30. JJAMZ, "Heartbeat" Members of Phantom Planet, Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes,…
- Posted on Sep 4th 2012 3:02PM by Eric R. Danton
The musicians, friends for most of the past decade, conceived of and formed the group (pronounced "Juh-Jamz") the same night they started writing songs for their recent debut, Suicide Pact. It all stemmed from a karaoke outing when Jason Boesel (Rilo Kiley, Bright Eyes), James Valentine (Maroon 5), Alex Greenwald (Phantom Planet), Michael Runion and Z Berg (the Like) were more than a few drinks in.
"We were dismayed by the selection of songs and clientele, and we realized we had all the makings of a band there," says Berg, whose karaoke standbys usually include "Criminal" by Fiona Apple or teaming up with Greenwald on "California Dreamin'" by the Mamas and the Papas. "I've never made such a good decision at that time of the night."
It was there, in the karaoke bar, that inspiration struck.
"I was like, 'You know what our names spell? JJAMZ!'" Berg tells Spinner from Roslyn, Wash., where she claims to be outside a general store, perched on one of those coin-operated mechanical horses for little kids. (She later e-mails a photo via her manager to prove it.)
"There was not a lot of foresight initially in the creation of this band," Berg says. "It was what it should be: Me and my best friends, making music."
The music they make is hooky indie-pop on songs packed with synthesizers, the occasional big guitar solo and Berg's breathy, just-woke-up voice, which shares space with Greenwald's vocals on the duet "LAX" and soars through the super-catchy chorus on the title track. The band's first single, "Heartbeat," drew praise from candy-pop megastar Katy Perry, who said on Twitter that it was her favorite song of the summer.
Not bad, for a group that started out as a side project for musicians busy with other bands. Then suddenly they weren't so busy, apart from Valentine. (Guitarist Sam Sugarman fills in on tour when Valentine is unavailable.)
"I don't think any of us thought we would be able to do this for real, but then all of our bands broke up or took breaks," Berg says. "This is our real focus and complete commitment right now. The path is, tour until we can't stand it and then make another album and do it again."