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original site launched April 1, 2004, .com relaunched October 1, 2004
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|An Interview with Charlotte Summer
by Karla Ash
You might've heard a cover of the Cure's "Just Like Heaven" sung by a woman. If you're the hardcore purist type, you might have unfortunately dismissed it as a cash-seeking novelty. The remake was performed by a rising star in the darkwave genre, the deceptively named Charlotte Summer, whose music is not the sunny pop music you'd expect from that handle. Summer is among the few—I honestly cannot think of any others at the moment—solo female artists with a yen for '80s new wave and post-punk. Summer tells all to The Wig Fits All Heads.
Karla Ash: You were in a band called Bizarre Love Triangle, which is also the name of your album. Why did you put it in your name?
Charlotte Summer: Shortly before we were going to release the album, there were some problems with a member in the band. We agreed to release the material under my solo name and title the album "Bizarre Love Triangle" to keep the name around because we had started to build a fan base. Also, it was an appropriate title because a bizarre love triangle was partly to blame for the problems with two of the other members (I was not the third part of that triangle). It was mostly a solo project anyway so I felt that we would release it under a name I could continue to use no matter who was playing on the albums.
Ash: Do you feel that, because you're a female singer/songwriter in a post-Alanis world, that people expect your music to be more punk?
Summer: Absolutely! I find it hard fitting into a genre these days. I’m not a teen pop performer, and I don’t really fit into the Lilith Fair genre either. A lot of women performers are not taken seriously in the Bay Area unless you are a “serious chick with her acoustic guitar, with no frills.” I like to get dressed up and look sexy and rock out with my guitar and keyboards and that is just not commonly accepted around here. People think you must be stupid if you want to look sexy, and they also assume you don’t write your own material. I think you can do it all. However, with that said, it depends on what crowd you are playing too. The younger kids love it, as well as the gay crowd, but the older crowd and the critics are a lot more skeptical. I guess that’s why I get so many references to Blondie. If New Wave were still around, it wouldn’t be such a big deal.
Ash: Your husband's group Moonlife reminds me of the Human League except that the feminine presence isn't as strong. Since you're doing covers, have you thought about remaking "Don't You Want Me" with Moonlife?
Summer: That would be a great idea! We have talked about several things we could get going but I think a duet like that would be perfect. Thanks for the suggestion.
Ash: When did you first get a taste of New Wave and post-punk?
Summer: It was the early ‘80s. I remember trying to tune my radio into a station and came across a strange sounding song. It was “How Soon Is Now?” by the Smiths. I was mesmerized by this song and wanted to hear more music like this. Up to this point, my musical tastes had been influenced by what my parents had on in the car, which were usually top 40. I also had an older brother who had a great music collection. At this point, I would start sneaking into his room to borrow his tapes and that’s when it all started. I first fell in love with Depeche Mode, Howard Jones and the Smiths.
Ash: Of the songs on your record, which ones had the most emotional attachment to you?
Summer: Wow, they all were except for "Just Like Heaven" since I didn’t write the lyrics. However, if I had to pick just one, it would have to be "Guilty." All my songs are personal and tell my stories or views. "Guilty" is special because it really was explaining how I felt at that time in my relationship (not with current husband) and how upset and mad and frustrated and "Guilty" I felt. It’s hard to look at someone you were once in love with and see hate. Especially when they look at you with love.
Ash: You covered "Just Like Heaven" by the Cure. Did you ever consider "Charlotte Sometimes"?
Summer: Actually, no. However, when we were trying to decide which part of my name to use for the album, a lot of our friends suggested changing the name to Charlotte Sometimes. I do love the song and had a few guys try to pick me up back in the day quoting lines from the song. I would probably feel weird singing a song with my name in it but now that you mention it, we should try it for fun.
For more information on Charlotte Summer, visit http://www.charlottesummer.net.