The Jennys Take a Ride

The band formerly known as Spinning Jenny finds itself with a dandy new CD and that deja vu feeling all over again

"I'm an advocate of as many vocal parts as possible," notes bassist Doiron, who bemoaned the loss of a fourth voice when the band was whittled down to a trio. "If harmonies aren't controlled, they can be overkill. But if it is controlled, it's very satisfying to me."

Doiron linked up with Easterling in 1990 in a band called Trash Cadillac, a short-lived offshoot of the hugely popular local outfit the Strand. When Strand/Trash Cadillac lead singer Bruce Connole left, Easterling took over principal vocal chores, and Spinning Jenny was born.

Hessel, who didn't sign on until '95, recalls, "There was quite a big buzz about the band right off the bat. Coming from such a popular band, they got a lot of critical notice and won Best Alternative Band in the Arizona Republic in 1994. Funnily enough, I never saw them until I joined, but I remember hearing them from outside of Long Wong's and thinking they sounded very Beatley."

The band's popularity continued to grow, swelling with the release of Pinata Full of Bees, which garnered a four-star review in Audities Magazine. Drawing raves from diehard power-pop publications such as Audities should have come as no surprise, however, because Spinning Jenny was the Valley's most militant pop band, writing songs that champion the form in its classic sense--three-minute manifestos with lush harmonies--while simultaneously sarcastically peppering the songs' lyrics with passing-fancy buzz words such as samples and alternative. For a time last year, the Jennys even hosted Pop Explosion nights with other like-minded bands at whatever club it happened to be playing.

That modern pop music has moved away from the melodic pleasures the Jennys always have embraced is a sore spot for bassist Doiron, whose insistent bass playing and grim head-nodding provide a compelling onstage focal point. That sentiment is channeled quite effectively on the new CD's "Pop My Heart," wherein some "smart guy" is giving the band "you-and-what-army" admonishments: "Everybody wants to jump in the pit, Pop Boy. Are you a chicken?"

"I've taken a hiatus from listening to the radio," Doiron avers, just after some of the other band members have finished rattling off the names of their current musical favorites. "I let them [radio programmers] sort out what they wanna call music. It's real hard for me to listen to the radio, because I think I should be on it."

At least television looms large in the Jennys' future. A producer took a liking to the band's Web site (www.thejennys.com) and e-mailed them. The band, in turn, sent him a Pinata CD, which he loved and thought would be the perfect soundtrack to an upcoming eight-part PBS series called The Invisible Universe. "It's about people and their fear of math," explains Hessel. "It's geared to high school students." Currently, a deal is in the works with PBS to use all 10 songs from the CD.

Meanwhile, the band plans to embark upon an extensive regional tour slated to promote Dandelion. Listening to the new album with the cheap wisdom of hindsight, Hessel admits it is the product of two distinctly different bands in two distinctly different periods. After Hinders' split, there was some talk of pulling Dandelion's release and reworking it, but the Jennys ultimately issued it as a thank-you gesture to the people who supported the group these past two years. And a follow-up might not be far behind.

"We've been writing a lot of new songs," says Hessel, "and that's why we're really anxious to turn out another CD behind this one as quickly as possible. One that sounds like one band: the Jennys."

The Jennys are scheduled to perform on Friday, May 23, at Long Wong's in Tempe; and on Wednesday, May 28, at Martini Ranch in Scottsdale. Call for showtimes.

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