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Jenny Lewis - Tongue Lashings

Author: Nina Bertok
Monday, 23 March 2009

3D’s Nina Bertok speaks with the owner of every male indie music fan’s heart, Jenny Lewis – frontwoman of Rilo Kiley and formidible solo artist with serious contacts – playing V Festival this week.

There is perfection in imperfection, according to Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis, and in her second solo album Acid Tongue (2008), the Las Vegas native set out on a mission to prove just that.

“We tried to record as many songs as possible live on this album,“ she claims. “My last record [Rabbit Fur Coat, 2006] was a lot more focused and planned, but Acid Tongue is so much more stripped-back and has a lot more space. I am a big fan of sparse instrumentation but also keeping it real simple.”

Lewis is also a fan of collaborations, with Acid Tongue featuring input from the likes of her sister through to Elvis Costello.

“When Elvis rang me I though somebody was pranking me,” Lewis laughs. “We ended up doing a song on the record called Carpetbaggers. I wanted that song to be a little less country and a bit more pop sounding than it was, so I got in touch with Elvis about it. We’d met each other twice before when Rilo Kiley released More Adventurous [2004], so Elvis took Carpetbaggers up an octave which made it less country.”

Even more special is a guest appearance from Lewis’ estranged father – a man the singer viewed as somewhat of a mysterious character for the majority of her life.

“I didn’t know him at all, actually,” Lewis confesses. “He was living in Alaska, which is far from California where I was, and so in my mind he was this mythical figure. He is also a musician so I truly got a chance to get to know him during the making of this record. He had been really sick for a couple of years so he was recovering from that and it was great to be there with him. I guess that made Acid Tongue that extra bit special because it provided a good time for us to get to know each other as father and daughter. It was amazing.”

Lewis also lists M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel as some of the guest appearances on the album, which she describes as her “in-between record”.

“I see it as a path to something else,” she explains. “I am still discovering what I am and what I can do as a solo artist outside of my usual band. I really love the collaborations I got to do with Acid Tongue, the chance to work with so many fantastic artists was great, but I have to also put out a record that is just about me. I view it as a right of passage and as a means to hopefully having a long career in making records my own way. Acid Tongue was also in a lot of ways a reaction to my band situation with Rilo Kiley at the time. Things were getting incredibly strained and we came to a point where we almost weren’t getting along anymore. It was kind of disappointing having all that heaviness in the air so I felt that this record was something a lot less polished and less complicated. It’s not a perfect record but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

WHO: Jenny Lewis
WHAT: Plays V Festival, Centennial Parklands / Supports Snow Patrol at Hordern Pavilion
WHEN: Saturday 30 March / Monday 30
MORE: vfestival.com.au

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