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The Ongoing Evolution of Hayley Jane & The Primates

Since Yes Darling has some theatrics involved, I wanted to ask about your background in musical theater. What was your favorite role that you ever played?

Oh my goodness. Well, I gotta be real. I worked for Disney and I signed an NDA, so I don’t know how much I can say. But, it wasn’t so much my favorite one role, but the fact that I was playing a role at Disneyland during the day, and then I would get off work at Disneyland and rush over to rehearsal for Cabaret, where I played Lulu the German prostitute. It was something about getting to play a very wholesome character all day, and then clock out and go and put on 1930s-style underwear and paint bruises on my body, and grow out my armpit hair, and paint my cheeks sunken in as if I was malnourished, and play this German prostitute named Lulu. As an actress, there was something unbelievably fulfilling about getting to do both of those within 24 hours of each other. So for that three month period, I was probably the happiest I’ve ever been.

What a juxtaposition.

It was wonderful! And I think if you come and see the Primates, you’re going to see both of those girls. I really try and carry all of that into the shows that we do. All of these different characters, they stick with you—at least with me. They stick with me a lot. I try to summon them back them back for certain songs. There’s a song about a girl that becomes a prostitute, called “Madame Humphrey.” I love to become her. My favorite thing onstage is to blur the line between fiction and reality… to the point where you might find people asking, “Wow, I wonder if Hayley ever was an actual prostitute.” All of these characters are just little pieces of me, whether they’re real or not. They’re things I’ve either thought about or was curious about, or had a friend that did them.

So, I feel really blessed that I started in musical theater, because I think it gave me a level of bravery to take on different characters, and let them take on me. Almost to the point where I don’t even really know who I am anymore [Laughs.]

It creates a captivating performance.

Oh yeah, I mean it really works onstage. But in life it gets me into trouble.

You and your band formed in the Northeast, and the city of Boston really fostered you guys. How specifically do you think that Boston influenced you and your band’s growth?

I moved to Boston when I was 19. I followed a trumpet player named Rich. He was in a band called Westbound Train, and I met those boys out in California when I was 19 years old. They were like, “You should come check out Boston!” And I said, “Okay!”

Back then, you could’ve told me to go anywhere and I would’ve gone. So I went, and I ended up in the traditional ska reggae scene. And then I got scooped up by Big D and the Kid’s Table as a backup singer, and that’s ska punk. In the beginning, Boston was like the 5th member of our band. I went Cambridge every Sunday to see the Frank Morey Band, and I think that shaped me as a lyricist. His lyrics were some of my favorite I’d ever heard. And then the Lizard Lounge and Toad—those are all Cambridge places. I got to do some crazy stuff because of all the different connections in Boston. I had the pleasure of backup singing for Alice Cooper because I just happened to be in the right place at the right time during a recording session with Big D and the Kids Table. It was all the Boston scene. And I bounced around through the Boston scene, not just the ska and reggae scene. I ended up in the folk scene, and then eventually the jam scene. Boston will always be the band’s home.

Yeah, and even during the wedding, I recognized Rob Compa from Dopapod. I was just like, “Oh, it makes sense. You both lived in Boston.”

Exactly, yeah! And with Turkuaz too. A lot of us were at Berklee around the same time. I only did one semester, but it’s funny, you only have to do one semester, and then you’re in. You just get pulled in and it’s all about networking and you just meet a ton of people.

You’ve been playing some shows with Everyone Orchestra alongside some of the guys from moe. and Snarky Puppy. What’s it like being in that kind of entirely improvised sphere?

It’s the best thing. It’s my favorite thing! Matt Butler is a genius. The whole idea behind Everyone Orchestra is inclusion, which think in this world right now, there isn’t enough of. In music, there’s this big separation between the audience and the band, and Matt Butler breaks that down. What I loved about jumping from musical theater to rock-and-roll was that you get to interact with your audience. And Matt Butler, with Everyone Orchestra, takes that to a whole other level, and makes them a member of the band and gets them singing and interacting. The improvisation part is great, because they’ll start playing something, and when he points at you, that’s it. It’s go time. As a lyricist, it’s terrifying. But I find that no matter what—whether it’s lyrics that I have already written or it’s brand new lyrics—it just comes out.

Out of all the silliness and fun and craziness that is Everyone Orchestra, I think when you get to the bottom of it, it’s togetherness and inclusion, and just fun and joy. He’s doing some really good work. I’m really proud just to be on stage with those people. You know, just to be on stage with three members of moe. and Mike from Snarky Puppy. And Ryan Clausen, who, even though I’m in a band with him, I’m one of his biggest fans and have been going to see him since I was like 20 years old. If you’d told me a year or two ago that I’d be in a band with him, I would never have believed you. It still shocks me, even today, that I get to perform with these people. Everyone Orchestra was a really amazing experience.

The last thing I wanted to ask you about, is for a couple of shows over the Halloween season, you guys played the Forrest Gump soundtrack as Jenny & the Gumps. How did you guys stumble on that idea?

We were in a Green Room at the Stone Church in New Hampshire. And they have this old TV with a VHS player attached to it, and a bunch of VHS tapes. And Forrest Gump was there, so we put it in, and we watched the whole thing. We were just thinking, “What if we did Jenny & the Gumps?” I can’t even say that it was me that said it. It was very collective

We just wanted to play the music, really. And then, we just started laughing at the idea of the guys dressing up as different Gumps from the movie. But in the end, we liked it because…We just like to do things that we like to do. I think when you do things that make you really happy and make you laugh, as a band and as individuals, I don’t think it matters if people get it. They’ll get it once they see how much fun you’re having. The second you stop doing the things that really get you off, people will notice that.

I think the main thing with you guys is that you’re always having fun. That’s something you can really pick up from the audience.

Yeah! Well, the second we aren’t having fun I’ll go do something else. But so far, so good.

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