TOFU AND WHISKEY Paige & the Thousand is the new solo project from singer-songwriter Lindsay Paige Garfield. Or wait, she has also gone by just Lindsay Garfield professionally, as with her former seven-piece indie-folk group Or, the Whale. But what’s in a name?
“I kind of didn’t realize how confusing it was going to be when I decided to name my band after my middle name. But I just thought it sounded better than Lindsay & the Thousand,” Garfield says. “And I really wanted to use ‘& the Thousand.’ She cheerfully adds that I may call her whatever I like.
The thousand part of the band name is a literary reference from one of her favorite books, Watership Down, a 1972 adventure novel about rabbits forced from their farm because their farmer is trying to kill them, and the journey they undertake. (It’s an allegory about struggle against tyranny and the corporate state.) For her part, Garfield says she doesn’t personally identify with that narrative but for her, it brings to mind her Jewish vaudeville ancestors and relatives who emigrated to the States from Eastern Europe. And she wanted to honor their memory and struggles with her new music.
The sound she’s been working on as Paige & the Thousand has roots similar to Or, the Whale but also travels to different offshoots of twangy folk, country, and Americana, even dipping into Celtic traditions, and shows similar chord progressions to her own rich history of Jewish music, which she long ago sang in synagogue choir as a child.
That “& the Thousand” also refers to “all the people that guided me along my musical path, believed in me, supported me.”
Garfield, who lives in Pacific Heights after half a decade in the Mission, tapped into that support for her debut EP, We Are Now The Times, which she self-released late last year. She wrote the songs for it solo, usually coming up with lyrics based on literary or cinematic references, made-up tales, or true-to-life villains, but recorded the EP in a highly collaborative, two-part process. While working on the basic tracks at Magnolia Records in Novato with engineer Jeremy D’Antonio, she enlisted friends from Or, the Whale to come in and layer additional instrumental sparkle. That included bassist Sean Barnett, and Dan Luehring who played drums, along with a handful more.
She then sent the tracks down to LA’s Zeitgeist Studios, to her cousin Mike Feingold, who is also in Erika Badu’s band. Long working with R&B artists, Feingold’s first Americana record was Garfield’s EP. “I sang at his Bar Mitzvah, that’s the last time we worked together,” she says.
Feingold’s fingerprints are all over We Are Now The Times, with production, and with a variety of instruments including baritone guitar and tuba. And he solicited the help of his friends Blake Mills (Band of Horses, Norah Jones) and pianist Patrick Warren (Bob Dylan), along with a musician in New Orleans playing pedal steel, and another friend from Boston on banjo and mandolin.
So the recording of this four-song EP was indeed a national group effort, but the songs at the core of it began with Garfield, alone in her room.
The album closer, twinkling piano ballad “Let’s Descend,” with which you picture barefoot dancing in the dewy summer grass at midnight, was written about a German film called Wings of Desire. It’s one of Garfield’s favorite flicks, which is in turn based on the poetry of Peter Handke. It seems the album title, We Are Now The Times, is also taken from dialogue in Wings of Desire. And she even got permission from the director’s publishing company in Germany to license some dialogue from the film in the song.
So she’s inspired by films and novels, but also the story-song custom inherit in classic folk music. “I’m not a traditionalist, but I do like the idea of telling stories,” she says.
The best example of that on the EP is the made-up story of “Billy’s Blues,” a travelin’ country-hooked blues ditty. “I just wanted to write like, a Bobbie Gentry, ’60s rhythm and blues kind of song, because I really love that stuff,” adding, “I’m definitely working on a bunch of songs that are in that vein now.”
The album opener, “Baby It’s Time,” is a more personal tale about a breakup, a relationship gone sour. On the upbeat countrified track, Garfield sings oh-so-sweetly, “Baby, baby, it’s time/time for you to say you’re mine/baby, baby it’s time/say you want me/and if you don’t just let me go.”
The backstory on plucky “Play the Martyr” most surprised me, and then required a fresh-eared listening. It’s about a cocaine-addicted former boss in the restaurant industry (an industry in which Garfield still happily works, without the asshole). He was a sadistic megalomaniac — a “complete monster” she says — who chased her down and singled her out with his rage. One day she’d had it and quit, so affected by the entire experience that she wrote a song about it. Now go back and listen to that track again.
Music is clearly her release. The Boston native has been writing songs since grade school, but got serious about it in college, while in the music program at the University of Miami. She was endlessly inspired by all the music geeks surrounding her there. Though she eventually moved out to San Francisco in 2002, with the hopes of working in the music industry here, but quickly realized she’d rather be playing the music. So she started a band and began playing little coffeehouse shows. “It taught me about how to treat people [in bands], being good to people who are inspired enough to play my music with me.” She collected experiences, got better, and formed new acts.
She met Alex Robins from Or, the Whale in the mid-aughts through Craigslist. “At that point I was really ready to do something more collaborative,” she says. The seven-piece country collective eventually saw midlevel success, playing shows with groups like Fleet Foxes, the Dodos, and Two Gallants, and performing on Good Morning America. But with seven people, comes seven different needs and ideas. People needed to agree on songs, which made it difficult. And eventually, members wanted to move on, have children, expand.
So all those experiences led Garfield to where she is now: Paige & the Thousand. “Creatively, I wanted it to have fewer boundaries, I wanted to be able to play songs I liked and not have anyone tell me that I couldn’t.”
Paige & the Thousand plays Awaken Café this weekend with fellow ampersand-lovers Robb Benson & the Shelk, EarlyBizrd & the Bees. Fri/9, 8pm, $7. Awaken Café, 1429 Broadway, Oakl. www.awakencafe.com.
Ew, gross, Icky Boyfriends are back. JK, each successive grave-rise from the trashy ’90s-born Bay Area “noisefuck” band is worth mentioning because the local band is just that entertaining live. To get the full lo-fi freakout inherent in the Icky Boyfriends experience, listen to 2005’s 61-track career retrospective A Love Obscene, which features tracks such as “Burrito,” “Passion Assassin,” “Kids in Fresno,” and “King of Zeitgeist.” You might also note the band features current Hemlock booker/guitarist-singer of Hank IV, Anthony Bedard, on drums. Also, I’ve recently uncovered the fact that Bedard and burlesque legend Dixie Evans once went on the talk show Maury, for the episode “My Sexy Lover Is My Complete Opposite.” YouTube it, immediately.
With Wet Illustrated, Violent Change. Thu/8, 9pm, $8. Eagle Tavern, 3981 12th St., SF. www.sf-eagle.com.
Rotfest IV with 3 Stoned Men, Cameltoe, UKE Band. Sat/10, 5pm, $10. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com.
Too-cute Australian quartet San Cisco is riding on a wave of bubblegum indie-pop and garage guitar hooks, with comparisons to Vampire Weekend, new Bible of Teendom single “Awkward” off its self-titled debut LP, and a cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” And then there’s swinging pop track “Fred Astaire” outfitted with the cherry red-lipped and pompadoured retro dance hall video you might expect. Abandon hope of true grit all ye who enter here, because this particular track is pure Velveeta cheese, and it tastes great between two slices of soda bread. With Smallpools.
Mon/12, 8pm, $15. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slimspresents.com.