KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: Crazy for Jane…Tragically UnHeard Of

Em Brownlowe

Tragically Un-Heard Of:
Crazy For Jane

The only band pairing that is more disgustingly sweet than a hetero married couple is the brother and sister duo. Such a bond is acceptable only if the sibling duo makes interesting music. Similar to the Fiery Furnaces, the German based Crazy For Jane, push the boundaries of wordy pop music. Their music is always enchanting as they boldly make atypical pop structures work for those beholding short attention spans. Stringing together narrative stories atop of acoustic arrangements intertwined with a bit of jazz, classical and anti-folk, Crazy For Jane is a band for those who are desperately romantic at heart. Their stories are tales of the lovesick, playful romantic encounters, tongue twisted riddles and imaginative colorful imagery found in everyday life. They have released two albums, Desperate Serenade (2006) and Watermelon Cloud (2007) and have frequently toured the USA and Europe. As they prepare for an August tour of their homeland, Germany, Brother Phillipp Conrad and sister Josepha Conrad were kind enough to answer some questions for Tragically Unheard Of.

Listen: “Do You Have a Jane?”

What is the story behind your band name, Crazy for Jane?.

Phillipp: Josepha came up with the awesome band name, Crazy Jane Meets the Family… I said, that’s too long, how about Crazy for Jane. Josepha said, OK, that’s catchy!

Josepha: Philipp and I are both love Yeats and he has this character called Crazy Jane. So it started with Crazy Jane, but both of us soon realized that “when you start looking for Jane, she appears everywhere.”

Was there music in your family while growing up?

Phillipp: Our dad always played songs for us on his guitar. Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, never-ending Blues with improvised lyrics. This was our typically after-breakfast Sunday ritual. Josepha and I didn’t sing together much growing up, but we were both members of the same advanced choral ensemble (although years apart), so around Christmas, we’d always sing two-part harmonies to songs we learned.

When did you decide you would play music together as brother and sister?

Josepha: Crazy for Jane started when Phil asked me to play a show with him opening for Tony Decker from Great Lake Swimmers. We had never thought of ourselves as musicians or that we would form a band together. We had both written a few songs and when we played them on that first show of ours it felt really good even though we were shitting in our pants.

Is it easy, difficult or gray working together as siblings?

Josepha: Being siblings and having a project together, sharing a muse, that is Jane, is really an awesome thing. It is going on an adventure with my favorite person in the world. I know Philipp since the day he was born and he is amazing.

Sometimes I feel like we share one brain, or that we can tap into a common brain. Of course we also want to kill each other sometimes, but more than anything we are committed to each other.

Even tough fights have not rocked our Crazy for Jane boat. Right now Philipp is living in Vienna finishing his B.A. and I am sure if we weren’t siblings that would be the end of Crazy for Jane. But because we are tied in so many ways, it is not hard to imagine Crazy for Jane beyond this time.

Your songs are extremely complex stories that deal with the minute aspects of everyday life, fantasies and love. Do you collaborate on lyrics?

Phillipp: Josepha writes almost all the lyrics. Sometimes I’ll suggest a better word, or something…

Josepha: Even though I wrote most of the Crazy for Jane songs, they become totally transformed when Philipp absorbs them and takes them through his world of guitar playing and harmonies. I have tried to play some of these songs without Philipp and they simply don’t work without him.

Where do you write your lyrics? In your head? On paper?

Josepha: I do write lyrics on paper. Sometimes little frazes will come to me on a walk or while hanging out, but I never shape this stuff in my head. I usually get out pen and paper or the computer. I love writing on the computer. The clack clack clack always makes me feel very productive.

Are your words works of fiction or brush with reality? Has anyone ever thought a song was about them?

Josepha: Philipp often thinks songs are about him and there have also been friends that have thought certain songs are about them. But that probably has to do with that often songs are about particular people or particular events. I did write this song called “This song is about you” where I mixed many little details about different people I know to create a broad feeling of paranoia and sense that this song is in fact about you, I mean about them.

Do you have any songs you are particularly proud of? Why?

Josepha: Songs that I am particularly proud of are: The Circus and Memory: A Portrait. They are also songs that I always feel very transported by when we perform them.

Phillipp: I’m particularly proud of Everything Strange. I wrote all the music for that. Also The Ship. The song Desperate Serenade is also all mine (including lyrics)…. At the end of the day, we both shape the songs

Listen: “Meow, She’s a Black Cat”

Your music is quite eclectic in range, mood and instrumentation. Do you hire studio musicians to play the additional parts or are they friends?

Phillipp: Everybody who worked on the recordings are friends. The only people we hired were the studio/technicians. We do our best to pay our friends what we can, but we work with people with whom we have a connection.

Who are some of your musical inspirations? Any “Tragically UnHeard Of” favorites you have met in your travels?

Josepha: Tomi Simatupang and Ben Montgomery are Philipp and my big musical inspirations and we have been extremely lucky to play shows with these two amazing men and to record with them and to share a friendship with them. I am not sure if they are “tragically unheard of” but they are definitely musicians/songwriters to pay attention to because they are awesome. “Watermelon Cloud” was also recorded with them and with some very old friends from Chicago whom we grew up with.

Any plans to take additional members on tour or do you prefer to work closely as a duo?

Josepha: In a perfect Crazy for Jane world where the laws of geography do not apply, we would all be on stage together serenading you and Jane. Philipp and I also have an older sister, Anja, who is a wonderful musician and singer and we would also love to have her and all her lovely kids with us. Our dad also sings on both albums and whenever we can we drag him on stage. So in many ways we are not really a duo. We are simply the core.

Josepha, I have heard you say that you would prefer to be someone’s secret rather than have your music be famous. What makes you take this angle?

Josepha: A secret has a certain energy. Something that gets passed between friends, something that travels strange ways. Like the game telephone. Of course we want to reach people and we want to be out there sharing our music, but fame is something that can be a lot of hype and can take the energy out of your hands and into a strange consumer obstacle course. We have been lucky that we have been able to travel a lot and play a lot of shows and record and we have been able to make up our own rules as we go and hang out with friends. Philipp likes the idea of taking helicopters and I do hope that one day we get to be on a helicopter ride together. It would just be so fun to watch his face.

How would you both describe success as a band? As individuals?

Phillipp: We find the band a great success. People who come to our shows thank us for our work. People who listen to our songs get inspired. People have fun when they see our energy on stage. They get lost in the words, and take hold of the melodies. I wish we could play more.

Josepha: I never thought I would ever be in a band, make music, or even play an instrument, it seemed too far away to even have fantasies about, so when I think about success I feel like in many ways I am already way beyond anything that I would have dared to imagine for myself. I do hope Philipp and I keep being able to tour together and write songs together, that would be amazing.

You have toured all over Europe and America. What are your favorite countries/regions to play?

Phillipp: The Czech Republic was great fun. The people were very thankful for our presence, even if they didn’t understand the lyrics.

Josepha: England would be great because they speak English and it does feel really good when the audience actually understands all the words we sing. I particularly loved touring the States with Philipp even though these were our hardest tours also. Talk about sibling craziness. Some of those drives were very long and we didn’t always have cozy places to stay and often we would get very grumpy. But there were some shows that I will never forget like playing at High Energy Constructs in L.A., the Dearborn House in Seattle, or at a pizza place called The Rimrock Patio in Torrey Utah.

Where are some places you would like to travel to play music that you haven’t been to yet?.

Phillipp: We would love to travel to Japan, England, more of France, anywhere really….

Josepha: I would love to go the Japan with Philipp. We have always talked about how much fun that would be. We love everything Japanese.

Any plans for a new record? What’s next for Crazy for Jane?

Josepha: Our next goal is to work on our new album “Crazy Jane meets the Family”. We are playing some shows together this June and July and going on a mini tour in Germany in August and hopefully we will find time to work on some new songs.


1 Response to “KEEP IT ON THE BROWNLOWE: Crazy for Jane…Tragically UnHeard Of”

  1. 1 jane
    December 14, 2010 at 8:26 am

    where can I read the lyrics of” do you have a Jane?” I would be very grateful 🙂

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