Q&A: Madison-based ‘Jonesies’ talk Midwestern musician lifestyle

The indie-pop group sat down with A&E to spill their love of music.

Audience members listen as the Jonesies play at Coming Soon in Minneapolis on Saturday, March 25, 2017.

Image by Chris Dang

Audience members listen as the Jonesies play at Coming Soon in Minneapolis on Saturday, March 25, 2017.

by Joe Cristo

Unlike the coasts, the Midwest sees thousands of bands and artists migrate from city-to-city on a regular basis.

The Wisconsin-based band, Jonesies, is no different. They have lived in Madison, Wisconsin; Omaha, Nebraska and Minneapolis.

This week they returned to Minneapolis while on tour for their newest record, “Keep Up.” A&E sat down with Jonesies members Mary Begley (bass, vocals) and Luis Perez (guitar, vocals) to get their take on what it’s like to be a Midwestern musician.

When and why did you start working in music?

MB: I’ve been in bands since I was like 19. When I was 17 my brother Jack was playing in bands and practicing in the basement with a bunch of his friends. I would go in there and see what he was listening to and then immediately download it from LimeWire.

I started listening to early indie like Bright Eyes or The Unicorns, then pretty quickly fell into punk and then into Riot grrrl… At this point I’ve sort of grown out of punk and I’m a lot more into pop and country music.

LP: I started playing guitar in high school and I listened to music a lot when I was younger.

I didn’t start playing in bands until I transferred back to Madison for school. A lot of my friends had started their own bands so I thought I should have my own.

I’ve always liked pop music, or indie-pop music. My uncle would do these CDs of bands he thought were interesting and “Sunset Tree” by the Mountain Goats was one that made its way to me. I like the stories in it and the thematic stuff off of it.

What are you trying to accomplish with Jonesies?

MB: I’m definitely more interested in playing live while [Perez] is more into songwriting and structures. I just want to grow my voice. I’ve learned how to sing and not be afraid to belt. But I want to get better.

I don’t know if there is an end goal. I would say a full length record but we already did that.

LP: I think what I’m trying to accomplish with this project is related to songwriting in some way. I write most of the songs in the band and I try to write songs from a negative perspective.

Like feelings of egotism and jealousy that a lot of people feel ashamed of having … I personally think it’s interesting to generate songs from those feelings. That isn’t to say it’s right, but that they happen. I like tying those sentiments with a simple pop song.

How did you record “Keep Up?”

MB: We recorded it at an analog recording studio that our drummer [Tessa Echeverria] partly owns … We started in the fall and finished it up in February. Eleven of the songs were written by Luis and then one by me.

We’ve always recorded with [Echeverria] and she has only gotten better … We also added a lot of extra guitar and pedal steel on two tracks. It sounds carefree, but very full.

LP: I think for songs you should work on them in a collection in that they’re all surrounding similar feelings. That’s true for this record.

[Peter Briggs] joined the band a few months ago. That put us on pause for a little bit while recording because he needed to learn the songs. His guitar playing style is a little bit more sophisticated and traditional in some senses but it works well with the basic pop song formula.

What advice do you have for someone who wants to pursue music?

MB: I would say to be intentional and to go at your own speed. I feel like in different projects when you’re working with other people it can get out of control. Everyone has ideas.

You sometimes start recording or playing out before you are sure about your own sound and abilities. It definitely took me a long time to figure out what I wanted to sound like.

LP: I feel like the main thing is you just need to do it. I think I was this person for a while who was kind of scared. But finally doing it and finding people supportive, I think that’s the most important thing. Collaboration like that is rare.

Editor’s note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.