John David V is a night person. Maybe that's why it seems so strange that he has a day job. As bassist and now guitarist of Glass Candy and the Shattered Theatre —probably one of the most enigmatic, dramatic bands to creep out of the West Coast since the Residents (and who are those masked eyeball men, anyway?)—he's attached to a band persona so intensely focused it's almost a crime against art to think of him having to do anything so mundane as file a W-2 form or wear something with a company insignia stitched on it. He shouldn't have to have a job. But he does. And that's where we track him down. And that's why he's saying things like "We consider all of the facets of expression to be equal" and "We consider songs to be living organisms capable of expressing themselves in different ways at different times" while on an 8 p.m. break from trimming lettuce at a Fred Meyer supermarket somewhere in Portland, Oregon.
His co-workers have no idea where he spent the summer (but you do: starting a tour in Texas with 12 cents in the band fund and ending up in New York with enough fresh cash to fly their just-dumped drummer home to LA). The supermarket co-workers don't know about his real night life, with the false eyelashes and everything. They don't ever see his long hair, which he keeps tucked under a baseball cap ("I look like Johnny Appleseed," he says). And the Portland scenester kids? They see him playing shows, they see him pulling all-nighters at Kinko's with tables full of raw flier fodder, they see the two catch-them-if-you-can singles at the local record stores that Glass Candy put out by themselves, but they don't see him putting in 50 hours a week trimming lettuce. Two worlds, he says.
"I'm able to do it," he says, "because I'm a . . . really intense Gemini. It's a totally different separation. I work really hard at a grocery store because it enables us to have complete control over everything we do. Except for whatever you write."
He's a little wary of this interview, which, by our not-so-painstaking count, is about the second the band has done in its six years and the first in which he's been on the spot. Usually vocalist Ida No does the talking, with as few direct quotations as possible. This is all part of Glass Candy's meticulously calculated mystique, the atmosphere created by John and Ida that defines the band at least as much as any music they're making. None of them is an art student, John says, but you'd be hard-pressed to do the robot at one of their shows without elbowing at least one cogent reference to 20th-century avant-garde factions in the fleshy bits: like the collages John spends all night on at Kinko's, the Glass Candy aesthetic is a maelstrom of uneasily complementary movements.
Listen and it's (or it was; those songs are living organisms, remember?) an eerie riff on New York no wave and British glitter, a keening atonal anxiety-pop; ply Bowie, Iggy, Lydia Lunch and Teutonic chanteuse Nina Hagen with coke and pleasantries enough, and you might get these patently unemployable love children. Look, and they're not just referencing punky stalwarts like Dada and the amped-up performance art of the '60s and '70s, but the fusty retro-modernism of the Italian Futurists or the Russian Constructivists, too. Call it suburban sublime: "I was meant to do more," sighed Ida in that other interview, "than be a manager at Dairy Queen."
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And they knew the instant they saw each other they both craved something else, "for whatever reasons," John says. He had just moved to Portland from a suburb of Houston and was starting his grocery-store job; Ida came in to buy carrots for her pet rabbit. He'd grown up sneaking peeks at Joan Jett and Blondie off the TV in a prohibitively religious household; she was from a tiny town outside Portland (twice winner of an All-American City award!) and stayed up at night to watch the Go-Go's and Cheap Trick on too-weird-for-prime-time variety show Night Flight. "That, to her, was the world she wanted to be in," John says. "Nothing else was good enough."
He wants to make a good record someday, he says, to make a mark that will last. But they're still learning. He works so Ida has time for music; he likes his job because it adds focus to his life, but work has always been very draining for Ida. After work, he's got a collage of her over the city of Portland to attend to. Every day, it's something, he says: recording the band, writing for the band, working on art for the band, sometimes efforts that never see the light of day but are still necessary for momentum. Some people think it's admirable they work so hard, he says as his lunch break runs out.
"For us, it's not a comfortable thing to do," he says. "We're totally poor working class, but we insist on being completely independent. The way we look at it, it's not really a choice."
Glass Candy and the Shattered Theatre perform with Gogogo Airheart, Revolution Smile, the Grand Elegance and the Convocation Of at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $7. All ages.