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Me Jane interview with Katie Gallegos, Marites Velazquez, Kyla Denham, and Sarah Braunstein

Me Jane are climbing their way out of the bustling Chicago scene to take their place among some of the most unique and interesting bands going on right now.  Their unique take on the post-punk sound is literally like a breath of fresh air!  Me Jane are at once extremely forceful, drawing from a primal energy that propels their music, and yet, they’re also perfectly restrained at the same time.  They don’t resort to blistering freak-outs of noise or walls of distortion.  Instead, they’ve created a tightly woven web of intricate vocal patterns and melodies, harmonies that float like spectral ghosts behind the sound of the instruments themselves, passing through the instrumentation and melody like spirits through walls.  If it weren’t for the digitally released d3mo, it would be almost impossible to image them without the limitless sounds of a synthesizer beneath them.  Sarah Braunstein’s subdued drums intermingle and flirt with Marites Velazquez ridiculously infectious bass, while Kyla Denham is brewing a stew of imperceptible synthesized electronic noise just beneath the surface that ripples and bubbles to the surface erupting in noise from time to time.  But it’s all led by Katie Gallegos’ perfectly sparse and jangling guitar, dosed and drenched in reverberation.  I constantly find myself tapping my toe and bobbing my head while listening to Me Jane’s debut album ISON, there’s something about the album that I just can’t shake, and I don’t really wanna, to be honest…  It’s nice to have something to put on that isn’t easy listening but won’t blow my speakers apart either, and there’s a million other reasons why you should be listening to ISON as well, but the vocals are probably reason enough to me though.  It’s been a long time since I heard something where I could just tell from the instant it started the band had spent as long working on the absolutely ridiculously vocal melodies, harmonies and back-up/background singing as they had on the meticulous instrumentation.  Not only does that fact drip from every pore of the album, but it really serves to accentuate the vocals as the “lead instrument” in the band, something you don’t hear a lot outside of the acoustic and singer/songwriter arenas.  Beautiful and haunting, infectious and intricate, carefree and absolutely enthralling, Me Jane have offered up an unbelievable debut album in the form of their ISON 12” and I’m really excited to be able to share their story with our lucky readers here.  There’s a link below to some music, make sure to stream it while you read so you don’t miss out and don’t worry – you can thank me later…
Listen while you read:

© Jeremy Farmer

Now what’s the lineup in Me Jane at this point?  I’ve done some reading and it seems like the core of the band’s really built around a friendship between several of you all.  Have there been any changes in the lineup since you all formed or is this the one and only lineup?

Katie:  The current lineup is Sarah Braunstein (drums), Kyla Denham (synth), Katie Gallegos (guitar) and Marites Velazquez (bass).  Kyla joined the band roughly a year and a half ago.  We all met each other through mutual friends and the band started organically.

Are any of you in any other bands at this point, or do you have any side projects going on?

Katie:  For each of us this is currently our only project.

Marites:  This is my main project right now, but I sometimes write and record solo stuff on my own.

Have you released any music with anyone in the past?  I love playing musical connect the dots, but finding time can be a bit difficult, especially when I can get answers directly from the source!

Marites:  I’ve been in bands since high school, so there are probably lots of random recordings out there.  Nothing signed, mostly released locally/independently.  The most notable would be Love Pentagon’s Bang! EP from 2007, I played synth, Action Cat’s 7-inch The Glasgow Sailor in 2008 where I played piano on one song and drums on the other, Tremulants’ Bink! from 2010, I played bass...  Ha, weird, just noticed that name coincidence with Bang!  I’m sure you can still find some of this stuff on MySpace.  Good tunes.

How old are you and where are you originally from?

Katie:  I’m thirty and originally from Michigan, but moved around a lot growing up.  I’ve been in the Midwest the longest, however.

Sarah:  I’m twenty nine, soon to be thirty, don’t remind me.  Also from Michigan, metro Detroit; Farmington Hills, to be exact.

Kyla:  I’m twenty nine, for fourteen more days eeek!  I’m from Joplin, Missouri.  Country girl.

Marites:  I’m also twenty nine, soon to be thirty.  Born and raised in Las Vegas.  Total city girl.

What was the local music scene like where you grew up?  Did you see a lot of shows or get very involved in that scene?  Do you feel like it’s played a large or important role in forming your musical tastes or shaping the way you perform at this point?

Katie:  I was in Ann Arbor for high school and college, but wasn’t very immersed in the local music scene.  I don’t recall it being particularly thriving, at least from what I remember.  Apart from the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, most of the shows I saw were in Detroit; the Magic Stick, St. Andrew’s Hall, Masonic Temple, etcetera.  I mostly saw bigger touring bands, Guided by Voices, Yo La Tengo, Luna, Interpol, etcetera.

Sarah:  My high school band played some local spots, mostly school events, fundraisers, and some venues that did all-ages shows.  Our friends were in a couple of bands, so we all supported each other.  Outside of local acts, my friends and I went to shows all over southeastern Michigan once we were able to drive.  We were huge fans of some Detroit acts like The Paybacks, Dirtbombs, and Hentchmen so we’d seek out all of their shows at all ages venues - shout out to the no-longer-with-us Tower Records in Birmingham!

Marites:  The local music scene in Las Vegas when I was in high school and college had a huge impact on me.  I was super involved, because I was in a band and there wasn’t much else to do, but it was the time of my life.  It was pretty tight knit when we were younger because, as you can imagine, Vegas does not cater to the under-21 crowd, with virtually no all-ages music venues existing for more than a year at a time; unless you got lucky enough to play a huge venue like the House of Blues.  At that time, the Huntridge, this awesome historic local theater, had just closed and the period of those notorious desert shows had passed; as in, people would take generators out into the middle of the desert and throw these huge shows with hundreds of people.  We had to band together to forge our own DIY music scene.  We played in smoothie shops, parking lots, bowling alleys, and cafes.  Inevitably we played more bars when we got older, but they definitely weren’t built to be music venues to begin with.  I met a lot of my best friends that I’m still close with today at the time through the music scene.  And there were soooo many good local bands.  I think Vegas gets underrated because of the city’s image in the public mind and the Killers became so huge, plus they played up that glitz and glam image of what people think Vegas is.  But there was so much more local music there that had a lot of depth and a lot of talent; still is.  The problem is, the city exists in its own bubble and eventually you get sick of each other, break up and move on.  So, by the time you hear about a band, they’ve probably already broken up and started three other ones.

Kyla:  Well, since I grew up in a small town, the music scene was pretty nonexistent.  Lots of Christian and country bands since it was the ‘buckle’ of the Bible Belt.  I was only allowed to go to shows at my church…  So I guess you could say I was a late bloomer as far as show-going goes.  When I went away to college I dove in head first and became very involved in the music scene in Springfield, Missouri.  There was a weekly event called Black Box Revue that I went to every weekend.  It showcased dancier synth heavy bands.  We really worked hard to build up the scene in that town.  And because we got so many people to come out to the shows, we were able to eventually attract some great bands to the event.  Because I didn’t have a lot of opportunities to see good bands on a regular basis growing up I’m constantly blown away by the amount of good bands coming through Chicago.  I could really see a band I like almost every night; crazy.

What about your home when you were a child?  Was there a lot of music around?  Were either of your parents or any of your close relatives musicians or extremely interested or involved in music?

Katie:  The music I heard via my siblings definitely influenced my musical tastes.  I’m the youngest of five and there’s over a twelve year age gap between me and the oldest, so I heard a lot of stuff from the late 70s and 80s growing up, mostly new wave and post-punk stuff; Joy Division, New Order, The Smiths, The Cure.  I acquired a lot of these bands’ cassette tapes in middle school after my older siblings had left the house.  My oldest brother, Shawn, played in bands and they’d practice in the bonus room at the end of our house.  I think seeing him play and practice around the house inspired me, in part, to pick up the guitar in the fifth grade. 

Sarah:  My parents made me take piano lessons starting at a very young age.  At the time, I felt like I was being forced to play the piano, but I’m so grateful for that experience and wish I had invested more energy into it.  They also made my sisters and I each pick up an instrument in elementary school.  The sisters went with woodwinds so obviously I chose the drums!  I stuck with it through high school and did the whole shebang: drumline and marching band, percussion ensemble, orchestra, steel drum band.  Neither of my parents have played instruments since I’ve been alive, but they both did it in school and found it valuable enough to force it on their kids!  

Marites:  My mom and grandmother played the piano, but that was it.  My family emigrated from the Philippines in the 70s, but they weren’t huge on American rock ‘n roll.  Whenever they had the radio on, it was whatever the easy listening channel was, and of course as a kid I thought that was so boring and completely turned off to artists like Bing Crobsy, [Frank] Sinatra, [Luther] Vandross, and Barbara.  I had to find rock music on my own, mostly through friends and eventually the Internet.  I came into playing music on my own, too.  It was something I was always interested in.  Whenever my parents brought an instrument into the house for my brother or I, I would just take it into my room and tinker with it for hours.  At least my family was supportive of my interest in playing music since my mom took piano lessons as a kid.  I joined the school orchestra and eventually started taking piano and violin lessons, bought my first bass, and then I took off from there.

Kyla:  There were only two records in my house growing up: The Beatles Help! and the soundtrack to Xanadu.  I used to listen to them over and over again.  I knew every word of every song.  It really started off my love for music.  My mother played violin and piano, my sister played flute.  Sometimes we would all play together; awful renditions of Little Mermaid songs.

What do you consider your first real exposure to music to be?

Katie:  If we’re talking cassettes, CDs, etcetera, then technically my first real exposure was Erasure’s POP! - 20 Hits on cassette tape.  My sister gave it to me as a present in the forth grade.  I memorized all the lyrics and would sing the songs to myself during recess.  “I Love to Hate You” was a favorite.  To this day if I hear Erasure it sends me into a frenzy of singing and dancing.  My first real exposure concert-wise was Moby at St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit, when I was in the sixth grade.  It’s not the safest place for a twelve-year old but my mom dropped my brother, Danny, who’s just a year older, and I off for the concert and picked us up after.  We were definitively the freshest faces there.

Marites:  There would be a record or a tape here or there around the house when I was a kid, where I’d find a song and play it over and over again because I liked dancing to it.  I remember doing that to Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti” and the Pointer Sisters’ “I’m So Excited”.  But my first favorite artist was Paula Abdul.  No joke.  I had this Barbie Dance Club VHS (which ifyou can manage to find on YouTube today, do it, because it’s still amazing) and the guest star was Paul Abdul teaching the kids how to do this dance she made up.  I was a fan of hers for a long time.  I had all of her albums on cassette!  Everyone else had Janet or Madonna, I had Paula.  And then I turned ten and started watching MTV or something; went through this weird ska-punk phase.

Kyla:  The Xanadu soundtrack is my first memory of music.  Good ole ELO.

Sarah:  Oldies 104.3 WOMC.

When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music or was that just sort of an outgrowth of being given an outlet to create something and expires yourself?

Katie:  As far as Me Jane goes, we decided to play for friends at a house show in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood after noodling for about seven or eight months.  It was a birthday show for Sarah and me, whose birthdays are a day apart.  Beyond celebrating, we wanted to test the waters and see how our music went over in front of a crowd.  I think we had reached the point where we figured that if we were going to keep practicing on a semi-regular basis like this, we might as well share our music with a public.  Also, the more we played out the better we sounded as a band.  Since then, we’ve played more and more shows, in part to promote and move our debut album available on vinyl.  However, being that we all have demanding careers and travel periodically, it makes playing out challenging and exhausting to pull off sometimes, especially during a work week.

Marites:  I totally remember this moment: I was fourteen.  I had just gotten into writing poetry.  I was a weird, angsty teen that wrote in notebooks all the time.  Then, I started thinking it would be fun to try singing the words I was writing and put a melody to them.  I also remember walking through my middle school around the end of the year and these boys in a band were playing in the middle of campus.  They were terrible.  I thought, “I could do that way better”.  One day I told my dad I wanted to be in a band, but he discouraged it because he thought bands “do drugs all the time”.  I didn’t care and I didn’t think that was necessarily true.  Then, I went to a performing arts high school to play violin.  After school one day, my friend who was in orchestra came up to me and asked if I knew how to play bass.  She wanted to put a band together to submit a song to some random songwriting contest in a magazine.  I knew this was my chance to play in a band, even though I had never touched a bass guitar in my life.  So, I lied and said that I did.  We played in a band together for the next six or seven years after that.

If you were to pick a moment, a moment that seemed to change everything for you and opened your eyes to the infinite possibilities that music can present, what would it be?

Marites:  I think of music as an inherent part of who I am and it always has been.  There wasn’t a singular moment.  I just knew from early on that was I always going to play music.

Sarah:  Ditto, what she said.

Kyla:  When I played my Grandparents’ Casio; it had so many different sounds, so many different beats.  It opened up so many more possibilities than what I had on the piano.  As a kid, I was just blown away by it.  I found out I could record on the Casio and then layer another part live.  I thought it was the coolest thing ever.

What was your first instrument?  When and how did you get that?

Katie:  My first instrument was an Ibanez electric in fifth grade, which my older brother graciously shipped up to me from Atlanta.  Once my parents saw I was serious and committed to learning guitar, they bought me my first Spanish classical a year later.  After learning some rock riffs on electric, I switched to classical, because, I both loved the sound and wanted to be technically proficient.  I was exposed to a fair amount of Spanish classical and Flamenco guitar growing up via my parents and found it inspiring.  Guitar-wise, classical is really my background more than rock, jazz, blues, or any other genre.  I love the feel of a classical; the wide neck, the nylon strings, the woody smell of it.  Me Jane is my first musical collaboration of any sort, which didn’t start for me until my late twenties.  Prior to that, music making was a solitary pursuit for me.  Picking up the electric later in life, developing a guitar style and learning how to play and write with others was kind of a hurtle at first, but with time, I found my groove.

Kyla:  My first instrument was violin.  I hated it and would cry every time I had to play it!  I was like six years old.  I begged my mother to stop making me play the violin.  It was torture.  Then I tried flute and finally settled on piano, which I loved.  Most of my childhood was spent playing on cheapo Casios and Yamahas.  I still love cheasy synth sounds.

Sarah:  Piano.  My mom made the executive decision to bring a baby grand Kawai into the house.  I started lessons when I was around seven.

Marites:  My first instrument was an electric keyboard my parents got for me for Christmas one year.  It was awesome because it had a CD player in it.  I learned to play because they bought a bunch of music books that came with CD accompaniments.  So, I sat in my room and learned all these songs with a huge sounding orchestra playing with me.

How and when did the members of Me Jane originally meet?  I read something about a chance meeting at a park or something like that?

Marites:  Ha-ha.  Yes, a park.  I was holding a sign that said "band mates wanted" in Humboldt Park one day and then Sarah, Katie and Kyla happened to walk by…  Actually I was introduced to Sarah and Katie by mutual friends at two different parties at Palmer Square Park.

Katie:  Ha-ha!  And I met Kyla at a neighbor’s barbecue, invited her to jam with us and the rest is history.

Kyla:  I was covered in barbecue sauce.

What led to the formation of Me Jane and when would that have been?

Marites:  When I moved to Chicago in 2010, one of the things I did right away was look for musicians to jam with.

Sarah:  I also moved to town in October 2010.  I think I met Katie and Marites, or K1 and M, which is how they are referred to in shorthand, in November of 2010.  We probably started to get together a month or two later, but it was with a fourth person, we’ll refer to her as “A”, who did vocals and messed around on her vocoder.  “A” wanted to slow-jam a Ke$ha song.  We practiced briefly in her basement and then she got kicked out of her house by her roommates.  So, we went to grab all of our stuff, and her house was completely unlocked and no one was home.  It was a very strange time for all of us.  After that, we started playing as a three-piece.

Is there any sort of creed, code, ideal or mantra that the band shares or lives by?

Sarah:  Work hard and pour yourself a drink!  Does that work?

Marites:  We can’t say that because Katie works with young’ins.  We’d have to say, “Work hard and pour yourself some water!”

Tell me a little bit about the name.  Me Jane instantly lodged itself in my brain, and I feel like it may be a play on the famous Tarzan quote, but I don’t like to make assumptions when it comes to that kind of thing as I tend to read into them a bit, ha-ha!  What does Me Jane mean or refer to in the context of your band name?  Who came up with it and how did you go about choosing it?  Were there any close seconds that you can remember at this point?

Sarah:  We had been playing around with names for awhile.  I came up with LUNCH and that seemed to have some staying power.  “Everyone loves lunch!” and we just liked the crunchy sound of it.  But now that everything is search-able, we were able to see that there was a past band named Lunch, so we didn’t feel right naming ourselves that.  I came up with Me Jane in the middle of 2012.  I have no idea where it came from and it doesn’t really mean anything, but it definitely references or conjures up some images.  Obviously, there’s the Tarzan thing, and I think that gives the name its hook.  It’s a little bit cheeky and I guess it alludes to the fact that we’re all women without being too cheesy or obvious.  It’s also a PJ Harvey song, which gets a lot of points in my book.  Most importantly, it wasn’t taken yet.

Marites:  The list of names we brainstormed before Me Jane is hilarious.  Power Lunch?  Carpet?  Who thought of Carpet?!?

Sarah:  I love Power Lunch.  I already have a name in mind for another project, but I can’t tell anyone about it.  It’s so good, it’d definitely get stolen.

Where’s the band located at this point?  How would you describe the local music scene there?

Katie:  We’re a Chicago-based band.  The music scene is huge and there’s lots to choose from genre-wise; countless acts and plenty of live music at venues throughout the city.  On any night you can usually see a talented band or musician perform.

Kyla:  So many great bands here! It is hard to keep up!

Do you feel like you’re very involved in the local scene where you’re at?  Do you book or attend a lot of local shows or anything like that?

Katie:  We book our own shows and join lineups when other bands invite us to play their bills.  We’ve never had a company do booking for us.  It’s easy enough booking on our own.  We all frequent shows in the city to varying degrees.  Some of my favorite venues to see bands are Empty Bottle, Hideout and the Metro.

Marites:  Compared to Vegas, the music scene in Chicago is a beast.  It’s so huge.  I love it, though.  I try to catch local bands when I can.  I recently started working with CHIRP Radio in order to be more involved in the local scene, so hopefully that’ll open up my network.

Sarah:  We’re working on building up our roster of band friends.  In an ideal world, we’d go bowling with every band we meet or play a show with.  We want to go on more “band dates.”

Kyla:  We’re also wanting to branch out and go to some more DIY shows.  Recently, we played a show at a local record shop with about twelve other local bands.  We definitely want to become more involved in the local community.

Has the local scene played an integral role in the sound, history, or formation of Me Jane, or do you feel like you all could be doing what you’re doing and sound basically like you do regardless of where you were at or what you were surrounded by?

Katie:  I think our sound is pretty independent of us being in Chicago.  It’s more of our own influences and musical backgrounds that shape our sound, as well as how we gel when we come together.  Plus, I can’t think of any Chicago band that sounds quite like us.

You all have a really sweet sound that’s a sort of amalgamation of different stuff.  I’m curious who would you cite as some of your major musical influences?

Katie:  We don’t necessarily sound like these bands and don’t try to consciously emulate them, but bands that have been really influential for me are The Wipers, Wire, Joy Division, Guided by Voices, and of late, Pylon and The Stranglers; mostly post-punk, guitar-driven stuff.

Marites:  We get some references to Gang of Four.  The funny thing is, I had never listened to them in my life until a few months ago.  I listened to Entertainment! for the first time in my life and it blew my mind.  I ran into practice one day raving, “You guyyyyys, you have to listen to this!” and they were like, “Yeah, we already know.”  I like a lot of bands that were probably influenced by Gang of Four.  I think what I listen to a lot of at any point changes and evolves throughout my life.  When Me Jane first formed was probably around the same time I became obsessed with Electrelane’s No Shouts, No Calls.

What about influences on the band as a whole rather than just individually?

Katie:  Not sure what our whole group influences are, like specific bands.  Thoughts?

Marites:  We each have strong individual influences, but I think the majority of us can say we like the band Electrelane.

Kyla:  Yes!  Electrelane is one band we can all agree on!

Sarah:  I actually don’t know if Katie cares about Electrelane. 

Katie:  Yeah, I don’t really listen to them. 

Sarah:  I actually can’t think of a band, past or present, that all four of us would be super excited to see as a group.  We all respect each other’s tastes, and there’s usually some overlap across two or three of us, but we’re not into the same stuff.

How would you describe your sound to our readers who might not have heard you all before in your own words?  Whenever I have to describe how a band sounds I feel like I’m putting way too many of my own thoughts and perceptions into there!

Marites:  Guitar, bass, drums, synth.  Loud.  Fun.  Nuanced.

Katie:  Unique and compelling.  Often driving and edgy, but we also have some more subdued numbers.

Can you tell us a little bit about what the songwriting process is like for Me Jane?  Is there someone who usually comes to the rest of the band with a riff, or maybe a more finished idea for a song, to share with the rest of you and work out as a group?  Or, do you all just get together and kick ideas back and forth until you hit on something that you’re interested in working on and refining together as a band?

Katie:  I do a lot of songwriting and revising when practicing or noodling at home.  I usually come to the band with an idea, often verses and some lyrics, and if it's sounding good, we'll work with it and the song takes shape.  Everyone writes their own parts and we come up with a lot of vocal harmonies together.  Some of the songs take longer to finish, particularly the more nuanced ones, like “Silencer”.  I have a tendency to "hang upside down," as the band says, and rewrite things.  “Evasive”, for example, I revised again and again.  I'm prone to taking a revisionist approach to composition, maybe because of my classical background, but I’m secretly envious of those that are adept at improvisation and whipping up compelling stuff.  I think there's value to going back to the drawing board and perfecting songs, because in the end ideally you have a stronger song.  At the same time though, I recognize that some of the easiest songs to write are some of our most catchy and crowd-pleasing ones, like “Warm Body”.  “Warm Body” we spontaneously came up with one day at practice.  Within a couple practices we nailed the song and it was a done deal.  

Marites:  Katie brings the most complete ideas to the band, so a lot of our songs have been very guitar driven, which explains why our music has that sound.  In general, most of our songs start with a riff someone brings to the group and we build from there.  I think what makes playing in Me Jane really fun is that everyone has a really good ear for arrangement.  We do a good job of giving each other feedback and coming up with ideas for what direction a song could go or what parts could fit where.  Sometimes, we can be perfectionists with the parts we play.  While writing, we tend to play a section of a song over and over until we feel satisfied with what we’ve come up with.

Katie:  Yeah, sometimes we’ll drill vocal harmonies till we’ve found the right blend.  Poor Kyla sits there and bears it.  We’ve got to get that girl a mic. 

What about recording?  Do you all like to take a more DIY approach to recording where you handle the technical aspects of things mostly on your own so that you don’t have to work with or compromise on the sound with anyone else, or do you all like to head into a studio and let someone else handle that side of things so that you can just concentrate on the music and getting the best possible performances out of yourselves?

Katie:  Because we lack the gear, time, money, and technical know-how when it comes to recording, we’ve only ever had someone handle it for us in the studio.  We focus on giving our best performance and having fun with the process.  We’re also present at the mixing sessions to give input and ensure the end product is an accurate reflection of our sound.  We don’t like it to sound too doctored up.  We want it to reflect how we sound live, in our natural state.

Marites:  Although, it would be cool to learn how to do that on our own.  If I ever get enough money, I’d be into buying some basic gear so we can at least do some tracking on our own, maybe as part of the songwriting process to better hear how things are coming together.

Katie:  Yeah, no doubt we would grow immensely if we were to self-record.

Is there a lot of time and effort that goes into meticulously working out every aspect of a song’s arrangement and composition before you record?  Or, do you approach recording with a good skeletal idea of what something’s going to sound like, while allowing for some change and evolution where needed during the recording process?

Katie:  Overall, we work on the meticulous side.  While we may tweak small things in the studio after hearing everything more clearly, we know what we want to accomplish and work out the kinks before going in.  Every day counts when you’re paying for studio time so you want to go in prepared and maximize the number of songs you can record.

Kyla:  Working in the studio definitely helped some songs evolve.  It was fun to experiment in the studio and see what worked and what didn’t.

Do hallucinogenic or psychoactive drugs play a large or important role in the songwriting, recording or performance processes for Me Jane?  I think a lot of people seem to take this question wrong, and take it as some sort of persona affront or accusation.  People have been tapping into the altered mind states that drugs produce for the means of creating art for thousands of years and I’m simply always curious about their usage and application when it comes to the art that I personally enjoy and consume.

Katie:  No, it doesn’t influence our songwriting.

I know that back in 2012 you all recorded a three song demo which is still available on your Bandcamp page, d3mo.  Can you share some of your memories of recording that first material?  When and where was it recorded?  Who recorded it and what kind of equipment was used?  Was that a fun, pleasurable experience for you all, or more of a nerve wracking and difficult proposition at the time?  Was that ever physically released or was that a digital only thing?  If it was released at all, can you tell us about who put that out and what it was released on?

Sarah:  We recorded that in the summer of 2012 with Jamie Carter at Carter Co Recording.  I don’t know the exact equipment, but it was a pretty simple setup.  We tracked all of the music at once in a single room, followed by vocals.  It was definitely a fun and exciting experience for us.  We were still a three-piece, pre-Kyla so no synths are on that demo.  We had been working and re-working the three songs on d3mo for so long that I think we just wanted to have something we could start sharing.  We knew we’d have to have some music to send venues in order to start booking shows, as well.  d3mo was a digital-only release, we just threw it up on Bandcamp when we were done.

Earlier this year (2014), you followed up the d3mo demo with your first full-length album ISON.    If I understand correctly you all self-released the album through crowdsourcing?  Can you tell us a little bit about how that came about and the recording of that album?  Who recorded it and when would that have been?  What kind of equipment was used this time around?  Now there’s a one song overlap between d3mo and ISON, the song “Ghost”.  Are those the same recording or mix of that song?

Sarah:  Actually, all three songs from d3mo are on ISON as well.  “Ghost” is the one that remained mostly unchanged from when we recorded d3mo to when we recorded ISON.  We’d reworked both “Back Row Watching” and “Evasive” pretty significantly by the time we recorded ISON and of course we added synth to all of the songs when Kyla joined.  We recorded ISON at the end of 2013/early 2014, so about one and a half years after d3mo, and the mixing and mastering of the album was finished in the spring.  We recorded at MINBAL studios in Chicago with Benjamin Balcom.  Benjamin did all of the recording and engineering, along with the mixing.  He was an amazing partner to work with and really helped us fine tune some things while we were in the studio.  It’s pretty crazy to go from only ever hearing your music when you’re actively playing it at practice, to sitting in the booth and listening to a crystal clear version played back at you.  We’d never really heard our songs before, even though we’d played them each hundreds of times!  I don’t know the first thing about equipment, but we took some photos of MINBAL you can see here.  The console table that Benjamin works on is massive and beautiful.  Once he mixed each song, he put each of the songs on tape which I think adds some warmth and helped us achieve more of the sound we were going for.  As for the crowdsourcing; we basically decided that if we’re going to release an album, we might as well do it on vinyl.  I mean, who doesn’t want a record with your own music on it?!?  It’s also more exciting than going the digital-only route.  And people buy records.  Since self-releasing your music on vinyl is expensive if you’re not on a label, we decided to ask the people who support Me Jane to help us put the record out.  The Kickstarter functioned mostly as a way to pre-order the album, plus some other fun prizes, like a potluck dinner party catered by Me Jane.  We funded the actual recording and mixing ourselves, and the Kickstarter covered mastering for vinyl and the actual vinyl pressing and printing the sleeves.  Overall, crowdsourcing helped us accomplish something we would’ve never been able to do on our own.

Does Me Jane have any music that we haven’t talked about, maybe a single, song on a compilation or another demo that I don’t know about?

Katie:  Nope!  We’re still writing stuff and once we have another ten or so new songs, hopefully, we can record again.

With the release of ISON earlier this year (2014), are there any other releases in the works or on the horizon for Me Jane at this point?

Katie:  I think it will be at least another year or more before a new release.  Our jobs keep us so busy, making it hard to continuously crank out new material.  Financing the release is also key, since we’re self-releasing we need to make sure we have resources in place.

Now, where’s the best place for our US readers to pick up copies of your music?  What about our international and overseas readers to score some Me Jane music?

Katie:  The vinyl, along with other essentials like Me Jane tees, bottle openers, koozies and stickers, can be purchased on our website at  Digital download’s are available on our Bandcamp page.  The vinyl is also available at select record shops in Chicago, Permanent Records, Bric-a-Brac, Logan Hardware, etcetera, and we’re also on Spotify.

And where would the best place for our interested readers to keep up with the latest news from Me Jane, like upcoming shows, tours and album releases at?

Katie:  All updates are posted at and

Marites:  We also have a really fun Instagram account (mejaneband).  We often go to shows, so we take a lot of concert photos of other bands we like.

Are there any major plans or goals that Me Jane is looking to accomplish in the last of 2014 or in 2015?

Kyla:  Overall, just to become more involved in the Chicago music scene; there’s so much going on here and so many great bands.

Sarah:  Sell more records!

What, if anything, do you all have planned as far as touring goes right now?

Katie:  We did our first tour last summer through the Midwest for eight days.  We haven’t planned any upcoming extended tour, but we’d like to play some cities nearby for the occasional weekend show.  We’re thinking Madison, Milwaukee, Bloomington, Champaign, etcetera.

Do you all spend a lot of time out on the road?  Do you enjoy touring?  What’s life like on tour for Me Jane?

Katie:  Our first and only tour thus far was last summer.  We played eight shows in eight nights, touring Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Champaign, Bloomington, St. Louis, Nashville, Louisville, and ending in Chicago.  We rented a fifteen passenger Econo-line van through Bandago, all black with tinted windows and best of all, a video game console.  Pretty sweet, though none of us are gamers.  We did, however, use the console to watch quality films like Josie and the Pussycats; lots of funny stories along the way. 

Kyla:  We saw lots of nice roadside attractions: The World’s Largest Rocking Chair, The World’s Largest Golf Tee.  Time well spent.

Katie:  It should be noted that the World’s Largest Rocking Chair is only ten-percent complete at best.  Only the two curved bands at the base of the chair are there. No frame, no seat, such a trap; but a worthwhile trap.  We took a hilarious photo of us all riding the rocker.

Do you remember what the first song that Me Jane ever played live was?  When and where would that have been at?

Katie:  Was it “Evasive”?  Yeah, that was probably it.  That was the first song we ever wrote.  We played it before a crowd of friends at a house party in Logan Square.

Marites:  Our first show was also a joint birthday house party for Katie and Sarah.  Their birthdays are one day apart at the end of January.  Now their birthdays are an anniversary of sorts for our band’s first show.  Last year was when we did a double golden birthday party show and had rainbow cake!

Katie:  And we all dressed in gold!

Who are some of your favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to play with so far?

Katie:  My tops would have to be with Strange Relations in Minneapolis and with Bing Bong in Madison.  Also, our “Double Golden Birthday Show” when Sarah turned twenty nine on January 29th and I turned thirty on January 30th was a blast.  We played with Pamphleteers and Innkeepers, both solid bands.  Flesh Panthers (Interview here) are also a ton of fun.

Sarah:  Strange Relations from Minneapolis, and Ribbonhead, and Impulsive Hearts from Chicago.  We also recently played Cassette Store Day at Bric-A-Brac and I was wow-ed by Negative Scanner; such a cool band.

Kyla:  Flesh Panthers (Interview here): Our wonderful practice space neighbors.

Marites:  Ditto to all of the above.

In your dreams, who are you on tour with?

Marites:  Sleater-Kinney.  Not so far fetched since they’re touring next spring!  I’ve been tweeting hints at Carrie Brownstein since they announced their new album.  Carrie: call us any time, girl.

Sarah:  Sleater-Kinney, Spiritualized, Courtney Barnett, or Cate Le Bon.

Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?

Marites:  Nothing too crazy during the shows, but oh boy, do we have some tales from crazy adventures after the shows...

Do you all give a lot of thought to the visual aspects that represent the band to a large extent, stuff like flyers, posters, shirt designs, album covers and that kind of thing?  Is there any kind of meaning or message that you’re attempting to convey or get across with the visual aspects of the band?

Sarah:  The main rule of thumb is that we all have to approve the designs.  We spent a lot of time working with Timothy Breen on our logo design and album artwork.  We basically started at zero, with no idea of what kind of look we were going for, but once we saw some of his ideas we were able to give feedback and start to move toward a shared vision.  The flyers and things like that happen faster.  It’s more about reappropriating images or artwork and making something quickly that’s eye-catching.  Visually, I don’t think we have a strong point of view yet, we just go with stuff that we like.

Do you have anyone that you usually turn to in your times of need when it comes to the visual side of things for the band?

Sarah:  Timothy Breen did the artwork for ISON along with our logo, which is the best lookin’ logo around.  Ian Dingman is a friend of the band and he did our t-shirt design along with some of our flyers.

Katie:  For visuals on stage, we joke that Marites is our pop-up salon, though really it’s no joke.  On tour she gave us all fabulous, wild bouffant hair and dramatic, smoky eyes.  I try to do that stuff myself and I look like a rabid raccoon.  It’s just not the same.  I don’t have that magic touch.

With all of the various methods of release that are available to musicians today I’m always curious why artist choose and prefer the mediums of release that they do.  Do you have a preferred medium of release for your own music?  What about when you’re listening to or purchasing music?

Marites:  Our goal is to reach as many people as possible and cater to whatever medium they prefer.  Most people today are online or on their smart phones, so it makes sense to make sure everything is at least released digitally to reach more people.  It’s cool how platforms like Spotify or iTunes have made music more accessible to people and we’ve gotten album orders from people as far away as Sweden!  Having some sort of physical product, like vinyl, cassettes or CDs, is a must because people still enjoy listening to music that way, or they just like the novelty of having it.  Personally, I like to listen to music on my mobile device and buy vinyl records at shows to support the band.

I grew up around my dad’s collection of music and I was always allowed to listen to anything that I wanted to, but it was him taking me around to the local shops when I was a kid and picking up random stuff that really left a lasting impact on me.  I developed this whole ritual for listening to the music, I would rush home, snag a set of headphones, read the liner notes over and over, stare at the cover artwork and just let the whole thing transport me off on this trip!  Having something physical to hold in my hands, something concretely connected to the music, always makes for a much more complete listening experience for me.  Do you have any such connection with physically released music?

Sarah:  Personally, I’m a sucker for packaging and holding a physical product.  Recent major record acquisitions are the new Sleater Kinney and Breeders box sets.  We play a lot of records at home on the weekends, but during the week, most of what I listen to is streamed (bad quality, I know) or stored on one of my devices.  But I only listen with nice Shure earbuds.  Life’s too short for shitty headphones.

Do you have a music collection at all?  If so, can you tell us just a little bit about that?

Sarah:  Yeah, it’s boxes and boxes full of Me Jane’s ISON!  Just kidding.  My music collection’s mainly gigs and gigs of digital files.  My boyfriend and I have a growing collection of vinyl, I think we’re up to six of those Ikea cube-shelves worth of records.  It’s an eclectic mix of old and new stuff.  We recently picked up a couple of albums from Numero Group that we’re enjoying, i.e. Downriver Revival.

Marites:  I still have a billion CDs from my college years.  There was a local record store that my friends worked at I went to almost every day.  Lots of indie rock, punk, and new wave.  I need to digitalize them all and put the files somewhere because my closet is a snow globe of CDs.  I also have a pretty large vinyl collection that I started in college as well.

Like it or not, digital music is here in a big way at this point.  I really think it depends on how you look at, and how you take things, as there are ups and downs to everything.  On one hand, people are being exposed to the literal world of music that they’re surrounded by.  It’s also allowed for an unparalleled level of communication between bands and their fans which has in turn basically eliminated geographic boundaries that would have crippled bands even just a few years ago.  On the other hand, it is definitely harder to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle out there with everyone being given a somewhat equal voice and while I don’ think independent artists were ever getting “rich” off of selling their music, illegal piracy has torn out the bottom end for a lot of sections of the industry.  I mean, while people are being exposed to all this crazy new music, they’re not necessarily very interested in paying for it right now.  As I said, I don’t think that there’s any black and white answer here, but as an artist during the reign of the digital era, what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?

Marites:  Hear, hear.  I think I addressed this question earlier.  If you want to be heard, you have to go where people are at.  We’re a little band from Chicago where it’s already hard to get noticed because of the huge talent pool here.  I think digital music gives us more opportunities.

I try to keep up with as much good music as I possibly can, but with all the crazy cool stuff out there right now it’s hard to even know where to start sometimes.  Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to I might not have heard of before?

Marites:  Divino Nino, She Speaks In Tongues, and NE-HI released excellent albums this past year you should check out.  They’re all from Chicago.  Our friends Strange Relations in Minneapolis shared with us their upcoming album they just recorded, but haven’t released yet, and it’s so good.  Definitely look out for them.

What about nationally and internationally?

Marites:  I’m going to throw a Vegas band out here; Kid Meets Cougar.  It’s been a couple of years since their last record, and they still play on and off, but I think only locally.  They’re good friends of mine but two of the most talented musicians I know.  Look up their two releases and then look up any other band they’ve been a part of.  I think all their music projects basically make up a good portion of the retrospective of Las Vegas local music in the last ten years.

Katie:  Not a current band, they’ve long since dissolved, but I discovered this awesome new-wave sounding band from Madrid called Ataque de Caspa (Dandruff Attack) that released one album back in the 80s which, oddly enough, can be found on Spotify.  La Pesca and Nigeria are my favorites.  Really worth checking out if you like new wave, post-punk stuff. 

Thank you all so much for taking the time to talk to me so in-depth about the band, it was awesome getting to learn so much about you all and get a glimpse into Me Jane’s creative process here!  As you were so generous and kind with your time, while I don’t have any more questions for you at this point, I’d like to open the floor to you for a moment.  Is there anything that I could have possibly missed or that you may just want to take this opportunity to talk to me or the readers about at this point?

Marites:  Support local music.  There’s a lot of talent in your own backyard.  Also, don’t call the cops on house shows.  They’re good kids trying to make art.

© Jeremy Farmer

(2012)  Me Jane – d3mo – Digital – Self-Released
(2014)  Me Jane – ISON – Digital, 12” – Self-Released, pressed at Gotta Groove Records

Interview made by Roman Rathert/2015
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