Jean Eric is the beautiful and twisted love child of long time friends Karen Wallace and Frank Jones, born in Shreveport and currently being raised in New Orleans. If you make a trip down south anytime soon, I strongly recommend that you check out what they have created. The music of Jean Eric consists of witty lyrics and observations layered on top of beats made with keyboards, garage band, macbooks, midis, etc., and all of this musical magic is accompanied by the new addition of their drummer, Randy.Their performance, though, is what makes a Jean Eric show. Karen and Frank’s larger than life stage presence along with their other new addition, Sheila, back up dancer, is an experience you will never forget. The duo sure knows how to mesmerize a crowd with Frank’s boyish good looks and charm accompanied with Karen’s sex bomb dance moves that can drive any boy or girl wild!
One of the many things I love about Jean Eric is that they really don’t give a shit as long as everyone is having a fun and rowdy time. The last show I attended was at a house party with Karen front and center wearing the dirtiest t-shirt I have ever seen (imagine, if you will, a slashed and refashioned tee with a picture of an open wide view of the female anatomy) and Frank refusing to stop singing even though he clearly saw the cop who just entered to bust the party. Needless to say, they finished the set as soon as the cop left.
A second thing I love about these two, on and off stage, is their sense of style. No matter if she is leaving a bar at five am or meeting a friend for coffee in the afternoon, Karen always looks perfectly disheveled in the most fashionable way, combining a wardrobe of thrifted treasures with unique and off-beat accessories. Who else can make a tiny Mexican doll barrette, you know you saw these when we were little, look good? What can I say; the girl can’t help it! Frank, on the other hand, is more put together, always looking debonair and hip in button downs, the skinniest of jeans and a great pair of shoes. Frank was my first friend to wear oxfords again, paring them beautifully with shorts and a collared shirt. Along with great taste, Frank has a vast knowledge of the fashion world.
Their Jean Eric style is similar to their everyday looks, amped up with sequins, face paint and the occasional major bling. I recently caught up with Frank and Karen and asked them each to answer some questions discussing their music and love of fashion.
1. So, I heard that Jean Eric started partly because y'all wanted an excuse to play dress up? If that's true, please explain. If not, how did y'all get started?
F: Well, we definitely knew we wanted to start a band. And before the music was created, we would just dress a little more exciting/eccentrically in the unclear image of what we thought we might wear when we did start performing. Also, you gotta make your own fun in Shreveport, and we would have some fun just wearin crazy clothes and runnin the streets. It wasn't that Jean-Eric was created to dress up; it just kind of started as an outfit.
K: Yeah, it was an alter-ego me and Frank had for a while. We would go out to clubs and bars, talking with different accents telling people we were in this up in coming band. We would get free stuff from people like drinks; we got photos a few different times by telling them that we would use the photo as our album cover and you know just stuff like that. Then, we decided to start writing songs for real so we could get on stage and act out!
2. Tell those who haven't heard your music what it's all about, and who you're musical influences are.
F: It's about having as much fun as possible and bringing everyone along for the ride together. It's about dancin and singin and partyin and music and fun and fashion and costumes, etc. It's always morphing, so it's hard to say what any individual night could behold. All of our individual influences come into play, but I think alot of it comes from disco, punk, lounge, crunk, rap, electro, rocknroll, r&b. I guess for me certain songs from Blondie, The Ramones, Madonna, Bunny Rabbit, Earth, Wind and Fire, The Yea Yea Yeas. Influence and inspiration can even come from an idea, "Like today I want to try and make a song that sounds like a fashion show is happening on a yacht". It's hard to say, we thrive off of each other, and we all like different things.
K: Our genre of music is Lounge-Crunk. It is the kind of music with no boundaries and is made to make people feel good, sexy and to have fun with! If you like to have a good time, then you will like Jean-Eric. Our influences come from all over. We all have such different and the same taste, especially now with two new members, Sheila and Randy. I mean anything from lounge music to country to rock, disco, soul, hip-hop, experimental.... there are so many bands/musicians/art/people on the street that influence us.
3. I've noticed that Jean Eric's look and stage presence have been amped up since you started playing more in New Orleans. How has the city affected your style and performance?
F: I think New Orleans is a very liberal/liberating place where it is very easy for people to accept what others may not consider "normal." So if we want to dress in a sequin onesie, suits, as mimes, train conductors, mardi gras diso indians, diamond covered crocodiles, it's sort of promoted and expected, rather than shocking. It is definitely apart of the fun factor. Everyone loves to dress up here, and it's something to look at. We definitely have fun doing it, and we keep trying to top our last show. The city has affected the style and performance I think becasue there already is soooo many amazing and beautiful performers here. I think everyone wants to stand out a little, and we've interpreted that in our own way.
K: Like I said just before, we have our new friends now playing with us and that definitely has something to do with it. Also, New Orleans is such an amazing city where anything goes! I mean the people here are so inspiring and open for anything that you do have to go above and beyond to have a great show here. And, Sheila dancing in her self-made costumes alone makes for a better performance.
4. Who or what are your fashion inspirations?
F: For performance, I think of David Bowie, Nico, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Grace Jones, Lou Reed ,Iggy Pop, Mick Jagger, James Dean, circus performers, captains, models ,southern hospitality airy bells. Love DIY things, or buying something that isn't that cute at a thrift store and amending it into something adorable. I love fashion and the way it changes. I am loving the dapper vibe right now, a slick sly glance in the direction of dapper. For girls, I’m loving those high ankle boots with the cropped jeans and the fitted jackets. I saw some cute ass power mom wearing something like that today. And I love knits and sparkles.
K: Just like music, everything has been a fashion inspiration. We all have different styles that work well together. We collectively like anything racy, controversial and anything that has to do with glitz and glam! New Orleans has also been a big inspiration, the Saints, black and gold are two that go hand-in-hand!!
5. Off stage, what is your essential go to outfit?
F: Sweater/cute shirt/skinny jeans/tennis shoes. Shirt/jacket/pants/beanie. For going out-out...black pants, patent black leather shoes, suspenders? tie? belt long sleeve fitted oxford pea-coat or some appropriate jacket golden F chain.
K: For me... it depends on the day and my mood. I guess my favorite, standard look here lately is skinny jeans, cool/attractive t-shirt, blazer, lace-up ankle boots or loafers, big hair and red lipstick.
6. Before going onstage are the ensembles previously thought out, completely thrown together at the last minute, or a little of both?
F: Usually a little of both. Sheila's costume is generally always thought out before hand because it requires some assembling. I usually just pick something out of my closet unless it's a special occasion or some theme then it is thought out and then it's definitely pumped up. For Mardi Gras or a really big show, we plan something. Like last night, me and Karen were mimes.
K: Definitely both. Sometimes we can get into wardrobe meltdowns! But when that happens, you just have to give up and be comfortable. When you can finally end it with that, you end up looking your best and having the most fun!
7. I love the new addition of your fly girl Shelia and all of her get-ups! I haven't actually seen you perform with her, so is she like your backup dancer/muse/back up singer? I guess this question can be for her, how do you come up with your stage look?
F: Sheila is our beautiful amazing dancer. She is our fly girl, our muse, and our crowd pumper upper. She looks great up there and does a great job. Sheila usually comes up with an idea or bounces a few off of us and then she just gets too it. I've seen Sheila make completely complicated costumes in like 2 hours.
K: Sheila is the ultimate fly-girl and definitely our muse. She is also writes with us, music and lyrics.
Sheila: I pick a theme or a concept (jungle, lips, moonbeams, Popsicles, or whatever) and I think of what would be visually stimulating on stage. I usually take a leotard and get all the glitter and rhinestones I can afford, drink a lot of coffee and get the hot glue gun moving. I want to learn how to sew so I can make more elaborate costumes. I love wearing costumes on stage because I can be whatever/whoever I want. Plus, I just like to sparkle!
8. What has been your favorite show so far?
F: God, lately, so many. Last night we played the Contemporary Arts Center of New Orleans, and it was fucking awesome. We really have enjoyed our shows at The Saint and Mother in Law, and we have some even bigger things planned.
K: The show we had at the Contemporary Art Museum this past Friday was probably one of the most fun/best shows we've ever played. Me and Frank were dressed as mimes for a performance art piece for the opening to an amazing exhibit, The Wonderful World of The Fantastic Mr. Fox. We were so proud to be a part of it, much less even to be asked to perform it. So after the miming, we played our set. Sheila was in a silver sequin jumpsuit with a black sequin cape/hood that she had put multi-colored feathers all over. Randy, always in his elegant three piece suit, tie, and hat. Not only did we look great, but we have been working with the best people! They have stayed on us about rehearsal and they are always there for us to have incredible sound which makes for an awesome show. (plus, we also had a plank on stage for us to stand on and jump off of!)
9. If Jean Eric could open up for any one band of your choice who would it be?
F: Would love to open for the Yea Yea Yeas, Peaches, Lady Gaga, Thieves Like Us....so many people.
K: We gotta open for Peaches one day!!
10. What can we expect in the future from Jean Eric?
F: EXPECT ALOT!
K: Umm... expect for it not to stop! We are planning out our summer east coast tour, June 15th through July 21st!! CD release in September!! Then to the west coast!! Then who knows after that.
So now are you interested for more? Well then check out http://www.myspace.com/jeanerichits , http://twitter.com/jeanericyall , http://youtube.com/jeanericyall for up coming shows, photos, videos, and everything you need to know!
Photos by Megan Trosclair