Jennifer Maher Coleman – an Xperience Interview
Written by Staff on November 8, 2023
Jennifer Maher Coleman – an Interview with Dean Giagni.
Jennifer Maher Coleman is a triple or quadruple threat depending on how you define her artistic output. A talented and popular DJ in 90’s East Coast Rave culture, a skilled and sensitive fine arts painter, the creator, singer and composer of synth-pop duo Architrave and, with the release of her third album; video producer and director for a visual album to accompany every song. And it’s available in its entirety on VHS tape! Working with her husband Paul Coleman, a talented musician and composer himself, they have formed several varied musical projects, performing all over the capital district and tri-state area. I caught up with Jennifer at her comfortable home painting studio adjacent to a music room stuffed with the couple’s gear.
RRX: I’m amazed and overwhelmed with the amount of artwork and songs in various disciplines you’ve created. Can we talk a bit about a timeline and how you were able to fit this all into your life?
JMC: Right now, I feel like at this stage in my life I’m doing all the things that I should have been doing had I been on the correct track in my twenties. We moved around a lot. I was mainly in Chicago as a teenager. And then I went to school in Illinois. And then at some time when I was at school in Illinois, we went to some clubs and I realized I loved dancing at clubs. I love dance music. Love it! I had also sung and written songs all through high school while being in choir. And I was taking classical training in high school, so there was singing, and there was songwriting. But the music I was interested in making was electronic and bass-ey and synth-ey and things I wasn’t capable of producing with just my voice and a guitar. So, there was this rift between what I could do and what I liked and it just seemed like there were different worlds that I couldn’t connect.
After college, I moved out here to Albany and somewhere in there I started going to raves. Rave culture was starting. It was the early 90s. I was obsessed. And when I got here, I lived with someone who had turntables and was trying to learn how to DJ. I had done some open mics between college and grad school but I had kind of given up on them. I was poorly playing an acoustic guitar, trying to accompany myself on original songs that I had written. I’m still not good at playing and singing at the same time. If you listen to Architrave songs, you’ll hear me play the synthesizer and then me singing and then synthesizer and then me singing because it’s very hard for me to do both at once. I can do it sometimes There are songs where I do it, but it’s mostly pretty hard. And especially playing guitar and singing, I couldn’t do it very well. So that was frustrating. It was, I wrote songs, but I couldn’t get them out. For some reason, it didn’t occur to me to make a band.
There was like a year or two between college and grad school. During that time, I got entrenched in Rave culture. I learned to DJ on my friend’s turntables and I found that I really had an affinity for it. I took my compositional skills and applied them to DJing in a way that was interesting to me. Like my sets were not, “ I’ll just try this record and mix it with this random record.” Oh no, I’d go through the whole set and make sure that everything is in the same key, make sure the rhythms are gonna work in a perfect way. I’d only play the one minute of the record that is interesting and get out of it and into the next minute of the next record. That was interesting.
I’m a very fast, busy DJ doing stuff that’s on purpose. Very technical. So I did pretty well. I kinda had a reputation. I was in a couple of magazines. I played around. Quebec City, flown out to Louisville. I got around the east coast. I had a reputation as a DJ ‘s DJ, because I worked at it. And I had a particular interest in the composition of the set that a lot of DJ ‘s didn’t. I think now I have a different philosophy about it. I don’t think that’s the important thing about DJing now. It’s the tunes. I think you should definitely put thought into it and stuff, but it’s more,” Is it a good song? Are people gonna respond to it?” I kinda feel different about it now. But at the time, I was really up in arms about how good it had to be technically. And I did it for a long time. But I enjoyed it and loved it.
And that whole time, I didn’t write music, but I still listened to music. And so I slowly learned about the local scene here. I had friends who were in bands and stuff, and I started going to things. Then I had a child in 2008 so I was just DJing a little bit here and there. So that’s when Paul and I met. He really was the catalyst for me actually starting to do instrumental music. We started making electronic music together. He was coming from all kinds of rock stuff but he liked making electronic music, so we started trading tracks. And I was like, maybe I can sing on one. And I just started singing on my tracks. And I’m like, “Oh my god! Oh my god! Now I’m making the stuff that I’ve been picturing all my life!” And it was like this epiphany. And Paul was wonderful about facilitating and really making that happen. He’s like, oh, now we need drum machines. And started building my own beats. I was like, instead of playing other people’s beats, I’m gonna make my own. It was like, why haven’t I been doing this all this time? I didn’t have the tools; it didn’t occur to me to go find them. And now I had them all the sudden. So we decided, after a while to start a band to start making songs together where I was singing and he was playing guitar.
RRX: As an artist, is it pleasing to you to have this many irons in the fire; to feel that you’re functioning at this high level in each of these disciplines?
JMC: I’m excited. I’m ambitious. I’m engaged. I don’t ever just sit down and not do anything. I want to make stuff. That’s when I’m happiest. I’m probably exhausting. I think there were times in my life when I was better able to relax. But now relaxing for me, happiness for me, is making things. I don’t want to watch movies; I don’t want to read. Like, I’ve read enough, I’ve taken in enough. Now I want to put out. I’m saturated. Now it’s time to make stuff out of it. And put that out there.
Architrave’s new album, Out of My Mind and Into Yours is available through Bandcamp digitally or on limited edition vinyl as well as the video album on VHS. You can catch them live in a variety of venues this fall and winter. Info available through their website and Facebook page.