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Posted Apr 8th, 2009 (4:12 pm) by Sam Wengrovius

How does a bit of indie folk sound to you right about now? Good?
Well, do we have a treat for you! Waaaay back in January, the Albany-based duo, We Are Jeneric played a show at Union College. We managed to talk to both Jen and Eric (get it?) for a few minutes before they played their set. Subjects ranged from the Benson collective (aka the Albany version of Elephant 6), to Nerds candy, to ghosts. Needless to say, we had quite the interesting conversation.

Our Apologies to We Are Jeneric for posting this interview so late – somehow we managed to lose the recording for two months before finding it again labeled totally incorrectly.

IYS: Let’s start off explaining how you met.

Jen: We met in an elevator in our college dorm room, we went to U-Mass Amherst together and…
Eric: The elevator wasn’t in our dorm room. It was in our dormitory. I mean it would cool to have an elevator in your dorm room. Especially since I slept on the top bunk.
Jen: Eric lived on the seventeenth floor and I lived on the eighteenth floor, and we met on the elevator. By the time you got to the top floors there weren’t many people left on the elevator so it was just the two of us.

IYS: So let me guess, you guys met via music?

Eric: Good guess, but we actually met thanks to a box of Nerds candy. One day on the elevator, I decided that I wanted to talk to Jen, but I wasn’t sure what to say, so I started rooting through my pockets for something to talk about. All I could find was a box of Nerd candy. I only had a few seconds before I had to get off the elevator, so without thinking, I asked “Do you like Nerds?” totally not getting how ironic that might sound. Thankfully, she said yes, and we started making music - lots of music.

IYS: Are you both from Altamont?

Jen: I’m from near Altamont, I grew up in Guilderland, and Eric is from Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

IYS: But you hang out in Albany a lot?

Jen: Yeah, we play in Albany a lot.

IYS: How do think the Albany scene has affected you?

Jen: It’s funny, when we graduated from college, we moved back to the Albany area and at that time there didn’t seem to be a lot going on; it was still sort of on the tail end of the old scene - a lot of heavy metal. So, we went out to Boston to find something new, and in the time we were gone, the scene around here blew up! We have met so many great musicians from the Albany area over the last few years.

IYS: Yes, I noticed a lot of collaborations…

Eric: When we came back here in late 2006, we started playing at the Muddy Cup on Madison Ave.
Jen: They had an Open Mic Night on Mondays.
Eric: …which is where we met Sgt Dunbar and the Hobo Band. They saw us play a song or two, and we sort of hit it off right away. They have had a huge affect on our style of music and I’d say vice versa.
Jen: Especially because we are in both bands.

IYS: Is “In Albany We Hope” a statement about Albany?

Jen: Yeah, it’s a tribute to all of the incredible musicians we’ve met since coming back to the area. Prior to living in Albany, we’d been trying to meet musicians that we had a kinship with for a long time, and we really didn’t find it in either Boston or Thailand. Albany, on the other hand, is perfect for us in the musical sense. It’s my hometown too, and its nice to have some pride in my roots.

IYS: Have you discovered any bands that we should be listening to?

Eric: We listen to a lot of the bands in our collective just because that’s the kind of music we like. It’s sort of borderline pop/ borderline experimental indie music I guess. We really like bands such Beware of the Other Head of Science, which is a cartoon-math-science-disco-pop group.


IYS: And they are on Benson Records?

Eric: Yea, a lot of their stuff is folkie, like Little Foot and Penguinos. We listen to a lot of Sgt. Dunbar too. Peter and the Wolf is a pretty awesome non-local band that we like.
Jen: Hope Along Queen Anselis is another artist we like - she’s from Philadelphia.
Eric: She recorded some new songs for upcoming LP or EP or whatever it’s going to be in our house, actually.
Jen: We listen to a lot of old stuff too, like Eric Satie (the pianist) and Django Rienhardt.

IYS: What would you say attracted you to Benson?

Jen: The friendship, definitely. Before we even created the record label, we’d hang out and play music together. We were all such good friends, like Eric said, we started playing at the Muddy Cup, but after a while we stopped going due to the tw song limit. Instead, we went to other people’s apartments to listen to each other. Then it turned into a collaborative experiment.
Eric: There is an aesthetic agreement we’ve established in the Benson collective. When Dunbar played, it was obvious that they had a very literary musical form that had a lot to do with subtlety, enthusiasm and breathing romanticism into their particular art form. Also, the musical style of Benson is experimental, but catchy at the same time. We could just tell these people played music more along the lines of how we wanted to play music, and it just so happens that people who play this kind of music tend to…
Jen: attract each other.
Eric: When it comes down to it, we all try to have as much fun as possible.
Jen: And we try to spend a lot of time practicing and writing music
Eric: We’re very serious in terms of our music, and we’re smart about what we’re interested in. A lot of people who play music don’t play for their own interest - you can hear it when someone is trying to copy a certain style. The people in the Benson collective don’t play music to make money or anything, they play music because they love it.

IYS: You mentioned you had some literary influences - what else influences your lyrics?

Jen: Nature. We spend a lot of time in our back yard in Altamont.
Eric: We’re gardeners believe it or not; I think we are actually turning into farmers. We love talking about the seasons – not in the modern consumerist sense though. When you’re a farmer, it’s back to real seasons. The weather is what you’re following then, so there are a lot of nature and weather references in our music.
But in terms of literature, we like the classics and children’s books.
Jen: Of course, our influences change with what were reading at the time. I can look back at songs and remember what I was reading because the music relates. I’m a writer too, so I remember the books.

IYS: Any favorite writers?

Eric: Toni Morrison, Faulkner, Hemingway
Jen: Maya Angelou
Eric: Thoreau and Emerson

IYS: Would you like to describe you sound for those who aren’t familiar?

Jen: We’ve been compared to…
Eric: Chickens
[Laughter]
Jen: No, we’ve been compared to Belle and Sebastian, Nick Drake, the Bowerbirds (who I’ve never listened to), and Devendra Barnhart.
Eric: We sound like an unshoveled driveway.

IYS: Your last album, In the Parlor with the Moon was recorded in 2008, what was the process like?

Eric: Hectic, but beautiful; Epic in a sense. At the time, we had been playing music every weekend, and we recorded this album in about a month during February. We’d basically play with Sgt. Dunbar and then go and record the record. We never stopped playing music during that entire month.

IYS: Same as Hansel and Gretel?

Eric: Yep, although a lot of the songs came from the winter before, when we were just plucking along on our guitars and coming up with melodies. So it’s not like we came up with all these songs in one month. We recorded/formed songs and arranged them together. The first song on the record came out in less than two hours. We went to bed early that night.


IYS: Ok, last question. So, on your website you mention that you’ve been visited by some ghostly apparitions.

Eric: Yes, they are always in the music. The house we live in now is haunted, and we have learned to become one with the paranormal activity in the house. It’s not like its something that frightened us.
Jen: they used to.
Eric: One of the weird things about it is that they really used to hate rock and roll, but as time goes on, they’re starting to like it more and more. For a long time, we could only listen to classical music or folk or jazz. Anything else didn’t feel right – the music was almost stifled by the house. You could hear rock and roll just die. But the more we played it the more they seemed to realize rock and roll was a pretty cool thing, and we could go back to playing our pixies and our Peter, Bjorn and John albums in the mornings.

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