Turn on the Juice and Cut Loose

Jucifer only plays its darkest, heaviest, slowest, fastest, or noisiest material live.

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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