“Music is a calling,” says New York City rocker, Jana Peri. “The question is whether or not you choose to accept the mission!” There’s no doubt that Jana has been on a mission to rock since her teens. With a critically lauded EP and hundreds of gigs under her studded leather belt, Jana has released her hotly anticipated debut album, Catching Flies With Vinegar (produced by renowned Ramones producer/co-songwriter Daniel Rey). Inspired by a lifelong love of The Beatles, Blondie and punk rock, Catching Flies With Vinegar’s twelve contagious tunes enthusiastically invite the attention of any music fan who wonders why pop music has become so tedious. On this impressive disc, Jana Peri’s hook-heavy melodies, clever lyrics and mature, complex voice separate her from legions of musicians going only for formulaic success and mark her as singular. Jana’s potential to get listeners singing along is amazing and her ability to rock out is guaranteed.
A native New Yorker, Jana grew up in the suburbs of Long Island in a home filled with music. She started writing songs even before she picked up her first guitar, at age seven. “When I was very young,” she remembers, “my mom bought me my first Beatles record and I absolutely fell in love with them. Their influence on me is immeasurable.” Through The Beatles, Jana discovered other British Invasion bands like The Who and The Rolling Stones; groups that would further inform her pop sensibilities. Jana studied guitar and piano through adolescence, while she immersed herself in both NYC and British punk rock, “listened to Blondie non-stop” (Debbie Harry being a major vocal influence) and began to identify with rockers like Joan Jett and Chrissie Hynde. At fifteen, Jana sang and played electric guitar in her first band, formed with a group of high school friends. “I was such a rock ‘n’ roll freak and I really wanted to make that band happen,” she recalls, “but no one else shared my passion, so it didn’t last.” Moving to Manhattan at age eighteen, Jana attended New York University where she earned a degree in drama.
After college, Jana acted in films and appeared in off-Broadway productions, but continued to write songs and pursue music. Unable to find like-minded musicians to form a band, Jana honed her vocal chops at open mic nights in the city and performed solo with her guitar. “At that point,” she says, “my focus shifted away from acting and I got very serious about music. I wanted to form a band, but I also realized I should start from scratch and really find my voice. By doing that, I developed my own style, which is a mix of melodic pop and guitar-based rock ‘n’ roll. That time definitely marked an important turning point in my career.”
In 1999, Jana’s growing ambition led her to record, produce and self-release (on her Hot Jupiter Records label) the four-track Jana Peri EP. The stylistically varied disc showcases Jana’s sly sense of humor on one of her most popular songs “Dating Sucks.” “I wrote that song from the perspective of a woman who’s had her share of bad relationships,” Jana laughs, “but I gave it such a humorous spin that it really speaks to both women and men. It’s become one of my signature songs.” “Dating Sucks” was chosen by a panel of music industry judges for the lead track on ROCKRGRL magazine’s Discoveries 2004 compilation CD. Jana Peri also includes the fan favorite, “The La La Song,” which Jana wrote in her Liverpool hotel room on a trip to the UK. “The La La Song” captures my excitement about traveling to England and making an impact on the music scene,” says Jana, “because that was really my dream.”
Critics praised Jana Peri. “Intelligent and clever lyrics to complement a powerfully confident voice,” wrote MusicTV.com, while MP3.com Top 20 Hard Pop Radio called the EP, “A combination of all things great about NY-based rock – equal parts Blondie and Joan Jett, with just enough Ramones, Television and Patti Smith to make it all click.” TransAction Magazine said, “Jana Peri is a rare talent based on vocal quality alone. Add excellent material…and the result is spectacular,” and the Santa Monica Mirror declared, “On “The La La Song,” Peri’s British Invasion roots are showing and it’s a boisterous delight.” “With the EP,” says Jana, “You can hear my transition from being a singer/ songwriter to performing songs that have more of a band feeling.”
Released in the fall of 2005, Jana’s full-length debut, Catching Flies with Vinegar, collects many songs already polished to brilliant sheen in her live shows, as well as tunes best loved by her fans. As Jana explains, she chose to work with producer Daniel Rey (Ramones, Misfits, Ronnie Spector) for very specific reasons. “There’s a strong sense of harmony and melody throughout my music, and I wanted that to be intact, but the recording also needed to capture my New York edge. I knew Daniel’s reputation and once we talked, I knew he was the right person to produce the CD. This is such a New York record and I wanted a producer who understood all of my musical influences – from the British Invasion to New York Punk Rock. Daniel has a great sense of all that and he’s a complete pleasure to work with.” Rey also contributed guitar leads and textural riffs on many of the tracks to help Jana capture the sound she was going for. Musicians on the CD include bassist Jim Stellato and drummer Rob Holm, who have played in Jana’s live band.
The album’s provocative title was inspired by the expression “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar,” but Jana adds with a laugh, “My experience is that I catch flies anyway. I think these songs convey that I’m very much a romantic at heart, but that sentiment is undercut by a sometimes cynical NYC point of view. Those two forces are at war with each other and people are attracted to the vinegar along with the sweetness.” Jana definitely wears her heart on her sleeve on “Go Ahead,” an I Will Survive-style anthem that’s one of the album’s strongest cuts. Punctuated by soaring harmonies and blistering guitar leads “Go Ahead” was previously featured on International Pop Overthrow – Volume 7: 2004 on Not Lame Recordings.
The album also expresses Jana’s love for the island of Manhattan on the humorous “City Beat ” – a raucous romp with a distinctly mod twist – and the edgy “New York Proud,” Jana’s ode to a post-9/11 New York City. Elsewhere, Jana broadens the soundscape with the jazzy, saxophone infused “All Your Fault” (described as “Peggy Lee meets Richard Hell”) and “I’ll Be Gone,” a country honky tonk diffused by Jana’s whip smart humor. As Jana explains, it was important to her to vary the sound of the album. “My aesthetic about albums comes from a time when the pop Hit Parade included many different kinds of music on one chart and on one radio station. There’s no law that says you can only put one style of music on a record.” Catching Flies comes to a strong finish with “Lust,” an unbridled guitar fugue about surrendering to libidinal temptation and the free-spirited, Jerry Lee Lewis-influenced rocker “I Wanna Rock,” where Jana confesses, “I don’t care what’s on the charts/I only know what’s in my heart/And all I really wanna do is rock!” “Part of the reason I love the recording process so much is that it’s all about purely being the artist,” Jana admits. “With his know-how and creativity, Daniel helped me fulfill my vision of how these songs should sound. I think that’s the best in-studio relationship you can have.”
Jana Peri is an electrifying live performer whose shows never fail to get crowds on their feet and dancing. She has played out extensively in the NYC club scene including popular rock venues like CBGB, Don Hill’s and Continental. She has also performed at David Bash’s International Pop Overthrow (IPO) music festivals in NYC, Chicago and Liverpool, England, where she performed at the legendary Cavern Club. While in England for IPO, Jana organized “The La La Tour,” performing a gig in each of the three cities – London, Liverpool and Manchester – mentioned in “The La La Song.” “That was really fun,” says Jana, “and I met so many cool people who really got into my music.” In late September, Jana and her band embarked on a ten-day tour of the UK, playing high profile gigs in major cities as well as more intimate shows in small towns. The tour wrapped in Liverpool with a CD release party, where Jana premiered the new music video for “The La La Song,” which was shot in Liverpool and Manchester in 2004. “It meant so much to do this tour with a full band,” Jana enthuses. “It’s made me want to tour more extensively in the UK, the States and even Japan.”
With the release of Catching Flies with Vinegar, Jana Peri looks forward to expanding her fan base and continuing to make the rock ‘n’ roll music she loves. “When I was in my formative years there weren’t many women rockers to look up to,” she says. “Some guys I know in the New York scene have tried to discourage me from playing guitar and singing lead, but that’s only strengthened my resolve to be an even better guitarist. I’m a singer first, but with my guitar I can convey things that are meaningful to me. I’m very proud of this CD and I really feel I’ve hit my mark musically.”
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Jana Peri is also a frequent, featured performer with NYC tribute band, Loser's Lounge (www.loserslounge.com).