Jenny and Johnny

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Jenny Lewis and Jonathan Rice team up as Jenny and Johnny for new album

:: Jenny and Johnny ::
:: Supporting Pavement ::
::  Ogden Theatre :: September 9 ::

By Brian F. Johnson

When your career resumé reads like a list of some of the most pivotal pop culture TV shows, bands, brands and moments, you’d expect a sort of been-there, done-that swagger. But for Jenny Lewis, who started her career in a Jell-O commercial at age three, acted on shows like “The Golden Girls,” “Baywatch” and “Growing Pains” (mostly in small roles, but who cares?), and went on to front the band Rilo Kiley, perform with The Postal Service and Elvis Costello and now fronts a new band with her boyfriend, a swagger would just be too much bullshit to try to pull off. Lewis is more content to focus on content than she is on frilly nonsense like self-importance.

That, precisely, is what makes her, as Bust magazine put it, “one of the best-loved and most respected female solo acts in the indie scene, a rare example of true talent in the hype-heavy music world.”

It’s also, most likely, that attitude that has made her so prolific over the years. When artists put aside the ego, the art tends to pour out of them more freely. “It’s important to know that when Jenny goes through writer’s block, that she still writes a lot,” said her boyfriend and bandmate Jonathan Rice, during a recent tandem interview of both of them with The Marquee.

Rice is the “Johnny” in their new project Jenny and Johnny, who in late August released their debut album I’m Having Fun Now. While the album truly is a debut for Jenny and Johnny, calling it that is a bit of a misnomer since the two have worked together in multiple other projects for several years.

While Jenny and Johnny actually first met in a stairwell in New York City in 2003, it was in 2005 that they found themselves in a studio together vying for the same recording time. “When Rilo Kiley went to Omaha to make More Adventurous, Jonathan was there finishing up his first record. There was a bit of an overlap. So we rolled intotown and we were ready to start making our record. Jonathan was there and so we were pissed. We started loading amps and stuff while Jonathan was doing his solo stuff. It was very rude of us,” Lewis laughed. “We were bullies in that moment, but that’s where we sort of reconnected.”

Maybe “reconnected” isn’t the right word there; “gelled” might be better. Because from that meeting on, the two have been playing music together. “Actually, Jenn has been part of every record I’ve ever made and ever since she went solo, I’ve been playing with her,” Rice said.

Rice toured with Lewis for her latest solo album Acid Tongue and in spending that time together on the road, a new batch of songs emerged that didn’t fit a Rice release, or a Lewis release. “We were always within just a few feet of each other and the songs just started melting into one another. It became the most collaborative batch of songs we’ve written,” said Rice, who went on to explain what writing with Lewis is like.

“Have you ever seen the television show ‘Hoarders,’” he asked, while Lewis laughed in the background. “It was kind of like a hoarding experience, where you come in and you’re like, ‘How many unfinished songs do you have around here? Let’s finally clean these out.’ And some of them you get rid of and some of them you set free. And like a hoarder, Jenny was there saying, ‘But some of these poor songs only have three legs, how can they possibly survive in the world?’”

The two worked to comb through everything and then took the raw material to Rilo Kiley’s recording engineer Pierre De Reeder, who helped them track some demos. Then, last winter, the two took a “cathartic” drive to Omaha, Neb. to record with their old friend Mike Moglis, who, as an engineer/producer/performer, has worked with both artists on multiple albums. Lewis said that Moglis, who is also a member of the supergroup Monsters of Folk with Conor Oberst of Bright Eyes, Jim James of My Morning Jacket, and M. Ward, helped them to create the sound that became Jenny and Johnny. “I think with Pierre it was all very carefree and recorded very quickly. So we knew that going to Nebraska, that Mike is a very detail-oriented man and that he would give it his full attention. And he helped us to sort of complete the whole idea that we had started out in L.A.,” Lewis said.

The result, I’m Having Fun Now, is a personal, exuberant album that showcases love songs, and dark tales. And the couple/band couldn’t be happier about it and their relationship, even if they don’t publicly discuss the latter. “I don’t want to say that it’s not relevant to what we’re doing, because that would be false, but there are some things in this world, where you can see Snooki’s tan lines, and there are some things that are just for us,” Rice said.

:: Jenny and Johnny ::

:: Supporting Pavement ::

:: Ogden Theatre :: September 9 ::

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