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Listen, L.A.: Carla Bozulich will not be ignored

Carla300 At this point anticipation is building among certain hardy-spirited listeners for the return of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a mysterious and powerfully evocative instrumental ensemble from Montreal. The band's sound is built on churning guitars and strings, and one could envision the act scoring the end of the world beautifully -- should Darren Aronofsky be given enough notice to film it.

They'll be at the Music Box on Wednesday, but not to be lost in that appearance is opening band Evangelista, the dark and relatively new project of Carla Bozulich. L.A. fans might remember Bozulich from the days of the industrial band Ethyl Meatplow, the skewed alt-country of the Geraldine Fibbers or maybe the many bracing shows with guitarist Nels Cline as Scarnella at the Smell. But in advance of this show and an upcoming fourth album with Evangelista for Constellation Records, the important thing for Bozulich is that she's remembered in her hometown, period.

In a long and heartfelt e-mail addressed to the Times music staff, Bozulich listed her sterling credentials from life "in the van," her love for her home city and frustration at her place in its musical fabric.

"I am a woman who has been shaped and raised by my hometown of Los Angeles," she writes. "And to have erased me from the history of your town is really odd and sort of endorses a stereotype I despise of our city."

"Now, I know my music is not easy to feel good to anymore," she continues. "I know I have changed over the years and that most people prefer easier stuff and certainly if there's a woman leading the group it doesn't hurt if she's young and hot . . . but I like to write surreal, heart-rending stuff and I like sound experiments and to take people on a trip through togetherness, love and sometimes bad dreams."

Carla250 As one might expect, that's about as solid a description of Bozulich's work with Evangelista as could be given. By way of example, Evangelista's second album, "Hello, Voyager,"  is an often harrowing concept album about the apocalypse, full of bent guitar wastelands, swaggering rock and Godspeed's string-born catharsis. Yet despite the grim subject matter, the record comes off as weirdly uplifting, finishing with Bozulich ranting like a charismatic preacher before ending on the innocently familiar lyric, "The word is love."

And she's right, it's not something for everybody, and in a 2008 interview Bozulich sounded conflicted about her expressive but potentially divisive new direction, one that can sound light years removed from prior work such as 2003's album-length cover of Willie Nelson's "Red Headed Stranger."

"It’s kind of an interesting thing because on one hand, how awesome is that to be totally and legitimately underground at the stage I’m at? People who find my music are really looking for music," she said at the time to this writer. "On the other hand, new tires on the van would be great."

Though finances still sound uncertain with a nomadic touring life abroad, Bozulich sounds less conflicted, even defiant, these days. "I never succumbed to playing pretty singer songwriter music and just, you know, 'behaving.' And I never will, " she wrote. "I don't wear mini-skirts anymore. I play thought-provoking music that is polarizing. Many people leave when they hear me, but then many cry openly and thank me for giving them something they have never heard before. That's me."

So resist the urge to show up fashionably late to that Fonda show, Godspeed fans, and lend an ear to something that might be difficult but served with furious, uncompromising passion. You might have forgotten about Carla Bozulich -- or never even heard of her, depending on your age -- but she hasn't forgotten L.A. "It is a crappy feeling to play once or twice a year in my hometown and warrant no mention, Los Angeles," she wrote. "We are NOT what they say! WE are full of history and rich culture which has CONTEXT."

Think of it a civic duty.

-- Chris Barton

Godspeed You Black Emperor with Evangelista on Feb. 23 at the Music Box, 6126 Hollywood Blvd. The show is sold-out. Secondary market tickets are in the $50 range. 

Photos: (Top) Carla Bozulich in 2004. Credit: Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times. Second photo courtesy of Bozulich.

Comments () | Archives (5)

LA loves the ones who make it. It's Hollywood...When a Junkie Whore ends up being just another log on the fire, LA does not come to seek warmth. It's a tough town but Carla should know that. She's had plenty of chances...no need to complain now.

Wuddup Jimmy James, AKA Bitter Broken Man from Times Past. Thank you for exemplifying the heart of this piece. Thank you for the "tough town" cliche...she is arguing the opposite if you pulled your head out of your crusty, jaded ass. LA is a lot more than the living cliche you are painting. There are hundreds of vibrant cultural cross-currents making life happen. Problem is, the ole "tough town" ladida is the only thing that makes the surface.

You know nothing about Jimmy James...Sometimes the truth is hard to swallow. But sometimes you just close your eyes and pretend you it's good for you. Don't choke...

What? Complaining? Carla Bozulich has written an honest and very clear statement about how she feels, where she is at with everything concerning music and what she wants and does not want with it. That is in no way complaining. To see someone trying to look down at her with such strange contempt and involve things that has nothing to do with what is in the article is to see someone trying to get a scapegoat for some reason. It is the rhetoric of someone who apparently is either jealous of such unique and wonderful talent or/and is having a bad time about something else and then projecting it on to this. It is simply not okay, what you write, Jimmy James, and I think you owe an apology and an explanation for your comments here. Although I am pretty sure with the way you try to represent some hard edge reality with your lame "you don't know Jimmy James" it will not be something anyone will experience, will it?

You know nothing about manners. Shame on you.

Carla Bozulich is one of the sexiest, fiercest and most uncompromising women in music, and has been for at least the last 15 years. She can easily be divisive, that's true, and she knows it, as she herself says. I don't think she's complaining at all here, I think she's saying that it would be nice if the Times (and other culture watchers in L.A.) would include artists like herself in the ever expanding reporting and sharing that this city is championed for. She's not just saying 'look at me', I think she's saying, 'remember to look at all of us, not just the 'young and hot' females doing the 'pretty' music that's on the charts right now'; Los Angeles is way more diverse than that. Those of us who grew up here know it. She, and I, hope we can still put some faith in institutions like the Times to not go all Hollywood on us - is that too much to ask?
I love Carlas' voice. I developed my crush watching her onstage in Signal Hill with the Geraldine Fibbers fifteen years ago. I named my guitar after her. She'll always be important to me.


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