On route to the interview at a downtown bar, the text comes in… “Janes are just at the table closest to the door. We’ve been doing a bit of a photo shoot in the shitter with the flamingo wallpaper so if we’re not at the table just text and we will be there.” A party horn icon inserted at the end of the text.
As it turns out, flamingos are a big thing with All Hands On Jane. To use that all too fashionable term, it’s part of their “branding.” The Janes, however, aren’t those kind of marketeers — less an industry-minded hype-machine and more a fun, rock ‘n’ roll commodity in pink flamingo technicolor. One particular flamingo in particular, Phil their mascot, a lawn ornament turned into a beer bong. Kaitlin Gibson, who plays keys (and one of those whacky theremins), describes how Phil came to join the band via Rob, her boyfriend.
“Rob bought a couple flamingos off the internet, from a dollar store,” laughs Gibson. “We just decided to cut one of them up and turn it into a beer bong. At first Rob was pissed, but then he realized, he realized…” Gibson is cut off by bandmate Tess Graham, “That after we took Phil everywhere, he became our official band mascot… He’s Phil, like fill ‘er up. Phil the flabongo.”
The flamingo saga gets better. “Mason, our buddy who’s a tattoo artist, sent over a design as a joke. When Kaitlin and I saw it, we… ‘Let’s get it fuckin’ tattooed!’” Graham tugs at her clothes revealing a tattoo to the side of her upper thigh of two flamingos facing each other, like some sort of imperial emblem bearing a slight resemblance to Queen’s logo with a pair of lions. The tat is circular, the diameter of a softball. Apparently, Gibson’s is even larger. Majestic, gracious, bad-ass rock ‘n’ roll branding.
The bar in question is Ricardo’s Hideaway, a tropical cocktail lounge with a Cuban flair that specializes in rum given spicy names like Mama’s Gone Surfin’, We’ll Never Be Royalty and, of course, the Hemingway. All four members of All Hands On Jane are seated in a circle sipping one of Ricardo’s curious inventions. Over the past few years, the Janes’ line-up has varied in numbers and faces, but tonight seated around the table are the original members — lead vocalist/guitarist Teri Wagner, drummer Tess Graham, keyboardist Kaitlin Gibson plus their recent recruitment bassist Mackenzie Meding. The topic of discussion is the new EP, Animal Worship — six tracks juiced up like Richardo’s exploding concoctions that blend goth, psych, spook and prog into layers of blues, boogie rock and heavy fuzz.
What stands out, pushing the songs like a relentless tsunami, is Graham’s drumming. Wave after wave they come tumbling, pounding through full force right up the middle giving the Janes’ an urgency like they’ve never had before.
Graham grins, flexes her biceps and explains that in addition to “working out” bringing the drums to the fore started when her and Wagner played as a two-piece for a spell which helped lock down their driving force. Noting that drummers usually serve as the backbeat in a band, Wagner flatly states, “No, Tess wouldn’t have it!” Cheers rise from the table, a toast is made.
Their approach to recording is also unconventional; a large factor in the Janes’ wall of sound is Graham leading the way. In the studio she goes in first, lays down the drums tracks, then the rest of instruments in stages after. Although she’s a huge fan of classic rock bands that groove together as a single unit recording live off the floor, the Janes do it different. “A few of the songs have several tempo shifts, so it’s easier, saves time coming in playing the drums to the metronome then layering everything else on after.”
How does that work for the rest of the band? Amongst the laughter, Gibson announces, “Like clockwork! Tess records, Teri does guitar, Mac does bass and I get shitfaced do to keys… If I just finish this bottle of wine to record, I’ll do better.”
Gibson originally played bass in the band, took a couple years hiatus, then returned on keys. She’s probably the most daring, outlandish and biggest crack-up, life-of-the-party in the Janes. Banned on Instagram for some indecent episodes, it’s not surprising her flamingo tattoo is “huge.” So is her stamp on the Janes’ music with a brash, bold character oozing out of the keyboards.
Wagner says that while they had some keys on the previous record, they wrote specifically to showcase them on Animal Worship. “Writing with that focus is not the Teri show anymore, it’s the everybody show. It has such a different feel. It’s so gothy, so dark, so moody,” she says giggling when emphasizing “so.” Gibson adds playfully, “So opposite the beach.”
The Janes’ are a ”smorgasbord of syles… a melting pot of influences.” Out of their favourite records, Wagner puts Pantera’s Far Beyond Driven at the top of her list, Gibson has it in for No Doubt’s high-end production on Tragic Kingdom, Graham is a die-hard Sabbath fan opting for Master Of Reality (“so raw and dirty”) and Meding spouts out Houses Of The Holy by Led Zeppelin (“my favourite band ever, I can’t help it”).
Bassist Mackenzie “Mac” Meding, the “baby” of the band at 24 years of age, came into the fold when they put an ad out on Facebook looking to fill the slot. Meding responded and made a video playing their songs. “It warmed my heart,” says Wagner giving Meding an audition that she easily won “obliterating everyone else.” Adding yet another dimension to the Janes’ sound, Meding leans towards punk that’s a bit thrashy citing Propaghandi and Iron Reagan as her brand of bashing it out. “If that comes around,” she says with no expectations, “maybe we’ll put a little of it on the next record.”
A centerpiece on stage and prime curator is Wagner, the Janes’ frontwoman, songwriter and lyricist who delves into all sorts of exotic teritory when crafting the songs.
“MK Ultra,” one of the most ambitious of tracks on the EP with its changes ups, haunting vocals and eerie overtones, feels exactly like the drug-warped spiral the song’s actually about — a covert government program that involved giving unsuspecting people LSD to observe their reactions and behavior.
Moving from weird tales to cozy abstraction, Wager acknowledges that “Oh Buffalo” really isn’t about anything. “I just came home and wanted to write a song about a buffalo. There’s no story, it’s wandering kind of song.”
“Jack The Lad”, however is a specific reference to the British variation of a “junked-up, chachi, prick-boy.” A description that prompts Gibson to joke, “Everyone knows a few of those.”
And then there’s Wagner’s passionate wailings in “Golden Eyes” along with its rigorous, sweaty grind suggesting the song embarks on some sort of sensuous voyage. Wagner quietly chuckles but doesn’t give anything away. Graham, however, steps in noting that “Golden Eyes” is a more a band collaboration than songs before. “We’re coming to a collective standpoint in our writing.” Elaborating on that standpoint, she adds, “I think for Teri, and for all of us, it’s sweet when people want to bone to your music.” More laughter, another toast.
The Janes’ release show for Animal Worship is at Dickens Pub August 18. The band is coordinating a party bus to pick up people for the show in different parts of the city. Contact AHOJ on their FB page for more info www.facebook.com/allhandsonjane/