Carla Bozulich is all and none of these, a musical riddle wrapped in a performance-art mystery lodged inside a sonic enigma. The former Geraldine Fibbers (an alt-country act signed to Virgin in the mid-'90s) songstress has, for the last 10 years, charted courses in every direction, finding success where lesser talents meet only shoals. Listening to her band Evangelista's debut album, Hello, Voyager, you sense Bozulich's imagination is limitless, her taste eclectic.
"I've always loved opposites," she says during a recent interview. "Though Willie (Nelson) has recorded a happy song about gay cowboys ("Cowboys Are Secretly, Frequently Fond of Each Other"), so maybe he and Genet have more in common than we might have thought."
Since the '80s, Bozulich has devoted her creative energies to the edges of underground music, whether as a member of industrial group Ethyl Meatplow or contributing vocals to Mike Watt solo albums. The closest she has come to the mainstream was with the Fibbers, a critically acclaimed band with average record sales. It wasn't until Bozulich launched her solo career with 2003's song-for-song recreation of Willie Nelson's Red Headed Stranger that the acclaim became unanimous, and that people began to realize she's an artist, a genuine musical craftsman, who's in this for the long haul.
"I do consider myself a craftsman," she replies. "And if you listen to my earlier works, you can see that I've honed my craft like any artisan striving for her best."
With the 2006 release of her album Evangelista, Bozulich hit on a sound that reminded people of Diamanda Galas fronting Godspeed You! Black Emperor, a description that does no justice to Bozulich's raw and cosmic-powered performances.
"Call it 'gospel noise,'" she interjects, as I stumble to characterize Hello, Voyager, which she recorded with a band named after the title of her previous CD.
Gospel, I point out, suggests the presence of the divine.
"Hold on," she warns. "I'm a Capricorn, and Capricorns don't believe in anything that isn't backed up by scientific proof. My religion is to harness the blood-boiling fire that generates inside any human during such activities as war, altruistic love and orgasm."
Speaking of the Big O, there's something a bit erotic about Evangelista's "How to Survive Being Hit by Lightning," which sounds like Dolly Parton being beamed down from a disintegrating satellite in orbit. In other words, there's a lovely song buried amid shards of burbling noise.
"That song is about being resolved, but not beaten," admits Bozulich. "The protagonist is standing as a lightning rod to protect his or her love, even at the expense of possessing human form."
Prior to recording, Bozulich says, about 25 percent of each song is already fashioned in her mind. The rest involves improvisation and composition on the spot, in a studio. And she draws inspiration from unusual sources.
"I just like to listen to sounds of all types, including anything you might find during your typical day, whether it be organic, mechanical or the sounds of people laughing, talking, crying, etc. I think, though I'm not sure, that listening to the structure and random configurations of these sounds is what sets the tone for how I record my own experiences through words and music."
Indeed, Bozulich's Evangelista is a band capable of anything--folk waltz, white noise, pure spoken word and even speed metal.
OK, maybe not the speed metal.
"Metal is great for a quick spin on the turntable, but noise bands can go all night," she says.
When Evangelista performs its set this week, keep your ears open for at least one cover made famous by a country-music legend other than Nelson.
"I have tried to explain my obsession with George Jones before, and it always sounds patronizing," says Bozulich. "Just suffice to say I can listen to his songs hundreds of times, and they still rip me up."