Chamber Punk

Helium comes up for air and brings along an intoxicating new album

Unfortunately, many music scribes mistake Timony's penchant for fairy-tale dreamscapes with some kind of nerdish fascination with hobbits and sorcery. One particularly painful recent episode came out of such assumptions: an interview with Alternative Press in which the reporter insisted on taking the band to a New Jersey-based Medieval Times restaurant.

"It was kinda lame," she says of the interview. "And we were sitting there, and everything was really loud and no one could hear. And then the guy was asking me, 'What's the similarity between this place and your music?' And I was like, [meekly] 'Uh, I don't know.'

"I can't tell anyone enough that I don't have an interest in any of this stuff. It's all just vague references to it, but it's not like I belong to some weird society of Dungeons & Dragons people. But then again, it is fun to be influenced by weird people like that and to draw from their weirdness."

For Timony, a self-described loner growing up in Washington, D.C., space and time travel is less a scholarly obsession than a convenient way to escape the sadness and mundanity of her world.

"It's more an unconscious type of thing," she says. "It's more on some kind of emotional level than any type of literal interest that I have in anything. It's more like space is a good place to be 'cause it's away from here, or something like that. I feel like I search for imaginary places to find calm and beauty in, and that seems to be an obvious place that's far away."

Like a more accomplished female Jonathan Richman, Timony has found solace in a childlike sense of wonder only after engaging in a series of wrestling matches with her darker emotions. So her spacy innocence feels less like a coy affectation than a hard-earned wisdom. Even so, The Magic City can't help but expose a few frayed nerves. Perhaps the album's defining tune, "Devil's Tear," explains her need for escape this way: "I'm moving out of here with a bag of Devils tears." And the delightful Cars pastiche, "Leon's Space Song," rides its jerky synth riff into a surprisingly tough-minded chorus: "All my friends in L.A. love me more than you/Love lasts a very long day and then is through."

She may have set aside some of her gender rage, but Timony hasn't really accepted the music industry's inherent sexism. She's just decided that nothing she writes is likely to fix things overnight. She says that gender inequities didn't really make an impression on her until she played guitar with male musicians at an arts high school. As we speak, the current issues of both Rolling Stone and Spin are devoted to "Women in Rock." Timony is completely ignored by Rolling Stone, but gets a photo and short mention in Spin.

A couple of years ago, she might have been annoyed at the obvious calculation of such publishing gambits. When it's suggested that both magazines chose to shoot their wads with one megahyped issue, rather than simply doing a consistently better job of covering women over the long haul, Timony agrees. But she also shows some willingness to view the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

"I guess I have mixed feelings about it," she says. "What it makes me think is that major labels have definitely decided that they can market women, that women are marketable. And maybe that's not so bad, 'cause maybe it'll change people's attitudes. I guess, overall, I think it's pretty cool."

Helium is scheduled to perform on Saturday, November 15, at Stinkweeds Record Exchange in Tempe, with Syrup USA. Showtime is 10 p.m.

« Previous Page
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets

Concert Calendar

  • April
  • Sat
  • Sun
  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu
  • Fri