We sat down with Hunger Games actress Jena Malone to discuss her musical project The Shoe consisting of herself and bandmate Lem Jay Ignacio. There new album I'm Okay is available on iTunes now.
Emma Nolan: Hey Jena! Last time we spoke to you at UTP we discussed your acting career but today I want to focus on your music. Your band, The Shoe! How would you describe your music?
Jena Malone: Every time we make a song it's different. But it's all storytelling for me. So that's the best way I can describe it.
EN: The Shoe consists of you and your band mate Lem Jay Ignacio, what makes you two compatible for creating music together?
JM: We understand each other and we have built a really interesting musical language from all the years of free-styling together. We have similar aesthetics when it comes to music. We both value the art more than the commercial when it comes to creating songs.
EN: Your songs are so delicate and intimate, how does it feel to share this kind of almost private music?
JM: I find it Inspiring. They [the songs] of course are very personal to me. But I made them to share, so I couldn't be more excited that other hearts get to hear and lean from them when they need to.
EN: What inspires you to write, and what inspires your lyrics?
JM: Everything inspires me to write. When I sit down to write it’s all stories and poems, it never starts out as a song, and it's not until I'm in the middle of free-styling a song that I'll remember something I wrote down and I'll use it in a verse. I'll listen to freestyles we created and write down all the lyrics that are great and then I'll craft if from there. I like being scared about what is created in the moment. Usually it's things I could never come up with on my own.
EN: In your video for Dead Rabbit Hopes, you celebrate the female body and the importance of having confidence in yourself, and the video is filled with symbolism, can you explain some of the imagery in the video?
JM: It's pretty simple symbolism. The lyrics are full if metaphors and symbolism. So I wanted the visuals to be more straightforward. A women, a body, naked. Maybe she’s on her death bed, celebrating and remembering her body for all that it is and not what it should be. I wanted to dress the body in flowers and glitter and not leather and clothing that over sexualized the body. I wanted to show a real woman's body, celebrating herself and not sexualizing the female body for someone else.
EN: The lyric "Well maybe my beauty/was only meant/ to be seen/ by the men..." to me, highlights the importance of women having love for our own bodies without them being hypersexualixed through a sort of male gaze, so to speak. Can you discuss this?
JM: There are just so many myths and images showing women what they should be and why we should look the way we look and not enough myths and images telling women to be as they are. I wrote that song coming from a sort of nostalgic place, thinking that if I reached my death bed and I still never had the parts of my body that I wanted worshipped I could at least rejoice in the noble scavenger crows wisdom, of eating every part of my body and embracing every single part. And maybe that’s where a women's true beauty was meant to be seen; on her death bed. It’s not the most uplifting story, but it was important for me at the time of writing it. It all came from a poem I wrote 4 years ago.
Here is the full poem before it became a song:
Dead Rabbit Hopes
maybe my beauty is only meant to be seen
in death's lovely carcass
that happily feeds
the noble black crow
the voracious scavenger king
singing virtue to my body
reconized from their dreams
how tender, their pure love for me
my body finally ravishing
and each marker, each glade
every corner never touched never craved
now are becoming,
blooming in lips so alive,
one with their yin-mother's tongue
so hungry for this, chewing
this animals' pride,
each part will be savoured
each part, warm embraced
every yearning and quiver eaten
every paramour's imagined taste
spilling my cupped breasts over
with true love's
holy wisdom of
EN: How does a career in music compare to one in acting?
JM: Well I'm just at the beginning of my music career and right in the middle of my acting one, so of course the music feels more new and free. However, both are forms of storytelling and both are about conjuring unseen things out of my person. I'm so happy to be able to have different outlets of creation. I want to keep discovering new ways of telling stories. I'm working on an idea for a sound play right now. I’m super inspired by the works of Janet Cardiff.
EN: Every review I've read of your music thus far has been to praise it, which is fantastic; does it feel like your hard work has paid off to have it so well received?
JM: Hard work always pays off. I make music I want to listen to so at the end of the day if it moves me I couldn't be happier. Of course it's amazing to have other hearts responding. I can't wait to more teenagers get a hold of it, I really wrote it for them.
EN: How did you come up with the name The Shoe and what's the significance behind it? (It's a kind of instrument I believe...?)
JM: I was making music by myself, in my bedroom when I lived up in Lake Tahoe, and I got to a point of wanting to create music in public. What I had been doing before was so easy, all alone whenever the inspiration hit. I really wanted to start playing for people, whether it was on the side of the street or just for the birds. So I took all my instruments and tried to find something to put them in and I had "there was an old woman that lived in a shoe" in my mind so I knew I wanted to create my own shoe, that I could live out of. I had an old steamer trunk and just used that. Then I bought a generator and drove down to LA.
EN: Are there any other artists that inspire you creatively and musically?
JM: Janet Cardiff, Neil Young, Nina Simone, PJ Harvey and Tom Waits all inspire me.
EN: Your album I'm Okay was released on June 3rd and will definitely be on my Summer playlist, do you have plans to make more albums with the Shoe in the future?
JM: That’s all I want to do; make more music. I'm constantly creating. It’s just finding a sustainable method for the band to release albums and tour because we only play free shows.