Nomadic rockers Amber Valentine and Edgar Livengood of Jucifer have been roaming the country for seventeen years now playing genre-shattering grudge-metal shows backed by an actual wall of amps.
They’ve just founded their own record label, Nomadic Fortress Records and released a new album, Throned in Blood. I got the chance to ask lead guitarist/vocalist, and fellow metalhead Amber a few questions, and here’s what she had to say:
BYT: I’m pretty curious about the origin of y’all’s relationship. How did you meet? Did the band come out of the relationship, or did the relationship inspire the band?
Amber: We played together first. We were strangers at our first practice! But the progression to friends and then couple was super natural… we just totally clicked on all levels, starting with music. It wasn’t like, oh, let me do a band and put my boyfriend/girlfriend in it. It was two people discovering this amazing soul mate and creative partner. We’re very conscious of how lucky that is.
It must be challenging at times to travel, work, and live together. I hope you don’t mind my asking…but how do you not want to sometimes kill each other? (Just asking, I don’t know if I would every have the forbearance and patience to spend that much time with someone, even if they were the most amazing and perfect human being ever.)
Well, we do wanna kill each other sometimes — haha! But for real, who doesn’t? In a couple, in a band, in a roommate situation, in a family. When you’re in close quarters some amount of fighting is inevitable. The thing is, we feel that way really rarely in relation to the amount of time we spend together and considering the fact that we’re sharing all the same stresses. We have each other’s back and we truly enjoy each other. We are each other’s perfect human being. There’s no way in hell we could do what we do if we didn’t feel that way.
So y’all are known for your nomadic lifestyle. If you had to give it up and settle somewhere, is there a city or place that you truly love that you think you could ultimately call home? What are some of your favorite cities to visit?
There are a lot of places we enjoy, and a few we’ll talk about how rad it would be to live there or whatever. But it’s always with the caveat that we’d still be touring at least half the year. Once you go nomadic, you never go back! And we find reasons to enjoy almost every place. Some cities we like because of their special energy and some because we know awesome people there. Some towns we just love a certain restaurant or record store or the club we usually play. Then there’s places like Rome and Prague where the architecture itself blows your mind. Or northern Idaho, or British Columbia, which are just fuckin’ gorgeous.
Your music has been called everything from garage-rock, to metal and grudge. How does it feel to have a pretty indefinable sound? Do you feel pressure to continue defying classification?
I guess we feel the same need to travel beyond musical borders that we feel to travel beyond land borders. We just appreciate a lot of different things. From our own point of view that makes our band amazing… the fact that we throw so many different sounds out on the albums, and songs that are basically polar opposite of the stuff we play live. We love that diversity. As far as other people’s reactions… it kinda sucks knowing they’ll hear one song and maybe totally judge us by it. We’re not the kind of band you can judge fairly at a glance. And unfortunately that’s the way most people determine whether they like music — a quick listen, two songs if the band is lucky. We’re guilty of it ourselves. And there’s so many levels to what we sound like that it’s easy for somebody to decide we’re not their thing when in fact we probably are, at least some of the time. But it’s better to deal with that than to give up your creative freedom. It’s so paint-by-numbers to be in a band that completely fits one genre. You see that shit in drummer wanted ads… “our band sounds like x, y, and z” (who all sound alike)… so why the fuck do you even need to exist? You’re a cover band at that point. And I guess some bands who do that turn out to be good at their version of somebody else’s music, and can be really enjoyable and stuff… but for us that’s so unappealing, to just draw between the lines or whatever. It’d feel like being in a straitjacket. So I don’t think we have to worry about staying hard to classify. Good or bad, it’s pretty much our nature!
Your new album Throned in Blood is super heavy/metal inspired (I’m a big fan.) Do y’all rock out to metal on the road? What’s your playlist for road trips look like currently?
Thanks! Yeah, we’re both metalheads from way back. But we’ve been playing our own metal all the time for so long that it kinda ends up exorcising a lot of the energy that listening to records used to do. And I can’t listen to anything exciting when I drive because it makes me road rage. (Haha) So going down the road it’s actually pretty quiet. But then as soon as we get to the show it’s loud ass metal for the next twelve hours… we kinda get our fill that way! Most of the more recent music we like, we found by playing shows with those bands. Either being on festivals with them or having newer bands be our local support. It’s a kind of awesomely random way to discover stuff.
Here’s a scenario for you. You’re in a three band line-up, and you’re the second band. Who would you want to open for you –what up and coming band are you really impressed with lately?
I really like Salome, as a band and as people (which plays into it when you meet another band). I feel like they’re doing more of their own thing in a genre where a lot of bands don’t. I’m at a point where I find it really tiresome to see bands just ripping off earlier bands’ style. But I still love music. So it makes me happy to see newer bands that are building their own shit on the old foundations.
What band would you want headlining-what band has really influenced your sound, or is a band that really inspires you?
I’d pick Slayer as the dream headliner… some of the first metal I heard as a kid and still some of my favorite. I wouldn’t say they were a huge influence in the sense of us ever having set out to sound like them, because there isn’t any band we did that with. But I know we both appreciated them at an early age and still do. And they still love to play and are out there touring, and doing side projects and stuff. It’s always good to see bands with that dedication to the road and that longevity.
Awesome. Thanks for answering my questions; I’m looking forward to the show!
Jucifer stops by Black Cat this Tuesday to rock you. This ungodly freezing cold weather puts us all in the mood for something dark and heavy, so don’t miss this show.