Neko Richelle Case (/ˈniːkoʊ ˈkeɪs/; born September 8, 1970) is an American singer-songwriter, best known for her solo career and her contributions as a member of the Canadian indie rock group The New Pornographers.
Case, born in Alexandria, Virginia, is the daughter of Diana Mary Dubbs and James Bamford Case. Case's paternal family surname was originally Shevchenko.
Case's father, a Vietnam vet serving in the United States Air Force was based in Virginia. Her parents, teenagers when they had her, were of Ukrainian ancestry. Her parents divorced when Case began school.
Case had a nomadic childhood with her mother and stepfather, an archaeologist. She lived in Western Massachusetts, Vermont, Oregon and Washington. Her family traveled around while she was young before settling in Tacoma, Washington, the city she considers her hometown. She now lives in Vermont.
Case left home at 15. At 18 years of age, Case was living in Tacoma, becoming a drummer for Northwest area punk bands, the Del Logs and the Propanes. Case worked at a Tacoma punk club, the Community World Theater.
She attended the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, graduating with a BFA in 1998.
In 1994, Case moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, to attend the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. While attending school she played drums in several local bands, including the Del Logs, the Propanes, the Weasels, Cub (which featured I Am Spoonbender's Robynn Iwata), and Maow. All of these bands were local punk groups except for Cub and The Weasels, which Case described as a "country music supergroup".
"A lot of women wanted to play music because they were inspired, because it was an incredibly good time for music in the Northwest. There was a lot of clubs, a lot of bands, a lot of people coming through, a lot of all-ages stuff--it was a very exciting time to live there."
In 1998, Case graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, which meant the loss of her student visa eligibility. She left Canada for Seattle, Washington. Before leaving, Case recorded vocals for a few songs that ended up on Mass Romantic, The New Pornographers' first album. Her lead vocals on songs like "Letter from an Occupant" are straightforward, full-volume power-pop performances, entirely shedding any country elements. Released on November 28, 2000, Mass Romantic became a surprise success. Although the band was originally conceived as a side project for its members, The New Pornographers remain a prominent presence in the indie rock world, having released its sixth album Brill Bruisers on August 25, 2014.
In addition to recording with The New Pornographers, Case frequently collaborates with other Canadian musicians, including The Sadies and Carolyn Mark, and has recorded material by several noted Canadian songwriters, in particular on her 2001 EP Canadian Amp. As a result, she is also considered a significant figure in Canadian music--both CBC Radio 3 and the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada have referred to Case as an "honourary Canadian".
"I hope I can comfort people a bit--maybe show people that making music is fun and accessible to them as well. I'm not out to become Faith Hill, I never want to play an arena, and I never want to be on the MTV Video Music Awards, much less make a video with me in it. I would like to reach a larger audience and see the state of music change in favor of musicians and music fans in my lifetime. I care very much about that."
Case fully embraced country music on her 1997 album, The Virginian. The album contained original compositions as well as covers of songs by Ernest Tubb, Loretta Lynn and even the 1974 Queen song "Misfire". When the album was released, critics compared Case to honky-tonk singers like Lynn and Patsy Cline, and to rockabilly pioneer Wanda Jackson, particularly in her vocal timbre.
On February 22, 2000, Case released her second solo album, Furnace Room Lullaby. The album introduced the "country noir" elements that have defined Case's subsequent solo career. That tone was evident even from the cover photo, featuring Case sprawled out corpse-like on a concrete floor. On the album itself, her vocal style moves away from outright honky-tonk but retains her twang, garnering comparisons to musicians such as Cline, Lynn, Hazel Dickens, Tanya Tucker, and Dolly Parton. The title track was included on the soundtrack to Sam Raimi's film The Gift, and "Porchlight" was featured on the soundtrack to The Slaughter Rule.
Case sometimes tours with Canadian singer and songwriter Carolyn Mark as The Corn Sisters. One of their performances, at Seattle's Hattie's Hat restaurant in Ballard, was recorded and released as an album, The Other Women, on November 28, 2000.
In October 1999, around the time Furnace Room Lullaby was released, Case left Seattle for Chicago because she felt that Seattle was no longer hospitable to its local artists.
Case's first work in Chicago was an eight-song EP that she recorded in her kitchen. Canadian Amp, her first recording without Her Boyfriends, was released on her own Lady Pilot label in 2001. She wrote two of the tracks, with the remaining six being covers, including Neil Young's "Dreaming Man" and Hank Williams' "Alone and Forsaken". Four of the covers were written by Canadian artists. The EP was initially available only at Case's live shows and directly from Mint Records' website, but it eventually saw wider release.
Case recorded her third full-length album, Blacklisted, in Tucson, Arizona. Her first album credited to Case alone, without Her Boyfriends, it was released on August 20, 2002. Some believe the title Blacklisted alludes to Case being banned for life from the Grand Ole Opry because she took her shirt off during a performance on August 4, 2001 at one of their outdoors "Opry Plaza" concerts, though Case herself has denied this. Asked about the incident in 2004, Case said "I had heatstroke. People would love it to be a 'fuck you' punk thing. But it was actually a physical ailment thing."
Most of the album's fourteen songs are originals; the exceptions being covers of "Running Out of Fools", previously a hit for Aretha Franklin, and "Look for Me (I'll Be Around)" previously performed by Sarah Vaughan. Blacklisted finds Case even deeper in a "country noir" mood, and was described by critics as lush, bleak, and atmospheric. Case cited filmmaker David Lynch, composer Angelo Badalamenti, and Neil Young's soundtrack to the film Dead Man as influences. One track, "Deep Red Bells", was inspired by Case's memories of being a vulnerable young woman in the Seattle area while the Green River Killer was at large.
In April 2003, Case was voted the "Sexiest Babe of Indie Rock" in a Playboy.com internet poll, receiving 32% of the vote. Playboy asked her to pose nude for the magazine, but she declined their offer. She told Entertainment Weekly that "I didn't want to be the girl who posed in Playboy and then--by the way--made some music. I would be really fucking irritated if after a show somebody came up to me and handed me some naked picture of myself and wanted me to sign it instead of my CD." In later interviews, she declined to discuss the survey at all.
Neko Case & Her Boyfriends:
Case recorded and toured for several years as Neko Case & Her Boyfriends before performing solely under her name. She primarily performs her own material, but also performs and has recorded cover versions of songs by artists such as My Morning Jacket, Harry Nilsson, Loretta Lynn, Tom Waits, Nick Lowe, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Scott Walker, Randy Newman, Queen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Sparks and Hank Williams. Albums released included "The Virginian" and "Furnace Room Lullaby".
The New Pornographers' second album, Electric Version, was released on May 6, 2003. Case sang lead on even more of the songs on this album, and toured with the group again.
On April 3 and 4, 2004, Case played two shows with longtime collaborators The Sadies at Lee's Palace and an additional after-hours show at the Matador in Toronto, which were recorded for release as a live album, The Tigers Have Spoken, in October of the same year.
Twin Cinema, the New Pornographers' third album, was released on August 23, 2005, with Case again providing vocals on several tracks. In addition to providing backing vocals on several songs, Case performs lead vocals on two ballads, "The Bones of an Idol" and "These Are the Fables". She opted out of most subsequent touring duties with the band; however, her parts were taken over by Kathryn Calder.
On Challengers, released on August 21, 2007, Case contributes lead vocals to the title song as well as "Go Places", in addition to her backing vocals on the other tracks.
The 2010 album Together features Case as lead vocalist on "Crash Years" and "My Shepherd."
Blacklisted was released on Bloodshot Records in 2002. It included original material, as well as covers of songs originally by Aretha Franklin and Sarah Vaughan.
Live from Austin, TX:
2003's Live from Austin, TX was a live album of recordings made for "Austin City Limits" television series.
The Tigers Have Spoken:
The Tigers Have Spoken was released on Anti Records in 2004.
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood:
Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was released on March 7, 2006. The album was recorded primarily in Tucson, over the course of two years as Case worked on the live The Tigers Have Spoken and continued to play with The New Pornographers. Critics hailed the record not only for Case's trademark vocals but also her use of stark imagery and non-standard song structures. Fox Confessor Brings the Flood wound up on many "Best of 2006" lists, such as No.1 on the Amazon.com music editors' picks and No. 2 on NPR's All Songs Considered. The album debuted at No. 54 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. It contains Case's most autobiographical song, "Hold On, Hold On". Case said: "the song is actually about me. It's not metaphorical about other people. It's not little pieces of my life made into a story about someone else or someone fictitious."
"Hold On, Hold On" has since been covered by Marianne Faithfull on her 2009 album Easy Come, Easy Go.
"Hold On, Hold On" was used over an episode of the The Killing (U.S. TV series) (Season 1 Episode 6) before the final credits.
Case's next album, Middle Cyclone, was released on March 3, 2009. In advance of a U.S. and European tour, Case appeared as a musical guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Later in 2009 she also appeared on Late Show with David Letterman, The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien and Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. Amazon.com rated Middle Cyclone the number one album of 2009.Middle Cyclone debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts in its first week of release, making it Case's first album ever to reach the top ten in the United States.
At the time of its release, no other record from an independent record company had debuted at a higher position in 2009. She toured extensively to promote Middle Cyclone with dates in North America, Europe, and Australia, as well as a performance at Lollapalooza 2009 in Grant Park, Chicago.
The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You:
In June 2013, Case announced a new album, The Worse Things Get, the Harder I Fight, the Harder I Fight, the More I Love You, which was released on September 3.
Case was honored as the Female Artist of the Year at the Plug Independent Music Awards on February 2, 2006 and nominated for two Grammy Awards for her album, Middle Cyclone, including Best Contemporary Folk Album and Best Recording Package (with Kathleen Judge). In 2014, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You was nominated for Best Alternative Music Album at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards.
On August 9, 2003, Case made her debut on Austin City Limits.
On January 28, 2008, Case's voice appeared in the Aqua Teen Hunger Force episode "Sirens". Case is also scheduled to participate in a new series with Aqua Teen Hunger Force co-creator Dave Willis titled Cheyenne Cinnamon and the Fantabulous Unicorn of Sugar Town Candy Fudge.
On March 3, 2010 Case appeared as a guest on the Australian musical quiz show Spicks and Specks. Her team, led by Alan Brough, won 18-16. At the end of the show she sang a cover of Heart's "Magic Man", backed by Kelly Hogan and Paul Rigby.
Case appeared on Spectacle: Elvis Costello with... in season two.
In July 2011, "I Wish I Was The Moon" was featured in the forth season of HBO show True Blood's sixth episode of the same name.
On September 3, 2013, Case appeared on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon performing "Man" and "Night Still Comes" from her album "The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You".
In January 2014, she performed on Austin City Limits,
On February 6, 2014, she was a panelist on the Comedy Central show@midnight.
Neko Case appeared as a guest on NPR's weekly news quiz show, Wait Wait Don't Tell Me on July 11, 2009. On September 6, 2013, Case appeared as a panelist on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me!.
On May 10, 2013, Case appeared as a guest on American Public Media's variety show "Wits" where she ended the program with a rendition of Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast". On February 7, 2014, Case appeared again as a guest on "Wits", this time alongside Andy Richter, where she finished the program with a rendition of ABBA's "Nights on Broadway".
Text from this biography licensed under creative commons license