Band To Watch: Jane Inc

Shelby Fenlon

Band To Watch: Jane Inc

Shelby Fenlon

Jane Inc’s debut album Number One came together like miraculously interlocking pieces from several scattered puzzles. Until its 2021 release, Toronto’s Carlyn Bezic was busy performing with bands such as U.S. Girls, the hard-rocking quintet Darlene Shrugg, and electronic pop duo Ice Cream. Songs dedicated to her solo project were plucked from demos recorded over several years that didn’t feel right for Bezic’s various collaborations. These found a home on the first Jane Inc LP, a spellbinding showcase for the guitarist’s Prince-like instrumental versatility with lyrics about the fragmented identities we form online and IRL.

Bezic initially planned to release the second Jane Inc album, Faster Than I Can Take, in the same 12-month span as her debut, before that rate of production began to feel impossible. However, by carving out the time to focus on crafting this collection of songs, she achieved a newfound sense of cohesion. That might sound disingenuous when describing an album that includes bossa-nova-inflected acoustic numbers (“Picture Of The Future”), synth-pop with a guided meditation break (“Dancing With You”), and Thin Lizzy guitarmonies (“Pummelled Into Sand”), but being pulled in multiple directions at the same time is the point. As Bezic explains, these songs were written about the contemporary anxieties of living in the past, present, and future simultaneously.

In our interview, conducted over a Zoom video call, Bezic discussed how tour plans put on hold by the pandemic led to the launch of Jane Inc, her interest in meditation, modern day guitar heroes, and more. Find the interview below, just under today’s newly released single “Human Being.”

The last time I saw you onstage was the U.S. Girls show at the Paradise Theatre in Toronto in February 2020. The live band that Meg Remy assembled was amazing. How did it feel when you had to put the tour on hold as the world shut down?

CARLYN BEZIC: It was such a shame. My friend and bandmate Dorothea Paas said it felt too special, almost like the tour couldn’t happen because it would have been too much.

How many shows did you get to play with that band?

BEZIC: Probably only five tops, though we had a lot of rehearsals leading up to it. I hope some semblance of it happens again, but we’ll see.

Did your solo project become a new focus in response to the tour being canceled?

BEZIC: My first album was mostly recorded right before the pandemic. It was in the process of being mixed, so I decided to hold onto it while I was doing U.S. Girls stuff. Then the pandemic started and I figured I could focus on Jane Inc When Number One was being finished I started to write this album as well.

That makes me think of Jane Inc like a music factory with all of these songs coming down the assembly line.

BEZIC: I wanted to imagine it like that as well, but it’s wishful thinking! [laughs] If you’re making art, you need space and time for things to ferment. I was thinking of the name like I was every part of a company. It’s helpful to conceptualize being in a different head space for each instrument. I also like the Inc as a reference to dance music — like Lipps, Inc. or Love Inc. There’s a blankness to Jane, but it’s also my middle name, so it’s me and it’s no one.

Were there any significant differences in the ways the second album was made in comparison to the first one?

BEZIC: The songs on the first one are from a pretty wide span of time. They were taken from lots of different demos that didn’t quite feel like Ice Cream songs, but still had some kind of pull. All of the songs for this album were written at the same time with the same emotional landscape. Even though the songs are all over the place stylistically, they’re all dealing with the same thing, so it feels more cohesive to me.

What are the main things you focused on in your lyrics?

BEZIC: I thought a lot about time passing too quickly and being scared of the future. Eventually, I realized that all of the songs are about dealing with anxiety, which is a weird way of experiencing time. You’re trying to predict what will happen, but also caught up in feelings from the past, while trying to understand the present with those two mindframes. The album cover is an iPhone photo in landscape mode, so it’s one moment in time where I’m jumping around. It’s supposed to feel frenetic and anxiety inducing.

The sample of Jane Fonda’s monologue from the movie Klute feels like a secret key to unlock your first album. Is there a similar kind of Rosetta Stone for this one?

BEZIC: The title track “Faster Than I Can Take” is one of the earlier songs I wrote when the pandemic had just begun. When things are completely new and destabilized, you’re in the moment with a sense of possibility that’s good, but I also felt really frightened, confused, and sad that things I had been planning for were being canceled, and even more sad that people were dying. I’d like to think that song encapsulates all of those feelings. There’s a line that hits on that: “I can’t square the calm and the eerie feeling of a world on pause / With my heart sprinting in my chest trying to guess what’s next.” Then I say “and to tell you the truth, I have no clue what to do.”

That’s definitely how I felt! You’ve mentioned how this album is more diverse stylistically than the first one, specifically with the acoustic songs. I read that you wrote those on a classical guitar while visiting your partner’s family in British Columbia. Was there anything specific about that environment or experience that inspired you?

BEZIC: I just didn’t have anything to do! We were on vacation and I didn’t have any of the normal stuff I use to make music, so the only thing to do was fiddle around on guitar. They live on Salt Spring Island, so it’s stunning there, but I was more inspired by listening to the new Jennifer Castle album and a lot of Joni Mitchell. They’re such incredible lyricists and songwriters that they only need the basic elements. I usually throw in a bunch of shit to cover up the parts that don’t feel as strong, but this was a moment of being comfortable, zeroing in on lyrics and chords.

I really like the bossa nova feel of “Picture Of The Future.” Was that inspired by the U.S. Girls song “And Yet It Moves / Y Se Mueve“?

BEZIC: Wow! I wasn’t thinking about that, but subconsciously I’m sure it was in there. I always love a bossa nova beat. My brother played drums when we were growing up, and he taught me a few different things. One of the things I picked up easily, for whatever reason, is the bossa nova. Even with fingerpicking on the guitar, it feels easy and fun.

What was your inspiration behind the meditation break on “Dancing With You”? I don’t think I’ve ever heard that in a pop song before.

BEZIC: I wanted that song to be a love letter to crowds of people that I couldn’t be among or playing for. In contrast to a lot of other things I deal with on the album, the space of a dancefloor or a rock show is one of abandon and freedom. I tried to foster that feeling, pretty explicitly I guess. The idea of the space being a pool that you jump into is an idea that kept coming up in therapy. My therapist said I always wade in or dip a toe, so I decided to make a song where we can all jump in together! [laughs]

Do you meditate as a practice?

BEZIC: I was recently reintroduced to it at a creative music workshop in Halifax. That’s where I met Nick Dourado, Bianca Palmer, and all those folks associated with Fiver. They use meditation as a practice to center yourself, providing a better understanding of improvisation and deep listening. Because of that, I associate meditation with feeling really free in music making.

You’ve talked about Jimi Hendrix and Prince being major inspirations when you were starting out. Who are your guitar heroes these days?

BEZIC: I have a weird relationship with guitar right now. I love to play it, but I don’t go out of my way to listen to guitar music, even though a well-played solo will kill me every time. Pat Flegel from Women and Cindy Lee is a very specific kind of guitar hero, doing wild stuff that I’m really impressed by because it’s so different from what I play. The Jack Name records have a lot of cool sounds and tones. After doing more fingerpicking on this record, I’m always impressed by good pickers like Dorothea Paas.

That’s the second time Doro has come up. What do you like about working with her?

BEZIC: I’ve joked with Max Turnbull from Badge Époque about how Doro is a synthesizer on angel setting. [laughs] Her vocals are always perfect, and she has such an impressive command of her voice. Backing vocals are much more difficult than they sound, which I can tell you from experience. Doro has a really good ear for the subtle details that make them extraordinary.

You’ve spoken and sang about your frustrations with Toronto in the song “Steel” from your first album. How do you feel about the city right now?

BEZIC: It’s complicated. I grew up here, so living in this city didn’t feel like a choice I made. There are so many talented artists here making incredible work, but it’s not a city that supports that. There are upsetting policy decisions made all the time, especially in relation to how they treat unhoused people. It’s hard to see Toronto become condo after condo, and weed store after weed store, when you think about community spaces that don’t exist anymore. It does feel like there are other places you can live where you can give something and the city gives back. Toronto doesn’t feel like that. You just throw it into the void.

What’s next in the world of Jane Inc?

BEZIC: I’m slowly, tentatively starting work on album three. There are songs that didn’t make it onto album two that I’m thinking of reworking, if they fit. The thing is that I don’t know what the overarching theme or emotional idea I’m going to deal with will be, so I’m in a very exploratory phase right now. I’m just having fun making demos and messing around.

Do the themes of albums typically reveal themselves to you in that way?

BEZIC: That’s certainly what it was like for Faster. The ideas came all at once, and my emotions were super strong, vivid, and real… because of the global pandemic. Unless some other kind of crazy, unprecedented event occurs, it’ll probably be a different process.

Faster Than I Can Take is out 4/22 on Telephone Explosion.

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