So often the best ideas are the simplest, and moreover, right under your nose. For Ashod Simonian, the author/editor/artist behind the new book Real Fun: Polaroids from the Independent Music Landscape, his idea emerged over the course of roughly a decade spent on the road with bands like Pavement, the Shins, Sleater-Kinney, Wilco, the Polyphonic Spree, Norfolk and Western, and many more.
Simonian's involvement in the indierock scene began when he was a band photographer, as well as a member of Earlimart, the Preston School of Industry, and his own current project, Panty Lions. Stemming from the photographer's former residence in a Fresno house called the Ship—an epicenter of creativity, late-night drinking, and couch-surfing touring bands—Simonian's Polaroids of musicians in candid moments are the meat of Real Fun.
Many have shot to fame since they grazed across Simonian's lens. Real Fun shows Jenny Lewis dressed in a thrifty-looking foreshadow of her eventual chic-ness; Chan Marshall scraping sour cream off her jeans; Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla sitting curled next to a mixing board; and James Mercer from the Shins cutting his own dry hair in a grimy bathroom mirror.
Alongside the fresh faces, Simonian captures some of the scene's veterans: L7's Donita Sparks, Exene Cervenka, Pavement's Gary Young, Doug Gilliard of Guided by Voices, Mike Watt, Lou Barlow, and Slim Moon. Supplementing the photographs are anecdotes, some by Simonian, others by band members. One of the most touching accompanies a photo of Elliott Smith ridiculously de-linting a pair of slippers for a drunken guest. Of this, Simonian writes, "It captures [Elliott] in a light that many didn't see, but precisely as I remember him: warm and hilarious."
Also augmenting Real Fun are illustrated caption keys rendered by artist Frank Santoro, and a CD of 18 exclusive tracks recorded by some of the people featured in the book, including Califone, Stereo Total, Grandaddy, and Mt. Eerie. Beautifully packaged, this petite collection of private memories is essential for the indie voyeur, an atypical capture of the exhaustion, beer, and dirt of under-funded road travel.