Tomorrow Matador Records is reissuing Come's "11:11." If you don't remember the 90s, and really why would you, it's one of the great rock records of… all time? Yup, absolutely. Come toured with Pavement and Nirvana, considered their major label options, and put out three more albums in the 90s, even as half the lineup left. And then… everyone sort of drifted away. Now the original four-some is on tour in Europe; they'll wend their way to America in mid-June. Over the weekend, we Skyped with Come's Thalia Zedek about getting the band back together. She was in Berlin, getting lost; she also has a new album out herself, from the fine folks at Thrill Jockey.
I always think of you as a New Yorker, but you live in Boston. Do you… like Boston?
I do like Boston a lot. It’s a really cool town. It’s a very liveable town. I like New York too, but Boston is a little easier to be a musician in: places to play, clubs, rehearsing. I’ve never had a problem getting a show in New York living in Boston. I loved living in New York but I kind of didn’t have my shit together. It’s so competitive. So many people from everywhere trying to make it there.
It’s nicer now that we’re older.
I was kinda screwed up when I was there. But Boston’s actually a really cool town! I know a lot of people don’t see that. It’s a good small big city, tons of music, and it’s pretty and it’s pretty small in a sense. They say it’s the most European of American cities.
So would say Henry James. What’s it like going on off on a big tour again?
I’ve been touring with my solo band fairly consistently, it’s not like I haven’t toured in 20 years. It’s really cool. I would say that … none of us have really changed that much. It’s all coming back to me. Everyone’s changed a little bit but not actually that much.
In my make-believe mind about your world, I imagine you guys making this dark album and tearing each other apart the whole time.
I think we weren’t tearing each other apart. To us, it was what came out of us when we started playing with each other. I guess we’re all sort of, we had our separately—we’re a good combination of people. It didn’t come out of fighting, but it’s where our heads were at. We weren’t like 'we’re so depressing, why don’t we write something less depressing.' We'd all kind of met before in various ways. Chris used to be in the Barbecue Killers. They were insane, they had this singer Laura Carter that I went out with briefly, and they toured with me with Live Skull and we got in a lot of trouble. Arthur never got in trouble, he was a good boy. I was hanging out with a lot of Athens peole. And they both ended up in Boston, and I knew Chris from a mustual friend—when you live in New York, you have a visitor every weekend. So we'd all been through a little bit of stuff by that time. I was probably 27 or something.
It’s nice that you weren’t kids.
I remember, after two years in Come, having my 30th birthday party on stage, thinking it was all over. No I didn’t feel that way: I thought I’m 30, I don’t have to give a shit.
So you guys liked each other and each others' bands and wanted to play.
We all met through music. The first time me and Chris met we played together. I was playin in a band called Via, actually, which is the name of my new record. We only did like three shows. One was at the Pyramid Club. I was playing with these guys from Boston and got the gig with Live Skull. Chris played with that band and I think our third show, 'Off to One Side' was originally a Via song, and the first time I ever played it with Chris he was playing drums. I thought, this is great, this is someone I wanted to play with. He was the first person I called when Live Skull broke up. Then I kinda ropped out of the scene to try to get my life together. Then I went to see Chris and Arthur and Sean. At some point they all deserted ship. By that time I was like, what are you up to? It was pretty immediate. We knew each other’s sorta musical history. Sean used to be in a band called Killkenny Cats in Athens.
And now it’s been like 20 years. It's weird when a band breaks up, but there was no breakup drama, and you’re like, oh you're still cool.
There wasn’t much breakup drama. Arthur and Sean left the band after the second record. It was a suprrpise to me and Chris. But before we got back together—it wasn’t like, 'Oh we’re going on tour, we have to talk about that.' But we’d talk to each other and we’d seen each other a fair amount, those guys would all come back. And I was like, why did you leave Come, I was so shocked. And Arthur was like, I dunno! Just weird sorta misunderstandings. It was never acrimonious. I don’t know exaclty! It was kind of a harsh split, but we never pissed off each other. I think me and Chris never quite got it. There was sort of management stuff, and not everyone wants to go on tour for the rest of your life. And they both went on to do other stuff. We were together with this combo for about three years. That’s a pretty good lifespan for most bands. Most bands and most relationships. I’m saying that now but I’ve been in a relationship for 12 years. But before that there were a lot of three-years.
Ya gotta learn how. But you did wanna stay touring, van-style. Like, Louisville, Cleveland—I would die. But that’s what you wanted.
Chris has become like a total professional musician. He’s on the road, 250 days a year. That’s his main gig. I’ve always been kind of, I dunno. I can’t really play with just anybody. I have some kind of talent, but it’s not the kind of talent where I can sit in with the wedding band. I tried to do more different stuff but I usually end up having to form my own thing. I don’t get asked to join many things. I don’t get a lot of calls that are like, 'Come on tour with us, we want a guitar player.' Chris is amazing, he’s an absolute prodigy. And I’ve been putting out music and writing songs, a little less on the road most of the time. Arthur like has another career, other stuff that he does. He’s actually a really great singer, he’s in coutry band called The Fritters. Though they haven’t gone out with the fervor me and chris have, they’re at heart musical people. It hasn’t been weird at all. It’s not like 'Oh my god, how do I play my instrument.' Sean works in the film industry now, and Arthur works in the, I dunno, literary world. I think he really likes it, he’s an editor.
Do you have a regret about the band, when you though you were doing this wrong?
I was thinking, because I’m playing with the guys—it’s a very different time in the music industry. We had this big label buzz and major labels wanted to sign us. And I thought the other day maybe it was stupid not to sign with a major label. There was a crazy time in the early 90s, they wanted to give everyone tons of money. And we knew that would kill us, just after meeting the people: they have no idea what we are, we’ll never be a big band. I dunno, maybe we should have taken the opportunity when we had it. Maybe we were thinking long term—the label after one album will drop us. But we ended up breaking up anyway! I questioned our idealism at one point a few days ago. Maybe we should have taken the money and run. Mmm, that’s putting it in a cynical way. What I mean is: maybe we should have had more confidence in ourselves. We were offered opportunities that maybe we should have taken advantage of. But that’s hindsight, it’s not a big regret or anything. I think we just assumed that the music was pretty dark and not very pop and we don’t belong on a major label. It was probably the right decision. We got offered by like Geffen, Atlantic, and we were like, we’re going to be one of those bands that happened all the time, and but who knows
Well right, back then anyone could be on the cover of Spin or Sassy and then Geffen would come—
Once Nirvana made it, and Subpop, they were like, shit we missed the boat. They were sending out droves of people to tiny rock clubs. And offering half-a-million record contracts. They didn’t know what was going on but they had the money to blow.
What do you think about now? How much do you think about how you put music out there?
I don’t think about it that much. I’m on a record label now, Thrill Jockey, that’s just an incredibly supportive label. I’m really really lucky and I really appreciate it. That’s been kind of working for me. I try to, they do the distribution and stuff and I throw my hat in with them.
It is nice. I’m able to deal with the business angle of stuff, I’m not like, 'oh it’s too much for me,' but I don’t like to. But I don’t think most musicians like to. But I’m happy I have friends, they’re on labels, it’s all Internet-pnly releases. So they’ve got distirubtion, I don’t have to deal.
We’re all getting older, and I think people don't know how they retire off it.
I think a lot of musicians have given up on selling records. You make money off shows, off t-shirts, or songs in movies, commercials. A lot of musicians have given up on the idea of selling records outside of shows.
But you put out an album and and I go buy it and I think that works for us.
I like it, thank you.
I mean, you already have a job. Do songs come easily to you?
I kind of go though phases of doing a lot of writing and phases of not. In a sense they come—the music comes pretty easily to me, and the lyrics come harder. And it does take a certain amount of time alone, just screwing around, and sometimes the kick in the ass of having a deadline helps. I tend to record at home, tons and tons and tons of half songs. I’l record a melody and a riff and think I'll go back to it tomorrow and I don’t usually. I end up with all these things. I’m not disciplined at actually finishing it. I don’t like to force things, it doesn’t usually work well. It’s hard to finish stuff. But when you start something and it’s not finished, you’re not committing. By the point you get to, this is the song, you know. I feel like I don’t write a lot of songs but I do write a lot, I just never finish them. I’m not saying they’re good, but.
What are you listening to and loving?
I haven’t been listing to like tons of music lately.
That’s interesting that you don’t, too. Do you need the quiet?
I play instruments at home. And I listen to music some of the time, and I think I listen to a lot of—I don’t listen to a lot of rock music, which I’m realizing with the band. When your’e driving you get to program the music with the band. So I’ll be like, I haven’t listend to this much David Bowie in like twenty years—and I realize I listen to a lot of different kinds of—I don’t really like that much American music. I don’t want to say I’m into a certain type, but I really like Indian music and Spanish music, and maybe not so much rock music anymore.
Well we haven't done that much with it recently.
Maybe that’s what it is. I recently did a tour with Low, with my solo project, and I love them. Maybe I’ve gotten a little bit lazy. I actually played last night, the first Come show in Copenhagen, we played with two amazing bands. Maybe I’m just a little bad on my follow-through.