How to put together a band, in reverse order:
1. Plan a tour.
2. Get band photos taken.
3. Choose band members.
4. Decide on a style of music.
5. Play a show.
This is how local musicians Caroline Keys, Hermina Jean and Jenny Lynn Fawcett put together their new project Junior, who are kicking off a West Coast tour in Missoula this Friday.
“We sort of worked backwards,” Fawcett said. “We sort of did everything inside out for this band.”
The three musicians first performed together as in-house backing vocalists for Cross Country, the annual Western drag music revue that features local musicians and artists.
They enjoyed spending time together and thought their voices meshed well, Fawcett said. They quickly landed on an idea of touring together.
Keys and Jean, both guitar players, picked up bass and drums respectively to fill out the band’s sound. Fawcett plays violin and they all sing, often in three-part harmony.
Junior played a couple of one-off shows at the Florence Hotel and Free Cycles — which Fawcett and Keys described as “shaky,” before committing to full-time practice sessions in the spring.
“It’s been really fun to collaborate,” Fawcett said. “It feels different than any rehearsal space I’ve ever been in — it feels super-safe to say any ideas.”
Keys agreed. All three musicians have either led a group or been a lower-level accompanist; both positions that make it hard to make one’s voice heard in a cooperative manner.
Junior’s set is made up of a few re-worked versions of Hermina Jean and Caroline Keys songs, along with a handful of covers and an original or two.
One new song, penned by Jean and fleshed out by the band, has a Bill Callahan-esque drama to it.
“It doesn’t sound like anything else we’re doing,” Keys said.
Well, what exactly are Junior then?
Judging by the group’s one recorded tune, (a cover of Jean’s “Hi” off the 2018 EP “Hot Grey”) as well as Keys and Fawcett’s descriptions, it’s sparse folk-pop, with an eye on harmonies and intricate playing.
They start working on most songs focused on the vocals, Keys said, and add sparse — but not minimalist — instrumentation from there.
“We’re working with sound or no sound,” Keys said. “Herm is playing guitar and drums at the same time.”
Junior’s tour kickoff is at Le Petit Outre on Friday, June 14, before the group head on the road for nine dates in Washington, Oregon and California.
The musicians took a unique route to finance the tour, asking local businesses for sponsorships, which will be paid back in part by the band plugging them while on the road.
Fawcett said the group chose businesses like The General Public, Betty’s Divine and The Big Dipper in part because the band liked them, but they could also potentially benefit from having their names spread around the western United States.
“I think we’ll have a lot of fun generating that advertising,” Fawcett said.
“Maybe our future is jingles,” Keys added.
The group is still looking for a touring van; at this point Keys is hoping they won’t be stuck fitting a drum set in a Toyota Rav4.
But they do have merch — Keys spent the last week laser-etching the band’s name on a series of household items like spatulas, dry-erase boards and pizza tins.
As the old saying goes, how does one get to Carnegie Hall? Practice. Well, Fawcett shared her own version:
“How do you get to go on tour? It’s mostly emailing.
“Hardly anyone’s even heard us and everybody’s so excited and supportive,” Fawcett continued. “We feel so buoyed.”