Fur Doesn’t Rock
When someone in the music business came up with the term “alternative” to describe the really cool rock that originated in the ‘90s, they probably had no idea how flexible that term could be. It’s not just the music; it’s the way post-punk people think and speak -- particularly when it comes to how they feel about the sin of wearing fur. Distinct from earlier generations of musicians, these rockers are not much for putting inhumane treatment of animals into protest songs. And they don’t rave about the topic from the stage. But when they put their guitars down, they have plenty to say about the absurd business of wearing fur to keep warm, show off, or both.
Juliana Hatfield is one of this new breed of musicians. Strongly melodic, this songwriter is perhaps best-known for “Spin the Bottle,” the tune that launched her into indie-rock stardom in the 90s. Her new CD, “How to Walk Away,” and incisively-written memoir, “When I Grow Up,” show that maturity suits her. Hatfield may not write overtly political songs, but this Boston resident is not shy about expressing her feelings, and Hatfield thinks fur stinks. She’s smart, realistic. And in her cool, wry way, she’s willing to say there’s no excuse for the suffering of animals killed for their fur.
“I didn’t so much have an epiphany about how awful fur is, so much as a gradual feeling as I was growing up about needless suffering,” says Hatfield. “Also, I don’t like garish displays of wealth. That’s all that fur means to me.”
Hatfield, who volunteers at an animal hospital in Boston, does think future generations can have their consciousness raised.
“It’s all about getting information to kids, early, about where fur and meat come from,” she says.
Jason Stollsteimer’s band, The Von Bondies, offer one of the last great hopes of pure, street-level rock and roll. You might know their hit “C’Mon, C’Mon” as the title song of Denis Leary’s show “ Rescue Me.”
When Stollsteimer is not finishing up the band’s next record (“Love, Hate and Then There’s You” is due in February), he thinks a good deal about the absurdity of fur.
“Nobody needs to do it anymore, especially to keep warm,” says Stollsteimer, who lives in Detroit. “Centuries ago, when we had no alternatives it might have made sense to wear fur for warmth. Nobody needs to do it now. Fur reminds me of the SUV. Nobody actually needs one; they just want to prove they’re rich. There are probably better ways to do that.”
Upon hearing of Juliana Hatfield’s concerns that fur has made a comeback lately, Stollsteimer reports: “One thing that makes me feel good is I’ve never seen a single fan at a Von Bondies show wearing fur. And we’ve been together for ten years. Maybe it’s just me, but I think someday wearing this stuff is going to be obsolete. Whether people understand the cruelty factor, or they just think it’s uncool. But I think we’re going to see the end of fur in our lifetime.”
Maybe you’ve heard power pop king Matthew Sweet’s song, “Girlfriend,” or caught his country-rock supergroup, The Thorns, a few years back. His most recent CD, “Sunshine Lies,” is full of Sweet’s instantly hummable, sixties-influenced rock.
“Fur seems to me to be especially creepy,” says this lynchpin of the SoCal music scene. “It seems to me that if you have a basic respect for nature and a sense of live and let live, that not hurting animals makes perfect sense.”
“We’ve evolved,” says Sweet, echoing Stollsteimer’s ideas about how truly unnecessary animal pelts are to wear. “At least most of us have. If your consciousness has evolved too, it seems that this basic respect for animal life should follow suit. Anyway, I think fur is really on the way out. If it was ever cool, it isn’t anymore.”
“What Juliana said makes a lot of sense,” Sweet adds. “The more kids get information about where fur comes from and how it’s made, the less willing they’ll be to buy it or wear it.”
Dana Detrick, a raw rocker based in Kansas City, is probably the least well-known of this alternative group of rockers. But one listen to her upcoming CD “Retribution Girl” and it’s impossible not think she belongs in that august company. In addition to running the label that put out the disc (www.seriousvanity.com), this rocker and entrepreneur has plenty to say about fur.
“I’m a big proponent of being pro-something as opposed to being negative about a situation,” says this one-woman band, whose best tunes echo Debby Harry and scads of revved-up New Wave bands. “If there’s ever a way to teach people how to be more compassionate, I think that will in turn make them more self-realized. But compassion is really the key. Once a person learns that quality, it will extend to many areas of their life.
As one result of that self-actualization, Detrick affirms, “they’ll realize that will mean they should never, ever wear fur.”