Words by Luke LaBenne
You may not be familiar with the name Geneva Jacuzzi but she had a bigger influence on today’s musical landscape than most realize. Her debut album Lamaze has been out of print for 10 years but has now been reissued so that everyone can experience the weird and wonderful worlds that Geneva builds. The album collects her eccentric electronic creations, demonstrating Geneva is a DIY Bedroom Pop pioneer with a flare for theatrics. Each song feels like its own theater piece with new sounds and stories. Appealing yet ominous, odd yet absorbing, these tracks suck you in with swirling synths, intricate rhythms, hazy soundscapes and dramatic vocal variations. This album is ahead of its time while delivering a vintage vibe, it exists in its own time and space and transports the listener to another realm.
Off Shelf: After a decade of it being out of print, how does it feel to have Lamaze reissued and released into the world?
Geneva Jacuzzi: It feels like a scene in a movie where they go back in time and everyone is wearing old fashioned clothes but they are the same actors so they still look the same age but you go along with it because the movie is cool and it’s better than using other actors that you can’t relate to.
OS: Since this album is a collection of recordings from 2004-2009, were they all separate songs originally, or was the intention always to compile them into an album?
GJ: They were all separate songs. I wrote them over time or as they came to me… for fun but mostly out of compulsion. I would perform them at clubs and put them online which led to people wanting me to put out a record. So in 2009, I selected 15 songs out of a hundred or so that seemed to fit together and called it Lamaze.
OS: This album sounds like a lost ’80s gem, like it could be an old cassette that was discovered in a box in the back of a record store. How did you make these songs sound so authentically vintage?
GJ: I’m pretty sure I wasn’t really trying to make the songs sound vintage. At least not intentionally. I was just making music that I liked with the tools I had at the time. My computer situation was always dodgy so I would use a 4 or 8 track cassette recorder… I also lived in a cave and only listened to music made before 1995, so I suppose my brain was authentically vintage. I always thought it was funny when people would run music through cassettes to muck it up… I was trying to do the opposite. I would do anything I could to make my little amateur setup sound as pro as possible. Then lo-fi music became cool so I suppose that is how I was able to get away with never getting my shit together.
I do admit that I was obsessed with making something sound “timeless” meaning, it could potentially exist at any time.
OS: These songs feel surreal and supernatural, like entering another time and space. How do you go about building this musical universe that transports the listener?
GJ: I’m glad you think so. I believe they are supernatural too. When I write a song, I tend to follow certain accidents that happen along the way… accidents that are beyond anything I could ever do consciously until it begins to generate a new sensation. Almost like a feeling you felt in a dream. Familiar in an uncanny sort of way. When I access that, the songs pretty much write themselves. They have their own big ideas too and like to make me crazy sometimes. I’m not joking, it’s a really weird process.
I’m well aware of other dimensions that exist. I can sense them and when you make art or music, you can access them… Have you ever seen a film, painting, heard a song and felt nothing? It’s because it isn’t real. And by that I mean, it isn’t unreal… meaning, it isn’t alive in other dimensions outside of our own. So in a way, these songs could have already existed for thousands or millions of years.
OS: From the bouncy beat of “Gray Wave City” to the wobbly pitch bends of “Group Dynamic” to the pulsing bass wobbles of “Relay Racer” there are so many different, unique sounds on this album. How did you go about creating all the distinct soundscapes on the album?
GJ: I sometimes play this game with synthesizers. I turn all of the nobs and follow a sound into another sound until it sounds like something that belongs somewhere. There are certain sounds that don’t belong anywhere but I love them so much that I design a world around them. The sounds are like elements. They have personalities. Some are centerpieces, some are helpers in the background, some are the floor or foundation, some are there to offer you an appetizer while you wait for the main course, some are there to confuse you, some are friendly, some are not. I love the ones that make me laugh the most.
OS: These songs range in mood from dancey to eerie to cosmic to dreamy. How did you approach creating these different vibes and feels while retaining the consistent lo-fi vintage style?
GJ: Most of the time, it is my intention to make an epic pop song… Like a Duran Duran or Depeche Mode song [laughs]. No joke, I’m really that basic. But things always get weird along the way and nine times out of ten, I end up with something completely different. It’s like I just get caught up in this funny little adventure and the songs wind up writing themselves into all of these different styles. I’m not kidding. That’s why I’m convinced they came from some other dimension. It’s so weird that I do this alone too. I must sound like a crazy person.
OS: Some of these songs sound like they could be vintage video game or tv themes. Was there any pop culture or media works that influenced the sounds you created on this album?
GJ: I was born in the ’80s and some relative got me a Nintendo. I remember it came with Super Mario Bros and Duck Hunt. After playing it for months and beating it a gazillion times, I remember asking my mom if she could buy me some more games and she told me, “You already have a game!” [laughs]. So I ended up playing it upside down so it could be a new game where everything is backward and reversed and more difficult for the sake of entertainment. That was a tactic I learned early on that played itself out in a rather interesting way.
OS: Is it strange to see the sort of bedroom pop over the past few years when you were one of the early pioneers of the practice?
GJ: Hmmm… I suppose I don’t think it’s strange. I admit that there are many things that I find strange but that isn’t really one of them.
OS: You’re a musician, a performance artist, and a music video director. Do you find that your knowledge and experience from one medium helps or influences your work in the others?
GJ: They both help and harm each other. They broaden the scope but sometimes steal the life force… I dunno. I get restless sometimes. I can’t help but change it up. I resonate with the Cocteau’s and the renaissance artists of the world.
OS: What do you hope people take away from listening to Lamaze?
GJ: I hope that maybe it can open up a few portals. And make people feel funny [laughs]. I don’t know. I just hope they enjoy it as much as I do.