After five years as the songwriter and vocalist for seven-piece ‘punk/garage/swing’ outfit The Snake Oil Merchants, Mojo Juju sets out on her own with a new band this month, embarking on her Ladykiller tour of the east coast.
The music is a down-and-dirty mix of jazz, blues and swing with a distinctly queer edge and some unusually obscure influences, such as Latin American pachuco culture of the 1930s and 1940s.
“I’m a bit of a nerd, and when I get on a tangent, I have to know as much as I possibly can. I find myself really delving in and researching different styles and times in history,” Juju told the Star Observer.
“And Ppachuco culture, blues, jazz — there’s a common theme with all of them. It’s about the way people band together creatively in times when they’re oppressed and marginalised.”
Could that be what draws the openly gay Juju to these cultures? Does she think her queer identity makes her seek out similarly marginalised minorities?
“On some level it could be. I haven’t really thought about it. But I’ve always been a very visible queer person, and very aware that sometimes that can be confronting to some people. But there’s so many things I identify as, it’s all a big mishmash.”
Given her dapper appearance, one could be forgiven for assuming the Mojo Juju we see on stage and in publicity photos is more of a character, swanked up for the benefit of audiences. She insisted it wasn’t so.
“I get asked on a daily basis where the dress-up party is,” she laughed.
“I’ve definitely created my own little fantasy existence. I’m sure if you came to my house you might think you’d slipped into another era. I don’t have to think too hard [about what to wear] — it’s not so much getting into character, it’s just getting out of bed!”
And those musical tales of booze, women and woe she pens on her typewriter (“I find it helps me get in the right mood”) are similarly authentic, despite their often fictional nature.
“When I’m writing, I’m not thinking about who’s going to hear it or how it’s going to be received. A good portion of the songs I write are fictional, but there’s always an element of truth in them, if that makes sense.
“Even though it’s fiction and I’m creating these little noir musical stories, I still want it to be honest and truthful so people can relate to it.”
INFO: Mojo Juju, the Ladykiller east coast tour, March 15 – April 26. www.mojojuju.net
SYDNEY SHOW: Mojo Juju with Cash Savage, Thursday March 15 at The Vanguard Tickets $18 + bf or meal & show package $53 + bf. Book here: www.thevanguard.com.au/shows/2012/03/15/mojo-juju/10628