What's In Your Fridge: Suzie Ungerleider
What’s In Your Fridge is where the Straight asks interesting Vancouverites about their life-changing concerts, favourite albums, and, most importantly, what’s sitting beside the Heinz ketchup in their custom-made Big Chill Retropolitan 20.6-cubic-foot refrigerators.
On the grill
Who are you
I am a singer-songwriter who grew up in Vancouver during the 1980s, wore an old tuxedo jacket and saw D.O.A. about a hundred times but my music is not punk rock at all. My songs are intimate, melodic and tell stories–but I still have a fangirl crush on Joey and saw him the other day on East Hastings and felt my face turn red and my heart skip a beat. Right now, I have a new record that is called My Name is Suzie Ungerleider. After 20 odd years of performing under the moniker of Oh Susanna, I thought it was time to make my debut as myself.
One of the first concerts I remember going to was seeing the American Jazz pianist and composer Mary Lou Williams when I was about six years old. My dad was a huge fan and wanted us to see this legendary musician who wrote and arranged for the likes of Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman. You would think that the show would be at an ornate soft-seated theatre with a grand piano, but no, it was in a church basement with folding chairs, fluorescent lights, and an upright piano. There were probably about 40 of us there who witnessed her performance. It is strange because in around this time Williams gave a concert at Carnegie Hall and at the White House for Jimmy Carter, so it is mysterious why she was playing this weird little gig in Vancouver. At one point during the show she asked if there was anyone who wanted to play something on the piano. I had just started taking piano lessons and my dad wanted me to play something, but I was way too shy. Instead a teenaged boy got up and played a jazz composition and Mary Lou Williams smiled and looked proud of him. It was a touching moment where it seemed like she was showing us that music is to be shared and not just kept by the expert few.
Even though I had seen many shows and been obsessed with music for years, one show that is seared into my mind is when I saw Iris Dement at the Vancouver East Cultural Centre. She stood alone onstage under the spotlight, closed her eyes, and sang with such passion and force, very raw and emotional, weaving funny stories in between the songs. I felt like I was so close that I could touch her. It was the mid-’90s and I wanted to make music so badly and to write songs like she did and to sing them out plainly and unadorned. Seeing her like that, alone and strong and vulnerable, brought me one step closer to stepping on to the stage myself.
Top three records
Ranking music for me is difficult–especially because I have lived through five decades. Here are three records that always transport me when I listen to them:
Rolling Stones Let it Bleed My grade six teacher knew I loved the Stones and so he gave me his copy of Let it Bleed which my sister and I played a thousand times over. The record is incredibly eclectic and contains country, blues, gospel, and rock. When I listen, I always feel these songs in my body and my head is floating around through the landscapes evoked by them. I would say that this album was a bridge for me to connect to the pre-rock past of American music. Plus Jagger is capable of creating some incredible imagery in his lyrics. He can be a great lyricist and people forget that.
David Bowie Hunky Dory I lived in the Castro district in San Francisco one summer when I was about 20. I was a bit of a misfit there amongst the gay culture but it was fascinating to be a fly on the wall there. I stayed by myself in my sister’s friend’s place and found this album in the apartment. I listened to it every day. I knew other Bowie records but didn’t know this one and so it was a happy discovery of something I had never heard from someone I loved. The songs are sweet, particularly the ones about Bowie’s son, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan. It is very loving and playful and warm. Like little love letters.
Kate Bush Hounds of Love Her voice, her eccentricity, her storytelling. She is so true to her vision and the pictures in her mind. In grade 11, I went skiing at night up on Cypress and sang “Hello Earth!” as I slid down the mountain.
All-time favourite video
Peter Gabriel Sledgehammer has got to be one of the greatest videos ever.
Claymation, pixilation, and stop motion animation. Plasticine creations morphing in and out of Peter’s head, dancing plucked chickens, toys and objects moving, and cleverly illustrating the lyrics of the song with humour. Has anyone not seen this? Probably the young ones. Please, if you haven’t, go watch it. And then watch it again.
What’s in your fridge
Pizza Dough on Day 1 of a 3-day fermentation. We have a portable pizza oven that makes excellent Neapolitan-style pizza. My husband has perfected making pizza dough that is light, chewy and delectable and so we have outdoor pizza yumminess on a regular basis.
Silkie Chicken. Again, something facilitated by Cam, my husband, who likes to cook. He decided to pick up this strange-looking chicken where the bones and flesh are black and has an extra toe on each foot. It is a Chinese breed of chicken. Mostly for egg laying. It is still in our freezer but we are going to make coq au vin with it.
Homemade chili miso sauce. I love to make poke bowls, and go through this like it’s water. I made this batch myself so I didn’t have to pay 10 bucks a jar which is what fancy-assed sauces can cost. When we eat poke we feel like we are in Hawaii, which is never a bad thing.
Suzie Ungerleider plays a livestream side door record release show for My Name Is Suzie Ungerleider on 6 p.n. on Thursday (October 28). Read below, in her own words, why you should check it out, and then click here for tickets and details.