Interview: Laurie Lindeen’s Cinderella Story

interview by Spike

Laurie Lindeen‘s memoir, Petal Pusher – A Rock and Roll Cinderella Story, chronicles the indie-rock rise and demise of her band Zuzu’s Petals. From tentative early shows in adopted hometown Minneapolis through two releases in the early 90’s (and years of decidedly non-glamorous touring to promote the records), Lindeen’s story is ultimately compelling because it rings universal; this isn’t a book about music or the music business during the eye of the “grunge” storm — it’s a book about people. Interwoven with countless shows and countless hours in the touring van are recollections of a very private struggle with MS, and the personal and professional fall-out that comes with having a boyfriend (now husband) who has been called “our generation’s Bob Dylan” — Paul Westerberg.

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Petal Pusher is unflinching in its honesty and at times brutally candid. How does someone expose herself like this… and why? Well, damn — let’s ask her.

At what point did you decide you had an experience others would relate to — something fairly universal, that was asking to be a book — as opposed to just a swell collection of anecdotes to tell friends?

I write whether it’s intended to be anything or not… so all the writing that ended up being Petal Pusher was between me and the keyboard, and consciously giving myself permission to write whatever came up in the course of writing about my time in the band. Through that, themes, subplots, and images started establishing themselves and it started to look like a manuscript. When I became a mom, my world shrunk and consisted only of other parents, caregivers, and kids. We were all grateful to have another grown-up to talk to… so many women in particular said, “Wow, I always wanted to be in a rock band, but I never had the guts.” Those types of comments made me want to diffuse the fantasy and reveal some of the reality, and I wanted to let them know that they weren’t lacking guts as much as a sense that it was the only thing that made sense to do. That and a certain amount of idiocy, of course.

Was there any trepidation among the book’s “characters” when you sprung the idea? After all, these are all real people. It’s obvious how much you care for them, but one of the reasons the book resonates is that you don’t take pains to paint everyone in the most flattering light. I don’t sense any walking on eggshells as far as the writing process goes.

That, for me, was the toughest part, and the exact reason why I’m currently trying my hand at fiction even though I’m naturally drawn to and in love with the memoir form. All the other writers and instructors I had the privilege of working with in grad school kept urging me to reveal more about all of these “interesting” — cult hero or parental — characters, and I was extremely hesitant — even though I knew it was my life too. Someone advised me to write first, edit later, and that helped me plow through it all. Because I have no problem drawing myself in an unflattering light on countless occasions in the book, I was never trying to say “poor little old me” or “I’m great and they suck” — more like we’re all flawed human beings, whether you’ve heard of us or not.

During the editing process I was advised to either cut or further develop a couple of the folks I was hedging on. To cut them was to not tell the real story, and most said, “Go for it.” I wasn’t angry with anyone when writing, or trying to get back at them or anything. I purposely wrote in the present tense to keep myself from judging any thing or any one. I wrote it with a lot of love and fondness and respect I hope?

I won’t give it away because to sum it up wouldn’t do it justice, but the “Carly Simon” episode early on reads almost like a Saturday Night Live sketch.

Really? Wow, thanks… my husband would really like it if I got a writing job that pays! I have, of course, told the Carly Simon story many times because it’s a really good “brush with fame” story — we all behaved incredibly dorky in those few fleeting moments, and I think that’s endearing.

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The Kicking Our Own Asses retrospective on Rhino and the upcoming SxSW musicfest appearance — is the book what triggered both of these? And while I’m asking – where *is* the damn retrospective? I expected it last fall.

The damn retrospective is slated to come out in February, the last I heard. Needless to say, it’s probably not a high priority on the Rhino roster. I kind of asked around because of the book to see if anyone was interested in repackaging some of our old stuff that’s out of print- or whatever you call dead records — with the hopes that the book might make some readers curious about what we sounded like. SxSW came because of the book and because a bunch of us all really wanted to do something together, and we lucked out!

How do the records sound to you now?

Much better in a lot of parts than I remember them being, and in a couple of instances a lot worse. I think we were dynamite now and it sounds kind of great, but that could be me romanticizing about days gone by. My favorite part is how damn funny we were in a sly, subdued way. It saddened me to hear exactly when and how my guitar playing went down hill from start to finish. I had a lot of guts and took a lot of chances in the beginning, and I regret that I let silly things get me down and muffle my joie de vivre.

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