Thanks a lot to Scott Degraw for the interview! Read the interview to bandmate Douglas Armour here!

++ How did Juniper start? Who were the members and where did you all meet each other? And what was the main reason to start the band?

If I recall Doug and Jenny met and they decided to start playing.

I knew Doug through my brother Brian (of Crainium and Gang Gang Dance). We had all played music in he and Tim Dewitt’s (also of Crainium and Gang Gang Dance) practice space starting in late ‘94, which was a 10X10 U-Haul rental space in Arlington. Very punk rock that. We recorded a few improv sessions and dubbed it “Actress”. We also had a co-op music and art space in DC called ArtsLab for about four months until the floor started to cave in. As soon as the hair dresser below us started complaining about plaster falling into client’s hair it was all over.

So we were all just making a go at it, seeing what stuck basically.

But I digress…Doug and Jenny had posted an ad on the tree in front of my house looking for a bassist. Coincidentally, the same day I saw it, Doug thought about asking me if I wanted to switch from guitar to bass and join. And I did.

++ How was the scene of DC during those years? Was the halo of Pam Berry’s music still present? Where you influenced by any of it? Why did you decide to leave the city and relocate to San Francisco?

This was in Mt. Pleasant in the heady mid-90’s. You couldn’t throw a rock without hitting someone in a white belt. Hipsters abound. We were sort of outsiders it seemed. Just doing our thing.

I lived across the street from Tuscadero. My roommates and I used to throw water balloons at them when they hung out on the front porch.

Looking back though (and I will admit up front that this sounds like something an old crotchety bastard would say) it seems like it was the beginning of the end for the DC scene as it was known. All the emo stuff was in full swing and about to implode on itself. The pop scene seemed to be small and strong, but a little overshadowed by the “DC scene”.

I think Jenny was way more into the pop scene and all the bands that came with it than Doug and I. She and Mike from the Ropers actually introduced me to a lot of that stuff, but I think we did play a few coffee shop shows with Black Tambourine. Personally, I would say Pam Berry was not necessarily a huge influence on me. I came at the whole thing from more of a Smiths/David Bowie/Eno/Pixies place.

I’d say Boyracer was more of an influence on me than anyone at the time. Just because they were nice folks and didn’t shy away from making some fucking noise.

You can hear it on our records to a certain extent, but we didn’t really fit the mold of “twee”. We played really fucking loud and fast most of the time. So much so that at one show in Adams Morgan we actually rattled the entire top shelf of liquor off the bar breaking all the bottles.

The move to SF – from my perspective at the time – was spurred on by just a desire for change and NOT being in DC. I thought we were just getting things going in DC, but everyone else had wanderlust. Not a bad thing to have. The rest of the band moved to SF via our U.S. tour. We started in DC and ended in SF and they stayed there. I came back to DC for a few months and finished up some work then moved out there. I think that was sort of the beginning of the end for me. Jenny was already talking about moving to LA when I got out to SF. I lasted about six more months then jumped ship. But I’m still glad I went out.

++ That year, 1996, you released two 7″s right. The debut one was “You Don’t Hide so Well” on A Turntable Friend in Germany. How did you end up releasing so far away? Care to tell us a bit about more of the single?

Hmmm…I think we ended up hooking up with ATF through Mike from the Ropers. Ulrich really wanted to put out the record and we just decided to go for it. I remember coordinating with him in Germany and coincidentally using AIM for the first time to communicate. It seemed pretty high tech. Holy Shit! I’m writing back and forth to a dude in Germany!

Don’t remember much about recording or the genesis of that song. But I remember learning that we needed to mix the vocals MUCH higher after listening to the test pressing.

++ The second came out on The Orange Peel label, who I honestly don’t know any other releases from, and it was called “Making Gerard Smile”. Who run this label and how did you release with them? And… who was Gerard? Is this a real story?

OK…sadly I just remember it was guy named Ari who was a University of Maryland student who ran Orange Peel. I think he did a lot of stuff at the radio station. I think he just heard us at a show and asked if we wanted to put out a record.

Gerard I think came from some joke between Doug and Tim Dewitt. I think it refers to Gerard Depardieu. Ask Doug on that one.

Don’t remember much about recording or the genesis of that song. But I remember learning that we needed to mix the vocals MUCH higher after listening to the test pressing.

++ Also there was a video for the A side of this single, what was the idea behind it and what do you remember from recording it?

I was just starting to get into video production at the same time Juniper started and was working at my first production gig when we shot that. I had access to an AVID system and a Hi-8 camera so we just made it. It’s funny to watch it now. It was mostly shot in our cramped little practice space which was a room we built in Jenny and Mike’s basement apartment and lined with urine stained mattresses found around Mt. Pleasant. It was a sweaty, shit hole and pretty awesome. I still have bad hearing in my left ear from playing with Jenny’s amp next to my head.

On a sad note, the guy who releases the balloon at the beginning is Nathan Livingston Maddox who was one of the original members of Gang Gang Dance. He was hit by lightning in NYC and killed about six years ago. That shot was typical Nate.

On another note I have hours of footage from our U.S tour – Nate came along on that too. And our ill-fated recording session in Philadelphia from Winter 96 or 97 where we got snowed into a studio for four days and lived off gas station burritos and Dr. Pepper.

++ Third and last came the Fantastic Records single, the wonderful “Think and Die Thinking” with “Summer on My Mind” as a B side. Aside from the fantastic song the sleeve is really pretty. Whose idea was it to have a real flower pasted on the back cover and a little kind of portrait on the front cover?

I think the flower was Jenny’s idea. The picture on the front is a still from the movie “Delicatessen”. We all loved sleeves with attention to detail and that was our best effort. I remember wanting it to look like a Durutti Column LP.

But they were a pain in the ass to make. We had to glue each photo to the sleeve, then put on the little corners, then flowers. We all picked flowers out of the front yards of Mt. Pleasant every day until we had about five hundred then dried them out.

++ Also on this single it says that “Think and Die Thinking” was titled by Tatty Bellrope, what’s the story behind this?

Tatty Bellrope was a pseudonym for one Daniel Gallagher who came up with the title. I believe he is mowing lawns in New Hampshire now.

++ What was the highlight of Juniper’s life? What were the best moments of being with the band?

Hmm…I think the one and only U.S. tour for me was a highlight. I had never driven across the country before so it was pretty memorable. I’ve done it since, but it pales in comparison to that trip. And always will.

I think we opened for a very young Spoon on our date in Denton, TX. That was right before Doug tried to light the front awning on fire and we got kicked out. Good times.

++ Where the band members involved with any other bands before or after Juniper?

Doug and Jenny can speak to that. I have played around DC, but pretty much have focused on TV/video production since then. My music involvement is one of the weekend warrior variety. That being said, I still have a full drum set, guitar and bass set up in my basement and fuck around constantly with recording bits of music that no one will ever hear.

++ Why did the band call it a day? What are you all doing nowadays?

I quit the band in late ’97 I think. We had moved to SF and I was just realizing that film production was something I was just as interested in AND I could make a paycheck from it. I realized that my favorite thing about playing music was playing music and I didn’t really care if anyone ever heard it. The rest of the band wanted to make a go at it – there was talk of moving to LA – and my heart wasn’t in it fully. Looking back I think I was a bit of a self-righteous dick about it but at the time it seemed like a huge deal to pull up roots and move to SF, only to move again to LA. Mike Roper took over for me and Juniper became Mondo Crescendo. Some of the songs on the first EP still have my bass lines in them but I didn’t want credit on the record for some reason. I always thought it was cool that Mike kept them.

I moved back to DC from SF and jumped into production work. I work at National Geographic in DC now making television.

++ Anything else you’d like to add or say to the popkids out there?

Don’t take any wooden nickels. Keep your feet clean and dry. Don’t be afraid to light things on fire.


Juniper – Think and Die Thinking