Me Of A Kind is an edgy, atmospheric, female-fronted alternative rock band from Los Angeles. The band’s principle member is Jen Schwartz, singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and former drummer for infamous queercore band Tribe 8. Me Of A Kind released its debut album "You Are Here" on the Rampage Productions label on October 31, 2011. The album is available worldwide via digital outlets such as iTunes, Amazon, Spotify and Rhapsody, and physically through CD Baby’s online store and Amoeba Music in Los Angeles. Me Of A Kind sheds the raw, punk sound of Tribe 8, but maintains its ethos with a modern, alternative rock sensibility and forward-focused lyrics. "You Are Here" offers a compelling blend of lush arrangements, cinematic imagery, intricate rhythms, and intensely personal storytelling. The songs clearly come from a compositional and lyrical place that isn't associated with current trends, but instead of sounding naively rough or 'outside', it is smooth, focused and reflective. Me Of A Kind is precisely what it wants to be, without conforming or alienating, and "You Are Here" is a musical triumph led by well-crafted songs.
In December of 2011, Me Of A Kind released a single, "This Mess We're In", featuring Earl Slick on guitars. In the spring of 2012, Slick and Me Of A Kind continued their collaboration with writing sessions in Los Angeles and New York.
Jen Schwartz - Voice and Drums
Becky Gebhardt - Bass and Sitar
Valerie Stern - Keyboards and Piano
"You Are Here" -- Full-length album available digitally and on CD.
"The Last Time (radio edit)" -- Single. Available digital only.
"This Mess We're In (Feat. Earl Slick)" - Single
Cover Story: Me Of A Kind Covers PJ Harvey
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On PJ Harvey’s 2000 album, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, “This Mess We’re In” was a d...On PJ Harvey’s 2000 album, Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea, “This Mess We’re In” was a duet with Radiohead’s Thom Yorke. Now remade by Me Of A Kind, the track can still be categorized as a collaboration, but not of the vocal variety. Instead, the Los Angeles alt-rock band recruited guitarist Earl Slick, best known as David Bowie’s longtime sideman, for their cover.
Me Of A Kind’s frontwoman, drummer and songwriter, Jen Schwartz, met Slick last year while he was touring with the New York Dolls. After listening to her band’s debut album, You Are Here, Slick rang up Schwartz, saying he was interested in doing something together. As it happens, she’d just laid down tracks for a cover of “This Mess We’re In” and sent them off to Slick, who went into a New York City studio and added some guitar parts.
Though Schwartz only sings Yorke’s lines in “This Mess We’re In,” having subtracted Harvey’s half of the duet, Slick’s expert fret work steps in as partner, providing the atmospheric interplay that makes Me Of A Kind’s cover such a dark and stormy stunner.
The fourth of ten favorite 2011 albums — Me of a Kind’s ‘You Are Here’
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If you end up doing the work I do to any degree, at a certain point people — at least some of them —...If you end up doing the work I do to any degree, at a certain point people — at least some of them — stop being abstract figures or people you can project your own thoughts on and become people just like you. It’s a demystification that’s always crucial to go through, otherwise you’ll never get out of that first rush phase from whenever you got into music — or any form of creative work or talent — when everything is a little heroic, a little alien, a little ‘could I ever be like that?’ And in the case of Me of a Kind, I knew the person first before I knew the work, so that made it even less of a mystery.
What makes You are Here compelling listening to my ears isn’t just that kind of personal connection, obviously, so let me delve into why I like the album on its own merits, as if I didn’t know Jen S. at all. Being the relative ages we are, I can’t say I’m surprised to find that her work mirrors a lot of my own musical reference points, besides the previously mentioned bands. PJ Harvey, for instance? Oh heck yes (and in fact, you should check out the just released cover of “This Mess We’re In” that Jen did with Bowie vet Earl Slick). So sure, to an extent — only an extent, but not ignorable — this is a kind of comfort listening, not upending the past and crackling in the present, more extending and refining the past into the present one wants it to be, whatever approach that might be.
But on a larger level, there’s also an attractive balance here, between sometimes intense, angry edge and reflective serenity, both musically and, importantly, lyrically. Here’s where the personal connection helps again — we spent almost two hours listening through the finished album as I interviewed her about each track, what went into it, her thoughts on the final results. So songs like “Forgive Me” and “I’m Not Going Home” have a little more grounding in my ears than they might otherwise if I didn’t know all that, but still work nonetheless on that level (after all, I heard the album a few times first before talking with her about it).
Combined with Jen S.’s elegant abilities on every instrument and clear grasp of how to record well and so forth, it’s not, I suppose, what one would expect of a drummer from Tribe 8 on the one hand, but then again, what is to be expected of any musician, or artist? If you let yourself be defined by one repeated note then one repeated note is all that anyone will see. I’ll have more to say about the joys of finding yourself in a different place than you were when you started elsewhere in this list but that can wait, just take it from me that the slow burn of drumming and strings and atmospheres on “The Rain” really could be a track from, say, Tinderbox or Peepshow era Banshees, and good thing too. Then there’s “Winter” and the combination of piano and singing and suffice to say that this is not a Tori Amos cover.
Turning back to the issue of friends and creativity, though — another friend, who’s been in a two person band for many years that’s gained some attention (I’ll spare her blushes) once asked me flat out, “Ned, why don’t you record anything yourself? Why aren’t you a musician?” As I answered her, it’s pretty easy: I’m impatient and lazy. Where I do take the time, or so I hope, to practice things like my writing and my cooking and even, on a more casual level, my photography, with music if I can’t get it to sound like the inspiring things I’ve heard over the years right away, or the music in my head in general, then I end up frustrated. And like I said, I’m lazy and impatient, and I am content to hear the work of others.
But understanding those pressures, just a little, of what musicians can and do go through — especially these days, where DIY is easier than ever but getting attention is even harder, and where theoretically anyone can record anything but only those with dedication will work to do something exactly right with the tools to hand — is relevant. Music doesn’t emerge from a vacuum, and it’s one thing if Jen S. had her thoughts and visions to hand in her head and another to find the time and space to work them out and yet another again to create something that can resonate. The voice of Me of a Kind, if not something one to one in my own experience on many levels, is nonetheless the voice of reflection, consideration, determination and ultimately some level of comfort with one’s own person — self-acceptance if you like — that’s resonant to me. And it does so without sounding like, say, just another dude on an acoustic guitar doing dull frickin’ warbling. And THAT is crucial.
South Hadley Native On Front Lines Of Industry
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Oct. 31, 2011 By G. Michael Dobbs Managing Editor LOS ANGELES — Jen Schwartz grew up at the...Oct. 31, 2011
By G. Michael Dobbs
LOS ANGELES — Jen Schwartz grew up at the end of an era in music where vinyl, radio play and cassettes were the standard way to get out one’s music.
The South Hadley native and Mount Holyoke graduate, though, is in the forefront of independent artists using digital technology and social networking to attract new listeners.
Schwartz recently released her new album “You are Here” featuring her band
Me of a Kind (www.meofakind.com) and has completed her first film scorefor the new documentary “I Am.” The album is available worldwide via digital outlets such as iTunes, Spotify and Rhapsody, and physically through CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com).
Speaking to Reminder Publications from her home in Los Angeles, Schwartz described the latest chapter in her musical career, which started at age 11 — she has played as a session drummer and as a member of the band Tribe 8 — as a do-it-yourself project. She wrote the songs and played many of the instruments heard on them and is the vocalist. She and her wife built a recording studio in their home as well.
Schwartz has also taken entertainment law classes — her wife is an entertainment lawyer — to better understand that part of a musical career.
Schwartz was going to follow a career as a sideman and producer, but encouragement from Village Recorder owner and industry veteran Jeff Greenberg changed her path.
“You are Here” took Schwartz two years to write and record enough songs to make up an album. Controlling the process each step of the way meant “I had one foot on the business side and one foot on the creative side,” she said.
In an industry that constantly seeks shorthand phrases to describe artists, Schwartz said the simple answer to the question of what kind of music she writes is alternative rock.
“Alternative rock has changed since the 1990s,” she said. “You maybe heard it on college radio. Now it’s used as a catch phrase to describe anything that is not nearly pop.”
She added that Billboard magazine’s list of top 100 selling recordings frequently features alternative rock.
“You Are Here” has a full lush sound that might surprise a listener expecting more severe or limited compositions and Schwartz has a powerful but lilting voice.
She said she wants her music to be “atmospheric” and is happy to hear a listener note some of the various influences and inspirations she has incorporated.
“I try to write from a visual place,” Schwartz said.
“Not many artists are singing about the experience of being a woman, or queer, or bullied, or voted against by your neighbors, so we end up with very limited points of view in modern music. When I sat down to write this record, I wasn’t interested in only talking about desire or lost love in my songs,” she added.
Schwartz has produced two videos so far to help publicize her release. One shows what the recording process was like (http://youtu.be/VSYLB4TyI_0) while the other is the music video for the song “The Last Time” (http://youtu.be/1wHakHcz4cQ).
She explained that a successful video channel on YouTube is an essential part of the potential revenue flow for a musician today. She said that with the closing of brick and mortar stores that used to sell CDs, more and more younger people are using YouTube as a way to discover and listen to new music.
“Today it’s not just enough to have a great song,” Schwartz said.
She is concerned because of the access through the Internet to various forms of entertainment there is an “environment of entitlement for the consumer” who have grown used to getting video, blogs, images and music for free.
Although she uses Facebook and Twitter as well as YouTube, she explained musicians still “have to have a human element.” She talks with people about where they get music and she fears there is “an over-saturation of media.”
“The live show is still very important to people,” Schwartz said. She had begun rehearsing a new band in order to perform the songs from her new album live.
Her composition of a film score came about because of social media. Schwartz learned about the project through Facebook. Sonali Gulati, the director of the film, was looking for a composer and Schwartz responded.
Gulati, who lives in Virginia, sent Schwartz a rough cut of the film and some suggestions about what kind of music she wanted in key scenes.
Schwartz finished the score in two weeks.
“I liked it [the experience] because it was definitely challenging because we couldn’t sit in the same room.”
“I’m not really sure if she knew what she wanted,” Schwartz continued. “She wanted colorings instead of statements. It was different because I was working with someone who was not a musician. We didn’t speak the same language. There are barriers between different kinds of art.”
Schwartz described herself as a “full time musician” and added with a laugh that means she is “broke.”
“You have to hustle,” she said.
Interview with Jen Schwartz of Me Of A Kind: Singer, Musician, Black Jacket Junkie
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We first met Jen Schwartz during one of her visits to Boston but even before that we knew the name d...We first met Jen Schwartz during one of her visits to Boston but even before that we knew the name due to her time spent with Tribe 8, an all female punk rock band that joined forces in good ol’ San Francisco. Just having released a brand new album titled “You Are Here”, Jen sat down and talked to us about her insane ability to play multiple instruments, her journey from Tribe 8 to Me Of A Kind and her insatiable love for black jackets. Check out the interview below and be sure to grab her new album.
Diffuse 5: Let’s start with a little background. How many instruments do you play and how the hell did you learn to play all of them?
Jen Schwartz: Ha, ha, ha… I sing and play drums, guitar, bass and piano/keyboards. Drums and voice are the only two I’ve actually studied. I started playing drums when I was 11 years-old and was enrolled in school music programs and took private lessons with a great big band drummer, Greg Caputo, who was a student of legendary drummer Joe Morello. In 2009, I started taking voice lessons from Peisha McPhee, who is now a vocal coach on American Idol and also happens to be Katharine McPhee’s mom. I took about two or three bass lessons when I lived in New York City, but didn’t stick to it. I’m self-taught on guitar and piano and pretty much play everything by ear, most of the time not knowing what key I’m playing in or what chords I’m playing. I can decipher those elements later if I need to (I did study some basic music theory), but when I’m writing, I really just let the notes find their way to whatever instrument I happen to have in my hands at the time. I write more instinctively, although some music professionals would probably say I’m writing blind. ;)
D5: You were a part of the epic lesbian punk band Tribe 8 back in the day. What was that experience like and how did it help get you to where you are now?
JS: I played drums with Tribe 8 from 2000 to about 2005 or so. I was managing a women’s bicycle store in San Francisco in 2000 when Lynn Breedlove called the shop to talk to a mechanic of mine who also worked for Lynn’s messenger company. Lynn heard that I was a drummer and asked if I would audition for Tribe 8. I decided to see what it was all about, so went to this ‘audition’, which turned out to be Lynn sitting on a stool in front of a drum kit saying, “Play something for me.” I did alright because the next week I was in the band, preparing for a show with The Butchies and Bitch and Animal. It was pretty much full-speed ahead from then on.
Playing with Tribe 8 was a fantastic experience and I am very grateful for the time I spent playing, touring and recording with them. I joined at a particularly difficult time in my personal life and Lynn, Leslie and Silas really welcomed me into the Tribe 8 family. Tribe 8 as a functioning band was a bit a of train wreck in a very punk rock way and I came from a history of fairly rigid practice schedules and musical discipline. I really had to learn to let go of a lot of that rigidity and just embrace the experience of five unique individuals bashing it out in a room together. They actually used to call me Jen ‘The Professional’ Schwartz. LOL!
Lynn, Leslie and Silas are such passionate, intelligent artists. The more I played with them and learned the songs inside and out, the more I appreciated the artistry and compassion that went into every aspect of the music. Tribe 8 were true pioneers and there’s no other band like Tribe 8 out there. I never take for granted being a part of that legacy. My company, Rampage Productions, manages the Tribe 8 catalog, so I do keep up with the business side of things and all of us are still very good friends. The band isn’t active at the moment, but if the right situation were to present itself, I know the band, in some form or another, would consider starting up again.
D5: What are your self-defined greatest accomplishments?
JS: Wow, that’s a tough question. I feel like I have so much left to do in this life, like I’m really just beginning to get to the place where I want to be musically. As a woman in this society, I really feel like just surviving without going completely insane or getting ‘stuck’ is a pretty big accomplishment. From the day we’re born, the world is pretty much out to get us and put us down, so I’m pretty happy I’ve managed to do many of the things I’ve wanted to do. I come from a long line of strong women who fought not only to survive, but to get good educations, raise families (sometimes on their own), and generally make life better for their daughters. I think honoring those women by striving to be visible as an artist and not accept, or rather outwardly reject a role assigned to me by a sexist, misogynist society is a pretty great accomplishment.
D5: Favorite piece of clothing to wear during a show? I’d bet money it’s a black jacket of some sort.
JS: You know me better than I thought. ;) My newest favorite piece of clothing is from the video shoot for “The Last Time.” We bought this gorgeous black designer jacket with satin lapels and tails with the idea that we’d return it after the shoot, but I totally fell in love with it and couldn’t bring myself to send it back to the black hole of retail returns. I’m not sure it’s all that practical for playing the drums, but I’m definitely going to try to work it into the set somehow. It’s the jacket I’m wearing on the cover for the single “The Last Time”. It’s pretty butch and I can’t imagine your average woman wearing it, although it is from the women’s collection. It’s truly exquisite!
D5: Well I think it’s awesome so I’m glad to hear that you didn’t send it back to a retail black hole.
D5: What was the most memorable show you’ve performed at?
JS: This would have to be our two nights opening for Siouxsie and the Banshees on their last-ever tour. They only played seven shows in the U.S. and Tribe 8 got to open for two of them (both in San Francisco). Siouxsie has been so important to me, both musically and as a strong woman role model, so being able to share the stage with a band that not only has legendary status, but was also my biggest influence was incredible. At one point during our show at The Warfield, I looked over to the wings of the stage to see Budgie (The Banshees’ drummer) watching me and smiling. That was one of those rare moments that musicians always hope for in their careers, but seldom happen. To get the support and ‘stamp of approval’ from one’s heroes is one of the best feelings in the world.
D5: Who are your mentors in both music and in life?
JS: When I was developing as a young artist, my drum teacher, Greg Caputo, was a wonderful mentor. There were plenty of people around me at the time who did not want to help a young woman succeed as a drummer. I even had teachers attempt to sabotage my music career, but Greg never gave up on me and always supported me. He is an incredible drummer and he helped me develop technique, challenged me, and really allowed me to develop my own style based on a mixture of the traditional aspects of what he taught me and the alternative rock music I was listening to at the time.
I am also very lucky to have Jeff Greenberg, who owns The Village, a very famous recording studio here in L.A., as a friend and mentor. While I was making the Me Of A Kind album, I took demos of songs to Jeff and he listened to them with me in Studio A and gave me invaluable feedback that really helped shape what I was doing. He pushed me to be better and better and I am so grateful that he took the time to listen and offer his expertise. He’s been in the business a long time and has worked with countless legends in rock music. I actually mixed the album at The Village, thanks to Jeff, and it was such an honor to be there. The final mixes were done in the same room where Lady Gaga made The Fame.
I also really developed as an artist as a result of working with Peisha McPhee. When I started working with her, I didn’t think I had much of a vocal range. She really helped me find my voice and showed me how to use it. She was with me every step of the way as I was making my album and was so supportive and wonderful. She’s an incredibly positive person in a business that is not known for it’s kind, gentle nature. Like I did with Jeff, I brought Peisha demo versions of songs I was working on and she offered feedback and guided me through vocal parts, always encouraging me to find my true voice. Peisha’s become a great friend and I admire her enthusiasm and dedication so much. Music is everything to her and she is so very generous with her students.
D5: Tell us about your new album. Why do you love it and why should we love it?
JS: The new album, You Are Here, was written and recorded over the course of about two years. I really feel like this is the album that I’ve always wanted to make and I am very proud of it. For the first time in my life, I had my own studio, so I could leave the drums set up all the time and play them as loudly as I wanted to. I had no real deadline to finish the album, so I had plenty of time to craft each song, experiment with sounds and re-write things if they weren’t just right. I had also started working with Peisha McPhee at the time, so my voice was stronger than it had ever been, which allowed me to write vocal melodies that I never would have been able to previously.
The songs are all somewhat different, which I’m happy about. I get really bored when albums have a specific formula or sound very similar the whole way through. You Are Here has everything from dark, atmospheric, almost symphonic songs on it, to a punk/ska-influenced track, to ‘anthemic’ songs of triumph, to a song about a colonial woman who escapes her abusive home life on a horse in the middle of the night. A good friend described the album as ‘a musical journey’ and I’m really happy with that description. I’m very interested in engaging listeners, not simply entertaining them.
In terms of other people loving You Are Here, that all comes down to personal taste. BUT, I can tell you that it’s very important for those of us in the community to support each other and to give each others work a chance at the very least. Our community is starving for artists who represent the way we see ourselves, so I’m hoping I can reach people on that level, both inside and outside of the community. I’m dyke who’s been out since I was 16. I play instruments that men are mostly seen playing and I’m not afraid to speak/sing about the experiences of what it’s like to be a woman, queer, voted against by our neighbors, or bullied. I also release all of my music on my own record label, which means I am basically a musical entrepreneur.
D5: How many instruments did you play in the album?
JS: All of them except the violin, which my cousin, Patrick Doane, played.
D5: Where can we get it?
JS: The album is available digitally on iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, eMusic, Amazon and most digital outlets online. The physical CD is available through CD Baby’s online store. All links can be found on the Me Of A Kind website.
You can also listen/stream full tracks on Reverb Nation. We’ll be selling CDs and download cards at live shows too.
D5: Favorite venue in Boston?
JS: My favorite venue in Boston is The Orpheum. I love the old theaters and dream of playing there someday. Anything with red velvet curtains and balconies does it for me. Incidentally, I saw Siouxsie and the Banshees at The Orpheum for the first time in 1988. I wept when they opened their set with “The Last Beat Of My Heart”. I was very young and had never been so moved by a performance in my short little life.
Check out more about Jen and her amazing career by visiting her Facebook page, following her on Twitter and listening to her new album.
1. Stand In The Sun
2. I'm Not Going Home
4. The Rain
5. This Mess We're In
6. Play With Fire
7. The Last Time
8. You Are Here
There are no upcoming dates at this time.