Interview with the St. Petersburg Times (Dec 2002)

She's cute, but she's no cream puff
St. Petersburg Times; St. Petersburg, Fla.; Dec 5, 2002; GINA VIVINETTO;

Lisa Loeb made a splash in the mid 1990s with the hit Stay. As famous for her coy, sugary-sweet tunes as for her cat-eye glasses, Loeb, 34, grew up in an artistic home and studied literature at Brown University. She has appeared on The Chris Isaak Show with live- in boyfriend Dweezil Zappa and provides the voice for Mary Jane Watson on the new animated Spider-Man series. From her cell phone while on tour driving "somewhere in North Dakota," Loeb answers 10 Pressing Questions about growing up in Dallas, her lust for crossword puzzles and being a part of the wacky Zappa clan.

SPT:(1) Tell me about your cats.

LL: That's them all over the liner notes of the new album (Hello Lisa). I have two: Chinchy Morty and the Baby Jackson.

SPT: How did you arrive at those names?

LL: Dweezil and I were going through a period where everything had to have a last name.

SPT: Do you actually use "the" when you call Baby Jackson?

LL: Oh yes. We say the Baby Jackson.

SPT: We know a little bit about the Zappa family, which also has interesting names. What are the Zappas like?

LL: They actually remind me a lot of my own family in that they're very close-knit. Everyone in their family is also very talented and creative. They all have a really good sense of humor. There are many, many similarities.

SPT: Are you a fan of the senior Zappa's music?

LL: I didn't really know his music growing up. One of my best friends' father had a stack of Frank Zappa records, but we weren't allowed to listen to them. Now I think he's a genius; the guitar work is amazing. And being all arty-farty, you can appreciate his influences: Stravinsky, Varese. Definitely. You can hear all that. It's really amazing music.

SPT: Which records do you recommend?

LL: I'd start with Apostrophe and Overnight Sensation.

SPT: (2) Ben Stiller liked your song Stay enough to use it on the Reality Bites soundtrack even though you had no record deal at the time. Ben, Chris Isaak, the Zappa clan: Do you gravitate toward funny people?

LL: I think I do. I like cynicism, and I like wit. I like people who can see life through that lens.

SPT: Are you funny?

LL: I don't know. You tell me. People seem to think so.

SPT: (3) What's your favorite place in the world?

LL: I like going to Hawaii.

SPT: What do you do there?

LL: Nothing. Relax.

SPT: Do you surf?

LL: No, I can't say I surf. I eat a lot of pineapple.

SPT: (4) What are the best board games?

LL: I like Pictionary. I don't really play a lot of board games. I do a lot of crossword puzzles. I love crossword puzzles.

SPT: Do you attempt the mighty New York Times puzzle?

LL: I do. I'm getting much better at the Sunday crossword.

SPT: Do you still live in New York?

LL: I did for many years, but now Dweezil and I live in Los Angeles.

SPT: (5) Your family was very culturally and artistically tuned-in. You studied dance and music and lots of other arts as a kid. What were you not-so-good at?

LL: I was good at everything, really (laughs). I excelled at all of them. I was really good at ballet. I performed with college students who were studying dance. I was good at piano, ice skating. I was in plays. I loved all of it, really. I was really lucky.

SPT: Your backing band is called Nine Stories, a reference to J.D. Salinger. You studied literature in college. What writers do you recommend to friends?

LL: I love Isabel Allende, Paul Auster. Of course, Salinger.

SPT: (6) People may be surprised to hear you dug Kiss as a child. Did you have a crush on one of the Kiss guys?

LL: I didn't have a crush on him, but Peter Criss was my favorite because he looked like a cat. I also really loved Queen as a kid, especially A Night at the Opera, my favorite Queen album.

SPT: (7) What holidays do you celebrate this season?

LL: I celebrate Thanksgiving and Hanukkah.

SPT: What's the most memorable gift you've ever been given?

LL: When I was 15, my mom gave me a stack of Brian Eno records on vinyl. That was really great. My favorites are Music for Airports and Another Green World, for the more rock stuff with lyrics. I really like Brian Eno a lot. I was getting into him back then because I was a huge David Bowie fan and the two did all those albums together in the 1970s, so I wanted to find out about Eno, and my mom knew that.

SPT: (8) What's the Spider-Man voice-over work like?

LL: It's really fun. Sometimes it's like doing a radio play or something with all the cast members in the studio. Growing up, I did a lot of acting. I was on a television show once called Cupid. I haven't done as much acting as I'd like, because the parts I'm offered - I think it's true for all musicians - they are always to play, like, a schizophrenic street musician singing some Bob Dylan song in a hospital or something. I'd much prefer playing a doctor or a lawyer or even a mother, something closer to me.

SPT: (9) Some male critics dismiss you as simply a "cute" girl who can't possibly be a serious artiste. Tell us something about yourself that is not so cute.

LL: I do like things that are cute, and I like cats, and my favorite color is pink. But I'm very much a business person. People are scared of me after going into a conference room for a meeting. Being from Dallas, I know all about etiquette and how to use it.

SPT: What was it like growing up in Dallas?

LL: Dallas was so conservative. When you're someone who is more into the alternative crowd, you get a better sense of who you really are when you don't blend in. On the other hand, the etiquette and the friendliness of people from Dallas and how they conduct themselves is really interesting. Seeing that, learning from that, has helped me in business. It helps get things done. You learn very good social skills in Dallas. Also, musicians like Lyle Lovett and ZZ Top are from Dallas, where they sort of celebrate the quirkier people. A perfect example: When (former Texas governor) Ann Richards met Dweezil, she was very polite and gracious, but she just told him, "Now you be good to her." And she meant it. People from Dallas can be so blunt, but it's with a smile. That's how they do everything.

SPT: (10) People make such a big deal about your glasses. Do you ever leave them at home so you can be unrecognized?

LL: I've tried that once or twice when I've been in places where I didn't want to be noticed, at a big music festival when I wanted to be in the crowd and enjoy the show. But I have such poor vision, it doesn't work. And I'm allergic to contact lenses. So, I just have to continue wearing my glasses.

SPT:And they're your glasses, darn it. You can wear them all you want.

LL: Yes! Thank you.

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