By ROB DUGUAY One of the many amazing things about music is how it can bring together people from different backgrounds to create something fresh. Providence synth-pop act Artist Jackie & BeatCo.Viamental is an excellent example of this. Vocalist Jackie
One of the many amazing things about music is how it can bring together people from different backgrounds to create something fresh.
Providence synth-pop act Artist Jackie & BeatCo.Viamental is an excellent example of this. Vocalist Jackie Frances, who is from Massachusetts, yearned to bring the songs that bounced around in her head to life, and West Warwick resident Jamie Tavares helped accomplish this goal via his multi-instrumental talents.
Like a lot of other local acts, they were riding a wave of momentum after a successful 2019 before COVID-19 screwed everything up. On Sept. 26 at Platforms Dance Club at 165 Poe St. in Providence, they’ll be looking to get some of that momentum back while performing as part of the socially distanced music festival Viva La Venue to raise money for local music venues that are struggling in this “new normal.”
I had a chat with Frances and Tavares ahead of the festival about how their different styles meshed perfectly, a certain open mic bringing them together, wearing costumes on stage and their thoughts on the current situation with the pandemic.
ROB DUGUAY: Jamie, you have a background in making hip-hop beats while Jackie exemplifies a dynamic persona on the mic, so what did the both of you bond over that created this duo?
JACKIE FRANCES: It’s a really interesting story. I never really had a band. I had friends who went to Berklee [College of Music] and they had a studio where we’d jam a lot. I had a friend who kind of did what Jamie did, but he has a mortgage, a kid and important stuff to do, so he would only play out around twice a year. He was all about getting together on Tuesdays or Thursdays to jam, but to him it was more like a hockey night. It was an opportunity to get away from the wife and kids, go play some music and once in a while we’d play a show.
To me, that wasn’t enough, and I wanted to do a lot more … Amber Lynn from the Providence punk band Vague Perception asked me to go to the MadCap Monday open mic at Dusk in the city to see Jodi Jolt & The Volt. Being from Massachusetts, that was the only Providence band I knew at the time.
I hung out with a couple trans people at The Dark Lady and Alley Cat but I always thought that it wasn’t really my scene. I thought there was another scene out there for me, I’ve seen a million drag shows, I’m over it and it’s not my thing. I was sitting on the front couch at Dusk and Nate Cozzolino comes on, who is the host of MadCap, and he plays “I Built The Shadow” with a full band. I then looked at Amber and said, “Wow, this guy is good. It’s going to be a good show.” That was it, he played one song and walked off.
I was like “Why did he only play one song?” and I walked over to Nate and I asked him why, and he told me about how it is an open mic. We hung out a little bit and left. I connected with Nate on Facebook and he sent me a message inviting me back to MadCap. I went back the following week, sat at the bar, didn’t know anyone and I wasn’t going to jump on anybody’s toes, so I just watched and chilled. I got to know more people and I had songs and I had music that my brother and I recorded for fun, so in March of 2018 I told Nate that I was going play a couple songs. I brought an iPad with some instrumentals on it, put it on a music stand, I played a couple songs and people liked it.
I then started going to Nate’s shows a lot and one of them was a 4/20 basement party that Jamie was doing.
JAMIE TAVARES: Oh, I happened to be hosting that?
JF: Yeah. So I went just to chill while taking some videos of the bands. Jamie got up at the end and he was doing beats and stuff, but no one was on the mic, so I was like “Hey dude, can I go on the mic?” And he said, “Yeah, go ahead.” I did that and it was awesome, so Jamie then suggested that we do it at MadCap. We did it there once and he told me that he could put my beats in this machine he has, so we did that and here we are.
RD: That’s a great story. It’s cool that you both have this dynamic where it’s not your typical kind of synth-pop sound. There’s a little more charisma, there’s a little more funkiness and you’re really trying to get people to dance when you perform. Jackie, have you always been into new wave and electronic based music? Has that always been a big influence for you?
JF: I grew up with my brother playing guitars. He’s older than me and he started playing guitar when he was 6. By the time he was 12, he could play “Eruption” by Van Halen.
RD: That’s incredible.
JF: He’s a shredder. He loved Van Halen, and I remember being young saying, “I want something to love, too.” I picked Prince, Prince was my thing. Then I got really into hip-hop in the ’80s, we’d watch “Yo! MTV Raps” every Saturday morning and then we’d watch wrestling. I was really into N.W.A. and Public Enemy, and one of my favorite albums of all time is 3rd Bass’s “The Cactus Album.” No one ever talks about that album, but with the samples you can’t make one like it today because of the rules. “Paul’s Boutique” from the Beastie Boys wouldn’t be made today.
Then Nine Inch Nails had “Head Like A Hole,” and that blew me away. Trent Reznor had his head shaved with the dreadlocks and he had this crazy energy. He actually used some Public Enemy samples and stuff on the album “Pretty Hate Machine,” so that led me to other ’90s acts like Nirvana and that grunge stuff, but I still loved rap. I don’t play an instrument and it was so hard for me to get a band together. I tried doing one with my brother but he’s kind of a perfectionist, so no one wanted to play with him. My brother then started messing around with beats on his iPhone, all of the music on my Bandcamp page has those beats.
JF: With those beats it became easier because I had these songs rather than trying to find a band. Trying to get musicians that are already in two bands is difficult because they have no time.
RD: Yeah, it can be pretty tough. Now Jamie, your nickname for this whole project is “The Wizard,” and you have a wizard hat with various costumes and everything. Where did you find this stuff? Did you find it online? Did you find it all at Ocean State Job Lot or Savers one day?
JT: I’ve been on stage since I was 12, Rob. Theater, music, everything, so I have costumes built up. During the first year or so while playing with Jackie, I would put on a different costume every time and one of them was a wizard. I have a football costume, a pink bunny costume and a few other variations of stuff.
RD: That’s awesome.
JT: The wizard one seemed to stick. The crowd and people really liked it, so I kind of drew it out more and more while collecting a few extra hats and having a new costume made. I’ve really invested into it.
JF: Now he can never shave the beard.
RD: Yeah, you can’t get rid of it. It’s an essential part of the costume now.
JT: It’s part of being the wizard.
JF: We’ve thought about changing the whole thing to just Jackie & The Wizard, but rebranding can be tough.
RD: It all depends on if the timing is right. For the past few weeks, you’ve been livestreaming the “Artist Jackie Show” via social media with sound engineer Brian Cabral and guest performers being involved. What are your opinions on these virtual events and the experience as a whole?
JF: My thoughts are that I hate it (laughs). I don’t really watch many livestreams, what’s happening here is important to me. The reason we started doing it was we were part of MadCap’s online stream that was happening for a few months after the pandemic hit and we really enjoyed hanging out together. Every Monday we’d get together and it was a highlight of our week. We got to hang out, a bunch of friends and it was usually four or five of us and we had such a good time.
So when MadCap decided to go on hiatus, we still wanted to hang out on Mondays so we kept doing it. It’s great if people watch it and a lot of people who’ve taken part are happy to do it because they’ve haven’t had a gig since March.
JT: We do it out of our practice space in Pawtucket and we’ve created a live stage effect with Brian’s amazing help. When we were doing part of the MadCap stream he decided to help us out, and ever since then we’ve been upgrading the show almost every week or two. It’s not like streaming from your living room or your backyard, we have a full sound setup.
RD: From what I’ve seen, you have lights and everything.
JT: It’s a beautiful area and it creates a cool atmosphere.
JF: I’ve thought about including a segment where I ask the performers a few questions and interview them to make it a little more interactive, so it’s all growing but it’s all about the hang for me. I love performing but I miss my friends.
RD: I totally understand that. What are your thoughts on performing at Viva La Venue? It's going to be a unique atmosphere with all of the social distancing and plexiglass.
JF: For me, I’m anti-executive order. I don’t like governors telling us what to do and I don’t want to take part in the theater of it all. That’s why I haven’t sought out a lot of gigs.
JT: The biggest thing is honoring the venues that the event is for and the people who asked us to perform. Otherwise, we haven’t been pushing to do any public performances. We don’t want to deal with any of the regulations, we don’t want to be restricted and corralled. This benefit for the venues that’s coming up is something for us to honor the places that have let us play for the past two years or so. The people that asked us and everyone involved too.
JF: Jessica Salemi-Sinclair asked us and we love her, so I can’t say no. The thing is that the last bunch of shows we played before COVID-19 hit were so awesome, people were singing the lyrics and dancing around. It was everything I wanted it to be. This festival will be an experience for sure, but it takes away from what we had going on before all of this. We had a lot of momentum from playing over 100 shows in 2019.