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Iyall: From The Big Time To Fun Time

September 11, 1987|JON MATSUMOTO

Changing jobs from lead singer for a big-label rock band to receptionist for a fashion design business might not seem like an auspicious career move. But to former Romeo Void vocalist Debora Iyall, the transition has worked out just fine.

Free from the pressures of the corporate rock world, Iyall says she is having fun again fronting her new band on evenings and weekends while working a 9-to-5 during the week.

"No (music industry people) call me and make big promises about what we're going to do next," Iyall said in a phone interview from her home in San Francisco.

"There's no 'You got to get into the studio da da da da da.' Now when I want to go to the studio, then I go in. I was in the studio last night mixing a song for no other reason than I want to have a good tape of this song. . . . But I'm not sending it to all the big A&R people. To not have to do that really makes it worth living."

These days Iyall (who will perform with her new band at Club Lingerie tonight and at the Spirit in San Diego on Saturday) plays music strictly for the love of it. Trying to make a career out of rock 'n' roll in the early '80s with Romeo Void was sometimes as frustrating as it was invigorating and challenging.

When Romeo Void scored a new-wave dance-club hit with "Never Say Never" in 1982, the group appeared on the threshold of major commercial acceptance. Its moody, texturally rich sound was inventive enough to pull critical praise and seemed accessible enough to attract the masses.

But that commercial success never materialized. And after its 1984 "Instincts" album, the members disbanded the group, agreeing that it had reached a creative and spiritual dead end.

"Artistically we had some great and wonderful times together," Iyall remembered. "We kept our integrity within the business. But we grew impatient with each other's (musical) limitations.

"It was the business thing too. We'd get home and we wouldn't have any money. We'd get a little air play and the songwriting was going pretty well. But bands need to see a little reward. The financial pressures of coming home and saying to yourself, 'Where am I going to live?'--it's like you either have to keep an apartment while you're gone or get one when you get back. That's all really expensive and troublesome. We also got tired of the rhythm of the road."

Iyall hopes to sign a recording contract with a small label. She feels an independent company is more likely to view her as an artist rather than a commodity.

The candid and talkative Native American singer released her first solo album, "Strange Language," last year on CBS Records, which was also Romeo Void's label. The experience was less than ideal.

"It was kind of rushed," she said. "Not enough time was spent on the album, though the songwriting was pretty good. There was an excitement built up from Romeo Void and I was supposed to automatically come in with musicians I had hardly played with and keep going from there. I couldn't do that. Plus (CBS said) 'Here's a little budget because you're still a kind of culty type weird person, but we still want it to be a great record.' Then after all their impatience they ended up not liking it."

Without the demands of touring and recording schedules, Iyall has found time to grow in other areas. She recently had a poem published in the San Francisco literary magazine City Lights Review. She is also active in launching a women's literary publication in the Bay Area.

And then there's the day job.

"It's tiring," she said. "Earlier this week I worked all day and then I rehearsed all night. Last night we mixed a song. But right now I have the energy for it. One thing that's great about my job is that they need me. In music you don't always feel that way.

"I think it all adds to you as a person. I don't feel like, 'Oh, I'm going to be a pop star for five years.' I feel like a songwriter and I feel like a singer. These things aren't going to leave me if suddenly I'm not doing interviews. . . . I'm going to still keep singing and writing."

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