There are two young folks in New York, New York who make some beautiful noise together, Phoebe Jean Dunne and Benjamin Florencio, known collectively as Phoebe Jean and the Air Force. They know how to rock the crowd. Check them out below as they perform their first song at their first gig ever, like last month or something. I met Phoebe for a kvetch in a famous New York deli the other day and she shared her thoughts with me:
JW: What is one of your favorite sounds and what does it mean to you?
PJ: Thunder and lightning of course! Especially in the summer when the rain hasn’t quite broke and the leaves are turned over and green. I always loved thunderstorms as a kid, it was scary but so fun. At the beach I remember with my cousins the best storm ever when the wind was ripping the screen doors off the porches and the waves were gigantic, we were running around trying to see who could lean into the wind farthest without falling and then tying all the sheets together to make a huge parachute so we could jump off the top of the garage and fly for a good nine seconds. Now I’m 24 but my heart still gets caught every time there is the sound of a storm.
JW: Tell me about one of your most cherished records and why it is so important to you.
PJ: Damn. That is a very hard one. I’d have to say I think I would need to divide this question into two categories: most cherished record and most cherished record cover.
To me records as vinyl are so rad because they are real, physical with a touch and a smell. The music is tied to the material of the vinyl and the paper of the cover in a way that digital forms abandoned. I shouldn’t say this here because my mother may search my name and find out that I have her record but I do and it is Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. This is my favorite record cover and even a close second for favorite record, Ella and Louis are sitting in folding chairs on a tile floor with subtly coordinating get ups and the sweetest smiles you’ve ever seen. It was my grandparents record that they used to dance to and I guess my mom took it from them and I took it from my mom. I keep it propped up in my music room.
My most cherished actual record right now would have to be an Inner City Records release called “Beats, Breaks and Bullshit” out of my hometown Baltimore. Baltimore Club is starting to be loved by mad people all around the world and its cool to see how Baltimore offers something that people can relate to right now. Baltimore is harsh as fuck. People have it hard but there is a real innocence and light to it that comes through in the way people are real and the way kids dance and ride dirt bikes like you’ve never seen in any other city. This energy is what makes Baltimore club so infectious to the world at this moment in time. Things are not going good but there is something human in the struggle and in the dance. People want and need to shake it shake it now.
JW: Who is a woman that has inspired you in your life, musically or otherwise?
PJ: Amelia Earhart. My dad was a pilot and I grew up around little planes and airports. He always told me stories about Amelia Earhart and I would dream about all the great adventures I could have when I was grown up and free and strong like her. I remember reading a book about her that started with a story of how she built a roller-coaster off of her fence with her sister and rollerskates or something. I was so inspired I made all sorts of strange ramps and roller-coasters off trees in the street.
I don’t know much about her actually but when I look at a picture of her she is so elegant and graceful and competent and inspired and maybe even a little mischievous. I hope that is true and that she really just landed in some beautiful island paradise and fell deeply in love many times with everything and took up something new. Who knows, but she is still someone to look up to.
Download: Phoebe Jean and the Air Force – Wata