• Thu, Nov 15 2012

Crushable Interview: You Wish You Were Cool Enough to Be Friends With JJAMZ

After reading this article, you’re going to wish that all of your friends were super talented musicians. Why? Because let’s be honest – what do you and your friends do when you’re drunk after a night out? Pass out on the couch? Watch some weird movies on Netflix? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Meet JJAMZ, the band that formed a few years ago after five friends decided on a whim to record a song after a night out. That song turned into more songs, and their album Suicide Pact was released over the summer. Even if you’re not familiar with JJAMZ yet, you probably know its members – Z Berg (The Like), Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet), Jason Boesel (Bright Eyes and Rilo Kiley), James Valentine (Maroon 5), and Michael Runion (solo artist). Now you see why people have been calling them a supergroup. And yeah, you’re wishing you were cool enough to be their friend right about now.

Suicide Pact is an album you can listen to over and over again (not like I would know from personal experience, or anything). It’s indie rock with a bit of a retro vibe and a very unique flair. You’re not going to hear this kind of sound from any other band.

We had the chance to talk to Z Berg, one of the band’s two vocalists, about what it’s like to be the only girl in a band that gets called a supergroup. Luckily for you, I transcribed the interview so you can’t hear how awkward I sounded. I only wanted to be Z Berg when I was in high school, so this may have been a little surreal for me. Things I learned from this interview: it’s weird (but cool) to interview someone when you know all the words to their songs.

Read on for our interview with Z and to hear JJAMZ for yourself!

Crushable: You’ve all been primarily involved with other projects over the years – how did you come together to form JJAMZ?

Z Berg: Well, I’ve known all the guys for up to ten years. My band, our first show ever was opening for Alex’s old band Phantom Planet, and we used to play with Maroon 5 and with Rilo Kiley. Mike’s first show ever, actually, was with my band. I grew up playing shows and playing music with these people, and they’ve been my best and only friends for some time now. What’s amazing is that it took us this long to actually start a band. Because we would just hang out every night, you know? That’s kind of my crew. And one time we were out, and we were at a bar with karaoke, and the line was too long for us to sing, and no girls were talking to us. So we looked at each other, rather inebriated, and realized that we had all the ingredients for a band right in front of us. We went back to James’s house and just wrote a song. And woke up in the morning and listened to it. It was like, wow, first of all, this happened, I didn’t really remember this. And second of all, it’s good.

When you made Suicide Pact, were you aiming for a particular sound?

It really just came together. We made the record on the fly over the course of a couple years. Basically, we would just write these songs, and we would go into the studio any time we could and try to lay them down so we could listen to them. We weren’t really attempting to make a record until we had made one. And that was the amazing thing. We had gone into five different studios in L.A. at different times over the years. We realized that we had made a record. And then it came time to finish it up and fix it, and make it sound cohesive. And apply a little coherent vision to it. But mostly it just happened.

What do you think about being called a supergroup?

It’s hilarious. I don’t think we’re quite super enough to be called a super group. It’s a rather ridiculous term. But it’s also a complimentary one, so who am I to look a gift horse in the mouth?

Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Not really. I’ve never been in a band that has pre-show rituals. I don’t understand that. I always look at people doing that and I’m like, what are you guys doing? This is stupid. We did walk onstage to the Total Recall theme a few days ago at our last show, which was very exciting. I would like to do that more. It really pumps you up.

Who’s the weirdest member of the band?

Alex. Alex is definitely the weirdest member. Alex is heavily into Leonardo da Vinci, and the universe. He’s a really trippy dude. We’re definitely a weird, rag-tag bunch. I think everyone is rather weird.

If you could tour with any other band, who would it be?

That exists now, or ever?

Let’s go with ever.

Definitely the Stones. Nothing seems more fun or wild than the Stones in their heyday. The greatest party possible. The Stones in, like, ’69.

What has been your best live show experience with JJAMZ thus far?

We’ve had a lot of good ones. We just headlined the Troubadour, which is my favorite venue in L.A. It was the first club I went to, when I was nine. So we just played a show there and it was pretty insane. And really awesome. That was definitely a cool one. Completely manic energy. We also played a radio show in Philly, for eight or nine thousand people on a whole city block. It was sort of thunderous and raining. That was a good one.

What about your weirdest show?

We played a very strange show in maybe… Boise, Idaho? On a Sunday, at a dry bar. With weird sort of metal bands. It’s great because it actually ended up being so awesome. The kids that were there seemed so incongruous with our musical style, like these thirteen year old kind of headbanging metal kids. It seemed like they just wanted to be at a show, which is so awesome. It was so strange, and surreal, and bizarre. Going across the street to get drunk before the show, because it was going to be a hard one to make it through sober. But it ended up being really fun.

Your other band, The Like, is all female. What’s it like now to be the only girl in the band?

It’s so different in some ways, and so not in others. It’s funny, I feel like these guys are probably more into vintage stores, and good restaurants, and finding natural springs and shit than most bands of dudes are. But it is really interesting. I realize now, wow, I really am the only girl here. The big differences are that guys really just talk about balls all day. All day. I had no idea. They talk about gross shit all the time. And also, every time I put on an outfit and I ask them what they think, they kind of look at me with this blank stare of like, what do you mean? You have clothes on. There’s less time spent than with four girls critiquing each other’s outfits. So I guess more probably gets done.

For more on JJAMZ, visit their website.

You can reach this post's author, Garnet Henderson, on twitter.
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