Thursday, April 17, 2014

Juana Molina Interview @ Jammin' Java

I don't go to shows as much as I used to anymore, but April has been dang kind to me so far.  A couple of weeks ago, the Kraftwerk amazement, and then one of my favorite artists, Juana Molina at the Jammin' Java in NoVa.

Juana Molina started her career as a comic actress for Argentinian television, then moved to music and has so far released 6 albums including her most recent, the phenomenal Wed 21 that came out last year.  There is a brief bio of her here.  Her sound is completely unique and engaging, and in my top five all time, one of the ones I would have on my deserted island list, all of that. A review I wrote for her last album:

"Her sixth album and another stellar, solid release.  Whereas her previous albums have been mostly loops and layers of her guitar and voice, mixed with various electronic pings and pongs, this one has taken on more instruments, samples and musicians.  Her music has grown with a wider wingspan.  While maintaining her folk-tronica style, there is a sense of immediacy in the music, no longer awakening solely from the subtly of a single guitar note or vocal passage, the songs open more to a canvas of texture rather than building on the singular notion.  Some of the sounds are more aggressive in certain ways comparatively; at times warming, at times alarming, always grooving. As a result this is one of her best; she just keeps getting better with each release.  I would say this album may bear some higher levels of notoriety, and rightfully so."

I discovered her music when I first started to DJ at the station in 2006 with her fourth album, "Son".  Something in the way her voice carried over the looping tracks filled with interesting sounds and guitar that was hypnotic and satisfying to my punk bled ears.  It is much like how I enjoy Kate Bush's "Hounds of Love" in its ethereal and dreamlike qualities, only Molina seems more organic.  So basically, yeah, safe to say I am a pretty big fan.

Wed 21
I found out about her most recent tour thanks to her Facebook page.  I read a post that she was looking for music stores in Chicago.  I did a double take, "What?  You mean she is IN the states?"  I immediately checked her web page.  I had promised myself that if she ever toured any where close to Richmond, I would make the effort to see her.  Scrolling through her tour dates, I saw Chicago, Philadelphia, New York -- all just a wee bit too far for my commitment.  Then, practically overlooking it, I saw Vienna, Virginia.  Vienna!  That's near D.C., I can DO that!

I immediately posted if anyone else was interested in going to the show, I was going regardless, then my friend Kate Andrews chimed in.  Plus she had a friend in D.C. that wanted to go, and then add my pal and radio co-host for River City Limits Ceci and we had a road trip in the works.  Of course, I also wanted to try to land an interview; really just a few minutes of her time for a couple of question to air on my radio show, a picture and maybe please sign a copy of her album?  After a series of emails, I came in contact with a great guy that helps her with sound on the road named Brenndan. He emailed me to text him when I got to the club.

Signed!  (I am not sure what it says.)
This was another example of the world WAY ahead of my archaic pay-as-you-go phone. I didn't know how to text, so screw it I would just call him, same difference, right?  So we get in and I dial, he says they are in the back doing sound check and to come and meet him there.  I do, Juana is kicking a bass-drum on stage, people are talking about levels and monitors, all that fun sound check stuff.  I don't really know what he looks like but I figure the meet will happen somehow.  Then some club dude comes up to me, certainly prepared to toss me back to the front, when I mention Brenndan's name.

"Oh, he's right over there doing sound check."

This was literal.  He was plugged into the board and levelling it all. Obviously this was a BAD time to talk, and probably pretty lame of me to call right in the middle of it.  I slink back to the front to join my friends for a beer and food and hope he calls back. The front of the club starts to fill up, people anxious to get to the back and get their show on.  There is some hipster with a brim hat and a suspicious bag that MAY contain interview equipment, I get a bit anxious and want to make sure I am before this guy on the media list.  I keep checking my phone, because I have no idea how to really work the text thing and just hope that I see he tried to contact me so I can return the call.  He does and we finally meet. He tells me how time is really tight on this tour. I understand this, all I am asking for is a few minutes with one of my favorite musicians.  He says maybe like five minutes and I am content with that.  So I narrow down my questions to the top five and wait for him to signal me back.

The comfy chair!
Meanwhile, a little description about the club, Jammin' Java.  It is in a strip mall.  Yes, a strip mall.  But that also means fantastic parking! And once you get in the doors it feels like any other club you would go to; the people were friendly, the food was decent, the sound was good, and they seem to regularly book decent acts.  My only caveat is that we paid an extra five bucks for V.I.P. seating which was a total waste. It was merely a slightly raised area with tables and a private waitress. Not much worth it for this particular show, plus I had made up my mind to go up front by then anyway.  A more crowded affair, maybe, but I would just assume stand and get close.

Looping magic.
Finally, Brenndan got me to go back for the interview.  It was in a room directly behind the stage, and there Juana sat on a crate beside a mirror and asked me to have a seat beside her on some plush yellow comfy chair. The interview went wonderfully, she is a delightful person to chat with and it was really intriguing to hear the way she described things.  For instance, the way she creates music at home she described as being very immersive and used reading a book as an analogy.  "You wouldn't be picking up the book and reading the book, but picking up the book and being IN the story."  There was even a sentimental moment when she described a show in Argentina that got her a little choked up when describing it.  Very touching.

Live in ominous red.
So the five minute interview turned into 20 and can be heard here.  I left the end part of her trying to read the radio station call letters WRIR because we were having fun and it really shows her humorous characteristics. Loved it.  She signed my "Son" record and I even managed an awkward picture on the couch kindly taken by Brenndan with his smart phone and sent to me via email.

Thumbs up?  No idea what to do here, picture came out nice, though.
So yeah, great huh?  I haven't even gotten to the show yet, which was equally awesome. She was accompanied by a percussionist and a keyboardist, which filled the sound out well for the club.  They played a lot from her new album, as well as a few of her older songs.  By the second tune, "Un Dia", from the fifth album, the small group of 50 or 60 people were in the Juana Zone and dancing and having a blast. There were even two gentlemen in their sixties from Argentina now living in the U.S. that had read in the weekend paper that she was playing, so they showed up intrigued. (They had a great time too!) She played about an hour with one encore, a great set and just what I wanted!

Afterward, Brenndan came up and told me that she really enjoyed the interview with me and hoped I enjoyed the show. He didn't have to come up and say that, so I definitely felt it was genuine and I certainly appreciated it.  I've done interviews for years and you can usually feel the vibe when the chat is awkward or when it is good.  This absolutely felt like a good one and it was great to get that level of confirmation.

The night ended with us getting back to Richmond in one hour and forty five minutes! Great timing and a great time!

Her live rig is fascinating.  Plus SG!

Again, here is the audio interview link: Juana Molina

No comments: