The Julie Ruin drummer talks touring, creating stage visuals, and beautiful memories of tasty soup.
Carmine Covelli has had a less-than-normal career. He's been a part of everything from acting in theatre to an exhibit designer. Now he's drumming for a new band of seasoned music veterans that has spent the last few years recording.
The Julie Ruin originally started out as former Bikini Kill front woman Kathleen Hanna's material in the late 1990s. Now reinvigorated as a five-piece rock act, the first album released as a band was last year's Run Fast, which made an in-your-face feminist statement but yet provided a plentiful helping of catchy hooks.
Here, Covelli gives a look inside his inspiration, the recording process, and an upcoming tour.
Is it more daunting to be part of a band like The Julie Ruin because having established band members gives it more of an expectation, or is it better because there's already an interested fan base?
I think it definitely helps to have established band members in the band. [I'm] not saying people don’t judge the band and the album on its own merits, but of course it is helpful to have recognizable names in the band. It is a little disappointing when someone says that one of our songs sounds like Le Tigre or Bikini Kill because we just don’t hear it – besides that it’s Kathleen’s vocals. The songs got developed in rehearsal by the entire band and, I think, stand apart from anything any of us have done.
I’m sure there is a bit of expectation from longtime fans of Kathleen, but I’m not sure that any of us think about it. We do see crossed arms in the crowd at certain shows but that can happen to any band. What’s great is when the crossed-arm people clap at the end of the set.
You are involved in so many different projects. Is there one type, such as film or music, that resonates with you the most?
It all feels the same to me. I started playing music first so that maybe resonates with me a bit more but I am also a very visual person. It’s all story telling in a way. You’re laying out a path audibly or visually and hoping someone wants to check it out and takes something away from it.
You've worked as an exhibit designer for the Long Island Children's Museum. Has that experience affected your approach to music in any way?
It hasn’t affected my approach to music in any way but I do get a lot of satisfaction out of creating interactives for exhibits. Oh, I did, however get turned on to a really great open source recording software called Reaper while working on a 12.1 surround sound room for the museum. I use that program a lot for various sound creation projects.
Do you feel like each bandmate's unique artistic background besides just music adds something unique to the band?
I can’t say that this is unique for our band, but yes, I think this particular group of people has made our process more diverse and interesting, and I think a deep interest in things outside of music keeps the creation of new music and new musical directions possible and exciting.
With this band, we all came from different places musically and we’re allowing The Julie Ruin to include it all, if possible. Punk, no-wave, noise, electro, surf, metal, cabaret – put it all together and it’s either a big train wreck or it works. So far it seems to be working.
What has been your favorite memory as part of The Julie Ruin so far?
Sitting in the recording studio eating spicy noodle soup between takes is always one distinct memory I have. We were excited to be recording, excited to be together and the soup was delicious.
What is the process like to release an album on your own label, TJR Records?
Well, there was a lot to learn with setting it up but thankfully Kathleen and Kathi had just set up something similar with the old Bikini Kill catalog. Beyond that, we each have our specific jobs, and we are self-managed, so there are a lot of details that emerge and you need to stay on top of it. Some days there are no emails and the next day there will be thirty — ranging from show logistics, press roll out, merch shipping, van rental, etc — that need an answer as soon as possible.
You used to provide video projections for Le Tigre. Are you bringing similar video art on The Julie Ruin tour?
I did! That was a lot of fun. As of now, we are keeping our TJR tours as simple as possible. We have been traveling with Kathleen’s lighting effects box (which I destroyed in Australia) and some pastel colored xmas lights, but that is it as far as it goes with high-tech visuals at our shows. Hopefully we can incorporate visuals for future tours though. (I have to remember to order a new effects box before next tour.)
You've said before that there was a long writing process for Run Fast. Did that change the direction of the songs?
I think it did. The long process was largely due to Kathleen’s health and only getting together when she felt strong enough, but thankfully that allowed us to take our time and with that our sound matured and developed.
Since some of the songs are older and technically Kathleen's solo material, will the band be doing different arrangements of those songs when playing them live?
Yes. We already have been performing alternate arrangements of some Julie Ruin songs on tour, and we play original arrangements of a Le Tigre song and a Bikini Kill song too. We even recorded an alternate arrangement of "V.G.I." that will come out eventually.
Are there any artists, music or otherwise, in New York City that you feel don't get the credit they deserve?
Hmm... I feel that artists and musicians in general don’t get credit from the city for making the city an interesting place to live or visit. Arts funding has always been rough here and some rich people move into neighborhoods with music venues and complain about loud music until that club gets shuttered.
Answering your question though — at the moment, all the people I know are getting their due, things are happening for them. Sometimes at a glacial pace, but they are getting recognition, so that is nice. Now, if they can get paid decently for making their art — that would be a real victory. Perfect example: Erin Markey.
The Julie Ruin tour dates
4/1- Easthampton, MA @ Flywheel
4/3- Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
4/4- Montreal, QE @ Il Motore
4/5- Toronto, ON @ Virgin Mobile Mod Club
4/7- Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom
4/8- Ferndale, MI @ The Loving Touch
4/9- Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
4/1- Millvale, PA @ Mr. Smalls Theatre
4/12- Asbury Park, NJ @ Asbury Lanes
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