Um, Jennifer?

Um, Jennifer?

Artist / Duo

Um, Jennifer? Is a punk-tinged indie pop duo based in NYC. Fig and Leah met at a party in Brooklyn. Leah wanted to hook up with Fig's friend. Now they make music together for nobody except the vengeful god, Jennifer. Jennifer thinks their music sucks.

Digging into the creative process, Byta speaks with artists, musicians, producers, DJs and anyone involved with music creation. A conversation about how they create, collaborate and share music. From studio setups to routines, and the first person to hear about the next 'big' work.

Where are you based?

Leah: NYC, where we met

Fig: Brooklyn!

How, when and where did you start making music? Are you primarily a musician or a producer, or do something else?

Leah: I’m a musician primarily. We started our band in January of this year. We met at a friend’s birthday party a year prior and became friends, then started writing songs together in Winter. 

Fig: I played trumpet in concert band all throughout elementary, middle, and high school. Somewhere along the way I picked up guitar and that’s the instrument that stuck. I started writing music during the pandemic (3 years ago?? Four??) and the rest is history! I went to school for acting and I still do that as well but music is the main gig right now.

Who would you consider some of your biggest influences when it comes to your “sound”?

Leah: Sonically I’m really into things feeling like it’s sitting on your shoulder. I like intimacy in the sound of a song. For me this means a lot of textures that’ll cut through the mix and sort of tickle your brain. Our single “Girl Class” definitely has these components as well as our other track “Jennifer Journals”

Fig: Illuminati Hotties comes to mind. I think she does a great job of having these fun and silly concepts that she backs up with really creative production.On the writing end of things, I tend to write what I’m feeling angry or frustrated about.

Explain your creative process. Do you have a routine?

Leah: I don’t have a set creative routine, usually the initial melody or lyric is what guides me to the next step. Typically music and lyrics happen nearby if not together for me. In terms of a schedule, I don’t do anything regimented. It’s more holistic, trying to have my life align in a way that allows for creativity to happen. This can mean being emotionally curious, honest, focused, and dedicated to some larger idea.

Fig: Yeah, I don’t really have a set routine either. Currently, my notes app on my phone is just filled with half songs that I come back to occasionally to add and subtract. I kind of throw up a ball of words and then chisel away until it resembles a song.

What is your “studio” setup?

Leah: I mostly work from an at home studio, which is my studio apartment. For “Girl Class” we recorded at the CRC, Patrick Wimberly’s studio. For “Jennifer Journals” I produced the song at home with the help of the Empress Reverb pedal and my custom Richie’s guitar set up and Fig sent over the vocals in a voice memo, which was great for the overall quality of the song.

Fig: Leah’s room! I have a setup at home but my computer is so full that it makes the music sound choppy and weird. This is reminding me that I need to upload a bunch of stuff onto an external hard drive so thanks for that. Leah and I have been working out a system of recording fleshed out demos at home and then going into a studio and re-recording vocals and whatnot.

Um, Jennifer? home studio

What is your process when working with other people? How is collaboration different in the studio vs working remotely? 

Leah: When working with other people my focus is really about seeing what part of them is creating the song. Where it’s coming from in a deeper energetic sense. For this project we’ve mostly written via sending recordings back and forth, then fully finished the songs in rehearsals and at shows. It was all pretty intuitive and spontaneous, the drum part was written on my subway ride over to record the whole song.

Fig: Um, Jennifer? has honestly been my first time having a consistent musical collaborator and it’s been really interesting! We started out sending voice memos when we were both at our respective homes over the winter and by the time winter was over we had Girl Class!

At what point(s) are you comfortable letting other people hear what you are working on?

Leah: Pretty much right away. I get very excited about a new song idea and I don’t feel protective or like it needs to be perfect before showing it to someone. Usually it feels like the soul is there from the beginning, which is the most important part to me.

Fig: I like to share stuff right away but only with my close friends because I know they won’t judge me lol. It’s kind of like microdosing putting the song in public and it puts me in a mindset of “okay what is actually good in this song, what do I want to keep or throw away.” That kind of thing.

Do you share your work in progress (streams or downloads)? Any technical frustrations?

Fig: I have a bunch of stuff on SoundCloud from previous projects but that’s mostly been for my own benefit so I have a place to put stuff when I’m done with it. Also, for my moms benefit so she can listen to the cover of Times Like These by The Foo Fighters that I made for her birthday.

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How do you know when a track/album is finished?

Leah: Usually my rule of thumb is that the track is done sooner than you think. I usually like the first or second idea of something, too many elements can get kind of boring to me. That isn’t hard and fast, but just what I’ve noticed.

Fig: This is like an annoying artist answer but I don’t think it’s ever finished. I find myself changing lyrics from songs I wrote months ago because they’re always scratching at the back of my brain. Like, I know these songs can be better and I’m gonna give myself the time to play them over and over to find out what needs to change.

Um, Jennifer?

How do you listen to the final mixes/mastered work?

Leah: Usually they get sent to us after the session! I do love to listen in the studio though.

How important is pre-release security when sharing new work?

No horror stories thankfully. Though I think if our song did get leaked by someone that wasn’t us, that would mean we made it!

Who on your team gets to hear the final versions first and why, what formats do they each need?

Leah: Usually final versions go to my mom and my closest friends who come to a lot of shows. Our team currently is us and Madison and Deanna at Weird Sister Records!https://open.spotify.com/album/2DRxsEZQg2MOlqHjnXHrBN?si=2yQ27raCQh6Ao4PuTrV2PA

Fig: Final versions go to close friends who love what we do!

Outside of your inner circle who are the people that will need to hear the new tracks next?

Leah: I sent the tracks around to a few friends who are in the industry who’s opinion or taste I trust.

Fig: The world.

Anything you are working on, anyone you are working with and want to share?

Our new single “Cut Me Open” is out now! Now that’s released, we’ll continue working on a future EP.