Neko Case's Punk Rock Past Informs Her Alt-Country Approach

Concert Preview


Singer-songwriter Neko Case was trying to explain to a friend of hers that she was having a hard time finding a name for her latest record, last year’s The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You.

“I said, ‘What I’m trying to say is that the worse things get, the harder I fight and the harder I fight the more I love you,’” says Case, who performs at the Beachland Ballroom on Sunday. "At that point, I realized that I should just call it that. That encapsulates what I’m trying to say. It’s one of those ‘duh’ kinds of thing.”

Case says a serious bout of depression influenced many of the songs on the album.

“There’s the idea of transmutation, becoming another person,” she says. “I kind of made a record to explain it. It’s not really explainable. Can one element become another element when influenced by something else? That’s as best as I can describe it. I went through a really bad period of depression because I lost a lot of family members in a short amount of time. I couldn’t really recognize myself and I felt cut off from other people even though I tried to be with other people. I was in this weird cocoon.”

She recorded some of the album in Tucson but then also recorded bits in upstate New York and some in Brooklyn.

“I was all over the place,” she says. “I like to mix it up. I couldn’t have done it all in one spot. It would have been too much.”

Despite the studio hopping, the album has a clear coherence to it. And with Case’s typically sharp Patsy Cline-inspired vocals, it lives up to the billing as her “most precise, urgent record to date.”

“Precision wasn’t really a priority,” she admits. “I was just trying to get it done and make sense of it. I am stoked that someone would say that. That particular description makes me relieve. I’m thrilled that someone would think that.”

Case got her start playing in punk bands in British Columbia but eventually would embrace an alt-country sound with 1997’s The Virginian.

“It’s way more punk rock than punk rock,” she says when asked about her love of old-time country music. “That was always a really nice back pocket influence to have. In the late ‘80s and early '90s, there weren’t many women playing punk or hardcore. It was pretty lonely to be a fan. People were weird about. They were assholes about women being in bands. They would talk horrible shit. Women did it too. I did it sometimes out of sheer jealousy. It just meant I was supposed to be a band too. There were women in the spotlight writing songs and playing guitar and making money. There wasn’t that in punk rock. At one point, there was Blondie and X but there was a very long dry period after that. Besides the fact that those bands were still around and playing, there weren’t young Blondies and Xs popping out of the woodwork. It was dry.”

Case has been making music for 20 years now and says she can’t imagine ever stopping.

“Ideas — we’re slave to them and wait on them hand and foot — and they breed like rabbits,” she says. “After awhile you see that some of your ideas have a positive effect. Maybe you don’t’ feel so alone and both parties feel good. I have an audience and they want to be pleased and they want a non-judgmental voice in the dark coming out of their speakers.”

About The Author

Jeff Niesel

Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]
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