[PET SOUNDS] “In terms of being a champion of my own career, I haven’t even been able to think about that. I’m putting together little shows in different cities when I can.” Kaia Wilson, legendary frontwoman of Team Dresch and the Butchies, launched her newest solo album four months ago, but the CD-release show has lingered till this week, and her upcoming tour is as part of Amy (Indigo Girls) Ray’s band. “I finally get to be a lead fucking guitar player! It’s not my forte, but it’s really fun to try and be Eddie Van Halen.”
Of course, to her fan base, Kaia’s not that far removed from Eddie. A queercore icon prizing anthems above agitprop, Team Dresch was arguably Portland’s most influential band of the mid-’90s. It won mainstream press features, rabid devotees and, alongside a European jaunt supporting Bikini Kill, there was a national tour with Fugazi: “They were so sweaty after the shows, they took their clothes off immediately, and, oh God, you’re naked? AAAH!”
Around 1995, after the dissolution of Team Dresch, Wilson left for North Carolina to found the Butchies and start a markedly different solo career. “That’s always been my outlet for the tender, acoustic, ballady stuff,” Wilson laughs. Godmakesmonkeys (her fourth album and first on Portland’s Jealous Butcher label), a gorgeous stroll through folk melancholy ever sugared by unabashed girlishness, indulges in articulate self-deprecation, thoughtful languor and multitracked soul searching: She always seems to be singing to herself, in the best of ways.
“The album’s about an ex-girlfriend. About being really, really in love and the things that come with that—vulnerability and insecurity. I think there was some prophecy when I wrote this record that the relationship wasn’t going to last. Part of me was, ‘Oh my God! I’m so happy!’ Part of me was, ‘Am I?’ It’s a love album, you know. I do have an entire album’s worth of songs for my dead pets. That’ll be my next solo record. That’ll be real cheery,” she says, laughing…sort of.
“When I moved back to Portland two years ago, I had four pets, and between December and June I lost two dogs and a cat all to different diseases. I spent the last few years tending to their various diseases—they had cancer and heart disease—and trying to care for them, cure them, if I could. My record came out in May, I lost one of my dogs in May—it wasn’t supposed to live that long, but we had already pushed back the record release—and I was pretty much a wreck. Right about now, I’m finally coming out of the hibernation.”
Actually, though he won’t be able to attend the CD release (do expect Team Dresch drummer Marci Martinez and Paradise Island’s Jenny Hoyston to guest), the cardiologist for Wilson’s passed cat has become her regular bass player for her occasional solo appearances. “I don’t like to perform totally alone that much anymore,” Wilson explains. “It feels scary. I drink too much red wine, and then…fuck! I just go play.”
SEE IT: Kaia Wilson plays Backspace Friday, Sept. 26. 9 pm. Cover. All ages.