Noise for the Needy, a music festival that raises money for Seattle charities through a variety of shows and events, will culminate in June with performances at the Conor Byrne Pub, the Sunset Tavern, Hattie's Hat and the Tractor Tavern June 20 - 23 in Ballard. Two artists featured in this year's performance will be Julia Massey and Jared Cortese from the Seattle bands, Julia Massey and the Five Finger Discount and The Jesus Rehab, respectively. The two artists, who will be live at NFTN on June 22 at Conor Byrne, also happen to be married to one another. KEXP caught up with the happy couple in Wilkes Barre, PA, on a day off from their joint summer tour.
What’s it like touring together?
Julia Massey: Touring together as a married couple is probably like going out to a hip restaurant if you're both chefs. You're both obviously enjoying the experience, and would be even if you were not with your partner, but the fact is you're analyzing every moment of it because you're on the same path. Literally.
Jared Cortese: I feel like we spend a lot of time trying to fit in with the other band members, who are some of our closest friends. I think we have an unspoken rule that if we are getting too personal we need to chill out. None of that uncomfortable smooching and baby talk, and on the other end we try and not bicker at each other in front of the guys. People don't want to see their married friends argue, even if it is family. We get along really well so it isn't that hard. On a band dynamic level, we all realize Julia is the only girl so we try and be as respectful as possible!
What do you do about your apartment while on the road?
JM: Great question! We've hired Seattle's S.W.A.T. team to look over our 1-bedroom in Greenwood. That's why they've been up and down Aurora recently (just kidding!).
JC: We have our landlord watching our apartment although I am not sure how effective that is. I am paranoid!
Do you find yourselves planning sightseeing trips while on tour together?
JC: We don't actually do a lot of sight seeing. I like just looking out the window on the road. I really feel content on the road. The Rock and Roll Hall of fame in Cleveland and searching for good places to get coffee are really fun though. All of our bonding moments usually happen over meals. We have had some great conversations on this tour. Julia’s bassist Geoff Gibbs and I like talking a lot about music theory, because we're a couple of geeks. There is definitely a lot of dreaming going on that gets us pumped up, and Julia usually tells us about some funny YouTube video she watched recently. I really enjoyed hearing our buddies in Cleveland describe their experiences there and what they loved about their music scene. In the few hours before and after a show it is all business though.
JM: Over pho in Cleveland, we were eating with two local musicians and I picked their brains about the music culture there and compared it with Seattle: How do venues treat artists? What's the underground scene like? What's the all ages market like? Aren't you glad you have pho here??
What have you learned about each other while on the road?
JM: I'm stumped a little bit with that one. We've all spent so much time together in the last 4-5 years that it almost seems like we've learned it all. I know that's not true, but… Oh I know! I've learned that my bandmates and husband LOVE video games!!
JC: I like watching how Julia interacts with other people. Most of the things I learn are things that I have forgotten about her that are reinforced because we are spending every second together. I loved watching her interact with my family in Ypsilanti, Michigan. She is an amazing communicator. Oh, and Julia likes Ocean Spray gummies. Didn't know that.
What’s been your favorite city/venue to visit together?
JM: Chicago and the Wise Fools Pub. I really love that city, and the venue itself almost looked like something out of Eyes Wide Shut, minus the naked people. Plus, it's kind of The Jesus Rehab’s home court; I had a blast jumping up and down with some of their favorite out-of-town friends.
JC: Chicago has been a consistent pleasure to visit. The other cities and venues have been cool, but I feel drawn to Chicago. As for venue I would say Beaner’s in Duluth was a fantastic place, definitely the one I would most likely hang out at myself. Pat's in The Flats in Cleveland was cool because it was where the White Stripes played their first out of town gig.
Do you still find yourself surprised when seeing the other perform on stage?
JM: I actually surprised myself the other day when Jared stood on his amp and jumped off. Normally I am crippled by fear and my palms start sweating when he does that, but the last time he did it, I felt excited and happy. He landed on my shoulders! Just kidding, he landed squarely on stage.
JC: Yes of course! I am Julia's biggest fan! My favorite performance so far has been at a coffee shop in Champaign. Julia had an engaging attitude I haven't seen her express before and it brought all the songs to life in a new way for me. She owned her performance. I love being surprised by her.
Do you eat out a lot while on tour?
JC: (Laughs) Not really. I research and budget everything out ahead of time so there haven't been any surprises. We just stick to grocery stores and healthy restaurants. Pho is our go to if any one is feeling the slightest bit sick.
JM: We eat out one meal a day, normally. Although eating "out" sometimes means getting a wrap from Trader Joe's.
How do you get around? Has this tour affected your perception of gas prices since you normally bike around Seattle together?
JC: We get around in the minivan we rented. Dodge Caravan packed to the brim! Although not as packed as The Hoots Hoots’ Prius. That is amazing.
JM: All I know about gas prices is that the cheapest we've seen is $3.29 and that I can't believe people are buying this stuff all the time. The van we rented was through Geoff's insurance. It's a "Stow and Go" which means that we can squeeze all the essentials inside with very little room. Geoff created a map of where all the gear goes in the back so that we don't need his help every time. I'm really good at it now.
What do you find yourself missing about Seattle?
JM: I would say pho, but Cleveland had it and I saw a sign for it in State College, PA. After that? Third Place Pub in Ravenna – we hang out there all the time when we’re home.
JC: Of course our friends and our music scene. I whole-heartedly feel it is the best in the world. I have seen a lot of unexpected things so far though on tour. I think the rest of the country is realizing we are doing cool things in our corner of the planet. Our drummer Dom, Geoff, and Julia talked to a barista in Cleveland about whether their coffee was from Ethiopia, Peru, Colombia, or Indonesia. I think the answer ten years ago would have been "huh?"
Ever play together on stage?
JM: the only time we've ever performed together on tour is when I've sung on The Jesus Rehab’s song "Seattle." We're saving up our first collaboration for when the world is ready (i.e. when WE are ready). Although I do harmonize with Jared when he's practicing, or by myself while listening to his music.
JC: We have never written a song together as of yet so there isn't anything to play, really. Maybe we'll have to put together a cover or something so we can do it on our next tour. That would be fun!
Catch Julia Massey and Jared Cortese with their bands live at NFTN on June 22 at Conor Byrne (show at 9pm). Check out the full Noise for the Needy here.
Whether she’s wearing a feather mask during a KEXP in-studio or making what she calls “kids music for adults,” Massey and her band mates have treated their audiences to songs that are good for the spirit, no matter your age.
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