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Liz Phair… a very sensual feminist

Phair straddles pop, indie

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Since the release of her first album, Exile In Guyville in 1993, Liz Phair has been at the forefront of the independent feminist alternative rock movement. The critics love her, the fans love her, and she has since released four more records.

By L’Oreal McCollum, April 2004


why is she famous?

Since the release of her first album, Exile In Guyville in 1993, Liz Phair has been at the forefront of the independent feminist alternative rock movement. The critics love her, the fans love her, and she has since released four more records.

quick bio

Before Alanis, Christina, Avril, Sheryl, or Britney, Liz Phair was known for carrying the torch for female musicians. Born April 17th, 1967, in New Haven, Connecticut, Liz’s adoptive father was an AIDS researcher and her mother was an art teacher. As such, Liz experienced a comfortable upbringing.

However, it was not medicine nor history that interested Liz; she dove into the arts at Oberlin College in Ohio, immersing herself into the local music scene. There she met Chris Brokaw, a guitarist she moved to San Francisco with. Shortly afterwards, Brokaw moved back east. Phair remained in San Fran and began to compile numerous tunes, eventually shipping a few tapes to Brokaw. Instantly, she caught his attention.

The rest, as they say, is art history. She released Exile In Guyville in 1993, and followed it up with other gems such as Whip-Smart. We sat down with her to discuss her first release since 1998, the eponymous Liz Phair, and her return to the scene to reclaim, or rather share, the torch.

The Interview

Q: Ah, the life of a rock star… what have you been up to?

Touring all over the country, [I] did a zigzag from the northwest to the southeast… I like the change of touring from recording, especially with the seasons changing.

Q: You were credited with leading the women’s music revolution, before the Sheryl Crows of the world came along — you pioneered the space and had some success commercially… tell us about that?

Hmm… just so you know, I wasn’t successful commercially (laughs). I was famous; I wasn’t selling that many records (laughs). I think it is great though; I am very proud of it, especially of getting to know all those women… when I am on the road with other women, it’s a lot of fun… you know, guys like to hang out with guys, well, girls like to hang out with girls. The way things should be! Hot chicks everywhere, and good food!

Q: Yeah well, I still prefer hanging out with girls… do you need a roadie? (laughs) Before you got into music, you went all over the U.S., from Chicago to San Francisco… how did you end up there?

Everyone I knew who was cool lived in SF… maybe it was the kind of college I went to. I went there but none of us actually got jobs. All we would do is hang out, party, get high… and hence the lost years… all hot air… but everyone has made good. But overall, our track record is good…

Q: Do you think it’s necessary to go through that period in life? After all, you lived in a good home, yet you drifted and roamed around.

Well, it was good for me… I think if you have an artistic side, it is hard… the guilt can be a great motivator, so if you f*cked around for a little while, you can use that to drive yourself…

Q: How would you describe your music?

Stories from my life, some made up, some real… it is in the tradition of good storytelling, it is American rock with a dreamy feel… I make this stuff, but it’s hard to describe it. Billy Corgan once told me that the artist’s job is to describe the door, they do not have to know why they are making that door… ’cause if it’s a good door, then a lot of people can walk through it. We do not know what we are doing, and why…

Q: How can men be better lovers or boyfriends?

Get to know the girl. Don’t spend all your time thinking about what your friends do that works… just get to know the girl. Every player I have ever met is extremely attentive. Rule #1, they get to know the girl. If you are a nice guy, then you get to make a connection with the girl. I hate to quote the 3 Amigos, but women are like flowers, you can’t forcefully open the petals. You have to woo them in the old-fashioned sense… even if you are a bad guy, the woman will hate you, but she will have great sex with you.

Q: What are some of the criteria of good sex?

Men get some things wrong: you can do pretty much anything you want to us, but it’s about how you do it. It is about how you move us; it’s like a ballet. You can’t say, “my girlfriend will never do this,” but if you move her the right way, you can do whatever you want… you can do whatever style you want, so long as you do the pre-work, to get her there with you. Guys are either too scared or too aggressive… Another thing: I regularly will like, rent a porno if I am bored… I tell you, if that is how you think you should make love, then you are so in trouble… I hope you are not thinking that… The movement you have going in there? Not gonna happen.

Q: What is the single greatest mistake men make?

Realize that if you do the little things, the stupid little things, like call her once a day… it is a pain, I know, but do it and you will get so much more. The things that a woman will want, if she is normal, are pretty simple, then you can take all those camping trips, or [go to] strip clubs, so long as she gets what she needs. Guys think it is something major that girls want… but we want the small things.

Q: In your experience, has it been hard to meet guys given that you travel all the time?

I think it is very hard… but if you are looking for anything other than a one-night stand… I mean, it was even easier to get sex before I was a star… I mean, since I was 12… but now, it is very hard… some people you might want to meet won’t want to meet you, and those who do approach you might have an agenda… it is just a drag.

Q: If you were a guy for a day, what would you do?

(laughs) Really? Sleep with a lot of women…

Q: Thanks for your time, Liz, and good luck with your music… and men.

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