Jucifer's use of extremes is inherent to its whole, as if its music were a pulsating organism. The duo's vast arsenal of differing styles bends and winds through a gamut of bipolar emotions to create music with elegance and grace despite its images of gloom and darkness. Jucifer makes depression beautiful.
Major stylistic shifts are abound in just about all of this two-piece act's recordings. The music suddenly shifts from the calm and free-flowing melody of shoegaze to the harsh brutality of noise or metal. But it always feels as if this dynamism has a rationale.
"We use the jolt on purpose when we use it," said vocalist and guitarist Amber Valentine. "That moment when the music shifts unexpectedly and violently is a part of the composition, part of the experience, and comprehension — even if it's only subconscious — of what the music is about."
The point of the band's musical palette is to draw listeners into its stories, said Valentine. A sense of organic movement combined with the heartening feeling of seeing a torchlight on an ominous night is apparent in Jucifer's new album, L'autrichienne, an album based on the French Revolution. The concept album is about the plight of the Austrian-born French queen Marie Antoinette, who was executed during the uprising.
This storytelling is intrinsic to any Jucifer recording: "We're recording albums as whole pieces of music, not just sticking songs together that we think people might like," said Valentine, who along with her husband, drummer Ed Livengood, creates albums that have a sense of structure. "Hell, sometimes we put in songs that we expect people to hate! But, if we feel like they're important to the story and the flow, they're going on the record."
Valentine says Jucifer's approach has not changed much in its sixteen years of existence. "We've always been insane enough to do things our own way, and we've managed to stay away from labels that put too much of a damper on us," she said. Jucifer had its first 7-inch and LP on the fan record label Crack Rock, and after later moving over to the reborn Capricorn label, which rereleased that first LP, it is currently on Relapse records. "We never made any major compromises artistically," Valentine said.
The duo has proven to be a pioneer in another realm, too. A number of similar two-person bands have sprung up since Jucifer's inception, acts like Japanther, No Age, or Japandroids. "We showed venues and record labels and radio that a two-piece band was viable," Valentine said. "We took the heat for supposedly being a 'gimmick,' so that real gimmicks could happen. ... It can be really frustrating when people who don't know our history approach us as if we're brand-new. ... And I can't wait until they start assuming our wall of sound is a copy of some band that started in 2006, or something. It's going to happen, too."
However, Valentine sees an upside to that. "The silver lining, though, is that we are constantly required to be better than our surface qualities. ... Remaining underground while others maybe get by on one of those surface novelties means that we're going to be concentrating on what actually counts — making music."
Asked how the vast number of styles translates live, Valentine said she knows what gets the crowed pumped: "Our live show has always focused on our darkest, heaviest, or slowest, fastest, noisiest stuff. It's just the stuff that is good to play."
This sense of urgency is intended, she said. "We knew that we wanted to flip out, headbang, and bash around during shows. We as music fans totally prefer shows where mosh pits are appropriate to ones where the audience just watches. ... We've never made a record without at least a few songs that'll translate to that, to the tradition of a metal show, or an old-school hardcore show."
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