JR JR’s album JR JR was fun to write about. These four tracks evoked imagery from my own life, so I wrote vignettes that correspond to the theme of each song, as I’ve interpreted it.
Bros before hoes
In high school I dated a skater boy who was more excited to hang with his boyz than with me. It always baffled me how all those guys could be so in love with each other when it’s like, “HELLO, I’m a GIRL and I’m right in front of you!”
Recently, I got to experience the skater community firsthand at a pro event in DC. There was a massive bowl with about fifty skaters all taking turns finding a line and doing tricks. In my head, I thought guys thrive off competition, so I expected there to be some rowdiness at the event. I was wrong.
When one skater went down, about five hands reached in to help their fallen bro out of the bowl. When one skater landed a sweet hand plant, a chorus of cheering rang out as all the boyz hit their boards against the rim in celebration for their bro. A lot of dudes were also hanging around filming their boyz as they skated so they could have sweet skating footage of themselves for later. All of those skater guys really loved and supported one another. Rarely have I seen that kind of encouragement expressed anywhere else.
I started to wonder about my relationship with the high school skater: Did I lend him a hand when he was struggling? Or was it uncomfortable for me to see him fail? Did I celebrate his victories in an honest way that made him feel like he was important to me? Or did I roll my eyes at his passion for riding around on a plank of wood? Did I offer to selflessly document his adventures for no benefit other than him having proof of his badassness? Or did I think skate videos were a complete waste of time for me?
YIKES. No wonder skaters are all in love with each other.
Hey, I’m an artist
When meeting a new person, I hold my breath in anticipation of what their reaction will be when I tell them I play music in a band. Playing music is what I love to do. All of the stereotypes are true: It’s not a “straight” job, it’s always feast or famine, we are on the road all the time, we march to our own drum. It’s a really wild way of living.
The other morning, I was meeting a friend for coffee and doughnuts in Bushwick. When my alarm went off at 7:30, I was surprised that the sun was already up. It felt like such an ungodly hour. People do this every day? I put on my sneakers and jogged around the block, hoping that would make me feel more awake. When that didn’t work, I took a cold shower and listened to “Up in Here” by DMX all the way to the subway.
Surrounding me were men and women with their coffee and briefcases, reading the paper. They were wearing suits and fancy shoes. The next stop for them was the competitive world of finance, or perhaps the engaging world of law. I’m on the same train as them making the same commute at the same time…yet they are in a hurry to clock in to their nine-to-five. I’m in a hurry to sink my face into a vegan doughnut.
Could I do what they do every day, without the promise of baked goods at the end of the subway tunnel? Could I give up the highs and lows of being in a touring band that has taught me more than I’ve ever learned in a classroom? Or the thousands of colorful people we’ve met in venues in cities in countries all over the world? Or the fulfillment of offering every show we play in gratitude to a power greater than us?
I guess anything is possible, and maybe I would actually make a great businesswoman. But as Yoko Ono says, “Art is my life and my life is art.”
“In the Middle”
Trauma-rama on the dancefloor
In eighth grade, I had the hugest crush on this blonde boy who had blue eyes and was shorter and smarter than me. I would stare at him from across Spanish class. En español, su nombre es Mateo. Ahhhhhh, Mateo. When the volleyball team would travel for an out-of-town game, all of the girls on the bus would take turns chanting about the boys they like.
“Hi, my name is Nimai and volleyball’s my game. I’ve got MATT on my mind and WHEW he’s mighty fine!”
Halloween rolled around in my tiny Christian Texas town, which did not mean trick-or-treating (that’s the Devil’s work). It meant THE DANCE. Oh my god, what will I dress up as? What cute outfit passes the school dress code? What if Matt dressed up as Romeo and I dressed up as Juliet…??!! Meanwhile, in real life, Matt dressed up as a vampire and I was a hula girl, complete with coconut shells on my flat chest and a colorful sarong tied around my waist.
“Amazed” by Lonestar came on. Poco Mateo approached me with an open hand and said “Wanna dance?” I looked down at him with his cape and bloody fangs and said, “Yes!”
Things were going great. There was a foot of space between us and we avoided eye contact. We must have looked adorable! I was really feeling the magic. I was also feeling a slight chill…around my butt…what could possibly be going on?
Like Moses parting the Red Sea, my hula sarong came untied, revealing my Hanes Her Way granny panties, right there in the middle of the dance floor. Luckily Matt was too undead to notice, but I broke out into a sweat while I tried to keep my hula chill game-face on.
It wasn’t the most graceful moment of my life, but I soldiered through the rest of the song, swaying left and right with one hand down on Matt’s shoulder and the other hand holding up my dignity.
“In My Mind, Summertime”
Calgary: the cosmopolitan city in the middle of Canada that no one’s really heard of. We were surprised to have a show booked there on a summer tour a few years back. It took a solid thirteen hours to drive there from Vancouver through Banff National Park and its two-lane highways winding through the ridges of mountains, with eighteen-wheelers nearly driving us off the side of cliffs.
We rolled up to the venue at about 3:00 in the afternoon for load-in and soundcheck. It took our eyes a minute to adjust to what was going on in front of us: a crowd of hot dudes in cowboy hats and cowboy boots cheering on their drunk friend who was projectile-vomiting into the gutter five feet from our van. Little ladies in pink cowboy hats and short skirts clutched their longneck beers, laughing and twirling their hair. What the fuck is going on?
BANG! A loud knock on my window shook us out of our hypnosis. A cowboy was signaling me to roll my window down. As soon as I did, he leaned in and gave me a sloppy kiss and drunkenly yelled, “I LOVE STAMPEDE!!!!!”
“Stampede,” we quickly learned, is a ten-day holiday when everything in Calgary is closed in celebration of their annual rodeo. Everything except bars. It’s mayhem as everyone goes on an extended bender dressed as cowboys. This was very exciting news for me! What’s better than a city full of cowboys in the summertime? It’s like they’ve all come out of their Canadian winter hibernation ready to PARTY!
That night, after our show, a couple of cowboys invited my sister and me up to their hotel room. They were hot, we were hot, I was game for whatever wild things these rodeo stars wanted to get into! Their hotel room had one queen-sized bed with a passed-out cowboy already in it. OK, so there are three dudes sharing one bed…? My sister and I looked at each other in suspicion, but kept it cool. The cowboys wanted to jump on the bed and listen to “Cowboy” by Kid Rock. OK, so they’re Canadian dudes trying to be American cowboys and think Kid Rock is the ultimate cowboy…that’s cool, I guess. We were jumping and laughing and careful not to land on their sleeping bro.
“I have a crazy idea!” one of the cowboys said.
Was he thinking we get another hotel room? Wrangle some kind of threesome?
“Let’s teabag this fucker.”
My sister and I looked on in shock as these two cowboys raced to take their pants off and shove their balls into their sleeping bro’s face with this uninhibited excitement that reminded me of little kids unwrapping their presents on Christmas morning.
Needless to say, we didn’t get fresh with any cowboys in Calgary. The next morning, we Americans pulled a Kid Rock and high-tailed it back to the States “with the top let back and the sunshine shining.”
The guys in JR JR have an unapologetic love for what inspires them to write their music. Authenticity is contagious, attractive and above all, respectable.
Listening to other artists, such as Mac DeMarco and Wavves, I feel like I’m on the outside of a joke instead of being in on it. JR JR’s album has a sensitive way of playing with melodies and lyrics that makes me, as a female listener, comfortable and open to them as if they were my own friends. Through their music, JR JR present themselves as men who can make themselves vulnerable to their listeners so we can all laugh at the tough stuff together.
I allowed their songs to guide me through their aural novel that, at times, made me feel nostalgic and triumphant, like in the opening track, “As Time Goes.” Other tracks, such as “Brother,” made me feel unsettled, and even reflective on my own relationship with my sister. JR JR is fearless in exploring mature themes while still creating music that isn’t isolating, overly intellectual or dark.
Being included on their journey made me feel more validated as a human being turning the pages of my own life.