- 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 wasnt email base
BG I dont like email interviews I like the real I did one and, I dont know you dont get the follow-up questions an all that So, okay, Jane Speed, who does what with what instrument?
KW Im Kim and I play keyboards.
JA Jenny: bass.
CD Cailin: drums.
CD "Becka: vocals. Not really "
BG Alright, so is Becka leaving?
CD Beckas leaving the band to pursue a photography career. Shes going to New England School of Photography in Boston right now. Shes taking one class and shes going to enroll full-time next semester, so thats really good. Her dad really wants her to do that
BG So shes totally quitting the band? Shes 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 shes just trying to juggle too much. But I cant really speak for her. I dont know
BG Okay. But the bands going to continue, right?
BG Excellent. Are you looking for a new singer, or is Kim going to takeover ?
KW Im going to keep singing some more, but we all agreed that a front-person is just more dynamic. And were looking to find someone who has some experience singing. And theres 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 1930s. 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 womans name and she thought she was pretty cool lady and we thought it would be a neat band name.
BG Youre not Communists, right?
CD Not on the record (LOL)
KW Well, the ideals of, communism, and, the civil rights movement, and Jane Speeds not an important historical figure but, I think male historians overlooked her, generally But they kinda dont 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 Speeds 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 womans 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! Im so glad you love that character also!" And they were like, "We wanna buy your record. And were going to go to the store right now and getting your record because my daughter listens to horrible Pop music."
CW Like NSync. 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?
BG Did she like it?
CD He liked it.
KW Yeah, Im not sure if the daughter did
BG Well, shell 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 havent seen much in the way of shows or records or things like that. So, umm whats 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, weve been writing new songs Weve only played a few shows, mostly because we had to write so much and basically start over. And then we took a hiatus cause its very hard for us to play shows cause we dont 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, "Youre kidding me! Im going!" So umm Okay, you havent been playing that much, but youve been writing a lot of songs?
CD Well, since Jenny joined the band weve played, like, five shows and we recorded seven songs for a new CDR were not sure what were doing with it yet but, we spent a few months recording that in Boston And so, right now, its in CDR format, but now that Beckas not in the band, were trying to decide what to do with it. Whether itd 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 Thats 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 well probably have a pretty radical transformation when we find a new singer and possible guitar player. And hopefully well start writing a ton more and figure out what to do with that CD.
BG Yeah, Shawn had a copy and he said hed 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 Im not driving down here for nothing." So this is Beckas last show forever?
BG And, umm do you wanna put out an APB, or whatever theyre called, for ANY VOCALISTS IN MASSACHUSETTS?
JA Well, no Were 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 havent 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 were going to use for a split 7" and we have an offer to do a split 10" I dont know its like the musics good, and its useful in some context, even if were 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 weve made two of them now And weve just gotten more of a response from the zine than from the music, cause we havent 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 Id get letters from all over the country, as opposed to, like, burning CDRs and sending them out doesnt seem to work well
CD Yeah, its 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 Ive 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 theyre like, "Well what does your band sound like?" They just assume theyll be interested, like if we have really similar political views then theres kind of an assumption that theyre gonna be able to relate to us on a musical level.
CD Yeah, its like a framework with which, I think, people understand what were trying to do, and how were trying to do it.
BG Could you explain your zine? Cause I didnt know about it until tonight.
KW Well, I dont 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. Were kind of are, just sort of, continually sensitive to what were 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 its 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 theres I dont know it kind of runs the gamut of where were coming from and what it all encompasses.
BG So the zine is just written by Jane Speed members, like a Jane Speed Zine?
CD Yeah, so far no ones done any contributing to it besides us. Although I wouldnt rule that out
JA Sandra wrote a review.
CD Oh thats 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 doesnt 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 thats kind of one of the other reasons we have the zine, I think.
BG Okay. Umm So you guys didnt play any of the songs off that first EP tonight. Is there any reason why you didnt play any of the old tunes?
KW The change of bass
JA I just dont feel comfortable playing stuff that I didnt write, so it just wouldnt 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 Youre 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 its so easy. And we always have this need to prove our ability as musicians and to play something thats easy seemed like, I dont know, just kind of weird. But the actual real reason is that drumbeat comes from the Casio SK1, and that was Jens. That was our old bass players 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 songs about?
KW Lyrically I couldnt explain it. Beckas not here, but she wrote the lyrics.
CD It was the sixth song we ever wrote and we called it "Pop Song."
KW Thats 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 dont 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 Its just my love for an over abundance of Casio sounds. With the old songs I would always play two keyboards at the same time Wed 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, its 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 its so hard.
CD Its really hard. Therere a lot of inconsistencies with the various keyboards.
BG The vocals seemed a little low tonight.
CD Its weird too, cause with a lot of punk rock bands the vocals arent really that important, or it doesnt matter if theyre mixed really loud. But I think, for our band, theyre such a crucial part of it that its really hard sometimes just to play shows where Becka cant be heard at all cause I almost feel like its the equivalent instrument to, like, the keyboards or the bass.
KW Yeah, its like you unplug the guitar and you still have to play the show. And Ive 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. Theyre impossible.
CD You guys should have a support group. (LOL)
Keyboardists Anonymous. (LOL)
JA I think were 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 friends bands and hardcore bands a lot and it goes either way, but generally people are really positive about it.
KW Theres 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 theres the joke that theres this one other band that has a girl playing at the same time were playing. I dont know we always end up getting with the same bands. Theres like a straightedge thrash/hardcore band and weve 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 theres women. Thats what I mean
CD But also, I think personally, usually dynamics in bands that have women thats a little bit different from whats 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 theres always those kind of issues the people need to work through
KW Yeah, like whether were serious, or whether we supposed to have a fun time.
CD Expectations of what DIY shows should sound like.
BG So theres a lot of love in the air up there. (LOL)
CA Jane Speed Love We love ourselves. (LOL)
BG Alright, so you have the new recording, but youre basically not going to use it?
JA No, were going to try and figure out how to use it. Thats something that were going to have to think about. We dont just wanna forget that it exists.
BG But youre 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 thats what we are focused on right now. I think in the future wed love to record a full-length record, but we dont have a date.
JA Well, wed like to do a summer tour, so thats goal one. And a recording will follow that, I assume.
KW Well its set in stone, but not definite. We have an itinerary. Its like July 10th to August 11th, or so Basically its like were trying to get to the West Coast and back and then hit Ladys Fest DC, which is like the 7th or the 11th of August.
BG So do you have any set places youre going to play on the tour? Are you going out to see Shawn Abnoxious again?
KW Yeah, I wrote Cincinnati in, umm Therere 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 well play with Mr. Bottle Project in Pittsburgh. I dont think well get to go back to Florida on this trip, but hopefully, like, Charlottesville and Greensboro, North Carolina on the way up to DC. Weve made some great friends like the Crime Think people Umm weve never been to the West Coast, but theres a big migration of Boston to Portland, so well be playing with some friends 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 Ive always dreaded answering. (LOL)
KW I listen to Metal music. (LOL)
BG New or old?
KW Well, both I mean like Ill never stop listening to Slayer records or Black Sabbath, but had this grand scheme to play Bringing the Emperor Back to Gods Speed But basically I like anything thats dramatic and melodramatic and heavy and sad METAL
CD Shes 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 whos never heard your band before?
JA I dont know I mean its melodic and sometimes aggressive I dont know how else to describe it. Weve never really talked about it between the three of us, what we sound like It just sounds like what came out I dont know
BG Alright, thats just fine
KW I say aggressive and melodic. I said that to my friends mom and theyre like, "You just told my mom that you sound aggressive and melodic." And Im like, "But we do " (LOL)
JA Yeah were getting increasingly melodic. Although were trying to get more and more like kind of simplify it a little, I think
BG Yeah, that song, "Are Those Prescription?" Thats pretty assertive, but the rest of that CD doesnt quite follow as aggressively.
CD Yeah, I think we have songs that match the moods that were in or the place in our lives that were at. And I think Kim has especially been doing that I dont 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, its totally true, cause we came to a point pretty recently where were like, "Wow! Were 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 dont 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 youre still trying to figure some life-shit out its 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 youre going in?
CD I dont know I feel like, when we started we had to prove something with the songs weve 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 its simpler. So its 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. Thats 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, were waiting for somebody
BG Oh okay, but are going to keep that last song that you played?
CD I think were going to try and keep that one actually
KW Yeah, were kinda proud of that song, but
JA It means a lot to us for personal reasons.
KW Yeah, that song is really loaded. And theres stuff I dont play in the song cause its a little to to complicated
BG Okay, well, last question. Umm is there anything else youd like to say about your band and what youre doing?
CD Well, hopefully well have a new web site up in a couple of months. Jennys friend is going to help us design it
BG And youre not playing shows until you get the bands up to speed.
CD Yeah This is our last show with Becka. So we have to do some searching and some practicing, so we wont play a show for quite a little while.
KW If youre interested in either the politics or the just that fact that were all women playing music, or whatever, just get in contact with us. Because sometimes we do feel like were sort of flailing because were not very easily categorized. Like you cant 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 therere 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, Im doing this in Indiana. I know where youre coming from." Compilations, zines, whatever
CD Yeah, the zines a constant too. Were working on another one. Hopefully well 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, hes the man with the plan. Okay thanks for doing this. It was a lot of fun.
S/T CDR demo (self-released) 2000
(Jane Speeds zine, issues 1 & 2) $1 or 3 stamps to:
Interview and pictures by Joe Domino.
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