The whole event was rushed. After scheduling SNAFUs and rearrangements, I got in line behind a million invisible reporters on a million different conference calls, all waiting to talk with a brand new band, Jenny & Johnny. It's a bit surreal that a new group has developed this much hype this quickly, but given the fact that both Jenny and
Johnny have their own legion of followers, I guess it's not too surprising. (Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice have lengthy resumes which include not only a rich catalog of solo releases, but also their shared experiences with Rilo Kiley and their back-up work on Elvis Costello's Momofuku
). Jenny & Johnny is a peppy, love-infused project, too, which doesn't hurt the growing fan base.
Earlier in the day, the pair informed me, a German would not get off the phone. “One domino falls, the rest of the afternoon just crumbles.” I can't really blame the German, though. Despite the fact that the two Js are up to their ears in hype and attention, it felt more like talking to old friends than to new celebrities. “Relevant is really boring,” Lewis said, in fact, they were some of the first words out of her mouth, which quickly helped me get behind the hype. The rest of the conversation fell comfortably in place, and hearing their back and forth referenced their awareness of each other in the silent pauses. It's something that can't be forced and makes them a great—one might even say dynamic—duo.
Kat: If you could have a collection of vintage magazines, which collection would you choose?
Rice: I really do like the old Playboy
magazines. We found a collection of my friend's father's old ones in his garage. So, when I was kid, those were the only ones that I saw. I didn't get to see any of the new ones.
K: What year were they from?
R: They were from the late ‘60s, early ‘70s.
K: Would you grab from that same time period for your collection now?
R: I would, yeah, because it's nostalgic. You know, you never forget the first few hundred naked women you see.
Lewis: And the shapes were more natural back then.
R: Yes! Yes. Exactly.
K: Same answer, Jenny?
L: Yeah. I'll go for the same answer. That or National Geographic
R: Six and half a dozen.
R: Well they were very similar terrain, you know. Natural shapes.
K: You get transported in a teleportation device to the top of an isolated mountain. You don't see or hear anyone around you. What's the first thing you do? You guys are together.
R: Oh. OK. Then I'd make the funniest sound possible.
K: What does the funniest sound possible sound like?
R: I don't know. You'd have to put me on a special mountain.
K: Would you rather be locked in the house with Linda Blair from The Exorcist or Jack Torrance from The Shining?
L: That's funny you say that, because we recorded our album in Omaha, Nebraska in the dead of winter and I joked around that I had become like Jack from The Shining
and Rice was the Shelley Duvall character. [To Rice] You wouldn't choose Linda Blair because that's the scariest movie you've ever seen, right?
R: Hey Lewis, hang on for a second and beep through.
L: Hey wait. Why don't you beep through this time?
R: Uh. Ok. Hopefully I can.
L: I'll hang up.
L: You flash.
R: Hold on for a second, ok?
R: Ok! Go ahead, Lewis!
L: Was that Jerry Cohen?
R: It was.
L: Oh my goodness. My Godfather—who I love very much—he calls me 10 times a day.
K: How old is he?
L: He's in his '60s and he's become obsessed with salsa dancing.
R: I don't want to talk about it.
L: It upsets John so.
R: He's a technological terrorist. It just makes me want to be on top of that mountain we were just talking about.
K: Yeah. My father has been known to call me maybe five times in a day if I don't pick up my phone—leaving messages with increasing levels of anger, and then apology, and then anger.
L: Yeah. Yeah.
R: Cut from the same cloth.
K. Ok next question. Now, you cannot name your own, but what is your favorite record label right now?
R: I thought it was pretty rad to see Merge Records have a number one record a couple weeks ago.
L: Well, Merge is just consistently great. They put out such awesome records. I also love Drag City.
K: Yeah. Drag City's so good.
R: Drag City is funny, though, because when you pre-order an album (Lewis laughs) you get it like, six months after everyone else in the world got it who didn't pre-order.
L: Well I pre-ordered Joanna Newsom's Have One On Me
from Drag City direct on vinyl.
R: Can you imagine how snarky the guy who sends out the pre-order is? He is probably so snarky.
L: But the records that I got were amazing. Bonnie “Prince” Billy's I See a Darkness
, Have One on Me
and an Edith Frost record.
R: And we got some of the Smog records.
K: Oh yeah, Bill Callahan. So beautiful.
L: He may be my favorite songwriter.
R: He's my favorite songwriter at the moment, yeah.
K: Yeah. He's jaw-dropping. Ok. Punk Rock or New Wave?
L: Punk rock.
R: New Wave.
K: Why do you both side with your sides?
R: Let's see. I've been listening to a lot of New Wave lately—stuff like the Saints and the Chameleons and the Chills and a lot of Australian stuff. It also seems kind of like if you go with New Wave it's a bargain, too, because you're going to get some punk rock mixed up in there.
L: Growing up in LA there was a prominent punk rock scene. My sister is 8 years older than me so I always grew up with punk rockers hanging out in our living room defacing things. There's a certain charm to that, I guess.
R: And for me, as a kid, when I wasn't in Scotland, I was in Washington, DC—in the immediate aftermath of the whole straight edge thing. Despite that music's lasting cultural impact, it always seemed, like, masculine to me, at least as a kid. And the New Wavers were nicer.
L: A little more sane.
R: A little more sane, you know.
K: Is there a fictional story you're wrapped up in at the moment?
R: I just read the latest Thomas Pynchon novel—almost finished with it—Inherent Vice
. It's kind of a stoner detective novel set in Los Angeles and it casts LA in this very amusing light. And I have actually learned new traffic shortcuts from it that still exist. The book's set in 1974.
L: That's when you'd get arrested for smoking a joint and thrown in jail for a very long time.
K: I think that still happens in Oklahoma.
R: It does.
L: But not in California.
R: Yeah. In Oklahoma they have ATMs in the fucking jail.
R: They have a Western Union transfer in the jail. So they can “help” you.
K: Wow. That's a whole new level. Favorite vegetable?
R: What's your favorite vegetable, Lewis?
L: Oh, um...peas! Heck yeah. I love peas!
R: Is marijuana a vegetable?
K: I don't know…
R: Is an almond a vegetable?
K: An almond's a legume. I mean, it's a vegetable in the “animal, vegetable, mineral” train. But I don't think in the “eating things” train it's considered….
R: Woah. We just discovered your trove of deep biological knowledge.
K: It's huge. Ok, you're DJing tomorrow night at your favorite bar. What's your lead in track?
R: “Hard In the Paint.” It's this new song by this guy Waka Flocka Flame.
L: Walk a flock a flame?
R: Yeah! It's that guy I keep showing you and you keep saying “Oh. He's cute." I think he's a Blood. That's my answer.
L: I knew a Blood once.
R: He says, “I'll leave you stankin'/What the fuck you thankin'”
L: After that I think I have to play the Chills' "Pink Frost."
R: That was what I was going to say!
L: That would be your lead off, or your second?
R: My lead off, but then I decided to say Waka Flocka instead.
L: Well, any opportunity to say Waka Flocka.
R: It sounds like a Muppet. But the world's most dangerous Muppet.
K: More annoying: bongos or kazoos?
K: Worst year in fashion & why?
R: Shit, dude, like—
L: —like last year!
L: With that, like, new rave neon trend.
R: Yeah, it hurt my eyes every time the tour bus parked in a loading spot.
L: I'm not a fan of ironic fashion.
K: Have you ever thrown anything out of a window?
L: Litterbug! My best friend's a litterbug.
R: Litterbug! I'm not a litterbug! You can't put that in print.
L: If it's something that's biodegradable, are you then considered a litterbug?
K: I don't think so. I think then you're helping the environment.
R: Yeah. You're a fucking champion.
K: Pretty much. So what did you throw out the window?
R: Many joints.
K: At the same time? Like a ticker-tape parade? With marijuana joints?
R: No. Over time.
K: Quiet Riot or Twisted Sister?
R: Yeah. I mean I appreciated Dee Snider [of Twisted Sister's] work with the PMRC when he stood up to Tipper Gore and all those lame-wads.
L: He's an articulate guy.
R: Yeah. He's very articulate. So I'd say him over Kevin DuBrow [of Quiet Riot] who I think is a…bit of a douche.
L: Dee Snider looks a lot like this guy my mom used to date in the ‘90s called Radio Bob.
K: Radio Bob?
L: Radio Bob. And so I can't even…look at a picture of Dee Snider anymore.
R: He looks kind of like a melted candle.
K: Ok. When you were going to the video store to rent a movie as a child, was there one video case that always stuck out to you—not necessarily a movie you actually ever saw, but one that you always looked and the cover of and wondered, “What the hell is going on there”?
L: The Flamingo Kid
. I've never seen that movie, but I've seen the cover a million times, and I just don't understand what it's about.
K: What's on the cover?
L: I believe a handsome young man and a flamingo.
K: What kind of car do you guys drive?
L: Station wagons.
R: Exclusively station wagons of all different kinds. Collectively we own three. A Ford Focus—that's mine.
R: And one from 1979, a Ford Fairmont, turquoise.
L: Which is currently out of commish, doesn't work.
R: It'll be back in commish soon.
L: I'm going to push it off a cliff. Soon. And then there's yours. What year is your wagon?
R: I have a 2000 wagon.
L: Beautiful wagon. Got us to Nebraska and back.
K: Oh wow. How long of a drive is that?
R: You can get it done in three days if you don't really rest very well or for too long. Um.
L: I think we rested well.
R: Well, yeah, yeah, we did on the way out. (Beep ) Oh! That's our next one.
L: We took with us many, many bags of Stumptown coffee.
K: Such good coffee.
R: Hey Lewis.
R: Lewis. We're getting beeped.
L: Well just hang on one sec. I want to talk about Stumptown.
R: All right, but—
L: It's my favorite coffee.
R: Ok, but they're all going to be held up then.
L: Ok. You then. You hang up and click over.
R: Well. Hold on for a second here.
L: Hang on. I'm hanging up. You're clicking over, right?
SEE WHAT ALL THE FUSS IS ABOUT:
Jenny & Johnny play with Love as Laughter at the Doug Fir this Sunday, Sept. 5. Doors at 8 pm, show at 9 pm. $15 advance, $17 day of show. 21+.