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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Juliana Hatfield
Disturbing: Juliana Hatfield has no intention of selling out.

Photo by Jim Goldberg

Kid-Sister Act:
Indie rock's favorite kid sis, Juliana Hatfield, grows up on 'Please Do Not Disturb'

IN SOME WAYS, Juliana Hatfield is the Jodie Foster of indie rock, the talented kid sis everybody roots for. After gaining underground success with the Blake Babies, she set off on a solo career that netted a minor hit about a fictitious sibling ("My Sister"). Both a perennial underdog and an indie-rock goddess, Hatfield adds muscle to her wispy voice on her latest EP, Please Do Not Disturb (Bar None). The label switch from Atlantic to Bar None has affected her selection of topics as well. On Disturb, Hatfield explores personal ethics ("Sellout") and cynicism ("The Edge of Nowhere," "Get Off"). She appears at the Agenda Lounge with Matador Records' Mecca Normal on Tuesday (Dec. 2), which is why she took my phone call.

BEAT STREET: You have a new song called "Sellout." What is your definition of a sellout?

HATFIELD: There's no definitive thing. I think it's when you make a conscious decision that doesn't feel right--or when you lose your sense of self. It's kind of hazy.

BS: Has anybody ever called you a sellout?

JH: Not to my face.

BS: What would you say to someone who did?

JH: I'd say, Fuck you, man. I toured in the van, I put out a record by myself. The Blake Babies--we put our albums in boxes. We spent all our money sending our music to fanzines and radio stations. We drove around in the van. No one can ever call me a sellout.

BS: What's your take on bands that get real popular on their first album?

JH: I think that it's scary and a bummer. It's like, where do you go from there?

BS: What about Jewel? I think she's biting your style.

JH: I have personal feelings for the Jewel thing. We were on the same label [Atlantic]. Our records came out at the same time. The record company gave up on my record real quick. They kept on hers, and it didn't catch on until a year later. Jewel was a symbol--to me--of what the record company has become. It taught me that I didn't belong there. They were interested in peddling other kinds of things.

I can understand her appeal. She speaks to a lot of people. It's a huge phenomenon. Did you hear about the latest? She got a two-book deal, for poetry. [Heavy sigh] Ah, it's cool man. She should cash in while she can. She's the kind of thing that might have lasting appeal. She did the work.

BS: You've done soundtrack and acting work on the TV show My So-Called Life. What character do you most relate to?

JH: Angela [Claire Danes' character] reminds me of myself at that age. She didn't fit into any of the cliques. She was a bit confused. She was true to herself in a way. She had friends, but she didn't give into peer pressure. She had a concept of her own sense of reality.

BS: Your voice is so distinctive. Were you ever embarrassed by it?

JH: I was mortified by it. It was excruciating to listen to it. I thought it was a curse. I've learned to appreciate it. It's more warm now and not as thin.

BS: Do you ever foresee getting the Blake Babies back together?

JH: I miss them personally because they're real excellent people. I don't see them as much as I'd like to. I can see us someday playing together and writing together--but not as the Blake Babies.

BS: Musically, what level do you think you're at right now?

JH: I used to say that my Hey Babe album was my preteen album. Only Everything was my 21-year-old, young-adult stage. The new album, God's Foot, is all woman. I'm full-grown.

Call to Arms

Britannia Arms in Almaden is looking for original bands to put on Thursday nights. Send packages to the Brit, c/o John, 5027 Almaden Expwy., San Jose, 95118. Remember, if it ain't rocking, it's craaaaap.

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From the Nov. 26-Dec. 3, 1997 issue of Metro.

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