Boston-based Juliana Hatfield was the queen of 1990s “alt rock” and the college boy’s cool dream girl. She was also a member of three trios: The Blake Babies, The Lemonheads and The Juliana Hatfield Three. With the latter, she broke through to a larger audience by singing about how much she hated her sister in the aptly titled song “My Sister.” (The Three released only one CD, “Become What You Are,” in 1993.)
Miss Hatfield spent the past two decades releasing close to a dozen solo albums, but she is reuniting this year with The Juliana Hatfield Three for a new record and run of tour dates, when they will play their classic “Become What You Are” in its entirety.
Why suddenly revisiting the past for a woman known as being constantly restless and in need of the next thing?
Only one way to find out.
Question: Why did The Juliana Hatfield Three release only one album back in 1993?
Answer: I never plan very far ahead. [When] The Blake Babies broke up I did a straight solo album, and I wasn’t really happy that way. So I got The Juliana Hatfield Three together. But then I wanted even more autonomy and joined The Lemonheads.
At heart, I’m restless, and I get tired of stuff quickly. I like to try new things.
Q: So you are constantly evolving and moving forward?
A: I think that it is as simple as that.
Q: Were there any attempts or thoughts in the 22 years apart to reassemble The Three?
A: No. There was no real straight-ahead ending of the band; it just sort of fizzled out a little bit. There was never any thought until now to get the trio back together, although [bassist] Dean [Fisher] did play some bass on “Only Everything,” my second album for Atlantic after The Three called it quits.
[Drummer] Todd [Phillips] was already out of the picture. He had some drug problems. But then Todd cleaned up his act, and I recorded with him over the years. But The Three never ever did anything together until now.
Q: Are you naturally drawn to trios?
A: I’m not really. In fact, The Blake Babies started out as a quartet. A lot of people don’t know that. For our first self-released album, “Nicely Nicely,” I was on second guitar.
When the bass player, Seth White, left the band, that was when I picked up the bass. We had no bass player, so I taught myself to play bass really quickly. Seems like everything I do seems to be guided by chance.
Q: Why did you decide to reform The Three this year?
A: Reunions were in the air. Veruca Salt was getting back together with the original lineup. As was Luscious Jackson. My friend Evan [Dando] and The Lemonheads were doing these tours where you go out and play a whole classic album.
And it made me think about it: Maybe there is an audience that wants to see this old album performed live — an album that people liked a lot.
Q: How has the creative process among the three of you changed and evolved over the years?
A: I think we are better at communicating now without getting our feelings hurt. When you get older, you aren’t as sensitive and emotional, and you don’t take as much personally. You are also able to be more direct. And you don’t feel guilty about saying something isn’t working. You just get it out and move on to trying something else.
Q: “My Sister” is arguably your best-known song. Is there any pressure going into this record to try and re-create that?
A: No pressure whatsoever to try and create another “hit” at all. It was my first album for a major label, [which] was kind of a big deal. I felt that that machine was behind me, and if I could deliver something that could sell, they would push it.
Now I know there is no machine. It is a much smaller stage. My expectations are incredibly realistic and low, which is really healthy. I just wanted the record to be full of good songs and good playing. It was that simple, really.
I know the market is Katy Perry and Miley Cyrus. And I’m not part of that.
Q: What was the recording process like on this album?
A: We all came together in Hoboken, New Jersey, where our producer has a studio. The first day was just me and Todd, which was a good way to ease into it, because it had been a long time since I played with Dean, and I was a little nervous as to how that was going to work. Todd and I laid down some basic tracks, and then Dean came in the next day. We then we just settled into playing as a trio again Q: How long did it take to record the album?
A: I think it was done in pretty much a couple weeks
Q: Recording an album these days seems to come together quicker, whereas it used to take months and months. Do you prefer it quick?
A: I’m very adaptable to whatever situation I’m in. I always see every cup as half full and half empty at the same time. Part of me loved having a very short amount of time in which to complete a task, because it really narrows down the focus. You don’t waste time, and you don’t waste money. You just have a task, and you’ve got to get it done. There is something really exciting about it.
Plus, you trust your instincts more when you don’t have a lot of time to second-guess everything. Too much time and money makes you think too much.
Q: What can people expect from the live show?
A: We are going to come out and play “Become What You Are” in its entirety. Once we get that out of the way, we’re going to do some new stuff and some other old stuff.
Q: How has the touring changed for you guys?
A: I have to say, although we had a major label behind us then, we were always pretty thrifty. We didn’t have a fancy arrangement. We didn’t spend or waste a lot of money. We had a tour bus, but that was the biggest expense. Now it’s a van — the way I’ve been touring since I left Atlantic. Not a very big crew at all.
We’ll all probably be driving a little bit. But that is normal for me. The Atlantic years were the strange years: Having a tour bus was out of the ordinary. I started in a van with The Blake Babies. There were a couple years in a bus. Now it’s back to the van.
Q: What is the one thing you need on the road to survive being in a van with a couple of smelly guys?
A: The guys in the band are actually probably better groomed than I am. Seriously. I’m not a girlie girl, and I don’t need much on the road. One of them might even bring a pillow in the van. I never even bring a pillow. I know how to rough it.
Q: A couple of years back there was an attempt at a Lemonheads reunion CD. Why did that fail?
A: Evan and I went out to LA, and Ben Deily, who was in the original Lemonheads, was there too. We went to Ryan Adams’ studio, [and] he was going to play drums. But we had to pull the plug after the first day because Evan wasn’t in any shape to do it. He wasn’t prepared either. He didn’t have any songs. It was a kind of a disaster.
Q: What else are you working on musically?
A: I’m doing some writing with another songwriter, but I don’t want to name any names right now. But I’m going to try to write some songs with another songwriter [as well].
IF YOU GO
WHAT: The Juliana Hatfield Three “Become What You Are” 21st Anniversary Tour
WHERE: The Black Cat, 1811 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20009
WHEN: March 4; doors open at 7:30 p.m.
INFO: Tickets $20; visit BlackCatDC.com or call 202/667-4490