Whenever I watch a performance by The Dammit Janets, it almost feels as if I’m a fly on the wall at a slumber party (minus the sexy pillow fights).
Whether they’re sharing a whisper and a giggle between songs or delivering one of lead singer Lauren Leach’s raw bluesy/country/ain’t-takin’-no-shit originals, the intimacy of their onstage interactions makes you wonder, “Are they playing for me, or for themselves?”
Leach (pictured left), the 27-year-old Gurley, Alabama native, met 24-year-old Kiwi Elizabeth Cameron just over a year ago at a TEFL course in Prague, where Cameron was Leach’s teacher-trainer. They didn’t exactly hit it off. Leach jokes that Cameron criticized her for “smiling too much” when disciplining students.
When Cameron decided to move to Busan earlier this year, her TEFL company gave her the names of previous students who were here. She dropped Leach a line, and the two began stalking each other’s Facebook pages, discovering that they had a whole lot more than Prague in common.
Cameron’s arrival in Busan corresponded with Leach’s performance in the Wolfhound’s acoustic showdown (where she took first place). As Cameron watched Leach perform, she immediately started working out harmonies in her head and recalls thinking, Shit’s gettin’ real!
The two decided that they would debut during the then-upcoming Voices for Vaginas event, and Cameron showed up at Leach’s place to jam with a bag full of toy instruments from HomePlus and a couple of spoons, perfect compliments to Leach’s three-string guitar. Once Cameron’s spoons got taped to a Danielle Steele romance novel, their rhythm section was complete.
They describe subsequent practices as something out of an SNL skit, where they’d talk in different accents, often inevitably leading to one of them spewing out a mid-western, “Aw, dammit.” Thus was born the name of the act—homage to a classic song from The Rocky Horror Picture Show.
When asked who’s the “Dammit” and who’s the “Janet”, Cameron says, “Isn’t it obvious? I’m definitely the Janet!” Leach chimes in, “I have a really laid-back approach to music. If we mess up, so what? Music is supposed to be messy and fun. But it also needs its order and precision. That’s why we have such a good dynamic.”
“A good dynamic” is a gross understatement. If you haven’t had the good fortune to see The Dammit Janets play yet, keep your eyes peeled for their increasingly frequent gigs. And don’t be surprised when you find yourself tappin’ yer heels and clapping along. Their perfect blend of schoolgirl femininity, catchy tunes and kitschy fun has breathed new life into Busan’s ever-evolving music scene.
Photos Alice Nettleingham
Video courtesy of Jeff Lebow.