Q&A: Jen Janet

in SF Local Bands by

How did you come up with the name of the band?
In high school I had a friend whose grandparents would always seem to forget my name – my name is Jen, short for Jennifer. They would end up calling me “Janet” all the time. It became an inside joke, and they would all call me Janet. So I started using the name Jen Janet.

How would you describe your sound?
I love blending genres, especially finding a balance between heavy and soft, pretty and violent, light and dark, etc. Therefore I tend to blend electronic, rock, and metal influences. My voice is very soft and feminine, so I enjoy using heavier instrumentals behind it, with heavier guitars and drums. I really enjoy the sound of strings, such as cellos and violins, so I usually try to layer those elements over my songs too.

When did you first become interested in playing music?
When I was four, I performed a song for my preschool graduation. I was hooked – I loved singing in front of people ever since then. I went on to take piano and voice lessons later on and began writing my own music.

What’s the strangest or funniest thing that’s ever happened to you at a show?
This isn’t funny, but I’ve had situations at shows where the door person or security people think that I’m not actually in my band. I look younger than my actual age, and I am fairly petite and feminine-looking. Most people in the rock and metal genre are men. I’ve had situations where people gave me a hard time about coming back into the venue because they thought I was lying, that I wasn’t actually in the band. Meanwhile, after the show, they see my performance and I’ve had people actually apologize to me afterward for treating me the way they did. Before I turned 21 I was actually scheduled to perform at a bar in Rhode Island, and apparently the laws there are a bit more strict with ages – so my band arrived, loaded our gear in, and we almost were not able to perform. They needed us to perform, and then leave the bar immediately afterward because I was 20, and not supposed to be in the bar. The bar didn’t think to check my age before we actually booked the show. It was strange, but we all laughed about it later.

What are you listening to these days?
I listen to tons of different genres. Right now I’m really enjoying some newer alternative pop artists like Mothica. I also enjoy artists that can’t really be pinned down by one genre – Sevdaliza and FKA Twigs are good examples of this; they both have fantastic voices, really creative music videos, and use electronic elements in their music. For rock and metal, some of my favorite bands include Lacuna Coil, Ne Obliviscaris, and Rivers of Nihil.

What does music mean to you?
For me, I began writing music because I was sad. It was kind of like writing in a diary – if I felt upset about something, I wrote it down, almost like poetry. Then I would put the words to music on my keyboard. I took piano lessons for a while, so most of my songs start out that way, and then they are re-written to fit guitar and drums. To me, music is a cathartic release. When I finish a song, I feel like a weight is lifted from my shoulders sometimes. It’s nice to get something out, and then feel emotionally lighter afterward. That’s probably why most of my music is not very happy – I tend to focus on negative emotions in my writing. But it has great mental health benefits!

How’d you guys first get together to play music?
I’m a solo artist, but when I first began playing music with a band, I was a freshman in college. I had performed with high school students before, but college was the first time that I really began performing and making at least some money from shows. I formed a band and we ended up performing at festivals and shows all along the east coast of the US until the end of 2018. It was a really cool experience, and I was able to make lots of friends along the way.

What inspires you to write?
If I feel something negative, that inspires me to write, because I want to get it out and be free of that feeling or problem. Lately though especially during the pandemic, I wrote frequently about things going wrong in the world. I’m not a very emotional person, or at least I don’t present that way. So this is a way for me to ‘talk about it’ or vent by myself. Whenever there’s something wrong, I feel inspired to write. Or if there is something emotional and profound that has happened, that inspires me as well.

What’s the biggest challenge in becoming a musician today?
I really like the Golden Gate Park area. The de Young Museum and the Japanese Tea Garden were some of my favorite places to visit once I arrived here in San Francisco. I look forward to seeing many other sites soon, especially as the pandemic restrictions are lifted, and the numbers of covid-19 start to go down. I absolutely love art and natural history museums – it’s one of my favorite things to do.

What are some of your favorite Bay Area music venues?
I actually moved to the bay area right before the pandemic happened. I was looking forward to going to DNA Lounge but I haven’t been able to go there yet. I went to a metal show at the Oakland Metro Operahouse right before everything shut down in March though, so I’d have to say so far that’s my favorite. I’m excited to finally be able to attend more shows (hopefully) soon.

What are some of your favorites hangs in the Bay Area and why?
I really like Golden Gate Park and the Conservatory of Flowers. It’s such a beautiful place all year round. I grew up in Massachusetts, so even just having nice weather most of the year, is incredible to me. I’m accustomed to feeling cold and at least somewhat uncomfortable for at least half the year. I love the sunshine here. I’ve also been visiting the wineries in Napa and Livermore and getting really into wine – on my website jenjanet.com I started a wine blog just for fun. I didn’t know much about wine before I moved here, and now I’m diving into the world of wine, and learning so many new things. It’s really cool to learn about how the different environments can create something that tastes so specific.

What’s one thing that people would be surprised to find out about you?
In high school, I was really into comic books and graphic novels. I’m actually a huge superhero/sci-fi nerd and I love the x-men and Batman universes. I really enjoy older sci-fi shows, like the older Doctor Who episodes from the BBC, and Farscape. The idea of creating a whole universe like that, especially before modern special effects in TV and film, is really fascinating to me. Maybe someday I’ll do a sci-fi-themed music video.

Is there anything you’d like to plug?
My next single “The Mother” is coming out May 7th, and it was produced, mixed, and mastered by Alan Day from the band Four Year Strong. It’s my heaviest song yet, so fans of heavy rock and metal will likely enjoy it. It’s also the first music video that I shot with a drone, and there are a lot of really cool shots in it of the California hills. I’ve been editing and directing all of my music videos so far this year in 2021, so if you’re interested, feel free to check out my Youtube channel and subscribe. I’m also on Spotify, Itunes etc: youtube.com/jenjanet

An avid drummer whose discography includes albums on Digital Nations (a Steve Vai imprint), music critic Louis Raphael has always kept a pulse on the San Francisco music scene. After many years as the San Francisco Music Examiner for Examiner.com and AXS.com, he decided to start Music in SF® as a way to showcase what the San Francisco music scene really has to offer.