Jennie Vee has a light to her – maybe it’s the humor in her voice when she describes herself as a “recovering goth,” or the genuine heart suffused throughout her music. Whatever secret powers of muse Vee wields, Courtney Love intuitively noticed because, shortly after their introduction, Vee was playing bass for Love’s band. Nowadays, the songwriter is taking her act to the West Coast and will be performing at the Blind Tiger on Saturday, December 11. Vee’s dreamy and reverbed-out style is reminiscent of the 80’s era new-wave, post-punk, and dream-pop genres. Vee has rock n’ roll in her veins, and her songs beautifully address the paradoxes of sensitivity and strength, life and death, and the subsequent self-realization that occurs through our growth. I was lucky enough to catch up with Vee to talk about her creative process and new album Spying.
Who are your main influences? We do get this comparison a lot, and I’m going to complain about it, but the band Lush has been a big influence on my soundscape and they have a big influence on me. I love the whole 4AD catalog, Pale Saints and Lush, but my main influence as a songwriter has been The Cure. I’ve been a huge Cure fan since I was eight years old—The Cure, Echo & the Bunnyman, more like new-wave 80’s bands.
What did you learn from playing with Courtney? She left me with some great nuggets of wisdom – what’s the thing she always said to me? I’m drawing a blank – you know, it was just to be strong in the face of any obstacle life throws you. Don’t believe your biggest fan or your worst critic. I think that’s kind of an old Andy Warhol quote – just like, do what you do. I’ll remember it and then I’ll email it to you, Ryan, because there was this saying she has, I can’t remember the phrasing and I want to get it right. Oh and she told me that I wore too much black and I need to think more in terms of color! [Laughs]
Later Vee texted my cell phone: “The nugget of wisdom I learned from Courtney was that ‘Gratitude squashes anxiety.’ Any stressful situation or moment of anxiety can be calmed with gratitude and just shifting your thoughts to a place of gratitude will help you and everyone else.”
Courtney styled some of your photo shoots correct? Oh! She is the dream stylist, because she’s right, I wear black, I live in New York, I’m a recovering goth, and I’m actually looking down on myself right now – yes, I’m wearing all black. She definitely expanded my fashion horizons.
What’s your favorite thing about the bass, it’s such a badass instrument? I like crafting surprising, melodic bass lines that aren’t too busy. Kind of like a Peter Hook, New Order bass line. I love adding a texture with the bass, rather than sticking with the root note, although I do that a lot. My favorite thing is to throw in something that really has an impact on the song.
It seemed like a lot of your songs were about love, like “Never Let You Down.” could you speak to that? They’re not about love. I’d say that 20% of my songs and lyrics are about love. 80% of them are about conflict, crippling self-doubt, isolation, self-blame, government conspiracies. A lot of it’s about relationships and friendships gone wrong, fathers, brothers that don’t speak to you, abusive people. That doesn’t fall under the category of love; most of my songs are about fear. And I see what you mean about “Never Let You Down,” but that song is more about lying—lying to yourself and other people, and making false promises.
Tell us about “Die Alone.” I mean, a peaceful resolution to all of our conflicts is death, right? That’s it, that’s the resolution right there, we’re all going to get to that point. As I said, I address a lot of internal struggles in my songs, things that touch on not feeling guilty, but also taking accountability for yourself, your feelings, your actions, your thoughts and your words. I don’t know [laughs], I guess that’s just what my songs are about.
And what is most exciting for you at this moment? I am really excited to get on the road with these songs. Also, my band is amazing, we just spent the past five days locked down in rehearsal in Niagara Falls. We took five days and everyday went into the same space to really lock down these songs, so I am stoked to get this band out on the road.
Jennie Vee plays Blind Tiger (409 State St.) with VOWWS on Friday, Dec. 11 at 8 p.m. For more information, call (805) 957-4111 or visit blindtigersb.com.