Timony: Just Like Starting Over
story by tim mcmahan
Lazy-i: May 24, 2005
w/ Medications, Bombardment Society
May 26, 9 p.m.
Sokol Underground, 13th & Martha
With a new record label, new band and a brave face,
Mary Timony is launching a second career in the music business.
Most indie music purveyors know Timony from her halcyon days as
the frontwoman of Matador Records band Helium, a group that reached
its critical apex with 1995's The Dirt of Luck. Timony would
record one more album with Helium before setting out on her own
as a solo artist and redefining her style, which would ultimately
be her undoing at Matador. Instead of the tried-and-true pop crunch
heard on Helium discs, Timony's debut, Mountains, preferred
more delicate, almost medieval-sounding minor-key dirges.
"I think after Mountains (Matador) kind of gave up
on me a little bit," Timony said from her home in Washington,
D.C., a few days before leaving on the tour that brings her to Omaha
May 26. "I don't think they were fans of the record."
Relations with the label became stormier
after 2002's The Golden Dove, which continued on the same
path as Mountains and failed to catch fire with fans.
Timony said she found out that Matador had dropped her only after
she began gearing up to make the follow-up to The Golden Dove.
"I called Chris (Lombardi, founder of Matador) to tell him
I was ready to record and discuss the budget," Timony said.
"That's when he told me they weren't going to do another record
with me. They had already made the decision, but never let me know.
It was hard times for about a month, and then I realized this could
With her Matador ties slashed, Timony decided to take a different
approach with her next album. "Since I was on my own, I said,
'Who do I respect most that I could get to record?' I fell into
this really awesome group of people that I never would have worked
with had Matador still been around."
The group included old D.C. friends Devin Ocampo (Medications,
ex-Smart Went Crazy, Faraquet), who became Timony's chief collaborator,
and Fugazi's Brendan Canty, who produced the recording sessions
at legendary Inner Ear Studios, the proving ground for such bands
as Minor Threat, Rites Of Spring, Fugazi and The Dismemberment Plan.
Released April 19 on D.C.'s Lookout Records, Ex Hex sports
the same snap and bite that made Helium float so effortlessly. Songs
like the poppy "Friend to J.C." and snarling "Hard
Times Are Hard!" combine Timony's girlish low-fi charm with
early-'90s Sonic Youth abrasion both in tone and structure. Timony
even seems to vocally channel Kim Gordon from time to time. On the
other hand, don't look for traditional Sonic Youth noise orgies
here -- Timony and company are more interested in putting listeners
in a trance with their chiming, mantra-like cadences than bludgeoning
them with feedback and distortion.
"It was hard times for about a month,
and then I realized this could get interesting."
""I just got burned out on
the really slow, dreamy type of music I'd been playing and
felt like kicking ass."
Why return to Helium's indie-rock
stylings after all these years? "I just felt like rocking out
on this record," Timony said. "I just got burned out on
the really slow, dreamy type of music I'd been playing and felt
like kicking ass. Devin was a big influence in getting the energy
So much so that the only member of Timony's touring band is Ocampo
on drums. "We have a lot of fun playing live," Timony
said. "It's like a tennis match, we really push each other."
Despite going from a major-indie to a minor-indie label, Timony
says she hasn't noticed many differences in her music or life.
"There was a lot more money at one point playing with Helium,
but in terms of my own creative process, not much has changed,"
she said. "It feels like I'm starting over in a very positive
way. I haven't lost a lot. I lost something that wasn't working."
Published in The Omaha Reader May 25, 2005.
Copyright © 2005 Tim McMahan. All rights reserved.