RED VELVET UNDERGROUND: A ROCK MEMOIR, WITH RECIPES (October 2015)
Freda Love was a 19-year-old college dropout who’d escaped Indiana for Boston when she became the drummer for The Blake Babies in 1989. Twenty-five years later, she’s the suburban mother of two teenaged sons, teaching at a prestigious university, and thinking about restarting her last band, the Mysteries of Life. Her oldest is getting ready to head to college, and she realizes one of the best things she can do for him is teach him to cook.
Red Velvet Underground tells the story of how Smith’s indie-rock past evolved into her domestic present. Loosely framed around cooking lessons she gives her older son, her story moves back and forward in time as she recollects how she got started in music, and how her career in rock eventually dovetailed with her passion for cooking and, later, the growth of her family. The book intersperses forty-five recipes with personal stories about her music career, cooking, eating, and family.
Throughout, she reflects on how food and music have intersected throughout her life, from the time The Smiths’ “Meat is Murder” inspired her to become vegetarian, to vigorously beating dough at her college bakery job to The Velvet Underground, to seeing her musician son through his one-month experiment with veganism.
As she compares her son’s experiences to her own, Smith plumbs the deeper meanings behind the role of cooking in her life, her experiences starting and playing in different bands (in one of which—Antenna—she met her future husband, Jake Smith), going on the road, and pursuing work in and out of music as she raises her sons.
Smith tells her story with characteristically Midwestern warmth and grace. Red Velvet Underground is a charming exploration of the ways food and music have informed identity through every stage of one woman’s life.
FREDA LOVE SMITH is a lecturer in the School of Communication at Northwestern University. She is the co-founder of the bands The Mysteries of Life and The Blake Babies, who were regulars on MTV and critically applauded in The Village Voice, Rolling Stone, and Spin. Her songs have been licensed widely, from the 2003 Disney film Freaky Friday to American Airlines in-flight entertainment programs. She has a monthly column in Paste and her short stories have appeared in journals such as The North American Review, Smokelong, Bound Off, and Riptide. She lives in Evanston, IL, with her partner, Jake Smith, and two sons.
“This memoir is filled with twists and turns, rises and falls—all chronicled with Freda’s characteristic charm and seductive wit. You might call it Eat, Play, Love—a young musician’s battered-van journey to an adulthood that has, thankfully, left her a wealth of road stories and recipes to share.” —Anthony DeCurtis, contributing editor at Rolling Stone“Freda Love Smith and I share three great passions: music, writing, and food. She deftly combines them here, adding an incisive view of motherhood, an inspiring capacity for joy, and a winning dash of Midwest humility. Love and deliciousness suffuse every page of this tender, delightful book.” —Ira Robbins, music journalist and cofounder of Trouser Press
“These are sweet, unsentimental scenes from the ever-evolving life of a woman of many shifting and balancing roles: mother, wife, drummer, student, teacher, friend, daughter, food enthusiast. It’s all tied together with tantalizing recipes that have been lovingly improvised and tweaked into a life-affirming doneness.” —Juliana Hatfield, musician
“Freda Love Smith writes an honest and moving memoir about the very food of life—the music, meals, and mistakes we make; the roads we do and don’t take; the lessons we give and receive; the people we love, lose, find, and become along the way. Both on the page and behind her drum kit, Love Smith is a subtle yet powerful keeper of the time.” —Chrissie Dickinson, music journalist and former editor of The Journal of Country Music
“This book has a lot of heart, capturing what it’s like to be caught between the nostalgia for the life you led in your 20s and the sobering responsibilities of being a parent of a kid now reaching that same golden age; the tug-of-war between memories of bands as self-selected surrogate families and creating an actual family; and the examination of life choices and roads not taken. —Bill Janovitz, musician and author of Rocks Off: 50 Tracks That Tell the Story of the Rolling Stones
“As fascinating as Freda Love Smith’s indie rock journey is, this is ultimately the story of a devoted mother passing on her wisdom to a college-aged son who is just starting to figure out how to tackle the world on his own terms. At the center of their relationship is food. Yes, the thing we all love. You will find yourself literally and figuratively hungry for more after every chapter.” —Len Kasper, broadcast announcer for the Chicago Cubs.
“Freda manages to elevate the personal to the universal with deeply relatable stories. Themes of food, family, and music are woven artfully together with wisdom, warmth, and humor. I found myself alternately (and sometimes simultaneously) inspired to cook, play guitar, kiss my kids, and call my friends. And eat!” —Tanya Donelly, musician