Carlyn Bezic had a demo on her computer labeled Gem simply because she wrote the chord changes on a GEM keyboard. It had a disco vibe and Bezic, best known as one half of Canadian duo Ice Cream, is a fan of the genre anyhow, so she had a “vague idea” of what the song could be. Meanwhile, there was a lyric stuck in her head – “It’s coming on, baby, like sunlight through a gem.”
It all clicked. Bezic liked the image of light refracting through a gem. It reminded her of the how the self might translate through a camera. It was the camera, specifically, that she was thinking of when she sang “my friend, the lens” over a languid disco groove in “Gem,” the lead track off Number One, Bezic’s debut solo album, released March 19 via Telephone Explosion under the name Jane Inc. The camera, she says, can be “exciting and empowering.”
“Or,” she adds over a recent phone call from her home in Toronto, “it can be really scary and limiting and confusing and create this removal from what is real.”
With “Gem,” she considered both sensations happening at the same time. Similarly, the thought of contradiction is in the music, where Bezic channels the vibe of “late night” disco, “when you’re at the after-hours and it’s not necessarily a good late night feeling,” she explains. But, at the same time, she says, “you also feel a sort of freedom.”
Bezic uses tracks on Number One, like “Gem” and “Obliterated,” to dig into themes surrounding online life; she admits to be online a lot, although she isn’t necessarily posting. “I’m experimenting with trying to be on the internet more, which I think is not a good idea – but, anyway, I’m trying it,” Bezic says, describing her online habits as passive. “I’m just consuming, consuming, consuming. Consuming information. Consuming images.”
She continues, “I found that I can be completely overwhelmed by it and also feel like I’m losing some sort of sense of self just by this overload of information and overload of connection.” That leads to part of the freedom found in “Gem.” The song focuses on the person with the audience, as opposed to the audience, Bezic explains.
Elsewhere on the album, Bezic considers the environment and climate change. “Dirt and Earth” is a reflection on a complicated mix of emotions, including anger and a desire to place the blame for climate change on a single person. “In reality, there’s many people and many events that have led us to this,” Bezic points out. At the same time, she’s wrestling with the notion of being complicit in the degradation of the planet, simply by living life. “I am creating garbage. I’m driving cars,” she says. “You’re a musician, you fly in planes.”
Meanwhile, “Bloom Becomes Me” is also about the environment, but the song’s muse is pottery that Bezic spotted in Mexico. She describes the pots as taking on the figure of a creature that was half-animal, half-human, and they were filled with flowers. “You have flowers and animals and humans all melding together,” she says. “There was something really moving about it to me, this attempt at having everything live inside you at once as it’s all dying.”
Number One had been in the making for quite some time. Bezic tends to write on Ableton and had produced and mixed a set of songs on her own based around some samples, but didn’t feel they could work for Ice Cream. Despite that, she wanted to continue developing them; in the process, she built an album that was fairly complete. It was also one that she thought might be difficult for a label to handle on account of all the samples that would have needed to be cleared. “For practical reasons, I wanted to bring in a drummer to re-record the percussion,” she says. “Also, just for artistic reasons, it seems more exciting to have a bit more energy and reactivity in the drums.”
About a year-and-a-half ago, Bezic went into the studio with Evan Cartwright (U.S. Girls), who played drums on the album. “Everything felt like entirely new songs,” she says. That led to mixing with Steve Chahley (Badge Epoque, U.S. Girls) and some additional work to add cohesiveness to the project. The mixing sessions were completed last year, shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“I had started playing in the U.S. Girls live band,” says Bezic, “so I was preparing for what I thought would be a couple years of pretty extensive touring and the album was coming along, but it didn’t feel pressing for that reason.” With the onset of the pandemic, she saw an opportunity to finish mixing; not only had live gigs been put on hold, but social distancing guidelines meant that Bezic wouldn’t be able to write or practice in person with Ice Cream bandmate Amanda Crist.
As Jane Inc., Bezic has been able to explore multiple themes while making music that draws from an eclectic mix of styles, from vibey disco, to the bouncy ’80s-style synth-pop on “Steel,” to the electronic ambience of “Mine/His.” Number One is s a stellar debut and Bezic is excited about the release – though she’s already thinking about what she’ll be making next. “I’m always writing songs,” she says.
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