INTERVIEW: Heather Fox Uses Words About Kicking Out The Jams, Russian Martial Arts, and Archiving the Hell out of Louisville Music!

Pictured Above: Heather Fox through the Looking Glass.

Heather Fox is one of the only musicians I’ve ever known even heard of, that has managed to be in one band and one band only for their entire musical career: the mighty Juanita is still the partiest band in Louisville. In addition to helping form one of the rowdiest and long running bands in town, Fox recently helped start the Louisville Underground Music Archive. Housed at the University of Louisville Ekstrom Library, the archive seeks to catalog Louisville’s rather colorful musical history, which by virtue of being held in a publicly funded state institution lends a certain gravitas to the subject matter that has always been there to my mind, but that is now institutionally recognized. Juanita is playing tomorrow at Zanzabar for the New Mother Nature record release show w/Sexy Minotaur. I sat down with Fox and wrote words at her. This is what she wrote back.

Never Nervous: I’ll be real: I couldn’t find anything about your musical history online. The Internet really let me down here. Is Juanita your first band? Do you all have anything available to listen to on the internerd?

Heather Fox: Yes, Juanita is my first and only band. You can find some stuff on the YouTube and there are links on our Facebook page. We’re in the movie Half Cocked for twenty seconds (at 16:10) and there’s a shot of a sign in front of Tewligan’s prior to our twenty seconds of fame with our name spelled incorrectly (Junita). We also have a single line entry on Louisville Hardcore. I digitized some tapes and put them up on soundcloud here. The afterpool party one has what sounds like Rat trying to keep some people from fighting. I can definitely identify Paul Curry, George Wethington, Tara Jane O’Neil, and Ted Laun in there. Our drummer, Theresa Brenzel, used to have a horse and boarded it out in the east end and she house sat and the owners had a pool, so we had a pool party and played.

NN: Did you ever expect to be doing Juanita twenty-two years after you started?

HF: I never thought about it. We took a hiatus for a few years in the mid two thousands, but every time Becky Brenzel and I hung out we talked about reforming.

NN: Other than a rotating who’s who of Louisville musicians, how has the band changed over the course of that time, and what keeps it fresh?

HF: In the beginning we were a totally instrumental band. And we couldn’t really play our instruments. Our drummer’s boyfriend at the time, Wink, taught us how to play. In fact, he was our first bass player. The bass has always been the most revolving position…maybe that’s what keeps it fresh – a succession of kick ass bass players. After a while Becky started writing lyrics and we came up with some songs. I think the other thing that keeps us fresh is that we don’t play a lot. We’ll do a few shows and take a break. We’re about to finish our first new song in a while.

NN: How has Louisville music changed over your time going to shows?

HF: It gets more expensive, but other than that it seems pretty continuous in that it still feels like a supportive community…like everyone goes to see everyone’s shows, people seem to be doing it because it’s fun. Maybe that’s delusional, but that’s how it seems from where I sit.

NN: What’s the best show you’ve ever played, and why? What’s the best you’ve ever attended, and why?

HF: One of the most fun shows was last Easter at the Motherlodge Festival. We all wore white and our bass player, Christy O’Connell, is a florist and she brought a bunch of flowers and we made flower crowns. The show was outside at the Billy Hertz Gallery (which is awesome, BTW) and we ended it with Tom Dumstorf singing the intro to a Jesus Christ Superstar song that went straight into my husband singing “I don’t know how to love him” in a Curtis Mayfield-like falsetto, and then we went straight into Mary Feiock, our guitar player and singer, doing the Patti Smith version of Gloria–which we killed.

The two best shows I’ve seen this year were The Sonics in Chicago in February, and the CCR cover band that played at Ramble Tamble on Derby night. In both cases: raw power.

NN: Why so many people? It might be easier with less people involved, and definitely easier logistically. Why so large a group?

HF: The more the merrier.

NN: Given such an ensemble, how do you all write? Is it a bunch of people coming in with ideas, or just one or two holding down the songwriting?

HF: Somebody comes with an idea and we all work it out together. Becky writes most of the lyrics, although our new song was a collaborative lyric writing venture. Mary brought the music.

NN: What makes for a good song, and why?

HF: See question above.

NN: The legend of Juanita, at least what I’ve always heard, is that you are one of the rowdiest bands in town, like the perfect party band. How does that sit with you?

HF: Well, I prefer a slight amendment-Jim Marlowe described us as a mutant party band. I like that.  It’s about joie de vivre.

NN: Tell us about the Louisville Underground Music Archive (LUMA). How did that start, and how has it grown over time? What plans do you have to grow the archive? Has there been any pushback over the LUMA being housed at UofL?

HF: I’m an archivist at the University of Louisville Archives and Special Collections library. We launched the Louisville Underground Music Archive project last summer. The spark that started the entire thing came from a donation of incomplete runs of the Burt the Cat Fanclub Newsletter and Hard Times, two local zines that covered the music scene in the 90s and, in the case of Burt, the early 2000s. I’ll refer your gentle readers to the LUMA website for the full story.

NN: Leaning into that rowdy bit, what is your favorite drink (adult or otherwise), and why?

HF: I love red zinger tea and club soda, what I call a Hibiscus Spritzer. I added a little rose wine while cooking dinner tonight which was good, too–maybe a Hibiscus Zinger?

NN: Have you ever been in a fight? If so, why and did you win? If not, do you think you could win if needed?

HF: I recently took a Russian martial arts class with one of my bandmates, Tari O’Bannon. I punched someone for the first time in my life. Then flipped him over my shoulder by his ear and hair and finally flattened him with a perfectly placed kick just above the knee cap. That being said, our instructor made it clear that the best defense was to find a way to run the hell away.

NN: What are your non-music interests? Tell us what’s fun and why.

HF: I’ve been learning to play Canasta and that’s really fun. I also love cooking out and talking to my friends. I’m blessed to know a lot of kind and interesting people.

NN: What have you been listening to lately, and why should we?

HF: My friend just gave me Josephine Foster’s latest record “I’m a Dreamer.” I can’t stop listening to it. She has an amazing voice, writes killer songs (like one called ‘Amuse Your Muse‘), and she recorded this record in Nashville with excellent musicians. I also recently discovered a love for Blue Oyster Cult (Secret Treaties) and Hot Chocolate (Cicero Park).  You should listen to them because you won’t be sorry.

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