Music News

Rabbit Test

Rilo Kiley frontwoman Jenny Lewis should be thrilled. After all, the February edition of Spin features a multi-page profile of her by notable scribe Chuck Klosterman. Unfortunately, though, the spread shortchanges Rabbit Fur Coat -- a new side-project CD (made with the Watson Twins) that qualifies as her finest platter to date -- in favor of assorted gossip, including speculation about past romances.

"I hate that piece," she says. "But I understand that's what people want to know about. And just as I pick up In Touch Weekly because I want to know about Angelina's 'bump,' as they call it, I realize that people want to know who I've dated -- and they can speculate all they want. As long as I don't divulge any info, I guess it doesn't matter."

Problem is, plenty of details about Lewis are already in the public domain -- particularly those pertaining to her past life as a child actress on programs such as Life With Lucy (she played Lucille Ball's granddaughter). Blake Sennett, her Rilo Kiley collaborator, was a juvenile actor, too, and while the two are no longer an item, their relationship remains symbiotic. Sun, Sun, Sun, the latest by the Elected, Sennett's beyond-Rilo group (see page 81), came out on January 24, the same day as Rabbit Fur Coat.

As for Rilo, the band's strong indie albums attracted the attention of Warner Bros., which will issue its next long-player, probably in early 2007. Meanwhile, the starstruck alt-rock press continues to treat Lewis like a mega-celebrity, to her puzzlement. "I'm not as well known in real life as I am in music magazines," she points out. "For the most part, I walk around and people don't know who the hell I am -- and if they do stop me on the street, they think we went to high school together."

Coat won't change that; it's small-scale and intimate, not a potential blockbuster. Still, the disc's rootsy, '70s-style production brings out the best in Lewis, both vocally and lyrically. It's tempting to view the title cut, a folkie allegory about a money-grubbing mother pushing her "$100,000 kid," as autobiographical, but Lewis undermines this theory. Listening to the recording is "more like reading a collection of short stories" than peeking into her diary, she insists.

Fans who feel they've gained an insight into Lewis's soul via articles like the one in Spin are even more naive, she notes. According to her, "Those things are never truthful. They never reflect who I really am, and I don't relate to them. It's always a bunch of people assuming what my life is like. For the most part, I don't read that stuff, and when I do, I try not to get too upset.

"The only way to really know me," she continues, "is to come over and spend the night. We can build a fort in the living room and maybe drink a bottle of pinot noir and talk about Iraq and Dick Cheney. And then maybe you'll figure things out a little more, rather than wondering about who I apparently dated."

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts