Something intangible has always fascinated me about the art of the solo project. Though they aren’t always perfect – living up to the name of the band that gave you the ability to “go solo” isn’t always easy – these little diversions always feel particularly personal, more urgent, maybe a little more direct. What exactly did Mick Jagger have to tell us that he didn’t already say in the Rolling Stones? Must be good. How weird or wonderful would Thom Yorke’s solo work be, that wasn’t already encompassed in the weird wonderfulness of Radiohead? Must be good, too. For that reason, I always listened to these LPs as though they were diaries, secret messages about the inner workings of distant artists, something that had to, just needed to, be put on record.
We’ve been long entranced by the moody southwestern blues of Escondido – Jessica Maros and Tyler James weave a web that’s an alternate universe between Metropolis and the dusty streets of Santa Fe, as if a rock band grew from the peach-colored pueblos, wielding as much of an aesthetic point of view as a sonic one. Much of this comes from Jessica’s fertile, ever-exercising mind – fusing into a complete vision both visual, emotional and, of course, audible. And, oh, that voice, hitting high with brief peppers of crisp rasp and a moody, sultry ooze…it hits you in the gut, in the heart and nips at your heels with a loving, winking bite saying, “keep walkin’, baby, keep on.”
Which is why we were thrilled to hear that Jessica had embarked on a solo project, under the moniker KUZIN, named as nod to her family and Eastern European heritage. Produced by Bill Reynolds of Band of Horses, the album, Cavity, will be out next year. And for Jessica, it marked a transition, a way to release everything we know about her and just be free. “I wanted to do something that was completely and utterly raw,” Jessica tells me. “I write every single day, and I started having so many songs building up in my iTunes, that I decided that it would be really fun to do a project where I could challenge myself as a musician and songwriter. I wanted to have no rules, and do whatever the fuck I want.” Besides, she adds, “I’m tired of singing these sweet little love songs. I just wanted rage. I just wanted to freak out, and I didn’t want to hide anything anymore. I just wanted to let it all out.”
Take one listen to the lead single, “Cavity,” and it’s clear exactly what she means: fresh, crunchy guitars matched with those vocals that are equally informed by Liz Phair, the Breeders and Stevie Nicks but all her own, slicing through brilliant pop-punk melodies with the deliciously bi-polar vibe of synthy beats and acoustic strums. And check out that electric-freakout rage she talks about on “Dumb Bitch,” that does just that: rage, rage, rage against the dying of the punk rock plight.
We shot Jessica here, in the first of our exclusive series by the infinitely talented Kate Cauthen in East Nashville. Ultimate Leather Jacket, t-shirt, blouse, black jeans and leather bag by Madewell – their new shop just opened in Green Hills, and it’s one of our favorite spots for timeless, well-made (pun intended) clothes with a streetwise but not trend-steeped point of view. The rest, Jessica’s own, with hand-chain and midi-rings by local jewelry designer Consider the Wldflwrs. Jeans, in the group shots, also by Madewell.
For Jessica, fashion’s a fun part of the package – but she holds the reigns, not the clothes. “I don’t ever like to sit down and go, ‘I need to look more rock and roll to play this show,” she says. “I think rock and roll comes from within, and you don’t have to flaunt it by the way you dress. I want to be able to put on a dress and put on an electric guitar and rock out. I think there’s something cool about that.”
Rock out she does, dress and all. And about that intangible thing with solo projects – maybe it’s that we’re heading into the unknown together, leaving what we know for the thrill of completely uncharted waters. “It’s been empowering walking away from something that makes me feel really comfortable,” she says, “into something that makes me feel really uncomfortable.”