Eleanor Balson plays music, teaches yoga, and runs her own children’s entertainment company, making balloon animals, painting faces, and occasionally dressing as the Sugar Plum Fairy. She’s about to move to San Francisco; her final performance as the techno-noise act Soft Serve is January 28 at Heaven Gallery, and her final appearance with Lovely Little Girls, a performance-art band she drums in, is January 30 at Schubas (see the Treatment in Section 3).

Liz Armstrong: Where did you get the hot-pink mesh shirt?

Eleanor Balson: I collect fishnet. Any time I see fishnet I get it.

LA: It’s kinda slutty.

EB: Well, I’m kinda slutty. I saw a 70-year-old lady at the mini putt-putt in Lincolnwood and she had on fishnets and big blond hair and she looked sexy. You can expose your entire leg and feel completely confident because all the Xs cancel out any flaws you have. Everyone’s the same under fishnets.

LA: What about exposing yourself makes you more self-confident?

EB: I want to be spontaneous and unafraid to say the wrong thing or to look ugly or to appear stupid. When I was a child, at the school I went to boys would always take off their shirts and run around and play and the girls could too. It just feels good. You feel more like an animal.

LA: That’s an interesting way of looking at it.

EB: A couple days ago my friends had me over so they could show me these cheesy, terrifying Diana Ross, Trina, and Vanity 6 videos. I thought, here are some amazing women and they’re not going crazy trying to synchronize all these instruments or do everything themselves and show how prolific and strong and competitive they are. They were just allowing themselves to be themselves, to be openly sexual. I used to think that was a crime.

LA: Why?

EB: I always resented women that didn’t seem like they were doing anything. But now the music I try to make is always over my head. Everything is always fucked-up. I can practice it really good at home but when I’m performing shit’s either broken or I can’t remember what I was doing or the sound is off. So when I wore this outfit [for a Soft Serve performance on January 18] I decided I just wanted to have a strong presence. . . . I only did what I really know how to do, really stripped-down, simple stuff. Mostly what I did was just stand up on an amp and sing to people. And sometimes I’d stop singing and just flap my arms.

LA: How did that feel?

EB: For the first time I put aside the feeling of being nervous, the feeling of “I hope they like me.” Instead I just gave this little thing that I have, just a simple thing that’s really natural and kind of retarded. I gave sweetness. It felt so good because there were a lot of people looking back at me and smiling, instead of trying to figure out what’s going on.

LA: What did you learn from your performance?

EB: I learned that if you like to set yourself apart you don’t have to be competitive about it. Be happy that you’ve done something unique. Just revel in knowing you had the energy to do it.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Jim Newberry.