By Gilbert Garcia
Lederhosen Lucil must have been jealous.
At a recent club date, Lucil's creator/alter-ego, Krista Muir tested out a new stage character, a venomous goth-rocker named Crystal Skull. But she swiftly noticed that something was wrong.
Muir, a Canadian eccentric raised on Pee Wee Herman and the Pet Shop Boys, concocted Lucil in 1998 as a cluelessly giddy Bavarian clone who appears onstage in blonde braids and cheap corduroy lederhosen, spouts inanities in fractured German and performs snappy electro-pop tunes on a portable Yamaha keyboard. The effect is akin to Heidi fronting the early B-52s.
For Muir, the menacing Crystal Skull simply represented a way to stretch the parameters of her show. But either Lucil is getting possessive, or Muir can't let go of the fräulein shtick, because she kept hearing Lucil's voice creeping into the mix.
"I was completely missing Lucil," Muir says. "`Crystal Skull` was doing Lucil covers and saying, 'This is actually my song, Lucil stole it.' She was this meaner character, but it was hard for me, because I'm so used to being this faux-German girl. I had to concentrate not to slip into Lucil, even though I was wearing a very different costume and hair."
Lederhosen Lucil caused a stir last fall as the lone female member of Kid Koala's Short Attention Span Theater tour (which also showcased one of San Antonio's favorite sons, DJ Jester, the Filipino Fist). During an October show at Austin's Parish, Lucil's wildly comedic techno-cabaret act felt like such a radical aberration, she might as well have landed on Sixth Street in a spaceship rather than a tour bus. (In fact, Lucil's bio claims the Planet Yamabierstein as her place of birth.) Whether singing the praises of dried apricots or showing off her drum machine's rinky-dink heavy-metal beats, Lucil won over the serious turntable aficionados in the crowd with pure childlike ebullience.
The strange thing about the Krista/Lucil dynamic, however, is that Muir's songs - while often darkly funny, such as "All Good Scabs" and "Best Dishwasher I Ever Had" - are not nearly as cartoonish as the character who sings them. Muir's songs tend to depict real-life frustrations, while Lucil imbues them with ditzy, play-life naïvete. It's a creative collision that should be dissonant, but somehow works.
"I feel like the stories that come through with the songs are all personal, mostly personal stories from my perspective," Muir says. "The character kind of takes them, and creates ironies through the presentations of the songs, especially if it's a serious song.
"If I could have my way, I'd have two bodies and have myself playing the songs and Lucil kind of introducing them and having strange banter and coming up between."
Muir was born and raised in Kingston, Ontario, a small town notable for being home to both a college and prison. "It's this really beautiful scenic place in the summertime, and in the wintertime it's this creepy, seedy place where all the university kids mingle with the ex-convicts," she says. "There's a lot of weird artists that come out of Kingston because of the strange classes of cultures. It's definitely a place you need to escape from.
"That's one of the great things about living in a small town. You really have to make your own fun. There weren't any big concerts to go to or anything, so sometimes we'd make up fake shows and venues, and poster the city. We'd spend hours making these crazy fliers and stake it out and see people arrive for these jamboree nights, but the club wouldn't exist."
"I love the fantasyland, the adult fantasyland as well," she says. "It's so unique and rare to see adults having such a playful, childlike, but twisted time. There should be more people like him, creating those weird worlds for people."
Muir started creating her own weird worlds six years ago after purchasing a small keyboard. She had studied classical piano and Suzuki violin as a child, and later played bass in a genre-confused (ska-punk meets Janis Joplin) all-girl trio called Wild Girl Soup, but her songwriting didn't really flower until she merged her life experiences with the electronic tackiness of her prized Yamaha.
"I was living in Toronto, and it was really tense times," she says. "I didn't know anybody, and I'd often come up from my crappy temp job and go up to my little attic room with my keyboard and start writing these little journal entries about my crummy day, mean people, and bad job. I suddenly had a whole set of songs, but they were all composed on this cheesy keyboard. But I kind of liked the aesthetics of it.
A year later, Muir - as Lucil - played for 40 to 50 friends at a house party in her basement. She considered it a one-off goof, but the response was so positive, she suddenly found herself getting offered gigs. The Lucil character offered her a protective shell, and helped her overcome any nagging stage inhibitions. "It's kind of like once I'm in this character," she says, "anything can happen and I'm totally at ease." •
` By Gilbert Garcia `