Brian: Ménage á Garage and their track, "Die in a Fire." So guys, tell us about that track.
Jenny: John. What it was with that track, it has a long story, but we'll make it short.
John: We have another song called "Ugly Duckling," which is kind of about someone who's been bullied.
John: During one of our practice sessions, the gang was like ... Well, we had some new chords and we were kind of running through these new chords, and I asked, "what should this song be about," and it kind of turned out that everybody said, "Well, what if we did a response to another song?" It turned out to be "Ugly Duckling," and so this song's lyrics are kind of a response as if we are responding to someone who wrote us a letter about the song "Ugly Duckling."
John: "Ugly Duckling" being about bullying, this song, these lyrics, to me ... There's always been a little bit of tension in my mind about peoples' tendency to tell folks when they're troubled that it gets better.
Jenny: It gets better.
John: Because there are certain people who their outlook on life, they don't believe you, right? You can say, "No, it'll get better, don't worry, kid, it's going to be fine," and that kid's going to say, "You know what, don't tell me that." Adults always say things like that, and there's a certain mindset that responds better if you say, "Well, I don't know if it's going to get better; this is just the way life is. Life doesn't owe you anything. What are you going to do?"
Brian: I see.
John: "Are you going to give up? Are you going to turn tail and run? What if it never stops raining? What if it never rains again?" All of this stuff is an unknown, so that's kind of what the song is about. It sounds on its surface like it's very pessimistic and down, but it's really kind of a call to action about, what are you going to do if things don't go your way?
Brian: I dig that message, and let's get to know you guys. So what I want you to do is, if you would introduce yourselves. I want to find out about who's John and who's Jenny, and then also tell us about Ménage á Garage and where the ... The brief history. You don't have to give me the long ones here, but the brief story about the band.
Jenny: Oh sure, sure. Well, we met at Flash Band, which is an amazing little organization in D.C. It's a great resource for musicians, and it the theme was trios, so hence Ménage. It has actually no other overtones. It's just about three people.
Brian: Got it, okay.
Jenny: But music, we're a trio, a power trio, and both John and I have our long musical histories. I've been in a couple bands, and he's been doing all sorts of really educated musical things.
Brian: So does this go all the way back? Are we talking like, elementary school, and ...
Jenny: I think probably so, yeah, for both of us.
Brian: Back there.
Jenny: Lifelong learning.
John: Oh yeah, yeah. Absolutely.
Brian: Got it, and at what point did you guys decide that, even as adults, we're going to keep doing this music thing, or has that always been the case? Did you stop and then come back to it?
John: I never considered ... It never occurred to me that I could stop.
Brian: Yeah, yeah. I don't believe in, like, "once a musician, always a musician." Sometimes you may have like a dry period, where you're just, whatever, not plugged into whatever you're ...
John: I could see people stopping and doing other things, and I used to do that, and I've met plenty of people that have done that. It just never occurred to me to do that.
Jenny: No. Doesn't occur to us.
John: Nothing wrong with it.
Jenny: That's why we're middle-aged people who play rock music and just embarrass ourselves publicly, and that's just what we do.
Brian: It's a calculated embarrassment.
Jenny: It's a skill. No no no.
Brian: It's a skill. That's even better.
John: It's owning our skill.
Jenny: It's a true talent.
John: Owning my embarrassment.
Jenny: You know, yeah. It takes extra-special skill.
Brian: There it is. So, briefly, then tell ... How did you get into music, way back in the beginning?
Jenny: Okay. Well, my older brother ... I was always surrounded by music. My older brother listened to a lot of really great albums, and he was kind of into the punk scene in southern California, and so I got to listen to things like Hüsker Dü and all those things like, way back in the day. I've always just been attracted to music, and went to my first concert, Roxy Music, when I was 14, and that was a pretty good start. So both just being a musician, and I always ... Music has been a survival mechanism. I mean, it's like I can't live without it. So there was just no question.
Brian: Wow. Okay. Committed to it. What about you, John?
John: Well, my mother started me on piano lessons in second grade, and then she started me on cello lessons in third grade, and then I started myself on drum lessons in fourth grade.
John: To get back at her for making me play the piano and the cello. I played all three of those things the whole way through high school, and into college where I went to Millersville in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for music education. So that was until I was 21, 22, something like that, and after that, played a lot of weddings, played a lot of string quartets, church cantatas, that sort of things. But I love pop music and taught myself guitar when I was working at a movie theater, running movies, and when you run the movies, you usually have a lot of down time, like 45 minutes while everything's playing.
Brian: That does make sense.
John: So I would bring my guitar in and be up in the booth, just playing and writing songs and teaching myself how to do that, which is what I really always wanted to do while I was learning how to play Mozart on the cello.
Brian: That's amazing. All right. So what do you love and appreciate, I like to ask folks, what do you love and appreciate about the D.C. music scene?
Jenny: Sure. Well I mean, I don't even know if this is unique to D.C., but it's just been my experience of D.C. which is, there's so many good people in the scene. Maybe we've just been fortunate to plug into various musical communities. I just find people are very welcoming and supportive of each other as musicians, so one of the best things, which is why I love that we're here today; one of the best things is just getting to listen to all of this D.C. music and learning about it, because otherwise, I mean, we're not very ... Or a a show, and the live shows that happen around town, you know we wouldn't know about all this great music.
Brian: That's true. John, what about you? What do you love about the scene?
John: Well, there are, like Jenny said, there are a lot of talented, generous people in the scene, such as yourself and your band mates, and some of the folks, well I guess all of the folks that we're going to play today.
Jenny: No, no just some. We're going to call them out.
John: Well, there's one ...
Jenny: Who will remain unnamed.
John: But that's really what it is. The quality and the level of proficiency of the music in D.C. is very high. Historically, D.C. has a great tradition of a professional level of music, and the even the DIY and amateur scene keeps that level up, which is what I appreciate because I don't consider myself a hobbyist. I mean, I aspire to a professional level of quality, even though it's not how I make my living. I think that's what you have to do if you're a passionate musician, unless you're just going to be at home playing the guitar and playing Jimmy Buffett, which is perfectly fine, and there's nothing wrong with that, but it's not me.
Brian: Right, and what you say is really true also. I've got to say, in doing this show, I've gotten to hear so many of these really talented people who, they do this on the side, and they're professional caliber. But they do it on the side as their hobby, and they make their living another way, and it's truly incredible to see.
John: It's an avocation versus a vocation.
Brian: Exactly. Exactly. Well, very eloquently put. I dig it. Tell me about your best show that you've done here in town. Well, not even in town, just in general. What's the best who you've done?
Jenny: Well, I mean, we're having a little debate about this, but ... So John ... There was one particular show at Wonderland Ballroom where we were, just because stuff happens, we were forced to really ...
John: We had a hard stop.
Jenny: We had a hard stop. We were the last band, and suddenly there was just no more time left at all, and we had to pretty much figure out how to play our nice, cozy 35-minute set in about 20 minutes.
Brian: Oh my goodness.
Jenny: We were just like, you know, jumping on stage, and we just said "Let's do it," and we just throw down ...
John: [crosstalk 00:08:48] tucks. No pedals, no nothing.
Jenny: The crowd that was there, they were great. They went crazy. They were bouncing off the walls dancing. They thought it was just amazing. I mean ...
John: They knocked the monitors over.
Jenny: Our music is well-suited to having to go really fast anyway, so it worked out okay.
Brian: This is true. The punk genre, it definitely ... Good upbeat tempos, upbeat energy; I can imagine that was one heck of a show.
Jenny: Right, right, and I would say we're definitely more in the pop-punk realm, just not to mislead anybody. But punk in spirit, all the way, so you nailed that.
Brian: Got it. Now what about ... What's the future look like for you guys? Let me just ask it. What's the future look like for you guys?
Jenny: Long. There are a lot of years.
Brian: A lot of years, so you're not going anywhere, okay. So is there a goal you're working toward, or just want to keep making music?
Jenny: Always, yes. That is the point. Oh, and now we've got our trailer guy, right behind us, so we're ... Yeah. He's trying out.
John: We aspire to play at every venue in D.C.
Jenny: That's right.
John: It would be a great achievement. That would be a milestone for us.
John: We've still got some to tick off that we're working on, but that's what I think the future would hold for us, and more recording. We're kind of thinking about different approaches to recording and how to put out music in 2016, like how does it work today? What's the best way? We've recorded and EP, and we've watched a lot of our friends, including Fellowcraft, release their EPs, and we're trying to learn from that and figure out, what is the modern ...
John: What is the way for the 90s to do it, you know?
Jenny: So we do have an EP coming out, and we want to continue to record because we already have a bunch of songs that we are chomping at the bit to like get to the studio, and even if we're just doing one at a time, just getting them out so folks can enjoy them. As for all those venues that we're going to play, venues out there, we're looking at you.
Brian: Very excited.
Jenny: Yeah, here we come.
John: We write a lot, and it will be great to have our songs out there for people who come to the shows to be able to hear in advance and maybe look forward to them, rather than a more traditional approach of recording it and then working on it, and then six months later, you release it, and then you play those songs. We're just thinking about different approaches to that. So I think that's in our future; some experimentation.
Brian: One of my favorite questions to ask is one piece of advice you would offer to musicians?
John: Join Flashband.
Jenny: And be yourself.
Brian: Best, most succinct answers yet. Join Flashband, and be yourself. What about a special message for your fans?
Jenny: All of our fans, so wait, how many is that?
John: Jenny's fans?
Brian: All of those fans out there.
Jenny: We love you. I think I'm going to try to get this guy, who's drilling the door, to be our fan. We were super excited when actually ... Just so you know, the inner workings of a musician's brain, right, that we were really excited when we met our first fan who we did not know.
Brian: Ah, yes
Jenny: They were not someone's friend, or ...
Brian: It's the transition.
Jenny: I mean it, ended up it was somebody's friend, but she legitimately said, like, "No no no, I came because of you guys, not just because I know your friend over here. That's just a coincidence." So...
John: I don't think she's been to a show since that one.
Jenny: That's true. Oh well, we're working on it.
Brian: There's been so many others since then.
Jenny: So we're asking, won't you be our fan? Please?
John: She just did that to get us to buy her a beer, I think. I'm in a band.
Brian: There you go.
John: It worked.
Brian: Clever. Clever. I dig it guys. For those folks who want to find out more about Ménage á Garage, where do they go? What are the best places to find you?
John: All the places.
Jenny: All the places. You know, Facebook. I know. We know that it's a struggle for people who don't know French that we have all these accents, okay, but it's ...
John: You don't have to type the accents. You'll get to us.
Jenny: You don't. It's spelled ... it's not Nicki Minaj spelling; it's men-age a garage. That's like the easiest phonetic spelling I can kind of give over the radio.
John: If you type that in to any convenient search box, you will probably find us
Jenny: Just Google.