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The Ongoing Evolution of Hayley Jane & The Primates

Hot off the release of their newest LP, We’re Here Now, Hayley Jane & The Primates are in the midst of a promotional tour, taking them everywhere from Maine to Colorado. Yet, as team captain/leading lady Hayley Jane recently mentioned, there are plenty of additional creative flames to stoke. She recently wrapped up a stint in Everyone Orchestra and has a new folk duo in the works. She has also started playing solo shows sans Primates, recalibrating her usual, confident stage manner.

“If you ever want to see me shaking in my boots, come see me at one of my solo shows. In the best way possible!” She said during a lively phone call, “It’s all me, and it’s terrifying. It’s really something that I’m excited to be doing, and every time I do it, it gets better and better.”

Topics of conversation jumped from the band’s Boston roots, to the time Jane simultaneously played the roles of a Disney character and a prostitute, to their recent work with producer/Turkuaz guitarist Craig Brodhead, but above all else Jane’s passion for music and performing was paramount.

Tell me a little about your recent show at the Brooklyn Bowl. Since it doubled as the wedding of your bassist Josh Carter, it seemed like a real party.

Yeah, it was pretty unbelievable. It all started when we got the offer for our first headlining show there. We kind of made it a big album release weekend tour. We had one in Burlington where I live with our drummer, and then we had another one in Connecticut, and one in Boston where the band started. When we found out that we were headlining the Brooklyn Bowl, Josh approached us with the idea of getting married onstage. I thought it was just fantastic—I had never heard of anything like it. It all fell into place very easily. They approached Pete Shapiro about officiating it, because the bride, Kristin [Carter] worked for Relix Magazine for quite a while, and knew Pete well. It just seemed like a really great way to combine two momentous occasions. My gift to them was I made them a chuppah out of a Grateful Dead tapestry.

I saw that! How awesome.

I was so proud of it. It came together really well. I had a blast running around before the show trying to get all of the things for it. I went down to this Hasidic lumber yard, where I was definitely the only woman in this gigantic lumber yard. [Laughs.] I walked in and it was just the most amazing, intense situation I’d ever been in. It was pretty hilarious. There I was, just looking for four poles to make this chuppah.

Eric Gould—our manager—did a great job putting together a really fun opening band, the Brooklyn Bowl Wedding All Stars, as we call them. It was a bunch of cats from Kung Fu and Pink Talking Fish and Dopapod. So by the time it was a week away, we were so pumped. It became quite a show. The service ended up being short and sweet and beautiful. And I cried. Pete did such a great job. And then we just kicked right into gear like it was a normal show. The Brooklyn Bowl Wedding All Stars killed it, and it was so great to finally play the Brooklyn Bowl with all four of my backup dancers, because that’s become such a huge part of what we do.

What a great night for you guys.

Oh, unbelievable. I have more words, they’re just not there. It was pretty magical. Kristin looked beautiful—she looked amazing. It was just so rock and roll. We felt like a badass rock-and-roll band. It was a pretty hip way to get married.

I want to shift to the new record. Your band name is a nod to your childhood fascination to Jane Goodall, and apes and evolution. How has your band evolved with the new release, We’re Here Now ?

That’s a great question. It’s funny because I always wanted a really tight-knit group for a band. Because of different things that happened in the past, we’ve lost band members in all sorts of different ways. Now, I feel like in the last two years, we have this really solid group of musicians for the first time. We write all together. It used to be just me writing the tunes, or me and Justin Hancock—our guitarist—would write the tunes on acoustic guitar, and then bring them in and develop them as a band. Now, we all sit in a room and write the tunes together.

What I love about We’re Here Now is that it’s a mixture of all of those different techniques, or ways of writing. There are some songs that I wrote by myself, and there are some songs that I wrote with Justin, and then there are a bunch of songs that we all wrote together as a group. Like “To the Moon,” for example—I wrote that song. You can usually tell mine because they have simpler chord progressions [Laughs], but I’m getting a little more complex in that department. It’s great because even as I get to know our music—I know that sounds strange, but listening to it is very different than playing it—I start to hear the little nuances and pieces of each member and what they contributed. I think the best part about our evolution has been each of us really honing in on what we contribute to the sound…And that’s the fun part—I never want to settle on a way of writing. I want to keep evolving in that department. So We’re Here Now is just a really cool compilation of songs that were written in all different ways, during different periods of the crazy shit we’ve been through as a band, and that I’ve been through as a human being. And it’s just going to keep evolving.

The record is cohesive and well-produced, and it showcases The Primates as much as it showcases you, which I think is really great. When I was listening to it, I felt like in a lot of ways it comes off like a debut record, even though it’s your second official release.

I agree. On Gasoline —which was technically our first album—there was so much growth happening in that moment. We didn’t have a lot of money. I’m very proud of that album, don’t get me wrong. But this was the first time that we really got a producer that knew…Well, it was our first time using a producer. On Gasoline, we kind of produced it ourselves. We had a lot of help from my high school band director, and very good friend Brian Wallace, who is more of a ska and reggae musician.

What I mean to say is that this was the first time we really honed in on who would be the best fit to do what we were trying to put out. And Craig Brodhead is the guitarist for Turkuaz, so he’s got all of that under his belt. Plus he’s done a lot of other, folk-ier and alternative stuff—he just has a wealth of knowledge. And his ear is great—he gets these ideas that I would never think of. But yes, I completely agree that this does sound like our debut album. It’s also the first one that we’ve been able to put some oomph behind, as far as marketing and getting it out to people. We have a manager now and a marketing team—all these things that we didn’t have with the other album. With the other album, we just put on Facebook, “Hey, we have an album,” and carried a box to our shows hoping people would buy it. Now we’re on iTunes and Spotify and all these things; it’s just the next big step. It feels like a debut album in the sense of it’s our first time where we really did it in a very professional way with all of the best people around it and backing behind it.

The record was funded by a Kickstarter. Why you guys decided to go that route, and how did it feel that you were able to exceed your goal and still have a lot of creative control behind your record?

Oh, it was wonderful. The crowdfunding thing is so wonderful, because you’re not asking for a handout. You’re asking people to front you the money. It’s great because you say, “Hey listen, we want to make this for you. If you just pay us now, we’ll get it to you in a year or two…” [Laughs.] Patrons of the arts are still very much a thing, so this is a new platform for what, to me, is a very old way of doing things, where people help support artists and musicians so that they can make their art.

I’m also looking at PledgeMusic. I have a project with Ryan Montbleau called, Yes Darling, and we’re going to be doing a PledgeMusic campaign to make an album that I’m also really excited about.

Our goal is to put it out on Valentine’s Day, because the project is kind of this theatrical, comedic folk duet. It’s very much based on a romantic relationship. It’s like if June Carter and Johnny Cash were a little more honest and blunt about what it’s like to be in a relationship. One girl called it June Carter and Johnny Cash meets Tenacious D, which I really liked. Somebody else said it’s like listening to your parents argue to music. [Laughs.] That one kind of made me sad, but I get what they’re saying. There are very deep love songs, but then there are also hilarious argument songs. We make you cry, and then we make you crack up. It’s like a relationship, you know?

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