Maybe you know Simone Schmidt as Fiver, or first heard her lyrics in One Hundred Dollars. Have you tripped to the Highest Order? Did she silkscreen your poster, drive your van, confront despair or the cops with you? Maybe she’s been to your studio or read your book. Did you see her from across the room at the archives, or the basement punk show? Maybe she’s helped you get to the toilet.
I am writing about Simone the artist, though it sounds like I’m speaking about her private life. That’s the key to what I, and so many others respond to so deeply: they are harmonic. Simone’s songs embody a rare integrity. But strident politics don’t make great music, which is why lesser musicians don’t event try.
What do personal beliefs or behaviour have to do with good art? How can one reconcile the tropes of fantasy, cool or genius with social responsibility? Difficult. The choices Simone has made as an artist are consistent with her politics, her work experience and her activism. Yet she preaches no claim to moral high roads or abstract purity: she’s dirty, angry, raw, subversive and troubled. When we listen to Simone’s songs we listen to a whole person, someone who has given service to others, who knows how to support selflessly as simply as she steps onto the stage. She thinks about privilege and access, winners and losers. She knows harm, inside and out. She knows grief and hilarity, and the joy of helping others communicate their own truths.
I am brought to mind the great activists Buffy Sainte-Marie, Nina Simone or Pete Seeger. Artists who wrote about oppression, racism, politics of labour, violence against women, environmental destruction, disability, incarceration, mental illness or addiction and make us lift our heads to those hard truths. I have sat in rooms listening to Simone Schmidt sing alone with her guitar and watched as the ring of young people draws closer around her. She is charismatic, her voice haunts- but her most powerful magnet is the resonant depth of our need. We are dying to address the stories she brings in song.
Simone works her music skills with discipline and uncompromising standards. She is an extraordinary guitarist and songwriter, a devoted disciple of craft. Dialed down, rich, slow-mo, hard, hounded, warm to scorching, with a deep talent for the hook. She defies genres and genders. She makes us sing along to shit we don’t even want to talk about.
Let that light a fire under us all.
Shary Boyle is an artist that works across diverse media, including ceramics, sculpture, painting, installation and drawing. She maintains a dual practice alternating between her studio and collaborative touring of projection/sound performance projects. Shary was also a visual artist at Kazoo! Fest 2015.