Grateful Web caught up with Royal Jelly Jive’s Lauren Bjelde & Jesse Lemme Adams while they were on a remote chili pepper farm in Oregon. They are touring in support of their new release Stand Up. This album speaks volumes of their retro style with an overwhelming sense of unity and blissful love. Twelve tracks describe the Jellies style as they take you on a musical tour of the life they live and how they live it. Stand Up invites the listener to come along on a musical adventure and to join in the tender treatment of our everyday atmosphere with jazzy bold love.
The 6 piece band includes Robby Elfman on clarinet & saxophone, Tyden Binsted on upright bass, Felix Macnee on drums, Danny Cao on trumpet, Jesse Lemme Adams on accordion, and lead songstress Lauren Bjelde on vocals. Together they create free flowing sing along songs with a big band styling to shock the everyday into something a little different...
LB: We just played the last show of our big tour leading up to our record release on Friday (6/24/2016) at the Independent (San Francisco). So we’ve been on the road for a couple weeks through Oregon and Washington.
JLA: Then we are coming back after the record release to the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival and Oregon Country Fair so we’re going up and down and up again.
GW: Very cool!
LB: We are so excited we are hearing nothing but amazing things about the Oregon Country Fair - It sounds magical!
GW: Well I have to say that I have heard the album and I love it. I would love to see you live, I am in Illinois. Is there any chance you will be coming to the Midwest any time in the future?
JLA: We’ve been talking about doing a tour out there. There is a Lagunitas out there (Chicago) and our drummer is originally from Chicago so that is a city that definitely calls to us. Then also the whole are, we would love to explore. We will be coming to New Orleans which I know is far but for us is getting somewhere out there
LB: In good time! In good time we will be there. One day soon we will make our big east to west schlep.
GW: It’s a long road for sure. Lagunitas has their Beer CIrcus here in Chicago which would be a great showcase for your style. They have aerial silks and just a whole wonderful freak show.
LB: That is totally up our alley. We love to collaborate with visual arts performers. We’ve had aerialists choreograph work to some of our songs. That would be really good.
GW: Yes I was reading that you have had a big Halloween show where you, Lauren, are responsible for a lot of the set up and decorating yourself. Tell me about that.
LB: Yeah, it’s our style of big event. We collaborated with Josh Windmiller from The Crux (production director) for that (Halloween) event. That and also the Spirit Ball are two big events that we had - Halloween was the Candy Butcher’s Bash. We love to deck out the place, whatever the venue is, for it to look even more different and outlandish than other the other events. You want to set the night apart so that it can be remembered in a really special way. We had the big ring that aerialists perform on and silks, I dressed up as a lion tamer. There was a huge lion head suspended on this ring above hundreds of people. It was so incredible.
We also have an event called the Spirit Ball. The second annual one will be September 23rd hosted at the Great American Music Hall which is one of the classiest music venues. It sort of looks like an Italian old opera house. We adorned it with different hanging flags and things like that and got girls to dance on stilts dressed as leopards to sort of… oh! I forgot to mention that the theme of the night was for people to come dressed as their spirit animals. So everybody is dressed up and gets down and we all get lost together.
GW: Love it!
LB: Something about adding all of the festivities and the flair makes it really special.
GW: That reminds me of the song off your new album Top Hat. I have never seen you live but when I listen to this song, it seems like you have this top hat on at all times. Is that true?
LB: Yeah! Well if it’s not my top hat it is one of my many hats. I do love the top hat as a symbol for the band. Let me tell you about the song. We actually wrote it while on stage. It just kind of happened in the moment. We were in Olympia WA on coincidentally, on our Top Hat Court last September and we did not plan it, didn’t even realize that we wrote Top Hat on Top Hat Court until a few months later but there’s just something about feeling really free in the music, that being the place where I feel completely empowered and I associate that with my top hat because my top hat is what I put on when I’m misbehaving. When I’m me on stage its Royal Jelly. It’s sort of like my uniform, to put on my big hat or whatever it is that speaks volumes and makes us a little bit bigger. The music in that moment and that stage was really reflected in that song. We were all feeling really good and tight. Jesse started playing these chords, the bands started coming in and I spit out the feelings that were exploding on the surface. What that is that I feel so free, I’ve got my top hat and I can be anywhere because we are on the road, going from town to town. As long as I’ve got my band, as long as we have the music, that’s enough. The downbeat is when the band hits. The line is, “just get me to the downbeat and I’ll be good.” That is the same thing for my soul beat. Those two things, my soul beat and my top hat and its Jelly Time. It’s Royal Jelly Jive Time.
GW: What is the name - I have seen stickers that say “Spread the Jelly” what is the name of your followers?
JLA: Well we have just been talking about that. What we came up with is that we call ourselves the Jellies. We are trying to claim, we want to call the crew of fans “The Jive Tribe.” Also though, maybe jelly heads, I don’t know...I know that’s kind of like a Grateful Dead thing
GW: Right? The String Cheese Incident’s fans are known as jellyfish. Jelly heads is a viable option though.
LB: I definitely like Jive Tribe. Who wouldn’t want to join the Jive Tribe? It’s got a primal ancient feel to it
GW: you have the whole bee denotation, what about Jive Hive?
LB: Well, it’s funny one of my best friends is a radio DJ and she goes by DJ Honeycomb Brown and for years she has had a radio show called the Jive Hive with Honeycomb Brown.
GW: so that’s taken
LB: Yeah exactly but the Jive Tribe is cool because I like tribe as a primitive association. It’s a little bit more raw and edgy. If that means uncivilized, I don’t know but something that has community and connections that are made. I don’t know if I’m using quite the right word…. What word am I looking for...where the connection between people is so strong? That’s what I’m referring to, something that has ancient antiquity. It’s so sexy when it’s a topping on something. It’s an ancient throwback kind of style.
GW: I love the jive tribe. So, my readers are huge Dead Heads. Would you cite the Grateful Dead as one of your influences?
JLA: Being from the Bay Area, there will always be that Bay Area connection. A lot of us have grown up with people who were part of the Grateful Dead movement whether they be managers or roadies or (Lauren from the background says, “Your Dad!”) There is a connection in terms of the elements where we are jamming out. We can be a jam band but we strip away the common issued instruments of a jam band. Our music is unique to a jam band scenario where we are musical and jazzy and funky - we have horns instead of guitars and keyboards. It has an element of openness and we would definitely hope to have a legacy similar to the Grateful Dead. Even so, it’s just that we love them but I don’t think we would be lumped into their category of their particular genre.
GW: I want to cautiously approach the comparison between your sound and what Deadheads call the “Donna Days.” Say what you will about that sound and that time but I have always loved the song France. There are occasions on this new album that are very reminiscent of that sound.
LB: I had limited musical influences growing up so when I got to college DJ Honeycomb Brown introduced me to the Grateful Dead for the first time. One thing that really inspired me about them more than just their free flowing music and chemistry of the band is their culture. I love the culture that the Grateful Dead had. That is something that I am trying to integrate into our band. We as a whole band are doing that, to have a culture to us. People know it’s more than just the music. It's about the feeling. Whatever the event or spectacle is, whatever we have to do to give people that feeling and to entice them to be a part of something, that’s what we want
JLA: Also I think a tie in is that there have been a lot of comparisons for Lauren to Janis Joplin. She gets that quite often which is part of that world. I think she definitely has some of the same ideals as Janis did. Lauren being a strong voiced real rocker is a rare thing. That is part of the spark of what people like. She’s not just a girl with a pretty voice. She puts her whole heart into every show that we play and people can definitely feel that.
LB: Thanks Jess. I am also a visual artist. I do a lot of drawing and illustrating. I don’t have a lot of time but I love for our big shows to do the artwork. I try to create some kind of dream lined artistic experience for us all. I just want us to be a whole culture of people involved.
GW: Absolutely. I just have one last question for you. As this being your sophomore album, what is the reason for the album title? The title Stand Up seems almost politically motivated while the tracks on the album moreover give the listener a feel of taking a walk thru your neighborhood with you. You paint pictures of people and landscapes with that jazzy feel so what brought you around to a title like Stand Up?
LB: Originally the project was called Dear Mr. Waits (the 2nd track on the album). We did a whole Kickstarter campaign and raised $20k to produce the album which was awesome. We were going to be recording our music that has Tom Waits influences or references to him scattered throughout the album. We were recording it at this amazing studio called Prairie Sun Recording Studio which holds the Waits room where Tom Waits recorded for 10+ years. As we got into the project, it became clear that we didn’t want to use Tom Waits name in the title of the album because this was so much about us and our music. While he is a strong influence, we wanted it to be more about Royal Jelly Jive. So we looked at each song as a possible album title - which song embodied this new project but what we came up with was actually a song from our first album, Stand Up. The vibe was embodied on this album so much It was our favorite song from the last album that does have a little bit of political - It’s like, Stand Up, Wake Up, Open your Heart, Look around. There is variety in life and that is okay! Don’t Judge. There are so many messages in that song like this and this album has embodied that message in so many ways. I think it is two things: 1 is that it is an out coming for us as a band and 2. It’s an out coming for me as well. I struggled to have my creativity nourished where I come from growing up. Jesse wrote the first song ‘Bad’. That song is an anthem to me and I hope for other people. God gave you what you have, you earn it on your own, and you gotta do what feels good. If you can’t make yourself happy - What else can?
He wrote that song and that idea with that tone he’s like here we are. This is who we are. We’re not tolerating...
JLA: We invite people to Stand Up and Move with us. Dance. Be part of the music and be part of the message. It’s not necessarily like a political direction, it’s more about the spirit and feeling good.
GW: Yes, absolutely every listener gets their own interpretation that is the beauty of art. I was intrigued to hear what and where it all came from. Now I’m intrigued to listen to your 1st album!
LB: We haven’t really talked about this specifically with anyone yet. I’m really glad you brought it up. It is ambiguous at first and it is more personal. It’s an invitation. Even in the songs on the album, it’s less obvious when all the things… Even Chinatown. Jesse and I were falling in love and we had to Stand Up and say so. We had to navigate that. Like Railroad Tracks.
GW: That is my favorite track on the album!
LB: Oh yeah? That’s awesome. Jesse has grown up being able to walk down the railroad tracks in Petaluma, going to Lagunitas Brewery. The idea of being on the tracks with your friends doing whatever it is that you do… It doesn’t have to be on the railroad tracks. It is just sort of like, here is the party. Meet us there. We just want people to Stand Up for who they are. Stand Up, get up and dance. Stand up for who you are or who you want to be.
GW: Well that’s all I have to today. I would love to see you live in the future! The horns are amazing.
LB: Yes! Every member of this band is just so so amazing. I am so lucky to have this group of people who are going day by day wherever we go. Today we are on a chile farm in Oregon. Every day they are willing to put their all into it and that is what makes it so special.
GW: Well we wish you all the luck in the world- have a great album release party and I hope to see you soon!
LB: Thank you so much!
If you could hear the way that Lauren speaks, each phrase is accentuated and her sentences come out in song. Thanks for catching up with Grateful Web and we look forward to seeing more from this up and coming band Royal Jelly Jive.