"We're a pop band," says C. Jane Run vocalist Lisa Carey. "After years of wondering whether that was okay, we finally came to terms with that fact. It's not rocket science, it's just pop."
"And," chimes in bassist/vocalist Mike Wray, "we couldn't be happier."
Happy is exactly what C. Jane Run is about their new album "Happy," a fresh, enthusiastic record steeped in dazzling melodies, jangly guitars and 1980's- washed power pop that finds the four-piece Albany, NY based group doing what it does best: having fun.
From the pure driving pop of "Lori Sunday" and "I'm The Hero" to the raw vein of emotion that pumps through "Any Other Way" and record's the exquisite title cut, "Happy" is a rough gem of smart, seamless songs, most of them penned by longtime musical partners Wray and guitarist Chuck Reinemann.
Carey and Wray provide the words to the songs, singing about life, love and yeah, even the pursuit of happiness. After all, isn't that what being happy is all about?
"I love this records, I just love it," Carey says. "I think we've finally grown into our sound. It's the best material we've done."
"I love the intensity of it, the fact that we actually brought some of these songs to life in the studio," added drummer Joanne DeSarbo. "The high that you experience doing that is amazing."
Produced by knob-turner Ted Malia (who has engineering credits on R.E.M.'s "Automatic For The People" and The Black Crowes' "Shake Your Moneymaker"), "Happy" is a much lighter, more upbeat record than the band's moody debut record "You Must Be Jane..."
"It's got a real '80s feel to it and that's cool," says Wray, who along with Carey, is an unabashed fan of '80s pop bands like Missing Persons, The Outfield, The Plimsouls, Berlin and Josie Cotton. "I just love that stuff, it's just so upbeat, so catchy and so much fun."
"'You Must Be Jane...' was a very dark record," Carey says. "I think maybe we're just happier now, I know I am. Things are just really good and I feel it. We're on to something and we all feel it."
That's not to say that the Janes have lost their moody pop edge, far from it. For starters, the title cut is a catharsis of sorts for Carey, whose father died in 1999 after a head injury almost a decade ago left him unable to relate to his wife and children as he had before.
Carey shuddered when relatives and friends of her father's greeted her at his wake with hollow words of comfort like "it's probably for the best" and that she should cheer up and "be happy."
"You don't feel that way at the time, he's dead, how can that be for the best," says Carey, a bit of anger creeping into her voice. "That just irritated me. I know people meant well, but there's nothing happy about it. It's a terrible experience."
An old photo of Carey's father and mother grace the front cover or "Happy," a photo shot as the then-young couple were about to leave for their honeymoon; if you look closely, Carey's dad is holding the car keys in his hand. It's a poignant picture of two people with their lives ahead of them: the embodiment of happy.
"My father is really apparent to me lately, he's huge," says Carey. "His hand has been guiding a lot of things lately and I feel very close to him right now."
"'Happy' is one of my favorite songs on this record," Wray says. "Lisa's voice is gorgeous and Chuck's guitar work is so pretty. You can tell those two have been playing together for a long time."
Actually, Carey, Reinemann and Wray have know each other for quite some time. Carey and Reinemann met in high school and played in several bands together before stumbling upon Wray, a Syracuse, NY native, when he answered their newspaper ad for a bass player in 1989.
The trio first joined forces in a short-lived rock band called Girl Gone Bad, releasing an impressive album titled "Someday." With the band on it's last legs, Carey left the fold, leaving Reinemann and Wray to form another easily forgotten alternative pop group with a grand name - Colorsound.
Reinemann talked Carey into returning to music in 1994 and C. Jane Run, named after the old primary school reading books from the 1940's and 1950's was born.
The Janes releases "You Must Be Jane..." on their own Wallflower Records label in 1997, linking with a new web label, SpinRecords.com, to issue "Happy." Spin Records has since gone defunct.
After parting with longtime drummer David Kindlon in early 1999, the band went through a series of drummers before settling on DeSarbo, a friend of Carey's who was a C. Jane Run fan and wasn't above joining the band on stage for a song or two.
"She's a finesse drummer, she's not flashy but the stuff she plays is amazing to me," Carey says of DeSarbo. "It's so subtleand has such an impact. She's the foundation that wasn't there before."
Since recording "Happy", C. Jane Run has won gigs at the Poptopia! Festival in San Francisco, the NEMO Music Festival in Boston, the EAT-M Festival in Las Vegas and International Pop Overthrow 2001 in Los Angeles. The band has also signed a distribution deal with Twee Kitten Records, a California-based web pop label.
C. Jane Run is also hard at work writing songs for their next record. Not too shabby for a band that almost broke up in early 1999 after making a half-hearted attempt at becoming a country band, a bid that lasted for little more than two weeks at best.
But if it's one thing the Janes have learned, it's to do what you do best and damn the music trend of the day. C. Jane Run. Pop band and proud of it.
"We're on a roll," Wray says. "It's like, I get up in the morning and I wonder, what's going to happen with the band today? It's been a great ride."