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The Mary Janes:
I first became aware of The Mary Janes through reviews in the local newspapers but never heard them until recently when a friend loaned me a copy of their first CD, "Record #1." I ended up leaving it in my player for quite awhile. The overall sound is definitely country but there are strong undercurrents of lots of music I grew up with - The Velvet Underground, The Eurythmics, Mazzy Star, etc. When I saw that they had songs here at mp3.com, I downloaded and listened and decided to contact them for a Rhino feature. Frontwoman Janas Hoyt responded to the questions I sent via e-mail. Check out their songs and read on...
An Interview with Janas Hoyt of The Mary Janes
Janas Hoyt: greetings...
Rhino: Hi, how are you today?
Janas Hoyt: Pretty good.
Rhino: What music did you listen to most when you were growing up?
Janas Hoyt: Mostly my older siblings'-- this would include my sister's am radio-- like Melanie "I ride my bike I roller skate don't drive no car.." -- or my other sister's "Ben, the two of us need look no more.." -- or my brother, the oldest's, love is blue, Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, Neil Diamond and "Wipe Out." And then there was church. So, that would be real midwestern hymns, (these really moved me) and youth group stuff like Godspell..
Rhino: When did you know that you would be a musician?
Janas Hoyt: I have always known that I would sing. My sisters both sang. My grandfather, my dad, a more subtle man,-- he'd whistle.. I didn't figure on composing music until I was about twenty. The girls I ran with at the time handed me a bass guitar and said we had a show in two weeks. The first song I learned was "Clampdown" by The Clash. we were called "The Altered Boys."
Rhino: I've been listening to your CD, "Record No. 1 " quite a bit. Can you tell me a bit about making that record? I'm curious about both the writing and the production.
Janas Hoyt: Oh boy. It's a very long story. I don't know how to make it short. It took years. I started working on a batch of tunes mainly in my head as I travelled around with the Vulgar Boatmen. (a lot of miles to muse.. 1992, we played around 250 shows, if you include all of them.) I borrowed Dale's guitar, stole away at odd moments. John Strohm had also loaned me his Gibson Firebird for about two years, and his Fender Princeton, which he eventually gave me as a wedding present, so I had this acoustic thing on the road, and this electric thing at home, both very formative, untrained. I had a handful of chords. so I wrote these tunes on borrowed gear with borrowed information. You know, what is Am? what is F#? ( I didn't use F# on "Record No. 1 - I'm savin that for No. 2...)
The songs are reflections, I suppose, from my life. I have yet to accomplish the task of deliberately crafting a song for the sake of crafting a song, although I know some people are very good at that.
The music evolved in my head around the songs.
Life takes awhile to develop, so over time, ('93-94) I started a duo with Boatmen violist, Kathy Kolata, and began to flesh out some of this material. That's when some of the trademark sounds came into focus. The strings were used to cover a lot of ground, behaving as both lead and rhythm instruments. The songs could then progress in movements. And the simplicity of the structure leaves room for these subtle gradations of tone, much like a painting. we put out a single on Delmore Recordings in 1994.
Over time, a drummer was added, then Kathy was out for awhile so I got another violinist, then Kathy came back, and now, we had two.. that was when things really came together. We could work in counterpoint, we could apply loops and triplets, rhythmic washes under melodic lines, all with the rhythm guitar sitting in the middle, just holding it down and defining the space for these...transmissions.
Eventually ( 1996) we got into the studio on the Delmore label, and used some of our pals for the rhythm section. Tracked beds for six songs with Strohm. Then, Strohm took off with The Lemonheads, and the guy from the label just disappeared. Six months later, he resurfaced in another city, we resumed tracking six more tunes with another engineer, Mark Maher, and the help of the studio, Echo Park. They made adats for me to take home, and I tracked the overdubs in my basement. Just because the label guy resurfaced doesn't mean he actually took care of furthering things in the studio. Basically, the studio guys were generous enough to let us borrow their time while waiting for the label to make a move. --nine months later, it was mixed in Tucson. We had started mixes at Echo Park, but you see, this label guy was not coming up with the means to pay for the work, which wasn't very nice of him, and was also the reason that there would be these six month gaps between sessions. i think it was easier for him to just up and move the project, rather than take care of business at hand. the only reason I mention it is because this guy got away with a lot of inexcusable behavior, and I can't afford to sue him. I just got out of my contract with him a few weeks ago. It has taken six years of my life....
In a way, the making of this record involves a tale of generous lending. Everybody lent their time, their gear, their patience, and most importantly, their faith. I remain thankful in the most humble way. When you do something good, just because you can, you are living a profound truth.
Production on "Record No. 1" was scattered. I had a lot of help from mentors, like Paul Mahern, John Strohm, Mark Maher, and Mark Hood. The main challenge was to get the thing to sound coherent, as it was stalled so many times, and for so long. Just getting it to hold together could be considered a success. It never quite felt finished to me, and the label then resequenced it, so the closing number was the opener, and all the other tunes were scrambled around, so I probably won't personally ever know if it holds together.
The actual production/arrangements are the result of a process, really. An approach to combining sound that involves minimalism, contour, and color. I am always as enamoured with the process as I am the result, so for me, production is mainly the capturing and editing of ideas and their expressions. You're going to have to edit this interview! I told you it was a long story.
Rhino: I wouldn't know how to edit your tale. It all seems important to the creation of an excellent disc and you give a lot of insite into the murky world of labels. I'm glad you touched on the process of getting the contours and colors in the music to come together in the recording process, one thing I really like about the CD is that a lot of the songs have fairly long instrumental parts. I was wondering what sort of thoughts go through your mind when you play music like this.
Janas Hoyt: That's funny. I always wonder the same thing about the listener.. I think the answer to that is a question-- here's a great quote from the late Robert Palmer: "How much history can be transmitted by pressure on a guitar string?"
Rhino: I will be seeing you at Mother Fool's in Madison, WI on Friday, April 21. How would you describe the live show compared to the CD?
Janas Hoyt: It's live, the cd is recorded. A recording is a moment in time, like anything else. Okay, it's a succession of moments, but it's a kind of snapshot, in the end, that will always be the case. You can't, or shouldn't really re-enact it. But that's what people around the country are missing, generally, generically, about live music. The incorporation of radio into a few large conglomerates, the media market per se, has blinded people to the fact that live performance is art, and that is what moves culture. Eventually, more and more people will notice that letting money move culture is ultimately evil!
Anyway, according to the aforementioned story, the cd was made a while ago, so the show has changed a little, in that there are other musicians delivering the material now, putting their spin on it. but there is a sound that remains consistent. The live show is more wide spread, reaches into folk and rock in a sort of bi-polar way.
This Mother Fool's show will be a quieter show, we'll sit down, likely, and play semi acoustic. the consistent quality lies mainly in the intent and the application.
Rhino: It seems like a lot of really good music has been coming out of Bloomington, Indiana lately. What's up with that?
Janas Hoyt: There has always been good music around here. Maybe it's just that people are noticing it.
Rhino: What are the main challenges you face as a musician?
Janas Hoyt: Oh man. It's a challenge to drive around and do what we do without a net. No guarantees, very little money in general, no insurance, the road feels like a roulette wheel sometimes. It's a challenge to not give up in the face of a market that is so out of hand, that is also so saturated now with good and very bad music. (can you tell i just had a meeting with someone about this?) It's a challenge to be who you are when that sometimes means being misunderstood (in any field) or worse. It's a challenge to stick to your guns and create the music that is inside you rather than cave to the machine. It's a challenge to have a dream and wait for it to unfold. Time is short. Life goes by. Your kids grow up. Your back gets sore. But our challenges define us. Maybe the main challenge for today is getting enough sleep.
Rhino: What are the main perks of doing music?
Janas Hoyt: It depends on who you are. What are the perks of doing what you believe in doing? I mean, whoever you are, whatever it is that you do?
Rhino: What advice would you give young people who want to go into music?
Janas Hoyt: Know yourself.
Rhino: Anything else?
Janas Hoyt: Practice diligently.
Rhino: Thanks, have nice day.
Janas Hoyt: You're welcome. I'll look forward to meeting you this week!
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