The Untitled Magazine - Music Issue 6

“Out on the town, dissatisfied with our situation, karaoke selection, and skirt-chasing success—or lack thereof—we decided in a flash that we had all the makings of a band, and (thank god for Alex’s vowel) we had all the letters to make some semblance of a word,” Vocalist Z Berg tells The Untitled Magazine about the genesis of her puzzle-piece band name in an exclusive interview for the Music Issue 6 (available in print and App editions). Check out the full Q&A below:


The Untitled Magazine: How did you get started with music?

JJAMZ: Each of us has been playing music for the majority of our lives. I’ve been playing and singing since I was practically an infant, and every member of JJAMZ shares a similarly early-blooming musical interest. From the 15-year-old inception of The Like, to the senior year of high school spent recording the first Phantom Planet record, to James’ tireless (and ultimately successful) quest to move to Los Angeles from Nebraska and play guitar for a living, to Jason’s tenor drum in the marching band, playing just behind the beat, to Michael’s high school punk band roots, we are, for better or for worse, lifers.

UM: Where did the idea for an acronym as band name come from?

J: The formation of JJAMZ was instantaneous. Out on the town, dissatisfied with our situation, karaoke selection, and skirt chasing success (or lack thereof), we decided in a flash that we had all the makings of a band, and (thank god for Alex’s vowel) we had all the letters to make some semblance of a word.

UM: How long have you all been performing?

J: Individually we have all been performing for more years than one can count on two hands, but as a band, it’s been nearly seven years of casually playing and performing together, beginning as a side project and coalescing into a real band that tours and puts out records about a year or two ago.

UM: Do you guys ever get nervous performing live?

J: There are always certain situations that rattle the nerves of even the most seasoned musician, but for the most part, I think the years of experience and the presence of best friends in the band helps to soften those blows.

UM: Do you prefer studio or live performance and why?

J: It’s like comparing apples and oranges, really. The two things are very different beasts. Both can be frustrating, exhilarating, daunting, amazing, depressing, and rewarding.

UM: Do you have a favorite band or musician?

J: Between us, we have quite a wide and eclectic range of taste and favorites, which I think informs our music in quite a specific and wonderful way.

UM: If you weren’t in music what would you do?

J: Though I can’t imagine such a life, I have quite the penchant for forensic pathology and Russian lit.

UM: What was the most difficult performance in your career & how did you handle it?

J: Oh, I’ve no clue. There have been many over the years. It really does help to have a band you love there with you. To just block out the audience for a moment and say, ‘Hey, I’m playing for you guys, let’s just have fun together up here, whether or not anyone out there is interested!’

UM: Do you have a specific “look” for yourself and/or the band?

J: My look is rather an ever changing one, but I think the influence of Debbie Harry, sixties Dollybirds, and Cher Horowitz are ever-present guideposts. The dudes? I don’t know, they’re babes though.

UM: Who is your favorite artist?

J: I’m quite fond of De Kooning, Degas, and Velázquez.

UM: Do you have a motto or words of wisdom you live by?

J: Nope.

UM: What is it about music that you love?

J: Everything, particularly the intangible, inexplicable, ineffable, magical nature of it all.


Photography by Jeff Forney for The Untitled Magazine

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