Born c. 1968 in Duxbury, MA; daughter of a physician and a journalist. Education: Attended Berklee School of Music, Boston. Addresses: Record company--Rounder/Zoe Records, 1 Camp St., Cambridge, MA 02140, website: http://www.rounder.com.
Juliana Hatfield has a "gift for making lyrical venom sound like lullabies,'' described an Alternative Press writer. Such a description aptly conveys the contradictions Hatfield seems to embody. At once confident and vulnerable, possessed of a "wispy voice''--according to Ira Robbins of Musician--and given to writing ebullient pop melodies, Hatfield sings sharp-edged, often despairing lyrics. She also poses for magazine fashion supplements and attacks her guitar with great ferocity, playing havoc with preconceived ideas about gender in rock. Moreover, Hatfield has refused to align herself with any particular ``school,'' calling herself an individualist. ``That's the only thing I stand by: independence,'' she proclaimed in Newsweek, and in a Rolling Stone interview she declared, ``I'm not doing this [playing rock music] to advance the cause of women.''
Writing songs ``about not being able to deal with life,'' as she described it to Robbins, Hatfield moved from a stint on the indie scene with Boston's Blake Babies to a successful solo career thanks to her second solo album, Become What You Are. She also saw her personal life--especially her friendship with Lemonheads leader Evan Dando--scrutinized in public, a cause of considerable frustration to her in spite of her declaration to Spin's Rob Sheffield that ``I get pleasure in being misrepresented.'' Yet through it all Hatfield has presented a unique antidote to the frustrations of her growing audience, and this has much to do with the aforementioned contradictions she embraces. As Sheffield observed, ``Onstage, Hatfield is a mesmerizing swirl of frumpy glamour. She's half teen-hermit basket case, half guitar-totin', [Free-Will philosopher Friedrich] Nietzsche-quotin', punk-rock dream come true.''
Hatfield grew up in the affluent town of Duxbury, Massachusetts, where, as she told Rolling Stone's Kim France, ``A lot of the activity in town was centered around the yacht club.'' Her father was a doctor and her mother a style writer for the Boston Globe. In a Creem interview Hatfield recalled that she first became ``self-conscious'' in high school, a feeling she dealt with largely through aversion therapy. ``My whole life I'd made myself perform in some way. I'd play piano recitals and I was on the gymnastic team so I'd have to get up there in front of the gym and do my routine. I always wanted to do something in front of a crowd.''
Although she studied classical music, Hatfield found herself enthralled by rock, discovering the music of the New Wave English pop trio The Police and playing most of their repertoire with a band called the Squids. A bit later, her brother's girlfriend came to live with the family and introduced Hatfield to punk rock--most notably the rootsy songcraft of the Los Angeles band X--and took her to what she would memorialize in the song ``My Sister'' as ``my first all-ages show/It was the Violent Femmes and the Del Fuegos.'' Punk opened up a new horizon of possibilities. At age 16, Hatfield noted in an Atlantic Records publicity interview, she had a ``mystical experience,'' during which ``I was in my house in the late afternoon, and there was a lot of sun coming in. I looked over to the corner and sort of saw myself singing, and it was the future and I knew that was what I had to do.''
After high school, Hatfield attended the prestigious Berklee School of Music; it was there that she met John Strohm and Freda Love Boner, whom she agreed to join in a band that famed poet Allen Ginsberg christened the Blake Babies. Both Strohm and Boner ``had an active crush on her,'' the former related in Spin. ``We thought we were the only two weird-asses there, but Juliana had braces, and her complexion wasn't so good, she'd just stare at the floor in her leather jacket and floppy ponytail. We thought `Hey she's really neurotic. Cool!''' Hatfield started on guitar with the band but switched to bass. Soon the three were living in a condo they rented from Hatfield's mother, Julie, which they also shared with other musicians, including Dando, who joined the band for a time and whom Julie had met on the club scene. ``My mom's an indie scene queen,'' said Hatfield, who referred to the experience of sharing the so-called ``condo pad'' as ``an amazing, spiritual thing. An awakening.''
The Blake Babies released their first EP in 1987. Writer Nathaniel Wice opined that the band ``give expression to the idea that girls are, as a general rule, smarter and cool than boys. If this possibility has never occurred to you, you will probably find the band insufferable.'' He also felt that ``the unpretentious, moodily pretty and talented Hatfield dominates the group.'' By the time Wice's observations appeared, however, Strohm and Boner had formed a new band, Antenna, and Hatfield had already finished her first solo album; she told Spin on another occasion that she had grown ``sick of democracy'' within the group. ``I just started hating being in the Blake Babies,'' she confessed to France of Rolling Stone, ``and I knew I had to quit.''
Got Noticed with Hey Babe
``When Blake Babies was happening,'' Hatfield reported to Rolling Stone, ``it was really romantic to sleep on floors and not have any money. But when I look back on it, I can't believe some of the stuff we did.'' Yet when she ventured out on her own, Hatfield felt deeply depressed and missed having a band. With the help of a variety of guest artists--including alternative rock luminaries like Dando, fIREHOSE bassist Mike Watt, and singer-songwriter John Wesley Harding--Hatfield recorded her solo debut, Hey Babe. With songs like ``Ugly,'' she explored female self-doubt with unrelenting honesty, while the song ``Nirvana'' referred to the hit alternative band's music as an oasis.
Released in 1992 on the Atlantic subsidiary Mammoth, Hey Babe made a strong impression. Critic Kurt Loder opined in Esquire that Hatfield ``manages the difficult trick of using cleverly fashioned pop tunes to deal forthrightly with feelings of personal worthlessness and the dismal romantic behavior they so often engender.'' Musician's Robbins ventured that Hey Babe offers tart, tuneful pop with flavor that lasts.'' And an Entertainment Weekly reviewer praised the effort as ``1992's best alternative album on an independent label,'' adding that ``Hatfield can be cathartic, yet she never forgets the importance of caressing vocal harmonies and good old-fangled melody.''
Despite such praise, Hatfield was disappointed with the album--which some regarded as a suite of songs about her conflicted feelings for Dando--on both a musical and thematic level. She complained to Newsweek that ``I seemed weak on that record, when I envisioned myself as a strong person. When the album was all mixed, I was listening to it and bawling and saying, `Oh my God, people are going to tear me apart.''' Furthermore, as she told Robbins, Hey Babe ``was where I learned what not to do in a studio.''
In addition to her solo work, Hatfield played bass and sang on the Lemonheads' album It's a Shame About Ray, and also appeared on the band's 1993 recording Come on Feel the Lemonheads, which featured a song about her. Indeed, she and Dando--just friends according to most accounts--became a hot couple in the rock press. Dando's heartthrob status only complicated the public perception of Hatfield, who, to her eternal regret, admitted to being a virgin in an interview and found herself having to discuss the matter. ``I didn't realize journalists would be printing it over and over instead of letting it die,'' she fumed in the Los Angeles Times. She left Boston, as she told a Daily Variety interviewer, because ``I felt like I was becoming a local legend or something.'' Not having a permanent home, she noted, was liberating.
Formed Trio to Become a Star
In any event, Hatfield eventually decided to put together a full-time band and recruited bassist Dean Fisher and former Bullet LaVolta drummer Todd Philips to back her up. ``When Jules first met with us,'' Philips told Alternative Press, ``she said she wanted to rock.'' Thus was born the Juliana Hatfield Three, a tighter, harder unit that performed on her breakthrough 1993 album Become What You Are. The first single, ``My Sister,'' was an alternative smash, and songs like the ferocious ``Supermodel'' and ``Dame With a Rod'' showed that Hatfield had adopted a tougher, less self-blaming stance, even as ``Spin the Bottle'' offered a bit of giddy romanticism.
``The biggest difference between this new record and Hey Babe,'' Hatfield told Request, ``is that as soon as I finished Hey Babe, I hated it, and as soon as I finished Become What You Are, I loved it.'' Her instincts were correct; the album helped Hatfield become an important figure on the alternative rock scene. Indeed, she was successful enough to inspire a parody, ``The Juliana Hatfield Song,'' by singer-songwriter Melissa Ferrick, who noted, accurately, that ``Juliana Hatfield doesn't even have a sister.'' Though Hatfield said in a Spin interview that she ``was not amused'' by Ferrick's salvo, the incident showed that she had become part of the pop landscape.
Become What You Are earned generally strong reviews from the music press. A Rolling Stone writer called it ``a fine album, a remarkable set of songs that subtly calibrates the dynamics of relationships today'' and ``has a consistency of tone, with most of the songs united by a sense of missed connections and dislocations.'' Rob O'Connor of Musician wrote that ``like an unconscious smile, Become What You Are has a way of catching you off-guard and making the world seem like a manageable place after all.''
Hatfield followed the success of Become What You Are with the release of Only Everything in 1995. The album was a change from the typically dark and angst-ridden mood of her previous work. Songs such as "Universal Heartbeat" and "Live on Tomorrow" were "stronger, more mature works," according to Devon Jackson of Harper's Bazaar, while Craig Rose of Billboard called "Hang Down from Heaven" "sweet" and "folk-influenced."
Left Atlantic for Freedom as Indie Artist
After touring with Lilith Fair, and then on her own through Australia and the United States in 1997, Hatfield decided to leave Atlantic Records because the label was not satisfied with the songs she had planned for an album entitled God's Foot. She released the independent EP Please Do Not Disturb, then began work on her next album, Bed, which was written in just two months. Released on the Zoe label--a Rounder Records subsidiary--in 1998, Bed featured heavier guitar, and according to Matt Ashare of Guitar Player, made Hatfield sound as though she had a "renewed sense of purpose in both her songwriting and playing."
The year 2000 saw the release of two Hatfield albums: Beautiful Creature and Total System Failure. The latter was the creation of Hatfield's new band, Juliana's Pony, a trio similar to the Juliana Hatfield Three, which featured former Weezer bassist Mike Welsh and drummer Zephan Courtney. "Beautiful Creature is a bit more mellow, but it is 'the Juliana Hatfield record.' Juliana's Pony is a little side project band, and that [album is] more rock," Hatfield told Steve Hurley of MTV.com. Hatfield also toured in support of the albums. She and the Blake Babies reunited for the release of God Bless the Blake Babies on the Rounder label in 2001.
by Simon Glickman
Juliana Hatfield's Career
Sang and played bass and guitar with Blake Babies, 1987-91; released solo debut, Hey Babe, Mammoth Records, 1992; played on Lemonheads albums, It's a Shame About Ray, 1992, and Come On Feel the Lemonheads, 1993; released follow-up solo album, Become What You Are, 1993; released Only Everything, 1995; Bed, 1998; Juliana's Pony: Total System Failure,2000; and Beautiful Creature, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Hey Babe , Mammoth, 1992.
- Become What You Are , Mammoth, 1993.
- Only Everything , Mammoth, 1995.
- Please Do Not Disturb (EP), Bar/None, 1997.
- Bed , Zoe, 1998.
- Beautiful Creature , Zoe, 2000.
- Juliana's Pony: Total System Failure , Zoe, 2000.
- With the Blake Babies
- Nicely, Nicely , Chewbud, 1987.
- Earwig , Hollywood, 1989.
- Sunburn , Hollywood, 1990.
- God Bless the Blake Babies , Rounder, 2001.
- With the Lemonheads
- It's a Shame About Ray , Atlantic, 1992.
- Come on Feel the Lemonheads , Atlantic, 1993.
August 9, 2005: Hatfield's album, Made in China, was released. Source: Billboard.com, www.billboard.com/bb/releases/week_2/index.jsp, August 18, 2005.
- Alternative Press, October 1993.
- Billboard, July 17, 1993; October 2, 1993; March 10, 2001.
- College Music Journal (CMJ), August 1993.
- Creem, October 1993.
- Daily Variety, July 12, 1993.
- Details, September 1993; July 1994.
- Entertainment Weekly, December 25, 1992.
- Esquire, August 1992.
- Guitar Player, October 1993; November 1998.
- Harper's Bazaar, April 1995.
- L.A. Village View, September 3, 1993.
- Los Angeles Times, September 8, 1993.
- Musician, October 1992; August 1993.
- Newsweek, September 6, 1993.
- Pulse!, October 1993.
- Raygun, December 1993.
- Request, November 1993.
- Rolling Stone, September 30, 1993; October 28, 1993.
- Spin, January 1992; August 1992; December 1993; March 1994.
- "Juliana Hatfield," All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (May 16, 2002).
- "Juliana Hatfield Keeps Busy with Two LPs, Tour," MTV.com, http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1429983/20000425/story.jhtml (May 16, 2002).
- Additional information was provided by Atlantic Records promotional materials, 1993.
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