Articles - Interviews - "Jane Speed - The Sound of a Red Red Orchid"

A ways back one Shawn Abnoxious did a review of a record that grabbed my attention. He wrote about his adventure playing with two bands from Boston, one an all-girl, keyboard, vocals, bass and drums group inspired by the riot grrrl attitude and set to the Le Tigre/post riot grrrl sounds called Jane Speed. I later asked Shawn for a copy of their CD and my fascination with Jane Speed began. I didn't hear a thing about the band until my friend, James, mentioned something about them playing in New York City on 03.09.02 at ABC NO RIO. So it was off to thee City with my band-sistas I went, to hassle Jane Speed and eat good pizza. So let us begin where the disc started recording sounds and junk…

KW – This is our first interview, that wasn’t email base…

BG – I don’t like email interviews… I like the real… I did one and, I don’t know…you don’t get the follow-up questions ‘an all that… So, okay, Jane Speed, who does what with what instrument?

KW – I’m Kim and I play keyboards.

JA – Jenny: bass.

CD – Cailin: drums.

CD – "Becka: vocals. Not really…"

BG – Alright, so is Becka leaving?

CD – Becka’s leaving the band to pursue a photography career. She’s going to New England School of Photography in Boston right now. She’s taking one class and she’s going to enroll full-time next semester, so…that’s really good. Her dad really wants her to do that…

Becka...gone but not forgottenBG – So she’s totally quitting the band? She’s not going to come back at all?

CD – No, I think it was a really positive phase in her life, but I think she just needs to move on from it… I think she’s just trying to juggle too much. But I can’t really speak for her. I don’t know…

BG – Okay. But the band’s going to continue, right?

JA – Yes.

BG – Excellent. Are you looking for a new singer, or is Kim going to takeover…?

KW – I’m going to keep singing some more, but we all agreed that a front-person is just more dynamic. And we’re looking to find someone who has some experience singing. And there’s also talk of adding a guitar…

BG – Cool, cool… Alright, so my next question is – What does the name Jane Speed mean?

CD – That would be best answered by our old bass player who came up with it, but in our first zine she wrote this big article titled – "So Why Is Your Band Named Jane Speed Anyway?" Jane Speed was actually an activist in the south in the 1930’s. She was, like, a Communist Organizer. And I guess some of the reasons why she was really effective is that she looked really, really innocent and she could get away with doing a lot of stuff, like without, getting put in jail, rather than someone who looks more suspicious or whatever… So anyway, Jen (the old bassist), she was a History major in college, and she was reading books and found this woman’s name and she thought she was pretty cool lady and we thought it would be a neat band name.

BG – You’re not Communists, right?

CD – Not on the record… (LOL)

KW – Well, the ideals of, communism, and, the civil rights movement, and…Jane Speed’s not an important historical figure…but, I think male historians overlooked her, generally… But they kinda don’t get to the idea that she was a southern belle and her mom was politically active, and so…she did get jailed. I know she was harassed, but… What was that cool story? There was this crazy follow-up after we wrote that zine… Umm…I think Jen sent it to the person who wrote the textbook that Jane Speed was featured in… And another woman read about us online, and she turned out to be Jane Speed’s…granddaughter? Because she fled the United States and went to Puerto Rico, I believe. And she had a son, and then she died…so this woman’s father used to be married to Jane Speed. And so, I guess Jane Speed continued to do activism when she was out of the country… And anyway, so this woman happened to be a reporter when she grew up and she just found out about us online and…she was just really proud that we knew that her mother was this vigilante person; she died real young… But she was just always really active in civil rights. And the author of the book found us too…

CA – Anne Marie Ho… Professor Kelly, I think his name was…He was an African American Studies Professor.

KW – Yeah, and he was also like, "Wow! I’m so glad you love that character also!" And they were like, "We wanna buy your record. And we’re going to go to the store right now and getting your record because my daughter listens to horrible Pop music."

CW – Like N’Sync. And he was like, "Can we find your record at Tower?" A the time when had, like, a 4-track recording… We were like, "Not really…" (LOL)

BG – Did you send it to her?

CD – Yeah.

BG – Did she like it?

CD – He liked it.

KW – Yeah, I’m not sure if the daughter did…

BG – Well, she’ll come around…

CD – It was pretty cool though…

BG – Okay, so my next question is – What have you guys been doing lately with the band. I haven’t seen much in the way of shows or records or things like that. So, umm… what’s been going on with Jane Speed since, maybe that last summer tour?

JA – I joined shortly after the tour cause Jen quit to go back to school. So, we’ve been writing new songs… We’ve only played a few shows, mostly because we had to write so much and basically start over. And then we took a hiatus cause it’s very hard for us to play shows cause we don’t have a van or a vehicle, so equipment and everything is a big hassle. So we played five or six times…all local…and here…

BG – Yeah, my friend was like, "I think that band, Jane Speed, you like is playing in the city." And I was like, "You’re kidding me! I’m going!" So umm… Okay, you haven’t been playing that much, but you’ve been writing a lot of songs?

CD – Well, since Jenny joined the band we’ve played, like, five shows and we recorded seven songs for a new CDR…we’re not sure what we’re doing with it yet…but, we spent a few months recording that in Boston… And so, right now, it’s in CDR format, but now that Becka’s not in the band, we’re trying to decide what to do with it. Whether it’d be useful to put it out and tour with it, or whether that would be, like, not successful…

BG – Yeah, if you have a new singer an’ all… That’s a really odd situation…

CD – We had these two final shows booked before she decided not to play with us anymore, so we just decided to have, like, two final shows. And then we’ll probably have a pretty radical transformation when we find a new singer and possible guitar player. And hopefully we’ll start writing a ton more…and figure out what to do with that CD.

BG – Yeah, Shawn had a copy and he said he’d make me a copy…

CD – The old one? Or the new one?

BG – The new one, still with Becka… And Shawn said something about her leaving… I was all like, "Well, if she quit, then why are they playing this show." I was like, "They better be playing, cause I’m not driving down here for nothing." So…this is Becka’s last show forever?

ALL – Yeah.

BG – And, umm…do you wanna put out an APB, or whatever they’re called, for ANY VOCALISTS IN MASSACHUSETTS?

JA – Well, no… We’re kinda trying to go by word of mouth right now… Ideally, it would be really cool to work with someone we already know, or know as an acquaintance of ours… We haven’t really started flyering for it or anything.

KW – Well, in terms of what we have been doing… We have some recordings… There are few songs that we’re going to use for a split 7"…and we have an offer to do a split 10"… I don’t know…it’s like the music’s good, and it’s useful in some context, even if we’re not planing on it right now, I think it should come out on some format. But the other big project we do is a zine. And we’ve made two of them now… And we’ve just gotten more of a response from the zine than from the music, cause we haven’t put out a record that you can get in any kinda of small distro or local shop. So that seems to be the most successful venture of ours. So, like, zinesters will read the review in Maximum RockNRoll and I’d get letters from all over the country, as opposed to, like, burning CDRs and sending them out doesn’t seem to work well…

CD – Yeah, it’s really an effective and powerful way of networking actually. For me, a lot of girls all over the country will just read the review in Maximum RockNRoll, and I’ve made some pretty good friends with just trading zines. Like this girl in California that I just sent a box of 20 out to her and she just sent her zine back and a long letter.

KW – Well the girls, they connect with the zine and they’re like, "Well what does your band sound like?" They just assume they’ll be interested, like if we have really similar political views then there’s kind of an assumption that they’re gonna be able to relate to us on a musical level.

CD – Yeah, it’s like a framework with which, I think, people understand what we’re trying to do, and how we’re trying to do it.

BG – Could you explain your zine? Cause I didn’t know about it until tonight.

KW – Well, I don’t want to get too philosophical, but I think it came out of the fact that there is only one singer, and the singer writes the lyrics, and all of us have these deep meanings about what the songs are about. We write our own parts and they have their own meaning. We’re kind of are, just sort of, continually sensitive to what we’re perceived as – just four women on the stage, and the assumptions people make. And you can only say so much between songs, and we wanted the band to encompass so much of our lives, so it’s just a necessary thing to have, and we had so much to say. All of us have different fortes, I guess? So, both the zines have well-researched academic-type articles, they have, like, trite zinester/funny kinds of things, they have recipes and there’s…I don’t know…it kind of runs the gamut of where we’re coming from and what it all encompasses.

BG – So the zine is just written by Jane Speed members, like a Jane Speed Zine?

KW – Yes.

CD – Yeah, so far no one’s done any contributing to it besides us. Although I wouldn’t rule that out…

JA – Sandra wrote a review.

CD – Oh that’s right. We had one friend write a review of the Rachael Kozak and the Hecate. She wrote a review of that record. But I just wanted to add that also, music doesn’t have to be about just music, I think punk rocker shows should be a median for other kinds of art and other kinds of outlets. So that’s kind of one of the other reasons we have the zine, I think.

Jenny [front] & Cailin [back] concentrating...

BG – Okay. Umm… So you guys didn’t play any of the songs off that first EP tonight. Is there any reason why you didn’t play any of the old tunes?

KW – The change of bass…

JA – I just don’t feel comfortable playing stuff that I didn’t write, so it just wouldn’t be the same experience. And I think our sound has changed pretty seriously since everything started. Not even just because of me, but how Kim and Cailin play and how they…

BG – You’re growing.

JA – Yeah, I guess…growing.

BG – Well, I wanna know more about my favorite song on that first CD, "Pop Song #6."

KW – Really? Umm… I could go into a long subject…I was always embarrassed, not embarrassed about the song, but it’s so easy. And we always have this need to prove our ability as musicians…and to play something that’s easy seemed like, I don’t know, just kind of weird. But the actual real reason is that drumbeat comes from the Casio SK1, and that was Jen’s. That was our old bass player’s SK1. So, she took it back, along with the mini-van that we used to tour in, so… (LOL)

BG – Did Jen write the song, or can any of you explain what the song’s about?

KW – Lyrically I couldn’t explain it. Becka’s not here, but she wrote the lyrics.

CD – It was the sixth song we ever wrote and we called it "Pop Song."

KW – That’s how we talk about stuff, really! Like this is the Rock ‘N’ Roll part of the song, the Metal breakdown of the song, even though we don’t really play Metal… (LOL)

BG – So you think the song is too simple? Cause I thought it was really unique and cool when you put all those simple rhythms together. Really creative…

KW – It’s just my love for an over abundance of Casio sounds. With the old songs I would always play two keyboards at the same time… We’d like to play the beat… The other problem with playing that live is we could never get the Casio beat loud enough for Cailin to hear. So it was pretty hard to pull off live.

CD - Yeah, it’s one of those things that is better recorded, I think…

BG – Are live shows easier or harder in getting your music to sound right?

JA – Oh my god it’s so hard.

CD – It’s really hard. There’re a lot of inconsistencies with the various keyboards.

BG – The vocals seemed a little low tonight.

CD – It’s weird too, cause with a lot of punk rock bands the vocals aren’t really that important, or it doesn’t matter if they’re mixed really loud. But I think, for our band, they’re such a crucial part of it that it’s really hard sometimes just to play shows where Becka can’t be heard at all cause…I almost feel like it’s the equivalent instrument to, like, the keyboards or the bass.

KW – Yeah, it’s like you unplug the guitar and you still have to play the show. And I’ve also had the problem of, you know, inconsistency of low quality keyboards, and each level is totally different, and… You must know! Keyboards are just crazy. They’re impossible.

CD – You guys should have a support group. (LOL)

BG – Keyboardists Anonymous. (LOL)
Okay, the next question I have is: How is the Massachusetts scene for Jane Speed?

JA – I think we’re generally well received. I always get positive comments after we play.

BG – Do you play a lot of shows like tonight?

JA – Yeah. We play with our friend’s bands and hardcore bands a lot and…it goes either way, but generally people are really positive about it.

KW – There’s definitely the joke that…not the joke, but people want to have women onstage. At least amongst our, like, political/hardocre/punk rock/whatever…indie rock friends. But then there’s the joke that there’s this one other band that has a girl playing at the same time we’re playing. I don’t know…we always end up getting with the same bands. There’s like a straightedge thrash/hardcore band…and we’ve play with them a lot.

BG – So all their fans that like thrash would still come out to see you guys too?

KW – They just put us together cause there’s women. That’s what I mean…

CD – But also, I think personally, usually dynamics in bands that have women that’s a little bit different from what’s traditionally represented as punk rock music. So then you end up play shows with your friends, but not always have a crowd of people that are expecting to hear the kind of music that we play. So there’s always those kind of issues the people need to work through…

KW – Yeah, like whether we’re serious, or whether we supposed to have a fun time.

CD – Expectations of what DIY shows should sound like.

BG – So there’s a lot of love in the air up there. (LOL)

CA – Jane Speed Love… We love ourselves. (LOL)

Kim on keys

BG – Alright, so you have the new recording, but you’re basically not going to use it?

JA – No, we’re going to try and figure out how to use it. That’s something that we’re going to have to think about. We don’t just wanna forget that it exists.

BG – But you’re going to be more focused on writing new stuff?

JA – New stuff, yeah.

BG – Do you have any plans for any full-length recordings in the future?

CA – We want to get this CDR out first. The one thing we were throwing around is maybe just putting it out in a couple of different places. Like a couple of split 7"s or 10"s or whatever. So that’s what we are focused on right now. I think in the future we’d love to record a full-length record, but we don’t have a date.

JA – Well, we’d like to do a summer tour, so that’s goal one. And a recording will follow that, I assume.

KW – Well it’s set in stone, but not definite. We have an itinerary. It’s like July 10th to August 11th, or so… Basically it’s like we’re trying to get to the West Coast and back and then hit Lady’s Fest DC, which is like the 7th or the 11th of August.

BG – So do you have any set places you’re going to play on the tour? Are you going out to see Shawn Abnoxious again?

KW – Yeah, I wrote Cincinnati in, umm… There’re friends that we made along the way on the smaller tour from last summer that we definitely want to hook up with again, I sure that we’ll play with Mr. Bottle Project in Pittsburgh. I don’t think we’ll get to go back to Florida on this trip, but hopefully, like, Charlottesville and Greensboro, North Carolina on the way up to DC. We’ve made some great friends like the Crime Think people… Umm…we’ve never been to the West Coast, but there’s a big migration of Boston to Portland, so we’ll be playing with some friend’s bands, like Johnny X and the Brodies in Portland. Hopefully Erase Errata can…we could hook up with them and play in San Francisco and some other place. I went to school with a couple of those ladies.

BG – Okay, so…what type of music is Jane Speed listening to now?

CD – Ohh, this is such the interview question that I’ve always dreaded answering. (LOL)

KW – I listen to Metal music. (LOL)

BG – New or old?

KW – Well, both… I mean like I’ll never stop listening to Slayer records or Black Sabbath, but had this grand scheme to play Bringing the Emperor Back to God’s Speed… But…basically I like anything that’s dramatic and melodramatic and heavy and sad…METAL…

CD – She’s always trying to convince me to get a double bass petal. (LOL)

KW – Well, I got my friend to lend her one. (LOL)

BG – I can see it now, Kiss makeup and all… Okay, can you describe your own sound in words, maybe for somebody who’s never heard your band before?

JA – I don’t know…I mean it’s melodic and sometimes aggressive…I don’t know how else to describe it. We’ve never really talked about it between the three of us, what we sound like… It just sounds like what came out…I don’t know…

BG – Alright, that’s just fine…

KW – I say aggressive and melodic. I said that to my friend’s mom and they’re like, "You just told my mom that you sound aggressive and melodic." And I’m like, "But we do…" (LOL)

JA – Yeah…we’re getting increasingly melodic. Although we’re trying to get more and more like…kind of simplify it a little, I think…

BG – Yeah, that song, "Are Those Prescription?" That’s pretty assertive, but the rest of that CD doesn’t quite follow as aggressively.

CD – Yeah, I think we have songs that match the moods that we’re in or the place in our lives that we’re at. And I think Kim has especially been doing that… I don’t want to speak for you, but I feel like you write really melodic things when you are, maybe, sadder and more aggressive things when you wanna fuckin’ wheel.

KW – No, it’s totally true, cause we came to a point pretty recently where we’re like, "Wow! We’re really depressed right now. Like maybe we should pick it up a little bit." We did this cover song of a Rites of Spring song and we were like, "God, this is really fun. Why don’t we make it a little simpler and do some fuckin’ rock ‘n’ roll." And I was like, "Yes I agree, but unfortunately the music has to come from a place. And if that place is really where you’re still trying to figure some life-shit out it’s a little hard to write a pop song."

BG – So the new stuff I heard tonight is definitely different from that first CD I heard. Is this the direction you’re going in?

CD – I don’t know…I feel like, when we started we had to prove something with the songs we’ve written about being able to play more complicated stuff. And I think that some of the stuff that we wrote got a little more intricate and maybe…like, schizophrenic, or something like that, so I think the newest song that we have is aggressive, but it’s simpler. So it’s not melodic and simpler, or pop necessarily, but it can be emotional and aggressive and just a little bit easier for us to understand, and hopefully for other people to understand. That’s the direction that I would like to see us continue going in.

BG – Is that like the last song you played tonight? Cause I liked that song a lot.

JA – No, this is a song that we wrote after Becka. It has yet to have vocals, we’re waiting for somebody…

BG – Oh okay, but are going to keep that last song that you played?

CD – I think we’re going to try and keep that one actually…

KW – Yeah, we’re kinda proud of that song, but…

JA – It means a lot to us for personal reasons.

KW – Yeah, that song is really loaded. And there’s stuff I don’t play in the song cause it’s a little to…to complicated…

Becka [front] & Jenny [back] wailingBG – Okay, well, last question. Umm…is there anything else you’d like to say about your band and what you’re doing?

CD – Well, hopefully we’ll have a new web site up in a couple of months. Jenny’s friend is going to help us design it…

BG – And you’re not playing shows until you get the band’s up to speed.

CD – Yeah… This is our last show with Becka. So we have to do some searching and some practicing, so we won’t play a show for quite a little while.

KW – If you’re interested in either the politics or the just that fact that we’re all women playing music, or whatever, just get in contact with us. Because sometimes we do feel like we’re sort of flailing because we’re not very easily categorized. Like you can’t use the Boston Hardcore Network to help us out, you can use the Metal scene… So we kind of feel a little flailing. And if there’re people in other parts of the country who can commiserate, other keyboardists, or whatever. If you want to help out or at least say like, "Hey, I’m doing this in Indiana. I know where you’re coming from." Compilations, zines, whatever…

CD – Yeah, the zine’s a constant too. We’re working on another one. Hopefully we’ll have Sideshows #3 out by the summer. And thanks for asking us to do the interview and everything…

KW – Thanks Shawn Abnoxious, man… That guy, it surprises me how much he connects with people…

BG – Yeah, he’s the man with the plan. Okay thanks for doing this. It was a lot of fun.

Releases –

S/T CDR demo (self-released) 2000
"Masculine Makeover" benefit compilation (Satellite Records)
split 7" (S.P.A.M. Records) pending
5-song CDR EP (unreleased for now) 2001

Contacts –

Jane Speed:
13 Sachem St. #2
Roxbury, MA 02120, USA

Sideshows (Jane Speed’s zine, issues 1 & 2) $1 or 3 stamps to:
Kim Wetzel
13 Sachem St. #2
Roxbury, MA 02120, USA

Interview and pictures by Joe Domino.

© 2003