Interview & Photos by Keira Zhou
When did you start playing music?
Jeannie: I started playing music when I was in the first grade. I started playing the violin. And went through high school in the orchestra. And then stopped after high school.
Why did you stop?
Jeannie: I found that playing the violin alone is kinda boring. And without that orchestra environment, I just kinda stopped. I never really stopped; I picked it up sometime but never really wrote anything. And I didn’t pick it up again until he (Gavin) handed me a drum machine, which was in 2012. And it was a whole new world of making new music, that I’ve never even attempted, just got hooked on it.
Gavin: I’ve played music for a really long time. It kinda has been a haunting of my life. My dad was a musician and he took off at a really young age. And the phantom of that has just always been in my head weirdly. I don’t think that it informed me in playing music, but I always had a drive too. It was sort of the opposite of you (Jeannie), cause it wasn’t structured and music was this taboo thing when I grew up. It wasn’t encouraged. It was taken away from me as a punishment.
Jeannie: And my punishment was like, practice. It’s very the opposite.
Gavin: And then I just played in bands for a long time. None of them went anywhere. She (Jeannie) took it seriously on a whole other level. That was something I was looking for.
How did you guys meet?
Gavin: We started dating before we started playing music.
Jeannie: We dated for a few years, we met… um…
Gavin: I sang on the street..
Jeannie: Yea.. he was singing, and I was on a smoke break. And he sang a song at me, and asked for my number, and I gave it to him.
How did you guys decide to play music together?
Gavin: I’ve just been playing music for so long. We were both at the crossroads of our life where we just have dead end jobs. We wanted something to take on together. And empower each other.
Jeannie: I was working a lot. I used to be retail management. The hours were bad, no vacation, no time off. Holidays I cant even go anywhere. Then I very unexpectedly lost my job. And all my stability was just pulled off under me. That was around the same time that he was like “here’s a drum machine”. I was like ok. What am I doing? I had basically manic episode. I lost my mind for a moment, didn’t know what to do. It felt like the only thing I could do. Was just to make music. So I took my not very generous severance package, and bought a bunch of gear, left Portland.
Gavin: Combined our powers…
Jeannie: We were like, screw it. Let’s just see what we can do. And now we are here.
Who are your music inspirations? Who influence your sound?
Jeannie: We are heavily inspired by Liars, and The Knife, and I also liked, as a teenager, in southern California, hard core bands, like The Blood Brothers, The Locust, basically the Three One G bands. I don’t listen to them all the time now but I think the music I listened to as a teenager heavily influenced a lot of the stuff we make.
Gavin: I’m in love with Fiona Apple, as a lyricist and instrumentalist. She’s incredible. To be able to combine that kind of element with the Blood Brothers and the Locust and those hard core elements, that’s where we draw inspirations.
Jeannie: We changed a little over the years. It started more of a synth pop-y, then it got a little heavier. Just cause we were kinda bored with that. The earlier songs and stuff were a lot more minimal. And it was a lot more fun to perform. I love performing these songs; it’s more higher energy. It’s really fun.
Could you tell us a little more about your debut album that just came out today? What are the ideas behind the album?
Gavin: The record’s called Year Of The Witch. It’s a lot about magic, about your own inner witch, whatever that is, whatever that means to you. It’s a lot about what’s been going on that last couple years. And us living on the road, we were touring for a long time, we did a 6-month tour. We were living out of the van, and recording this record.
Jeannie: We started recording the record living in the van, trying to figure out where to move to. Cause our stability was kinda fell through, we just couldn’t afford to live in Portland anymore. That’s where we form the songs, was on the road.
Do you guys have some favorite tour memories?
Gavin: I remember there was a moment in Rhode Island, where we were recording in our friend’s basement. And we were recording a really heavy song. And then he took us to see Lightening Bolt that night. We saw Lightening Bolt on the floor.
Jeannie: It was Lightening Bolt and Doomsday Student.
Gavin: It didn’t necessary change our perspective but we were like, yea we can do whatever we want! And that was a big one in my head that sticks out. Another one was touring with Liars, just hanging with him, listening to him, and talking to him while we were making this record. I also remember recording in the parking lots in the van. We were recording vocals in the van. And it started raining, and we had to stop and wait for the rain to pass. But then some of that we kept and sampled that. I remember going to our friend’s art studio, and sampling all the spray paint cans. I remember getting food poisoning during that 6-month tour, while we were recording. We had to take off and continue to play. The whole time I was terribly sick, and we were still doing what we doing.
Jeannie: Yea we were fighting through and keep going. That’s kinda like our thing, just keep going.
What keeps you going when you feel discouraged?
Gavin: Playing music, especially together. It’s really empowering.
Jeannie: Well, we like food a lot. If we narrow down to what eat most often, probably ramen and tacos. We like to, on tour, going to the south, not necessary Tex-Mex, but like Alabama.
Gavin: Being from southern California, well I guess we are white, we can’t really be like “this is how you make tacos”, but from what we learned growing up around such a cultural place around southern California, there’s a big difference.
Jeannie: I have this friend was like, “we got to go to this taco shop, it’s the best tacos in Alabama! It’s so good!” And we get there, it was like straight up out of the package hard shells, ground beef. I was like oh my god.. Then we cooked him taco. And he was like “ohhh ok.”
Gavin: We were like deep frying the shells.
Jeannie: That’s like one thing I like about touring is like eating the things from different regions if I can afford to do that.