll kinda look at me and just go, "Oh my god, these lyrics are insane but I'll come up with a guitar line for it." (laughs)
antiMUSIC: So he has no choice but to keep going with it.
Yellow Thunder Woman: (laughs) Yeah. I don't know. If I had a nickel for every time he rolled his eyes at me. (laughs) I'd be a rich woman right now. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: How fast did the record come together?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Well, I had a goal of like doing the album in five days. Because I wanted to…I'm a very impatient person, so I just wanted to get it done as quickly as possible. And we almost reached it actually, but Robin's family came into town and he had to hang out with them. So they pretty much f---ed up my idea and I hate them for it. (laughs) but we got it finished, probably 90 per cent of it finished I like a week.
antiMUSIC: So like five days, just not five consecutive days, right?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Yeah.
antiMUSIC: On the thing that I have, it's got 17 songs. So you did 17 songs in a week?
Yellow Thunder Woman: No, we actually got 90 per cent of it done so we did a few songs like later afterwards we did like the bonus stuff.
Yellow Thunder Woman: And that was later on. That was kinda like more recently. Just before you know we decided to physically release the album, we decided to record a few extra tracks and stuff to basically get people to buy it. I don't know if they're any better than the other ones. Hopefully I can fool people.
antiMUSIC: You began releasing the CD on line, just giving it away. Whose idea was that?
Yellow Thunder Woman: That was mine. I don't know, I, like I said I didn't f---ing take it seriously. It wasn't a big deal to me. You know, we didn't spend any money on it. And what happened was we set up a MySpace page, which I had no idea about MySpace, I had no knowledge of it, and so we set up a MySpace page and somebody contacted us from Showtime, they have this show called The L Word or whatever...a lesbian show. And they wanted to use "The Boy Next Door" and so I was like "Cool, give me some money and you can use it." And they were like ok, they paid us for the song and you know we only spent like $5 on the album, so we already recouped well over what the album cost. (laughs) and I was just like that's f---ing cool. Let's just give it away. I don't care. I don't care if people like it or not. Let's just give it away for free and see what people think.
antiMUSIC: Why did you select Memento Mori as the title track?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Well, yeah, it's just basically like realizing, it means to realize your own mortality kind of thing. And the whole album is a real social commentary and just about human issues. And I think the more and more I write, and the more and more I learn about psychology and the human brain, I think the more descriptive I'm going to be about human issues, and just basically personality traits and everything which is very interesting to me. You know I love all that s---. I love psychology. I think it's f---ing just amazing. And I love learning about it. And I started actually learning about it when I was doing The Canary Effect because you have to have an extreme sense of empathy in order to get emotion across in a documentary like that. So that's when I started studying psychology and started finding out about the brain and finding out about human patterns and basically we're a bunch of robots. It's very interesting. (chuckle)
antiMUSIC: Your videos are amazing. It really goes to show that you don't need a $100,000 budget to get something memorable. Do the concepts come easy to you, or do you spend a lot of time figuring them out?
Yellow Thunder Woman: No. (laughs) They're very spur of the moment. (laughs) I don't really work like that. I don't like spending too much time on anything. You can ask Robin. (laughs) One day, I'll pop up like and say "Okay, this is what we're going to do and it's going to be cool". And he's like, "Ok let's do it". (laughs)
antiMUSIC: So it's nice to be just 2 people. You don't need a meeting to get something approved.
Yellow Thunder Woman: No, that was the thing. It's one thing that we, well not we, but I wanted to f---ing stay away from. And actually Robin as well because he's been a musician ever since he was like 14. He was in a band that was really big in England and he was signed to lots of record label and stuff and when we were making the record he was actually signed to Interscope and it was just awful, you know. The record industry was just going down big time. And his experience with Interscope was very traumatizing for him and that was one of the reasons he didn't want to get back into music because he'd just had enough of it. And I didn't want to get signed to any big record label at all. I was just like totally against it. And we actually got approached by a few of them. And I was just like, "no, it's ok". (laughs) It's all bulls---. And I've had experiences with it before with my brothers and sisters. They got pretty big in kinda like the blues community. They played like that stupid Stevie Ray Vaughn blues-rock bulls---. And they got pretty big. And they got signed to a few record labels and they got f---ed around a lot and you know it's not worth it. And it's not worth getting too serious about the whole music thing, I think.
antiMUSIC: You haven't done any live shows...correct?
Yellow Thunder Woman: No, I did a few. I did one which was supposed to be a big one, at the Viper Room. I ended up giving the crowd the finger and telling them to f--- off. And (laughs), I got into a fight with a bouncer afterwards, like a huge 300 pound steroid using bouncer. And he was being like such a dickhead. Like they took it so seriously. Like The Viper Room is supposed to be such a special thing, when it's this little s--- hole. (laughs) And we basically didn't have any instruments. We had the banjo, Robin's guitar and kahone, which is this little box thing that's basically a snare and a kick in one. And we had that, and we were sitting at our table and there was this other band going on after us, and you know, you couldn't see the instruments. They're all packed away behind us at this table, and this bouncer came up and said: "You guys have to f---ing move your s---. If you don't get it out of here you're going to have to leave." And then I was just like "What the f---?" Then Colly and Robin started grabbing the stuff. Colly's the banjo player and they started going out, and I just went up to the bouncer and I like hit him on the back and he turns around and I put my finger in his face and I said. "FUCK YOU, you f---ing a--hole." And I stormed out. And then he followed me out and he said: "Why the hell did you do that? Why the f--- did you do that?" And I said; "Because you're a f---ing faggot and you like it." (laughs) So yeah, we're not going to get invited back to the Viper Room any time soon. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: Probably not.
Yellow Thunder Woman: I don't care. I wouldn't f---ing play there if they paid me a million bucks.
antiMUSIC: So what else are you planning in terms of shows or are you planning on it?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Well, yeah, I mean, I plan on doing shows but it's not really that important. I want to play shows to people who are my fans and stuff. And to people who will f---ing get it and appreciate it. But you know, the fact is, when you do a little YouTube video. And it takes like a couple of minutes to do it, and you put it out there and thousands and thousands of people view it immediately, I mean that's better than any f---ing gig that you can get anywhere. And so you know, I'm pretty satisfied with doing that. But yeah we plan on doing shows and we plan on doing maybe a tour. But basically, I'm very picky about what I'm going to do. I don't want to do f---ing gigs where… because I'm not like a f---ing neophyte. I don't think, (in a whispery voice) oh this is going to be my big break. This is where I'm going to get famous. I don't believe in that s---. I know that you do a f---ing gig to people who don't know who you are, it doesn't f---ing matter. It's stupid. It's f---ing pointless. Unless you're getting paid a whole hell of a lot. Which renders it a little bit, you know, it has a little bit more point then. You know when you're first starting out, bands always do these f---ing horrible gigs and they think they're so important when really they're not.
antiMUSIC: Do you still have lots to say lyrically? Can you see your next record coming out later this year or are you just taking it one day at a time?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Well I mean. I constantly like write, and I constantly write songs. And me and Robin, in between work and everything we do, we direct videos together and stuff. In-between that we're constantly writing. It's normally when we're both very, very drunk. (laughs) And you know that's when (whispery) all the magic happens. (laughs) I really do want to make this second album, like right away. And I'm very anxious about that. You'll probably see that coming out pretty soon. And I think it's going to be weird, because I don't believe in putting yourself into a genre. I think that's the biggest mistake that anybody can do. Because you buy a f---ing rock album, you listen to the first song, and you can basically predict that the other songs are going to sound pretty much the same. Because you can't really do much with rock. You can't do much with reggae. You know, it all f---ing sounds the same after a while. To just not label yourself and just do f---ing things that sound cool to you, I think is the best thing.
antiMUSIC: The sound of each song is different, considering there's not scads of instrumentation. They all sound different…but part of the same family.
Yellow Thunder Woman: Yeah, well they're very bastardized kinda, whatever. And also because I don't really like a lot of music that much. I'm very specific on certain things that I like. You know, I like Philip Glass, and Tom Waits, Nick Cave, obviously, but that's kinda basically the type of music that I like.
Yellow Thunder Woman: Well, I don't know if it's non commercial but I know it sounds pretty f---ing cool. And that's kinda how I work. And even Robin, he comes from a very musical background and he's been in a kinda blues rock band and he's been in a kinda rock and roll band and whatever, you know, he'll come up with cool things. And he's a big fan of the Beatles, so he'll come up with like really kinda catchy things but you know the fact is, I don't really like music that much and so, whenever I hear something I don't like I'm really brutally honest, so it's actually quite difficult working with me. (laughs) Because I just go; "oh my god, that's f---ing awful. That sounds like crap. You should probably die for coming up with that." (laughs)
antiMUSIC: Well at least he'll know you'll be honest when you do like something as well?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Yeah. It takes a really calm kinda person in order to work with me (laughs).
antiMUSIC: Yeah, well he looks like that in the video too.
Yellow Thunder Woman: He knows me so he just goes, "yeah, of course you'd say that, that's you, let's keep going then."
antiMUSIC: You're probably sick of explaining but where does the band name come from?
Yellow Thunder Woman: No, I'm not sick of explaining it. I've already got it pre-prepared answer. (laughs) It's easy to explain that. I didn't like the band The Pixies. There's a couple of songs I really like of theirs but I really like the name. Pixies. It's just so memorable. I have a bad memory when it comes to names and stuff. And so I just kinda said, I want a f---ing cool name like that. I want a name like the pixies. But I want it to have like you know, something with like fairies. Because at the time I'd bought these fairy wings, which are the infamous ones that I wear in photos and stuff. And I said; it would be really cool to have fairies in the name, and I was trying to figure out something. And I said I want to be like a contradiction, you know a cool name that you could remember. And we were like playing with stuff and then one day Robin came up to me and said, "Okay I've got the other part of the name." And I was like "Okay what?" "The Bastard Fairies." And I was like; "Yup, there it is." It's perfect. It's very memorable. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: So you must have been taken by surprise by the all the attention to your videos and MySpace?
Yellow Thunder Woman: Yeah, it's really weird. I don't know. I didn't really expect it at all.
antiMUSIC: Do you think it's a good thing or bad thing?
Yellow Thunder Woman: I think it is what it is. I don't know. It could easily turn into a bad thing. It could easily turn into a great thing. But at this point, I don't know. It is weird, all the attention, but I'm kinda a bit disjointed from it, because I don't pay attention to all that s---. I'm much more interested in expanding my mind and growing new neurons and stuff like that and reading books. So I'm a bit of a recluse when it comes to all that crap. But Robin isn't, and he takes a huge interest in it, and he's constantly telling me, "Oh yeah, this, and people are doing this", and that, and I'm like, "Wow, that's pretty obsessive." (laughs)
antiMUSIC: What is the plan for the rest of 2007 now that you have the record out?
Yellow Thunder Woman: To earn money. To do The Bastard Fairies. I want to make, I actually want to make a film, I want to make another documentary. And I've been doing research you know to do another documentary about religion and stuff.
antiMUSIC: That should be interesting (laughs).
Yellow Thunder Woman: Oh yeah, because I'm just completely not religious at all and it's going to be interesting. (laughs). More death threats. I like that sort of thing. It's a little bit more believable than the people that pretend to love you. (laughs) Like the research part is something that's ongoing. Like The Canary Effect, I did loads of research on that, and now I'm like over that. I'm just more fascinated with other things. Like I want to do a documentary on prisons and I also just want to direct like a fictional film. There's a script I've been working on ever since I was like 13, and I eventually want to do that. But I want to wait until I have the budget and the time and everything and get the right stupid backer that would get behind it. It has to be somebody who's really dumb that doesn't care what I'm doing with it. A flaky person that forgets that they gave you money.
antiMUSIC: That just signs the check and goes away.
Yellow Thunder Woman: Yeah. (laughs) That's what I need.
antiMUSIC: That's all the questions I have for you. Is there anything else you would like to me about the record or the band that I didn't ask?
Yellow Thunder Woman: No I don't think so. Except that it's f---ing awesome. That's it. (laughs)
antiMUSIC: I would agree. There are so many great songs. "Everyone Has A Secret" is exellent and so is "Guns and Dolls".
Yellow Thunder Woman: It's funny. When I wrote the lyrics to that, Robin just looked at me and said: "Okay, you do realize that this is insane?" Yeah, of course. It's me. What more would you expect? (laughs) I think probably my favorite song would have to be "A Case Against Love". Yeah. I think that's my favorite song. So far. But my ultimate favorite song is the one that I haven't written yet.
antiMUSIC: For the next record.
Yellow Thunder Woman: (laughs). Yeah.
antiMUSIC: Well we'll be looking forward to hearing it. Hope this one does well. Thanks for speaking with us.
Yellow Thunder Woman: Yeah, cool. Thank you. It was a pleasure.
Morley Seaver and antiMUSIC thank Yellow Thunder Woman for doing this interview.