the mary janes

The Times, Munster, IN
May 26, 2000
Tim Shellberg

Mary Janes singer wedded to dual loves: music and motherhood

Janas Hoyt leads two lives. On one side of the coin, she is the singer, guitarist and chief songwriter of the Bloomington Ind.-based rock outfit the Mary Janes, which keeps her on the road throughout the country on a regular basis. On the other side, she is a family woman who spends as much time as possible with her husband and children.

"Sometimes it seems tougher than other times," she said shortly after returning from her kids' elementary school.

"I think it just depends on how much sleep you've gotten and what kind of mood you're in," she said. "We're not kids, and this is not a kid band. This is a serious band, but everybody's lives are serious, too. Most everybody's got homes and relationships and families to take care of."

On Friday night, Hoyt and her bandmates will be in rocker mode when the Mary Janes perform at the Hideout on Chicago's North Side. Their performance is one of four shows the band will play throughout Illinois and Missouri over the course of the next three days.

Originally an acting student at Indiana University in Bloomington in the early '80s, Hoyt hung out with musicians around the campus in her spare time. She first picked up the bass when a local band needed her to fill in -- giving her two weeks to learn to play. She eventually abandoned her theatrical aspirations for music.

"I was kind of really dissatisfied with the university, so the whole punk thing appealed to me musically and politically," Hoyt said. "It was really easy for me to go that way, to fall into that kind of thing. I thought, 'This is the perfect way for me to act and sing and perform and not have to be within some structure that removes myself from myself, as opposed to the plays I was doing at the time."

Inspired by punk and alternative acts such as Iggy Pop, Patti Smith and Lou Reed ("I think he's a great poet and one of the great writers of our century"), Hoyt began writing her own material. After spending a few years in New York, where she had a child and her music fell to the wayside, Hoyt returned to Bloomington, and in 1992, she joined the alternative pop-country outfit the Vulgar Boatmen. She logged in approximately 300 shows with the Boatmen singing backup vocals and playing percussion over the course of two years.

Along with fellow bandmate Kathy Kolata, Hoyt formed the Mary Janes as a side project in 1994. She left the Boatmen amicably later that year after becoming pregnant again.

"It started out as merely a way for me and her (Kolata) to kind of kick around some tunes, then it became something else; people just dug it," Hoyt said.

After releasing a single in 1994, the Mary Janes recorded the material that would become the band's full-length debut, Record No. 1. Recorded in the summer of 1996, it would take more than three years for Record No. 1 to see the light of day. "We worked on the record for a total of maybe a month, then the record label disappeared," she said. "I couldn't find it, and then it resurfaced in Seattle. I'd go over to the studio and tell them, 'OK. I can't find my record label. I guess I'll have to pay you myself.' It was that kind of ongoing thing. Did I pull all of my hair out? It was very frustrating."

To bide her time, Hoyt took her band on the road and worked with fellow Hoosier John Mellencamp on his 1998 self-titled release and last year's Rough Harvest. She met Mellencamp through a mutual friend, Mellencamp engineer Paul Mahern.

"He (Mellencamp) was looking for a certain kind of voice, and Paul said to him, 'I know this woman,'" Hoyt recalled. "He had me do (a remake of) "Human Wheels," and he (Mellencamp) said, 'I just want her all over this record.' 'Rough Harvest' is a great record. I think it's a sleeper, because I don't think too many people bought it. But it has a great sound and it's true to a certain nature that's appealing about John Mellencamp."

By the time Record No. 1 was released last summer, Hoyt had gone through a dozen Mary Jane girls and guys. Her current lineup includes violinist Heather Craig, drummer Jamey Reid and bassist Dan Dolan, but she insists that that can change at any moment.

"This is a small town and a really cool music community, but there's not a lot of players," she said of her Bloomington roots. "There is not a lot of money anymore on the live circuit. We're not where we need to be for me to be making a lot of money or enough money to keep a band employed."

"And traditionally, there's always been a lot of women in the Mary Janes," she added. "Because we're all at that certain age, the women come (into the band) and then they get pregnant. We've had a number of people in the band that have left because they've had kids. That's just life, and everybody's living their lives."

newsshowslisten discography flamepress buy it message boardscontact us