Neko Case leads a truly exciting life.
When not on the road touring solo or with The New Pornographers, the Canadian chanteuse spends her time drinking. Drinking tea, that is.
Recently, she’s been working on a quilt for a friend’s newborn baby, and after she sorts her mail — recycling the unnecessary paper, of course — she hangs out with her favorite crew, which includes Liza, Travis, Lonny, Guy, Ira and Rhoda.
These are Neko Case’s cats and dogs.
“I know, my life is wild,” she said. “I’m sorry if I’m blowing your mind right now.”
Case’s domestic life is a welcome respite, as the public spotlight — especially after the release of last spring’s Middle Cyclone — is shining brighter than ever.
The record sounds like summer nights spent on a porch swing; all acoustic country gems set aloft by Case’s crisp, powerful singing about love, heartbreak, killer whales and tornadoes.
“I’m excited by the power of those things,” she said.
Spoken by a lesser artist, those words might not seem genuine, maybe even mocking. But Neko Case couldn’t be more serious.
Her cover of the Sparks’ 1974 “Never Turn Your Back on Mother Earth” doesn’t sound like a public service announcement, but a solemn promise.
“Marais la Nuit,” Cyclone’s half-hour closing track, is simply a recording Case made of crickets around a pond.
Listening to Middle Cyclone’s lush, lovely songs, it’s hard to imagine Case’s sharper-clawed beginnings in unsuccessful punk bands like The Propanes and Maow. But, Neko Case is still a DIY punk at heart.
“It’s not so much about how the music sounds, but how involved you are in its creation,” said Case. “And as long as there are truck stop toilets, and I don’t have my own bus with a special bathroom, it’s still punk rock to me.”
Though you won’t find snarling guitars on Middle Cyclone, the album’s raw sound does have a punk rock pulse. Case, who spent 10 months recording Cyclone, has long spoken out against over-production and studio-gloss.
“People get in and out of the studio as quickly as possible and end up using Auto-Tune to overly master the music, to correct their voice,” said Case, referencing the studio tool popularized by rappers like T-Pain. “I can’t help but like a little T-Pain, but Auto-Tune is very unnatural. It’s painful to the ear, like a bad dog whistle.”
The most important things to Neko Case, then, are more natural. She makes great chocolate chip cookies and a mean apple pie. And she can pick the fleas off her dogs without even looking.
“I can just feel them under the fur,” said Case.