English space-pop polymath Jane Weaver is recalling her first visit to LA in 1994, during the courtship of her fizzy Britpop-era outfit, Kill Laura.
“We stayed at the Beverly Garland Hotel. We were only there about a week, and I think we just drank our way through it. We had about ten record labels we went to visit. A lot of them were like, ‘Oh, you guys could be the Cranberries!’ And I was like, ‘I don’t really like the Cranberries!’”
Weaver was 20 years old at the time, still half a life away from her present incarnation as a fearless explorer of the outer sonic cosmos. In the two decades hence, and over the course of eleven solo albums, she’s received rapturous co-signs from the likes of Jarvis Cocker, Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier, and the late John Peel. While she hewed reasonably close to a freak-adjacent folk-rock sound on her first few albums, her breakout was 2010’s The Fallen By Watch Bird, which emerged out of a one-off performance at the 2007 Cocker-curated Meltdown Festival. On that album, Weaver gave herself over to her Technicolor-prog inclinations. The record is thick with guitar textures, analog synths, vibraphone, harp, woodwinds, and a cadre of guest magicians. Subsequent albums have upped the ante both conceptually and sonically, with her most recent, 2022’s Flock, being widely hailed as the apotheosis of her art. Hardly content as an art-pop provocateur, she’s also been a label boss, soundtrack (re)composer, compilation curator, and fairytale book author. She’s collaborated with the likes of Suzanne Ciani and David Holmes; remixed Saint Etienne and Paul Weller; and been sampled by Coldplay, of all people.
All of which was still on the distant horizon in the “alternative”-minded ‘90s, when Weaver was being paraded around town by Jewel’s management. “It’s probably divine intervention [that we didn’t sign],” Weaver says now. Instead, Kill Laura fled back to Manchester and signed with New Order’s manager, Rob Gretton. “My gut was telling me that was the right thing to do.”
Following Kill Laura’s dissolution, Weaver divided her time between a new group, Misty Dixon, and the soft launch of her solo career in 2002. But the times were not excellent for ambitious female artists daring to operate on their own creative axis. Weaver spent the next decade methodically building what she calls “her genuinely independent micro-industry,” absorbing the mystical art of Hilda af Klimt, later-period Hawkwind, and the Swedish space opera Aniara, among countless other artifacts. Influenced by the tougher-edged tones of favorites like Hawkwind and Gong, she took up analog synthesis - “It’s activating something inside me,” she says. Critics often hitched her to contemporaries like Broadcast, Stereolab, and Saint Etienne, but despite fleeting musical consonances with those artists, Weaver’s trip has always been her own.
All of which has finally culminated in Weaver’s first-ever headlining tour of the US with a full band. (They’ll be in town this Monday, March 20, at Resident in DTLA.)
“Even though I’m decades into my career, it’s the first time I’ve ever tried to go out and do a tour,” she says. “We had a good introduction with The Chills [last November], but in a way, like any new territory, it’s like starting again.”
Touring in 2023 is a fraught endeavor, even for domestic artists. But the costs to international touring acts are especially prohibitive, and expected to get more so. Weaver says this tour would have been impossible without the recent award of a BPI Music Export Growth Scheme grant to support overseas touring.
“It costs so much to bring five people over. And this is making it work in a non-extravagant way, staying at motels and doing stuff quite cheaply. In the UK especially we are mega-struggling to get anywhere. Everybody's in recovery from COVID and then we've had Brexit, so when we venture outside the UK, it's become ridiculously a lot of red tape, and quite expensive as well.”
Her domestic audiences have enjoyed years of experimentation with the form and substance of live performance. Her 2018 solo tour, for example, found her re-interpreting her back catalog with a series of custom vinyl discs and homemade visual loops. But Weaver feels that her arrival stateside is well timed with an infusion of confidence from those efforts.
“For years, I didn't like performing because I was just a singer-songwriter. But in recent years, I've started to understand more when people talk about engaging with the audience, [and] that connection, that feeling, that high,” she explains. “I used to think that was reserved for the Rolling Stones. [But] sometimes I'll see somebody in the crowd and they look quite emotionally engaged, or people [will come] up to you after the show. It's only in recent years that that's happened, and now I'm grateful for it.”
Despite her formative experiences in LA, Weaver is looking forward to hitting the open road again.
“The last time we were over in America, we drove from Seattle down to San Francisco. I prefer to drive, and I'm not a good passenger. [So] I determinedly drove the whole of Route 1,” she recalls. “The whole band was in the van, and if they were like, ‘Should I drive now?,’ I'd say, ‘No! I must finish the challenge.’ It was like ‘The Lord of the Rings.’”
Jane Weaver and band play Resident on March 20. Get tickets here.