Jenny Invert
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Jenny Invert

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF

Seattle, Washington, United States | SELF
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"Ah, for a new start in Great Northwest"

For a century and a half, people have been heading to Seattle to make their fortunes.
Timber. Gold. Some software mogul who got his start in Albuquerque.
And music.
The Duke City’s Jenny Invert — that’s a band, not a person — is the latest to go northwest, striking out in March to pursue its dreams.
How’s that working out?
“I’m loving it,” Sam Miller, the band’s leader, said by phone from Caffé Vita in Seattle’s Pioneer Square as he quaffed a beer to take the edge off his overcaffeination. “The music scene seems amazing, and we’re just trying to tap into that a little bit. Right now it’s mostly just going to shows and getting to know the venues, and kind of just getting to know the area, getting oriented, getting our feet on the ground, finding jobs, finding places, which we’ve done pretty successfully so far.”
Jenny Invert, which has existed in its current form only since last November, grew out of Albuquerque favorite Grand Canyon. Miller, who plays piano and guitar, drummer Augustus “Gus” Johnson and multi-instrumentalist David Schripsema were members of that self-proclaimed “party band” that played the local scene for three years.
“We kind of started from the ground up even though we already had established something with Grand Canyon because the sound was so different,” Miller said. “Grand Canyon was a little more raucous, rowdy … I’d like to think that Jenny Invert has some of that intensity and energy, but this was more kind of thrashing around and like ruckus, crazy, party time, and that’s what brought a lot of people.
“A lot of the people who were into it weren’t really receiving Jenny Invert because it was so different. So we started anew with kind of a different fan base and stuff. But a lot of the same people have come around, and our friends have appreciated both projects. We basically re-began. It actually moved pretty quickly, if you consider how short of a career Jenny Invert has had so far.”
Miller, who was born in Eugene, Ore., but grew up here and graduated from Eldorado High School in 2004 — and later from UNM with a degree in philosophy and pre-law, with a minor in fine art — has had a diverse career. He rode on the BMX bike circuit for a while, then switched to mountain bikes, then fixed-gear bikes. He moved to Vancouver, B.C., for a year, where he played in a band called Wintermitts and spent a lot of time learning to play piano.
“I’ve kind of been all over the place in a metaphorical sense, I guess, having different passions and hobbies throughout my life, which have kind of defined me and then I move on to other things,” Miller said. “Music is right now the one that is all-encompassing. I was really into bikes for a long time; I was a BMX rider. I do music now. When I go on tour and meet people and hang out new place and make friends and stories and stuff, I used to do that with bikes. … But I’ve always done music; it’s just been on a back burner up until fairly recently.”
Miller and Johnson, who were local guitar hero Ryan McGarvey’s rhythm section for a while and have played together for years, are the core of Jenny Invert; Schripsema and guitarist Sean Alkire are key players. The latter two are in Albuquerque at the moment while Alkire finishes his art degree at UNM, and both are expected to head to Seattle by June or so. Bassist Aliza Gerstein, who started playing in Jenny Invert only recently, is deciding whether to relocate.
For all the time Miller spent in New Mexico, he has strong ties to the Northwest that have been pulling at him for a while.
“My family is from the Northwest, and this is a return in a sense. … I don’t want to offend Albuquerque or Albuquerqueans, because I really identify with Albuquerque as my hometown. But I feel in a sense more at home here even than I do down there because I have so much family … up in this area, in Seattle and in Oregon. I lived up in Vancouver for a year after finishing college so I made some friends up there and it’s cool to be close to them, and being a day trip away is nice.”
Miller said that although he’ll always love his adopted hometown, he knew it was time to move on.
“Everywhere you go, every night, you know everyone,” he said. “Everyone knows everyone, which is really cool. But it’s kind of hard to break out of the little box that you’ve created for yourself. You start to give them what they want or what they expect from you, so you are defined by your friends. It’s not a bad thing; reinventing yourself and creating something new — being in a new city is really good for that.
“We’re re-establishing ourselves altogether, but we’re keeping the name Jenny Invert, and at this point we’re still selling that CD at shows and promoting that sound. But we’re already working on a new sound and a new album.” (The debut CD is also available via download at http://jennyinvert.bandcamp.com.)
Miller and Johnson played their first formal Seattle gig Tuesday night at the High Dive, a beer ’n’ BBQ joint in the city’s Fremont neighborhood. The whole band is back in Albuquerque briefly for a private event and will play a festival show tonight at Launchpad.
Then it’s back to the Emerald City and the next phase of the band’s career. Miller said the band plans to follow the model of Calexico, the Tucson-based loose musical collective based primarily on a core of a couple guys who have regular and irregular players contribute to projects as is appropriate.
“I’ve seen them perform from guitar, vocals, just as a duo, and I’ve also seen them play with a bunch of people, and the sound changes very dramatically but it’s still Calexico, and that’s kind of what we’re trying to achieve,” he said. “We could play with 10 people or two people and it’s still Jenny Invert.”
Seattle and its wide-open, welcoming music scene should be just the right environment for Jenny Invert in whatever configuration it chooses. Miller says the band is being methodical and realistic as it makes plans.
“Looking at it in the long term, I’d say in the next year it’s really getting established and playing as much as we can,” he said. “We want to get to the point where we shouldn’t play too much here. Really that’s where we want to be. We want to be at the point where we have some draw, we’ve established ourselves. We want to tour a lot, and really in the Northwest it seems there are some really good places to play. So we’re planning on doing some touring in the near future, but really just playing it by ear and letting things happen.
“We’re really into what we’re doing and passionate about it, and it’s going to happen regardless of success. We’re going to work our jobs and survive and we’re also going to make music and record and stuff. We’re hoping to grow and have an audience.”
Miller is an unassuming guy who, for all his artistic sensibilities, is well grounded. He knows what he and his mates are up against in a highly competitive city like Seattle, but Jenny Invert is just going to do its thing and let the musical universe sort it all out.
“I have confidence sometimes, and other times I feel like there’s no way, there’s too many bands, there’s an unreal amount of competition,” Miller said. “It’s so crazy trying to be that band that stands out. Being up here really makes you realize that, how many bands there are out there, how many good bands. My roommate plays in three bands, and I’ve seen them all, and they’re all amazing. And these are just three bands of many, many bands in Seattle.
“Hopefully we can get on the map, and hopefully this will bring out the best in us.”
Jenny Invert ?With Ya Ya Boom, Sad Baby Wolf, Leeches of Lore, Story Ark and A Very Special Lie?WHEN: 8 tonight. Doors open at 7?WHERE: Launchpad, 618 W. Central?HOW MUCH: $5. Tickets at the door (21 and over show) - Albuquerque Journal


"New Band Smell: Jenny Invert"

New Band Smell : Jenny Invert
Jenny Invert is a band in transition, rolling from dry Albuquerque to drainy Seattle. It’s difficult to listen to this band and not be impressed by their ability to thoroughly chew up influences, and I mean a lot of influences, ranging from Vaudevillian to post-rock. Luckily, our heroes manage to tame that seeming sonic morass, and come out smelling fresh on the other end with a sound that’s pleasing without giving up to much to the pervading tastes of the day.

The band’s self-titled debut is currently available over here, and while much of their material would be sure to appeal to fans of Ra Ra Riot or Arcade Fire, I’m going to go a little darker and share their Dark Dark Dark/Nick Cavish deep track, The Summer’s A Curse.

- My Old Kentucky Blog


"Captain America’s top five shows of 2010 at five different venues"

Mecca Records & Books, Jan. 16—This last-minute set was Rachel Lujan’s second-to-last Pan!c gig before moving to Denver. Because of the impromptu excitement, it wasn’t all triste like her final appearance two weeks later but pure PBR-fueled fun.

The Kosmos, June 5—At the Bizarre Bazaar crafts show, the mercury was at 100 degrees, and The Filth Mongers and The Scrams rocked the loading dock with high-temperature trash ’n’ roll just before sunset.

Burt’s Tiki Lounge, Aug. 27—A gloriously sweaty crowd packed the house and danced butt to butt for the finest in electro-beats from The Gatherers. The intrepid Shoulder Voices took us to the edge of psychedelic space (outer and inner) via stuffed animal sacrificial rites.

Launchpad, Oct. 15—Except for the geriatrics in the crowd, not much seemed changed when the mighty Elephant played its first gig of engaging pop/sludge rock in more than a decade.

Voodoo Scooters, Nov. 8—Jenny Invert (formerly Grand Canyon) unveiled its new sweeping operatic pop sound. Touring bands The Intelligence and Shannon and the Clams headlined, sort of a garage rock cabaret with a backdrop of sleek 250cc motorbikes. - The Weekly Alibi


"Music To Your Ears: Upside-Down Airplane"

Regrettably, I discovered the marvelous Burque band Jenny Invert much later than many of its avid fans. I was missing out. The five-piece makes music that is a mix of rock ‘n’ roll and sweet indie, with a twist of jazz and some nods to vaudeville. Fronting the group are Sam Miller (alternating between guitar and melodious piano playing) and David "Poncho" Schripsema (playing trumpet with one hand and keyboards with another). The trumpet is a frickin’ cool instrument, and if you don’t agree, you’re still thinking about middle school band. Actually, marching band is where Miller and Schripsema met. “Poncho's mom was my music teacher in elementary school,” Miller says by e-mail. That pretty much constitutes their “formal” musical training. Aliza Gerstein on bass and violin, Sean Alkire on bass and guitar, and Gus Johnson on drums round out the band. It’s joyful to watch Jenny Invert’s members’ interplay—they carry themselves with refined musicianship but don’t take things overly seriously.

Jenny Invert released a self-titled album at the Albuquerque Press Club on Wednesday, March 16. The recording is crystal clear, poetic and full of little surprises—it’s the kind of album you want to sit and actually listen to, not just have on in the background. Miller says each member contributes a piece of him or herself to the music. “I present the band with songs and suggested arrangements, which they then have their own take on. It's important to allow everyone's playing style and personality to come through in the songs.”

Wednesday’s show was one of the last chances to see Jenny Invert for some time. The band is relocating to Seattle, which is too bad for me, and the Albuquerque music scene. However, if these guys keep doing what they’re doing, this is not the last we’ll hear about Jenny Invert. The band plays one last time on Friday, March 18, at the Low Spirits (2823 Second Street NW) Acoustic Formal, which doubles as the Jenny Invert Farewell Party. The 21-and-over show begins at 9 p.m.—$5 gets you in. - The Weekly Alibi


"Jenny Invert plays its farewell show"

Local band Jenny Invert, the offspring of country-punk stalwarts Grand Canyon, is bidding adios to Albuquerque with a show tonight at Low Spirits Bar & Stage, 2823 Second NW.
The band is moving to Seattle next week. "We love Albuquerque, but it's safe to say that we're all ready for some new experiences to inspire the creative process," frontman Sam Miller said.
Tonight's show will feature a number of local performers and will mark the release of Jenny Invert's first album. Doors open at 8, and tickets are $5.

- Albuquerque Journal


"From cowpunk to a hint of the Canadien français"

Albuquerque outfit Grand Canyon doesn't care much about traditional standards. Its music reflects this. Not easily defined as any one genre, the band's musical palette has swatches of folk, pop and a good brush of French-Canadian influence.

"We used to be more of a country-punk band," said Sam Miller, the pianist, guitarist, bassist and lead vocalist.

Initially working its sound on artists like Hank Williams, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash and punk acts such as the Clash, Grand Canyon grew its name around town by booking house party and local bar gigs. It eventually cultivated a reputation as one of the hardest-working party bands around, playing raucous shows for college students and known for putting on one heck of a show. The band formed in 2007.

But Miller, who was done with his studies at the University of New Mexico, decided he was up for a new adventure. Not one to stand still, the band was put on hold, and he moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, where he stayed for a year, living in the attic of the house that his brother and three college students rented. There he honed his songwriting craft, picked up the piano and started performing with the band Wintermitts.

"I was originally planning to go up for a month or two, but I joined a band and went on tour across Canada," Miller said.

Immersing himself in the culture and music around him, the songwriter discovered he was quite fond of the French influences of the accordion and glockenspiel, the creative drumbeats and the subtle electric guitar notes found in traditional French-Canadian music.

"The electric guitar isn't so front and center like it is here, where it's loud and overpowering. It's rather used in the mix, so it was a different angle for me."

When Miller returned to New Mexico in 2009, he had a fresh arsenal of compositions, and a new direction instead of the rockabilly country and punk that had once defined Grand Canyon.

"The band that I was in played French gigs with other French musicians, hence being exposed that way ultimately influenced me. I ended up writing a bunch of songs during my stay that was drastically different than before I had left Albuquerque."
- Albuquerque Journal


"Grand Canyon- The Hits"

Grand Canyon is a rootsy country punk collective that naturally hails from Albuquerque, NM. Their 29-song album The Hits is currently being offered for free as a digital download on their Bandcamp site (donations to the band gladly accepted), and I’m finding that it is one of those albums that I just can’t help but like. Grand Canyon cites a range of influences (Johnny Cash, The Clash, Pixies, Nirvana, The Shins) and treads across genres, settling on a unique alt-country that is unabashedly unaffected, infusing their sense of humor along with seriousness and serious drunkenness. The Hits is a surefire good time. - Record Dept.


"Grand Canyon: Cross Border Carousing"

Early last year I brought you the bi-lingual lo-fi folk stylings of Vancouver’s Wintermitts, who’s beautifully packaged album Heirloom came with a packet of heirloom tomatoes seeds to ensure your enjoyment of the music keeps growing long after first listening.
Well, it seems that one member of the band, Sam Miller, is certainly letting his musical roots spread right across the border and deep into the heart of Albuquerque, New Mexico, where he’s part of a collective going under the name Grand Canyon. The band’s sound can best be described as the point at which punk and country meet in a strange but organic confluence. Their 29-song album The Hits is currently being offered for free on their Bandcamp site (or pay what you will for it), and I’m finding it to be one of those albums that I just can’t help but liking. Grand Canyon don’t take themselves too seriously, but that’s part of the charm. The country vibe borders on satire at times, but they manage to keep the humour in check enough to save this from becoming a comedy record.
If you find yourself disappointed with some of the new releases hitting shelves today, then Grand Canyon may be just the antidote you need for your record buying blues. - Quick Before It Melts


Discography

As Grand Canyon:
Accordion Love Triangle (2008)
The Hits (2010)
Atoms and the Void (2010)

As Jenny Invert:
Jenny Invert (2011)

Photos

Bio

Jenny Invert is the alt-pop chimera of Sam Miller, August Johnson, Sean Alkire, and David Schripsema. Originally formed as Grand Canyon in 2007, the thrashing country-punk outfit, blended the hollow ache, biting angst, and raucous energy of both genres into thunderous live shows for the insomniacs of the Albuquerque underground music scene.

In December 2008, the band temporarily disbanded when lead singer and principle songwriter Sam Miller moved to Vancouver, Canada. While there, he turned his focus to piano and song writing, and began performing with the nautical-pop band, Wintermitts. When Sam returned to Albuquerque in 2009 he had a new arsenal of songs, now more influenced by folk and pop and the Canadian music scene than by the country and punk that had once defined Grand Canyon. Jenny Invert was born from the marriage of these two identities.

After experimenting with different lineups and instrumentation, Jenny Invert decided on a two-keyboard (piano and synth) attack, and wrote new songs to accommodate the change in sound, substituting Grand Canyon’s howling thunder with buoyant melody and minimalism.

Jenny Invert’s self titled debut album was self-released in March 2011

"trippy..." - Mike Watt

Jenny Invert has had the privilage to perform with many national acts including: Mike Watt, A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Girl Talk, Har Mar Superstar, Flobots, Spindrift, Miniature Tigers, Ravenna Woods, Parson Redheads, Shannon and the Clams, The Intelligence, and more.