It's customary to crave road travel when your summer bummer declines into a case of cubicle claustrophobia at the ol' air-conditioned nightmare. Some of us just need to go on hiatus for a while. But take it from electronic-experimental musician Kevin Blechdom: her 2002 move from San Francisco to Berlin has been a fruitful experience.
"For the last four years, I was able to support myself through playing music," she writes via e-mail. "That's nearly impossible to do in America with the style of music I'm making, but totally possible in Europe. I remember someone asking me what I did for a living, and I shyly said that I was a musician. They consider it a 'real' career, and I remember being surprised by that. In America you say, 'I'm a musician,' and then the other person asks, 'But what's your real job?' "
Born Kristin Erickson, the 28-year-old artist was first drawn to music as a child growing up in Stuart, Fla. Initially trained as a classical pianist, Blechdom was also influenced by musical theater and pop music, and she started writing songs with her brother during high school. She went on to study piano at Florida State University but became disenchanted with its "conservative and eventually depressing" program and transferred in 1997 to Mills College in Oakland to study electronic music composition.
"I spent a lot of hours in the music library listening to avant-garde electronic music from the '60s and '70s, and I kept seeing 'recorded at Mills College' on the back of my favorite recordings," she writes. "When I got to Mills, it was the perfect environment for a young musician wanting to find her own way to compose and listen and think about music."
While at Mills, Blechdom struck up a friendship with Bevin Kelley, a.k.a. Blevin Blectum. The pair soon started performing as an electronic duo and releasing albums under the moniker Blectum from Blechdom. But after an intense four-year partnership, the twosome's relations soured, and Blechdom shortly afterward fled to Berlin.
"I think a lot of the trouble was dealing with a public growth spurt and having to grow up a bit," she notes of her spilt with Blectum. "We have an amazing collaborative intuition that I treasure. In the last year we have started to work together again, and it's gratifying to start where we left off."
As a solo artist, Blechdom has gravitated toward musical theater and performance art, while retaining Blectum from Blechdom's noise ethic. Her Chicks on Speed-released full-lengths - Bitches Without Britches (2003) and Eat My Heart Out (2005) - channel artists such as Kate Bush and Magnetic Fields with dizzying synth pop allure and barnyard banjos. Upon the latter album's release, Blechdom began performing topless and draping herself in dripping, raw meat during her live sets.
"It was a very basic symbolism mixed with a salute to female performance art. The symbolism was about turning inside out or trying to find those 'inside' feelings to express," she writes, adding that it was fun until she got nauseated and had to stop.
Blechdom is in the process of relocating to the Bay Area so she can attend school this fall. In addition to her solo work and Blectum from Blechdom, she's also collaborating with Evans Hankey in the Reality Club and with Christopher Fleeger in an Evanescence and Rammstein cover band called Barn Wave.