Mecca Normal on the CUPE stage, Word On The Street literary festival, Vancouver, 2012.

Mecca Normal is a two-piece indie rock band from Vancouver, Canada, formed by Jean Smith and David Lester in 1984. Smith writes lyrics and sings in a style that is often confrontational and laced with feminist themes; Lester’s melodic yet dissonant guitar swirls and loops around her vocals. Merging the personal with the political in their songs and art-related activism, they helped define the sound and spirit of the early diy/indie rock/riot grrrl movement alongside bands such as Beat Happening and Bikini Kill. In 1985 they formed their own record label Smarten Up! to release their debut album. Since then, Mecca Normal are perhaps the only band to have full-length releases on three of the largest indie labels of the 90s, with albums on K Records, Kill Rock Stars, Matador Records, and Smarten Up! and a 7″ single released by Sub Pop. Smarten Up! later merged with Lester’s small press publishing company Get To The Point to form the label Smarten Up! & Get To The Point on which they released an album in 2003. Much of Mecca Normal’s album The Observer (Kill Rock Stars, 2006) was inspired by Smith’s experiences using online dating websites. Smith and Lester also released a 7″ as Bright Like Ice in 1991, with Cyndee Baudhuin on drums, Argon Steel on guitar and Lester on bass. In November, 2012, Mecca Normal recorded an album’s worth of songs produced by Kramer and engineered by Rat Bastard at the Laundry Room in Miami Beach, Florida. The album Empathy for the Evil will be out in fall, 2014 on M’lady’s Records (Portland, Oregon).


Conversation in a Berlin Train Station by Horde of Two

HORDE OF TWO, is an instrumental group made up of Mecca Normal guitarist David Lester and solo bassist Wendy Atkinson. Their first album, Guitar & Bass Actions (Smarten UP! & Get To The Point, 2007) includes abstract and ambient soundscapes, and poppy instrumentals. They used varied techniques to provoke distinct and startling sounds from their instruments: a knife on a guitar, improvising while watching films with the sound off and overlapping and intertwining disparate sounds. Recording this album began in the dead of winter with a TV monitor set up in the living room of Wendy’s apartment. The video was cued to a murder scene in Alfred Hitchcock‘s film Blackmail. They picked up their instruments, guitar and bass. Wendy pressed the record button on the 4-track. Their music unfolded in a collaborative response to the tension on screen. Lush tendrils of bass hang from wrought iron balconies of guitar. Wendy Atkinson has released two solo bass albums, Pink Noise and Trim (Smarten UP! Records). In 2010 Horde of Two contributed a track called IWW: Lament for Wesley Everest for the comp CD out of Michigan called In The Orchard Of Osiris (It Takes a Village To Make Records).


A brief clip from the film Down Here

Guitar based soundtrack by David Lester for the 52 minute film Down Here (Eldorado Film Productions, 1999), a documentary directed by Veronica Alice about poet, political activist, and former addict Bud Osborn that tells his remarkable story of survival and how it has inspired his struggle to defend Canada’s most impoverished community, Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. The film was broadcast on Vision Television and Knowledge Network.



Poet Bud Osborn joined forces with Mecca Normal guitarist David Lester and bassist Wendy Atkinson for Hundred Block Rock (Get To The Point, 1999). The album examines life in Canada’s poorest neighbourhood, the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver – it is a challenging work that matches Osborn’s forthright style with raw, urgent music. The band toured Canada in support of the album. BUD OSBORN: “I’ve always liked rock and roll, and it’s been very important to me. I wanted to have music that would drive the poem perhaps in another way or amplify the meanings. Originally I worked with a couple of jazz musicians, but then I heard David Lester (longtime guitarist for Mecca Normal) play his electric guitar. It clicked right away.”


David Lester, solo cassette cover, 1998

David Lester created a solo guitar cassette-only album called The Light Changed Before I Could Blink (Get To The Point) in 1999.


The Explosions were Jamie Baugh on bass, David Lester on rhythm guitar, Bob Mercer words and harmonica, Tom Harrison on drums and Alex Varty on slide guitar. They released a 7” single called Wilson, Lucas & Bruce in 1978. The song tells the June 9th, 1975 story of when three prisoners who were about to be returned to solitary confinement at BC Pen took fifteen hostages. The resulting standoff with prison officials lasted forty-one hours and ended with the emergency response team storming the hostage takers. In the process the guards shot and killed one of the hostages, Mary Steinhauser, a young correctional officer who had gained the respect of prisoners by implementing courses for prisoners in solitary. The Explosions would play the song at both Matsqui Prison and while opening for The Talking Heads.

Jean Smith made this film of Wilson, Lucas & Bruce on Prison Justice Day, 2009.

Explosions 45 cover, design by Bob Mercer, 1978

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