- Jenny (the one with the sunglasses) and Johnny (the one with the Justin Bieber hair)
During their five-year courtship, singer-songwriters Jenny Lewis and Johnathan Rice have collaborated on each other’s solo albums, supported one another on tour, and shacked up together in one of Laurel Canyon’s standard-issue rock & roll bungalows. The next step was inevitable. On August 31, Lewis and Rice finally tied the knot — musically, that is — with the release of I’m Having Fun Now, their debut as Jenny and Johnny.
“Yeah, we’re one of the ‘and’ bands now,” says Rice, referring to indie rock’s current crop of boy-girl duos like She & Him and Matt & Kim.
“But we don’t have an ampersand,” adds Lewis.
“Ah, true,” concurs Rice. “Make sure not to use one when you write about us. No ampersands for Jenny and Johnny.”
Conjunctions aside, it’s the equal billing that matters most to Rice. While Lewis has enjoyed a rabid following for years as both a solo artist and frontwoman for Rilo Kiley, the Glasgow-raised Rice has toiled mainly under the radar. Just a year ago, he was touring with Lewis as part of her backing band — an anonymous role to most but one that left some lasting impressions.
“We started covering the song ‘Love Hurts’ in our set,” recalls Lewis. “That was one of the first times that Johnathan and I really sang together like that. It always got a really great reaction from our friends and the people out in the crowd, and I think that sparked something that we didn’t even realize at the time. Singing in harmony, you really create this whole new character.”
By the time the tour wrapped up, Lewis and Rice knew it was time to truly collaborate. “I threatened to go on strike if I wasn’t promoted,” says Rice.
For Lewis, the new project had personal significance. “I’m actually the daughter of a musical duo,” she says. “My parents were in a lounge act in Las Vegas in the early ’70s, and they were initially called Linda and Eddie. So it comes naturally to me.”
Rice: “I would say, though, that this particular project is not retro leaning in any way. It’s very much a rock & roll band that’s for right now.”
Lewis: “Unless you consider the ’90s retro leaning.”
Rice: “Yeah, people keep telling us it sounds ’90s-inspired. But we were both very much alive during the ’90s.”
Lewis: “Some of us more than others.”
In case you missed the code language there, Lewis is seven years older than Rice (she’s 34). But that age gap, along with the peculiar combination of Glasgow Guy and L.A. Girl, only seems to add to the intrigue on I’m Having Fun Now — a record that seamlessly shifts from top-down, West Coast power-pop (“Scissor Runner,” “Big Wave”) to sparse, sad-bastard balladry (“Switchblade in Your Coat,” “Animal”).