JOANIE LOVES ROCK ’N’ ROLL
Here’s something different: a rock band that is more concerned with the roll than the rock. Out of the ashes of the Collisions, Bo Barringer (guitar and vocals) scrapes together a pop band with soaring melodies and a dual guitar attack that is also less concerned with the attack. Rounding out the line-up is Jen Grygiel (guitar and vocals) and Jason Marchionna (drums). Don’t worry kids, they have a bass player; he or she is just TBA. Me & Joan Collins are that rare breed mixing porn and Brit-pop with classic glam sensibilities and girl-boy vocals. I mention porn because it dominated a bit of the conversation that the boys and girl of Me & Joan Collins and I had at the cozy confines of the Independent in Union Square, Somervillle. The atmosphere lends itself to intimate conversation of porn collections—found or otherwise—and other less sex-inspired discussions. When we met up the band had unfortunately just been eliminated from the opening round of this year’s ’BCN Rumble. Despite this event, they seemed high on the direction and future of the band. They are in the midst of recording a full-length disc with Dave Westner at Woolly Mammoth and plans of touring regionally are in the offing.
Noise: For some reason I want to talk about hunting.
Bo: I would like to experience the emotional hell that it would put me through. I’ve never been so it would be something interesting,
Jason: I’d love to go hunting; that would be a pretty wild thing. Maybe bow hunting would be cooler though
Noise: Okay, never mind. Let’s move on to nicer subjects. How did the band get together?
Bo: Well, it pretty much came after my last band, the Collisions, imploded. We had a good run but we went trough a lot of line-up changes and I sort of got sick of teaching new people the old songs—plus I was playing guitar way too fucking loud in that band anyway. [laughs] Then again we still do play pretty loud. Although, we’ve kind of gotten away from that and moved into more a pop vein.
Jen: Our clothes are way louder now.
Bo: Well, that’s definitely true. I wanted to wipe the slate and start fresh. So I started doing that with a guy that I had been working with on the last couple of Collisions shows. It was just time to write new songs and we were taking it in another direction, rolling a little bit more than rocking.
Jen: I got involved when you were advertising for Brit-pop and I had spend some time in London in college and I was a huge anglophile. So I figured I needed to meet up with this boy.
Bo: We talked a bit and met up for a drink and decided that if nothing else we would each have a new drinking buddy. [laughs] I bring up the other drummer because the best rhythm section that I could put together at the time. The problem was that it involved guys that were friends but that were already in other bands. Jim Collins was our original bass player. Our current drummer is in another band with Gene Dante but we are trying to lure him away—don’t tell Gene though. [laughs] Just kidding, he’s a good guy.
Noise: How the hell did you come up with the name for this band?
Bo: I mentioned Jim Collins for another reason, because it came full circle with him. When I was sort of re-conceptualizing the band I saw a friend that I hadn’t seen in a while and it was at a loud show at the Middle East. She was talking about her new boyfriend and I thought that she said, “Joan Collins.” I was like, what? Your boyfriend is Joan Collins? She said, “Oh, yeah, me and Joan Collins.” I thought that was an awesome name for a band and it stuck.
Jen: Well, the only bad thing is that Bo was completely obsessed with Joan Collins for a while.
Noise: I have a bit of an odd Joan Collins story. My friend had an aunt that was Joan Collins’ roommate in the ’50s.
Bo: Really? That is awesome. What was she like?
Noise: Well, I guess the aunt said, “She was a total bitch.” Of course, my friend’s aunt was an alcoholic, so who knows. So Jason, we haven’t heard much from you since the hunting discussion. How did you get hooked up with these guys?
Jason: Well I was looking for something new to do. I was previously in Fluttr Effect and I was kind of in limbo taking some time off, but still wanted to do something and Jen’s roommate knew me and we just sort of got together.
Noise: There you go—now you are in the Rumble.
Jen: You mean, we Rumbled [laughs].
Noise: Ouch! I mean…
Jason: Well, we still have the wild card.
Bo: And we’re the wildest card out there. Wait a second—is this the part that we trash other bands now? [laughs]
Noise: Yes, I’d love to get some nice dirt.
Jason: Well, they can trash us, but we aren’t trashing them.
Noise: Well, besides the trashing of other bands, how did the Rumble go?
Jen: We had fun.
Bo: C’mon, we were out for blood. People loved it—the judges just didn’t seem to. Hey, you never know we could get the wild card.
Jen: I saw Liz Borden at the Middle East and she was telling me that she was in the Rumble in like 1986. It’s cool to see how much history there is with this. I think she was in the Rumble when ’Til Tuesday won the whole thing.
Noise: Now that you have done the Rumble, you have to break up you know—that’s the deal.
Bo: Yeah, we are breaking up right after this interview. Actually, we are working on a new record at Woolly Mammoth. Then with any luck we will hit the road a bit.
Noise: That sounds pretty exciting. So you must be working on some new tunes. What is your writing process like?
Bo: So far it’s been me bringing in the material and we have a backlog of new material. When we started the band I just had all of these songs and brought those to the table. Jen and I have pretty much been playing the same songs over the last year and we have that stuff down pretty well. Now that we have Rumbled we will have more time to work on new stuff. I’m sure the process will evolve now, which I’m really looking forward to.
Jason: Hey, you never know. We could get the wild card.
Bo: By repeating it multiple times we will assure ourselves of that. Plus it’s good to have the never-say-die attitude.
Noise: You mentioned that you aren’t from around here. Where did you grow up?
Jen: I grew up in upstate New York.
Bo: Yeah, me too.
Noise: Then how did you make your way to Boston?
Jen: I got a job offer and just had to get out of there.
Jason: I went to Berklee.
Noise: Oh, a Berklee guy, did you graduate?
Jason: [laughs] I actually did.
Bo: Wow, I’m impressed!
Noise: Yeah, there are a hell of a lot more people that went to Berklee then have graduated from Berklee.
Jason: Yeah, I learned a lot. But I’m not going to say anything else about it.
Bo: He got really jaded there too.
Noise: What did you guys grow up listening to?
Jason: A lot of hardcore and metal.
Noise: I could tell that about you.
Jen: I grew up a closeted lesbian.
Bo: So did I.
Noise: You were a closeted lesbian? I didn’t have to be, I was a full-fledged lesbian.
Jen: Weren’t we talking about how I got to Boston?
Jen: Well, I came to Boston and started a psych rock band that was fascinating.
Noise: How so?
Jen: Well, we were an all-girl band, and I dated someone in the band.
Noise: Ohhhh, no that’s never usually a good thing. How did it end up?
Bo: Well, you could do all of the band members.
Jen: Yeah, that’s true. Well, we broke up and so did the band. It was really fun though and we got to open for some great bands and learn a lot too.
Noise: You know we never got to what Bo liked listening to growing up.
Bo: Oh, yeah. Well, like a lot of people; Nirvana and the Beatles. A lot of ’60s pop and garage rock. Lot of ’70s glam gock, there’s a lot of great stuff happening today, like Spoon. They seem to stand out among all of the others today. We saw Spoon in December and it was all ages so there were all of these 17-year-old girls there. Jen and I were both like, oh yeah! In fact I think Jen was even more interested than I was.
Bo: I learned my lesson with seventeen-year-old girls a long time ago—I stay far away from them and politics.
Noise: What about sports?
Jason: I like to go running. It’s good and healthy.
Bo: If you count pornography as a sport, I know that Jen and I are both big fans.
Jason: Yeah, and you can check out the same stuff. Jen has a big collection.
Bo: Oh, I forgot about that.
Jen: It’s not a team sport though. When I moved into my place there was a big stack of porn there. I guess the guy who lived there before me was getting married so he left them. I was like, thanks.
Noise: Well, that’s when he might need it.
Bo: You’re married though—can we borrow your collection? We used to play visual stuff behind us when we first started playing. It wasn’t really porn, but it was a bit racy and it covered up the fact that we weren’t that good yet. I think I might have been on to something. Then it got all side tracked with this music bullshit. Maybe we should just get a couple of go-go dancers that look like Joan Collins; now that would be really different.