Jen & The Dots • "Greta Garbo"
Recorded by Brian Fox
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A groovy blend of surf-rock and a defiant punk attitude, “Greta Garbo” is a wonderful introduction to the brand new project from Jen Dot (cleverly titled Jen & The Dots). The song references a classic film actress the Dot resonated with in her own identity, which she explains in the Q&A below. A seasoned artist that is a part of the groups Swimsuit Addition and beastii, Jen is always creating music. The decision to come up with a seperate project is done out of respect to collaborators as well as an acknowledgement of change. She wants all of her projects to blend together, but at the same time give them space.
The track’s swinging bassline and nonchalant drumming give the song a danceable feel, feeling at times like a 50s pop track and then dipping its toes into punk and country. Jen’s vocals stand out in their rawness, commanding her breathy lines to hit on the right cues, feeding into the catchy chorus. Her voice is versatile and strong, and you can hear the flashes of it throughout the low-toned delivery. It’s the rough sandpaper that smoothes out the rest of the track, giving it an extra level of intrigue beyond the pop appeal. Stream the premiere on These Days and read our Q&A with Jen below.
Can you explain the title of the track? Are you a general fan of classic cinema or is there something more to it?
It's funny you ask because I don't feel like there is always a backstory to my songs, but this one definitely has one. I wrote it in college. It was originally a poem for a creative writing class that I later turned into a song. I had just read a book in a film class and had become interested in Hollywood starlets. Greta Garbo's experiences really resonated with me as a queer woman. According to legend, she had a sporadic and volatile, albeit long-lived affair with a writer and lesbian named Mercedes de Acosta. I had read somewhere that Mercedes never got over Greta and was in love with her for the rest of her life. This song is from her perspective.
You have two other great projects and this one is shaping up to be just as good. What was the impetus for starting a new project and what separates it from your other music?
This is a really hard question for me to answer because I truly don't want my projects to be separate from one another. The most challenging part about collaborating and working with bands is that they aren't and probably never will exist in the same form forever-- people have lives, people need to move on, work on other things. My heart breaks every time these relationships and projects end, but I can't really stop writing songs. Since the time that Swimsuit Addition broke up right before releasing our second full-length album, I have formed two bands, in someways to have a safety net, in other ways so that I don't feel like my entire world is ripped apart when a project ends. I've been working with a mentality of, I'm not gonna stop making stuff. Who wants to do that with me? People asked me if I just wanted to keep going with the name Swimsuit Addition, or why I didn't, but I just couldn't do that. I had to release the album because we worked really hard on it. Otherwise, I really have no explanation for starting a million projects other than my loyalty and respect for the people I'm working with and my own emotional need to keep creating. I will never let other people's choices and lack of desire to work on a project deter my own creativity, though.
How do you approach songwriting? Do you write mostly by yourself or in a group setting?
I do write a lot on my own, and I will absolutely play a supporting role in someone else's song! I write a long though, and I'm not a person that needs to write every part of a song. I will if I need to though (it took me a long time to learn how to do that). What I like to do is choose chords that I vibe with, write a melody and lyrics, and then come up with a structure and bring it to the band so they can have their own input. Most people that play with me know I am not super controlling about what anyone plays but I will give my opinion if I have a strong one, or I will ask someone to play a hook or a riff if I don't feel like it works coming from my guitar. Sam and I used to write together, especially at the beginning of Swimsuit Addition, and we came up with some really cool songs that way. I'd like to collaborate more and hope to do that given the right relationships. Right now we're working on a song for Jen and the Dots that Mikhael wrote and it's sounding cool!
Can you talk more about aesthetics and how you create the art around your music?
I like working with talented visual artists. Sometimes I have a vision for something, sometimes I don't. A lot of times when working with visual artists, I really want them to put their own spin on my idea or come up with something on their own. Olivia, the keyboardist in Jen & the Dots, drew the image for this song-- and it's based on a real picture!
A lot of the visions I have had for songs or albums definitely haven't come out the way I imagine them, but I think they remain floating around my brain somewhere for me to use somewhere else later.
Can you talk about some of your vocal influences? You incorporate a wide variety of styles and the blend sits great in the music.
I really feel like a voice is the most original sound someone has to play with-- timbre, delivery, rhythm-- and I think I sing like myself and hope that my vocals don't sound just like anyone else's. I like to play with putting my emotions into the song-- playing with my voice in a way that makes it feel intense, but thoughtful and actually underneath it all, sweet. I've been playing with how low my voice can get lately, and I think I do a lot of stuff that is more or less chanty or flat and not so melodic. A lot of the melodies come with the guitar or in a backing vocal. That said, some of my favorite vocalists right now are Niagra of Destroy All Monsters. I also really like people whose voices resonate soulfully, like Diana Ross and Sam Cooke.
Do you have any upcoming events or releases you want to tell people about?
Yeah! Jen and the Dots is playing at the Whistler for a CHIRP showcase on 2/27. It'll be really fun! Easiest thing to do is follow our Facebook and Instagram to follow along with our journey!