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Project Jenny, Project Jan

Looney Tunes

Apr 24, 2009 Web Exclusive
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Jeremy Haines, the Brooklyn electro-pop vocalist of Project Jenny, Project Jan (PJPJ) never stops daydreaming, even when he and programmer/keyboardist Sammy Rubin are holed up in the most unimaginative of places: a stuffy Days Inn. Haines, who also creates much of the vibrant artwork for the duo’s website and albums, is doodling on the hotel room stationery: “I’m actually drawing this woman-man. Looks a lot like Cathy from the comic strip, except with the worst haircut and she’s looking at this strange mutant Kermit the Frog character, or maybe the Salt Flats of Utah.” Such gonzo cartoons come closer to describing PJPJ’s sound than laborious R.I.Y.L. lists or the latest silly genre invented by a critic: laptop rock.

So yes, PJPJ may have been stuck in a hotel for the moment but their music is much less fusty. They create infectious electro dance tunes for the indie set. The pair has been making music for three years and burst onto the blog scene with their 2005 self-released EP and their 2007 debut album XOXOXOXOXO. The musical compatriots met because of mutual college friends and then when they both moved to New York none of their old friends did. Once they moved, the two cut a line in the sand, with their eventual fans dancing the funky chicken on the other side. The two merrymakers are going to be visiting more Days Inns this year for their highly collaborative The Colors EP (a percentage of the proceeds go to Dave Eggers’ 826NYC Organization). They’re also airing out new material on the road for their eventual sophomore album. “We’re playing for a lot of indie kids now, who are notorious for not dancing,” explains Haines. “Even if they’re not busting out the sweeper and the mop, in New York most of our shows people let loose like they did back in college.”

From touring the East Coast multiple times, the PJPJ boys nurtured the relationships on display with Colors. “We were friends with everybody on that EP beforehand except Clack Singles Club,” Rubin says. “The So Percussion guys went to school with Sammy,” adds Haines. The rest of The Colors associates include Fujiya & Miyagi, Mixel Pixel, Adam Matta, and vocalists Katie Hasty (Numbers and Letters) and Kellie Rae Powell. The boys enjoyed the process but look forward to striking out on their own for their second LP. “We [had] so many different characters on this EP. It was like we were working on a painting and everyone had their own color. You add it up and it’s the whole spectrum!” says Haines.

That musical canvas includes the standout electro stomper with Fujiya & Miyagi, “Pins and Needles.” The unconventional dance track’s lyrics stemmed from a bet the boys had with Fujiya’s guitarist/vocalist David Best. “When he came into the studio to give us his verse I told him: ‘If you can work in paraestesia and involuntary numbness into this song I’ll buy you a beer,’” remembers Rubin. Similarly, the hilarious lyrics of “Negative” come from an actual event, according to Haines. “When I was writing over at Sammy’s house and I couldn’t get anything for that song, I decided to go get some beer and told him I will figure it out while I went to the store. Outside of the store I kicked something on the ground and it caught my eye. It was a full sleeve of negatives that someone dropped of this girl in her lingerie. I picked it up and ran to the store to get the beer. I ran back and threw the roll on Sammy’s desktop and yelled, ‘That’s our song!’ I became that guy,” recalls Haines.

Sure enough, that track and the twosome appeared in the film Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and opportunities for nonmusical drama ensued on set for Haines. “My favorite story from our time there was when I had a make-out scene. I had to rehearse with Aria Grainer in Michael Cera’s trailer. It was kind of weird and was eventually cut from the movie. It’s not as hot as you think it’s going to be with the director telling you what to do.”

The two musicians may not be switching to acting anytime soon, but their music retains the playful nature of the theater. The mundane ephemera and experiences of twenty-something metropolitan life mutates into dance-worthy bangers once PJPJ get a hold of them. PJPJ may be surrounded by the tedium of life but that’s not holding them back. “Our process on the computer is kind of boundary-less,” acknowledges Rubin. “We know we have to have this end product and we always try to make it fun and danceable. You can dance to this music anywhere.” Perhaps, Days Inn should look into installing disco balls.


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