(Please note: Yes, we are aware that Jucifer was interviewed in issue #8 of Razorcake. No, this is not the same interview. As a matter of fact this is the other half of it. There is no overlap. Even the pictures are 100% web exclusive. Enjoy. -Todd Taylor)
One half of Jucifer’s sonic-boom sound, Ed Livengood, unfortunately couldn’t join us. He was busy loading thirteen or so of their megawatt amps into the couple’s home at the moment, the Winnebego. So, his platinum-locked, platform-boot wearing, flying-V wielding goddess counterpart graciously endured our relentless Q and A. Occasionally, their pooch, who’s name is escaping me at the moment, would walk on by and say hello in that perfect “head tilted to the side” way. You may be saying, “That’s nice, Kat, but what about the music?” Well, dear reader, the Jucifer sound is an explosive and beautiful onslaught of blistering guitar riffs, gorgeous harmonies, and thunderous drum beats. The music is FIERCE! The creators are sweethearts – charming Southern types. Jucifer and their music defy categorization. I dunno what else to say ‘cept, me and Harmonee heart Jucifer.
Interview by Harmonee and Kat Jetson
All photos by Kat Jetson
Kat: I have to say that tonight was fantastic.
Amber: I don’t like to look up usually (while playing). There are certain songs I feel like looking up in and interacting. The rest of them I don’t or I have my eyes closed and at one point I looked up and was like, “Whoa!”
Kat: It’s great to see people practically in disbelief that they’re smiling.
Amber: It’s the best to feel that way. I just saw Mothers Finest. I don’t even know if you know of them. They are an old ’70s band. They were opening for the B52s. Mothers Finest was one of the best bands I’ve seen, ever. They’re this weird mixture of funk and rock and normally I would hate that combination, or any modern version of it, but they were incredible. These people are in their fifties and they were the shit. The lead singer woman, probably in her fifties, was wearing a lace, sheer body stocking with thong underwear and completely pulling it off. She was amazing. I was totally looking around going, “Yeah! Yeah! People are into it.” It’s a great feeling.
Kat: And they (Zen Sushi, the venue) didn’t shut you down.
Amber: No. Apparently the bouncer guy was trying to make us end. He came and flashed his flashlight on me but I just thought it was the light show. I didn’t even know what was happening. Someone told me about this afterwards. Then he went running up to the sound booth, flashing his light and telling everyone we had to stop and right as he was really beginning to freak out we were done.
Amber: Isn’t that beautiful?
Kat: My friend, Frank, wanted me to ask have there been any Michael Stipe sightings lately?
Amber: I think he has inside information. Michael did band photography for us recently so that’s the scoop on that.
Kat: [Kat notices and points to a giant box of cereal on the floor of the Winnebago]. I love Honey Nut Cheerios. I actually buy the double box of Honey Nut Cheerios myself in big bulk. Anything that’s honey nut.
Amber: This is my first double box because for some reason they don’t happen to have those around where we live. Everything is a lot more expensive here, by the way, at the grocery store. Wow, like six bucks for a gallon of orange juice?
Harmonee: How much do you normally pay for it?
Amber: Three fifty.
Kat: We’re steep here. They think we’re like made of money. It’s not true.
Amber: It’s frightening.
Kat: When I saw you last year, I don’t think you played anything off of your first album (Calling All Cars on the Vegas Strip). You played just a whole bunch of new stuff, and you still don’t really.
Amber: The very first song we opened with tonight and we opened with last night as well, was on the album. I think there’s a couple.
Kat: Really? It must just sound so heavily distorted to me. I know the album.
Harmonee: It’s really hard to hear vocals, so I think that has a lot to do with it, too.
Amber: Maybe that’s it. One thing we’re trying to do on this tour is play a lot of the Lambs EP because we figure people just got it and the EP is, for the most part, stuff that comes across almost exactly the same way live as it does on the record, so it’s nice to be able to do that. We get bored if don’t play new stuff so we’re playing some stuff from I Name You Destroyer and on some of the shows we’ve played a song that’s gonna be probably on the next record. We haven’t played them here because they involve both of us singing and the PA’s are just not good and plus I’m sick and whatever so we just kind of scrapped that one until we get back into better PA land. [laughs]
Harmonee: What is the most tracks ever laid down for a song you’ve recorded?
Amber: I Name You Destroyer was great because we had a budget. Both the first record and the EP were done with no money. Finally, we could afford to use real good tape and take our time and track and track and track. I think, with studio magic, we used something like thirty-nine tracks on a couple of the songs on that album. It’s great, it’s fun. We get to play with ourselves. It’s awesome.
Harmonee: There’s the name of the interview right there: “Musical Masturbation with Jucifer.”
Amber: I did a phone interview with this really cool guy in Seattle. He asked me a some question and I was talking about our music and I said, “We’re goofy but relevant” and I thought oh god! You’re going to use that as a caption aren’t you? Please don’t use that as a caption, and then he put it as the caption but he included me saying that in the interview. It was so funny.
Harmonee: This question might be the obvious question, but how did you come up with the name Jucifer? Or what does it stand for if anything?
Amber: It is not permissible for me to discuss. Classified information.
Harmonee: Alright. That’s a fine answer.
Amber: You guys have a lot of questions.
Harmonee: We like you a lot.
Kat: You’re listed in I Name You Destroyer as G. Edgar Livengood and G. Amber Valentine. I wanted to know what the G stands for.
Kat: Gangsta! You know, that was not in any of the things I read.
Amber: I’m giving you an exclusive.
Kat: How could I know that bit of information because so many people put in parenthesis, “We don’t know what the ‘G’ stands for.”
Amber: Now you know, but you shouldn’t tell. You’re doing this to keep just for your personal information, right?
Kat: That’s right.
Harmonee: Do you not want us to include that in the interview? We can take that out if you want. We can make subtle hints if you want.
Amber: Yeah, there you go. Skirt the issue.
Kat: On the song, “Malibu,” you’re singing in French a little bit. Do you know French?
Amber: I know enough French to write the lyrics.
Kat: I’m curious what you’re saying ’cause I took French and I don’t remember diddly.
Harmonee: Which is more than I know.
Amber: I don’t remember very much. I can sort of read French but I can’t converse in French and I can’t think of how those lyrics go right this second. There’s both snow and ice cream in that song too.
Kat: I picked up your EP yesterday and after listening to it a gazillion times, the first song is like four songs, basically. I was wondering if you had originally intended it to be. Did those four songs each have titles and they were their own separate songs and you thought, “Oh, these sound good together,” like you played them live once and you just made it a one song thing? Or did you purposely know you wanted to write one song that’s four parts?
Amber: Both. Lambs was originally our road crew, one of whom is now not here anymore, but they’re brothers and they both worked at a college radio station in Athens. They actually reminded us of how Lambs was started because we kind of forgot, but we wrote it to do a thirty minute radio performance. Instead of playing a set, we wanted to play a brand new thirty minute music piece. We ended up trading out a couple parts that were in that original version for different things that wound up on the EP. The first Lambs track, I had written the introductory part, and we were getting ready to practice it and we started playing it and then we just went into the rest of it and the way it is on the record is the way that it was the first time we jammed on it. A lot of times that happens with us. It’s this great feeling. We look at each other like, “I can’t believe we did that!” It’s unreal. It’s one of the coolest feelings.
Harmonee: Do you record everything when you jam? Or how do you remember doing all that?
Amber: No. When we do something like that, and we have this new great idea that we’re both really excited about, then we always have a mad scramble to set us up a tape recorder. We never have it set up ’cause we never think it’s gonna happen when it does.
Kat: You’d think after like five or six years….
Amber: You’d have it set up all the time? No, we’re not that organized. There’s a mad scramble and we’re both trying to remember and I’m trying to play my little guitar part. Ed always does the scrambling, ’cause he’s the “tape-meister.” Then we have to try and play it the same again. Sometimes we get it.
Kat: Or sometimes it ends up being a new song.
[Jucifer’s roadie enters briefly, does some roadie type stuff and then exits.]
Harmonee: Who’s that?
Amber: That’s our roadie, Forrest. His brother Asah is usually our roadie. This is Forrest’s second tour with us, his first long one. His brother had to ditch a couple of nights ago and now he’s working really way too hard, but I may have convinced this guy who’s friends with some friends who live here, to quit his job and come on tour with us. He’s watching the merchandise right now. I got him started. He doesn’t seem like the guy who would try to steal stuff, or trying to drive high on coke or buying crack in an alley.
Harmonee: Yeah, that’s no good. There’s really nothing good about that.
Kat: My next goal is to try and document a short tour for somebody, a photographic evidence tour. So, maybe next time you’re here I’ll get in my car and jaunt with you and help you out.
Amber: I was almost named Harmony.
Kat and Harmonee: Really?!
Amber: My parents almost named me Harmony, and I think they were like, “Maybe too hippie.” Isn’t that crazy?
Kat: Wow! Do you find that wow? I’m finding that wow.
Harmonee: I’m speechless. I’ll just pretend in my own head that you’re name really is Harmony.
Amber: In some cosmic sense, perhaps it is.
Harmonee: A lot of your songs are stories. I think that’s how an album is meant to be played, as well. I have some albums in my collection where it’s good for a couple songs or it’s good for mix-tape purposes, but then there’s other albums that you listen to where you just need to sit down and listen to the album from beginning to end.
Amber: AC/DC. There’s lots of records like this, but at some point a few years ago I listened to Back in Black. I was painting at my house and I listened to that record twenty times in a row, and it just kept being good. It’s because of the way the songs are put together. The flow of it really works that way and that’s something that we definitely try to do.
Kat: Queensryche’s Empires album is like that, too. There’s no real break in it. And I know it’s really embarrassing to admit that but I really liked that album when I was in high school. I was a sophomore, okay, and Jeff Tate was all I had, apparently.
Amber: I think there’s nothing in me to be ashamed of. I keep trying to tell people that. If you enjoy something, why be embarrassed? Here’s a little scoop for ya. One of the things we listen to driving the most is the Spice Girls’ first record.
Kat: That’s okay. Me and Harmonee listened to Pink before we got here.
Amber: I’ve only heard one Pink song.
Kat: The “Bling Bling” song?
Amber: Oh yeah, that’s the one. It’s good. See, I love hip hop. I don’t listen to rock music really, not current stuff. I know more about current popular hip hop stuff than any modern rock or even underground rock or whatever, which is kind of funny. I guess our music is really aggressive so it gets out all of that stuff that I need to get out with that kind of music. I listen to music to relax or to keep me awake, or to shake my butt.
Kat: Ed’s not here, but I wanted to know where he learned how to scratch. Did he know before, and he knew he wanted to have that on the record?
Amber: Ed grew up in the ‘hood. Ed was in poor, suburban DC. That was the environment he grew up in. He knows how to break dance, he knows how to scratch.
Kat: I want him to do some electric bugaloo here.
Amber: He’s pretty out of practice. He’s got some moves on him.
Harmonee: That would be the Jucifer multimedia show.
Amber: Occasionally, he’ll bust out a little move during a show, he’ll jump up. He does it especially for a friend of ours in Asheville, North Carolina who likes to see him do it.
Kat: We’ll have to request that next time.
[Ed enters the Winnebago.]
Amber: You have my cloak.
Ed: Your cloak, my lady.
Amber: We might have a roadie. The guy watching the merch, did you see him? There’s a guy with the merchandise.
Ed: Inside? Oh wow.
Kat: There’s someone watching our stuff?
Amber: He’s very, very close to being convinced. He’s gonna have to quit his job and stuff, but he’s a big, tall guy and he’s really nice. I tempted him with all the comforts of the RV.
Harmonee: It’s got some great curtains, and the wallpaper’s awesome.
Kat: There is a big box of Honey Nut Cheerios. Awe yeah, aight? I thought I’d throw a little hip hop for yah.
Amber: That’s how me and Ed talk when we’re in private, ’cause that’s how he grew up talking. We’ve been together a long time so that’s my most natural form of communication, especially listening to that kind of radio all the time. It’s pretty funny because I have to restrain myself sometimes. People just wouldn’t understand. We were actually talking that way in a club we played in Chicago and this guy was listening to some hip hop and we were totally digging it, but I realized that the guy thought we were making fun of it. He just didn’t understand.
Kat: Understand we love each other and we’re being silly.
Harmonee: That would be funny to have a filmed interview and have captions. You guys could just talk that way through the whole thing and there could be subtitles at the bottom of it.
Kat: How would you type that? Oh no.
Harmonee: Awe she-it.
Amber: Come on be-och. Actually, we had to approve our bio. They kept sending us drafts of it, and we told our publicist that you need to put in, “We keep it crunk.” She wrote back, “I’m sorry, what does crunk mean and I’m not sure where to fit that in.” I said it’s alright, don’t worry about it, but I really did want to put that in there.
Kat: Threw her for a loop
Amber: Obviously she’s not up on the hip hop culture.
Harmonee: What is that, c-r-u-n-c-k?
Amber: C-r-u-n-k. And you can also get crunked up. That culture always has so much slang. That’s one of my favorites ’cause it just feels good to say. I love words that sound like what they’re about, and that one does a really good job.
Kat: Wow, I feel like I have to top that one now.
Amber: We can talk about bootylicious.
Kat: Do you go out hip hop dancing?
Amber: The only venue for me to dance to that kind of music around where we live, I would basically be asking to have my ass grabbed, and that’s not why I would be there.
Kat: I went to a place Tuesday that was really cool. No one was being gross. Guys weren’t trying to get on you and it was a mix. There were lesbians, there were some gays, some hardcore people and everyone was dancing with everybody and people were smiling. Mumba, that’s my new favorite place.
Harmonee: It’s nice to be able to go to a place because you want to dance, and be able to just dance without anyone bothering you. No one’s there to get all weird. You just go, have a good time, listen to some music, boogie down, be with your friends.
Amber: And that’s, I think, the elemental essence of what hip-hop is about. There’s defiantly plenty of sex in it, but that concept that you just described is what I love about that music, because that’s what it’s made for. It’s made for gettin’ your groove on.
Kat: You know what it’s like, Harmonee, to get your groove on?
Harmonee: Well, I’m not sure yet.
Kat: It’s coming down to me making you a mix CD of the funk.
Harmonee: Yeah, you’re gonna have to introduce me to that world.
Kat: Don’t you worry about it.
Amber: You have to enter it with an open mind. Some people, especially music officianados, are kind of like, “Well, I like that serious rap music but I don’t like that booty stuff.” It’s all good!
Kat: Seeing as you’re in LA for however long you are, 105.9 is your station.
Amber: We did find it when we were driving in the night before last. It was cool ’cause they were about to make me drive. It was my turn, ’cause I’m the city driver. I was putting clothes on in the back of this thing and when I came up to the front they had already set up. They know that’s the main kind of music I like to drive to, or mix-tapes. I cannot listen to rock music when I’m driving. It puts me out, anything with a steady kind of beat. I have to have stuff with lots of weird stuff going on or just stuff in off time beats. They had it all set up for me and I was happy ’cause we had found the station that I needed.
Kat: I read two stories of how you guys actually met, and I’m wondering if someone was joking around when they said this, but one of them said that you met at a Nirvana show.
Amber: No comment.
Harmonee: Are there any artists that you both would really like to collaborate with?
Amber: God, probably lots and lots. Half of them dead. I really always dreamed of singing with Frank Sinatra. For a little while I thought that maybe I might be able to make it enough to sing with him before he died. It seemed like we were moving forward and making progress and he was still around. He was hanging on. But then he went. We haven’t talked about it in a while, but when Beck came out, not when he first came out, but maybe like Mellow Gold and all his videos came out, it freaked us out and it kind of sucked because a lot of his video ideas was stuff that we wanted to do and we were just like, “Shit, well…we can’t do that anymore!” But it was also like I think we would really get along with that guy and it would be cool to know him and talk about shit with him ’cause I think we have a lot of taste things in common with him, so that’s definitely someone.
Kat: How did you come up with the idea for the Jucifer shirt with the Juicyfruit logo?
Amber: I don’t remember. It was a long time ago, but it was something that happened very naturally. It was not long after the inception of the band. Some guy from some band that was on the brink of achieving Matchbox 20 style status but maybe never quite did – this guy was walking around wearing a Jucifer t-shirt and someone I knew saw him and couldn’t believe that this guy who was in this terribly cheesy band was wearing a Jucifer shirt ’cause he liked Jucifer so much and whatever, so he went up and asked the guy about it and the guy had no idea it was a band. He got it just because he thought that the logo was funny.
Harmonee: I’m not going to ask you the Tabitha Soren question. I’m not going to go there, I know you’re tired of it and I know it’s silly so I’ll skip that all together.
Amber: Just out of curiosity, what was the Tabitha Soren question?
Harmonee: Do you really want to be Tabitha Soren? [pause]. We’ll move on…
Kat: Spare us all.