Beauty and Sadness

Recently emancipated from Atlantic, Juliana Hatfield tests the waters with a new indie EP

New Times: The first cut on Please Do Not Disturb is called "Sellout," and it is ironic that it is the most catchy. Is the song about record-industry woes?

Juliana Hatfield: Yes, but it's not a true story. It's more like a warning. What could happen to someone when they stray too far from themselves.

NT: Well, judging from lyrics like, "You said that I was the real thing . . . so why don't you want me?", there must have been some true parts to the story. What exactly happened at Atlantic?

JH: I just thought that it was time to move on from Atlantic because they're a completely different label than when I signed with them. They have different ideas that don't really include me anymore. They're more into middle-of-the-road stuff like matchbox 20 and Jewel, and that's kind of what they're focusing on, and I don't really fit there anymore. I don't think I should be there anymore. Nothing really bad happened; I just felt like I should be somewhere else, and they let me leave. They're really not interested in me anymore at the label, and a lot of the cool bands like the Lemonheads and Madder Rose have left also.

NT: So they're only interested in their high-priority acts?
JH: They're not interested in trying to put across interesting things anymore. I mean, I know a lot of people really love Jewel, and she has more mass appeal than someone like me, but I just want a label that understands that. It's just typical of record labels. It's just natural--like having a problem with your boss, that's all.

NT: I heard some college-radio DJ assuming that your new song "Give Me Some of That" is about Jewel. The lines "You're so young, you don't even know what you have . . . you don't really need it . . . you don't even care if they take it all back" are particularly interesting. They seem to be related to the media's image of Jewel as a humble artist that cares little about her huge success.

JH: Naw, it's not about anybody in particular. It's just a general song about envy, about the things I want and don't have.

NT: What is your take on the current flux of female stars? Like Jewel, Fiona Apple, and Alanis Morissette?

JH: I think what Jewel does is in a very traditional vein; it's kind of singer-songwriter type, kind of folkish--God! I sound like a journalist! Oooh! I shouldn't generalize like that--I just don't find her interesting at all, but she's a great singer and she's talented. It's just not my cup of tea.

I can understand why she has such huge appeal, because it's not challenging and people can understand it. Fiona has some really cool songs. I think "Criminal" is so catchy. I love it. On Alanis, I remember getting a free CD when I was on tour and never listened to it, but later on I checked it out. She's a good singer. But I'm a sucker for a great pop song.

NT: Is there anything that you really dig?
JH: Yeah--they're not necessarily women, though. I love Verbena, a band from Alabama, and Third Eye Blind.

NT: My personal favorite on Please Do Not Disturb is "As If Your Life Depended on It." It has "classic" written all over it. The theme recalls tracks like "Feed Me" or "Forever Baby." What inspires such lyrical loneliness?

JH: Thanks. I actually like that one a lot myself. Well, it was really inspired by a conversation with a guy in a band on tour who said that he missed his wife and kid and couldn't wait to get back home. I was in my own town and couldn't wait to go on tour because I have none of those things to keep me rooted.

NT: What is the source of your angst in "Get Off"?
JH: I think this was originally directed at a journalist, but it became something about clingy types projecting their needs onto willing participants in the game of love.

NT: You've been quite frank about journalists on a couple of occasions. You've had difficulty with a few in the past. Some have pressed you for answers on your private life. On "Ugly" you sing "Ask me a question and I will mess up/I'll tell a lie and I'll never 'fess up . . . I'm really lost and I don't want to be found." Is this your own paradox, or do your songs temporarily reflect an emotion or feeling that you deny publicly because you no longer feel that way?

JH: I think people will move on. They'll stop asking me about that private stuff. I don't know, someday. I really don't like it when people ask me why I do stuff. I mean, someone asked me the other day, "Why did you write a song in French?" I mean, what do you mean, "Why?" Why in hell not? Why do anything? I don't know why, I just do it. There aren't reasons for everything.

A lot of times, I just give answers just 'cause they asked, and in trying to answer those questions that I don't know the answer to, I would end up saying something stupid or something that wasn't really true just for the sake of trying to answer these questions that can't be answered.

NT: So how old are you, anyway?
JH: That I can answer! I just turned 30.

Juliana Hatfield is scheduled to perform on Friday, December 5, at Gibson's in Tempe, with Fig Dish. Showtime is 8 p.m. (all ages).

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