The women of the Bay Area music scene are breaking rules and defying expectations. Lass Out Loud is a new column exploring their lives and work.
Julie Ann Baenziger, aka Sea of Bees, has one of the most compelling and unique voices I've heard in years. Her indie folk-pop evokes a response from more than just one of the five senses. It's warm, it's soft, it's palpable. It's music that not only touches you, but music you can touch. Sea of Bees opens for Wye Oak this Friday at the Independent as part of Noise Pop.
Jules played most of the instruments on Sea of Bees' debut Songs for the Ravens, which was named in NPR's All Songs Considered Top Ten Albums of 2010 list. She spent a good portion of 2010 and 2011 on tour in the U.S. and Europe, a far cry from where she started just a few years ago. Brought up in a strict religious household, Baenziger was herself only recently out of the closet when her album came out. Pegged early on by LGBTQ publications as a "queer" musician, Baenziger isn't as quick to label herself.
"We're all a bit queer, aren't we? It's just a matter of admitting it to ourselves," she laughs. "I identify as a person who falls in love. Like a little boy falls in love with a girl, or a little girl falls in love with a boy, or a little girl who falls in love with a little girl, or a little boy who falls in love with a little boy, I just fall in love. And it is what it is. I'm not so bright when it comes to knowing all these names. Maybe if somebody examined me and they're like, 'Oh! You're queer, lesbian, transgender, that's what you are.' I don't identify as anything except a person who believes in the right to be in love."
In her lyrics and delivery, Jules marries an air of innocence with a seasoned self-awareness, a childlike naiveté with an honesty beyond her years. The result is emotionally lucid music that addresses the complex notion of love by exploring the simple notion of desire, and the challenge of finding someone to love by finding out how to love yourself.
"I love being a woman, I do," Jules explains. "I identify as a woman. I was born as a woman, but I have these genes inside me that are probably a man's. But I'm accepting that. I love who I am and I'm proud of who I am."
I called Jules to chat about her experience filming three different types of music videos over the last two years: a full-fledged narrative production, a low-budget film made with friends, and her most recent Blogothèque takeaway show.
Shot in Brooklyn on a hot summer day, Jules and the crew happened upon a blocked-off street in Fort Greene. Like most Blogothèque takeaway shows, it feels intimate, effortless, and comfortable. So much so that even a wild hawk showed up.
"It was really natural," Jules says. "I wanted them to capture who I was and my friends. Derrick [Belcham, the director] caught all the beauty around New York, the rawness of nature, and how people are not afraid to get involved in something. It was really refreshing because it wasn't trying at all. It wasn't exhausting, it was just hanging out and being caught on camera. Derek and Sarah were easy to know. It was a real treat."
For Jules, the Blogothèque experience stands in contrast to filming narrative music videos with more production. Also shot in New York the previous year, "Skinnybone" took intense commitment, production, and planning.
"That was different," Jules says. "You were immersed with 17 other people around you. It was really intense because everybody's art was involved, like the makeup artist and the set designer, and the director telling people what to do. It's their art being involved and all of a sudden my music is being involved, too. It was really kind of stressful. You're not there to meet new people or be natural."