Locals only: Jen Schande Teaches Me to Play Guitar

As originally published here over at Stranger Dance

Jen Chochinov

[Locals Only is a weekly feature where the Stranger Dance staff focus on the best and brightest of the San Francisco Bay Area music scene. Feel free to hit us up with any information on local bands, musicians, shows, and other music-related events and projects.]

There are various ways to be directly involved with your local music scene. You can write and perform music, with a band or by yourself; you can put together and promote shows and events; you can volunteer for and support local music organizations; you can write and publish local music blogs and mags (ahem).

So what does Jen Chochinov choose to do? Essentially, all of the above. She serves as frontwoman for the band Schande, she DJs as Jen Schande thrice a month at local venues (first and third Monday nights at El Rio, every second Thursday at the Uptown), she volunteers for the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp, and she contributes to Wiretap Music. And she has an honest-to-goodness day job. Good god woman, when do you sleep?

In all seriousness, the inspiration for this local profile came from yours truly’s (Anna’s) recent participation in the inaugural Bay Area Ladies Rock Camp (May 1st-3rd), an offshoot of the Bay Area Girls Rock Camp (two sessions of the Girls Camp will take place this summer, see the website for details). The idea of learning to play guitar was a bit intimidating, having never touched the instrument before and knowing full well that the showcase at the Starry Plough would take place about 48 hours after the first lesson.

As a volunteer guitar instructor and band coach, however, Jen inspired a sense of both calm and fortitude – maybe we couldn’t yet play more than three chords, but damn it all if we couldn’t play them hard and kick some major ass in the process.

And here, as she says herself, is where the inspiration lies: “I was the only girl I knew in middle school and high school who played guitar, as well as being the only girl I knew who wanted to be in a band. While I was never given a hard time about it or anything like that, there was a part of it that felt weird . . . like ‘Why am I the only one I know who wants this? Is that weird? Am I weird for wanting this?’ So to be part of an encouraging process for other girls to develop their passion for music while being given a sense of complete belonging is beyond appealing and pretty impossible to say no to being a part of.”

Read the rest of the highlights and full interview below.

Schande are set to play at the Hemlock Tavern on June 25th with Evacuee and The Have Mercys. You can check out Schande’s two albums and EP (their newest album, You’ll Never Guess What Happens in the End, in particular) via iTunes.

MP3s:

Schande – “Return of the Return”
Schande – “Out on You”

Interview highlights:

About volunteering for Bay Area Girls Rock Camp/Ladies Rock Camp:

“I really don’t know how to put into words how amazing I found the experience to be. It was emotional, heart warming, rewarding . . . just to see all of these women from such diverse backgrounds come together in environment of support and acceptance gave you this feeling that you were part of something so special and so important. Like I said, I’m very lucky to have come from a supportive place but for many of these women it was their first chance to explore playing music in an encouraging environment.”

“As a musician you can sometimes forget about how excited you were to learn to play music . . . to be surrounded by these women who were just wanting to learn how to play so badly inspired me in a completely unexpected and wonderful way.”

“I will definitely be a part of Girls Camp. I only have time to teach guitar lessons and so will not be able to be a band coach like I was at Ladies Camp, which is a bummer. I can’t wait for camp to start though, I’m just inches away from beginning to literally count the minutes.”

About Schande:

“Schande itself has been a constantly evolving process . . . it’s been based on two continents, two states (Ohio & California), has consequently had a rotating cast of members, and has had a few name changes. For awhile that was kind of cool because themes of transience and wanderlust made a really strong presence in the music, both sonically and lyrically.”

“Right now we’re mixing a few demos we just recorded with my friend Alex at Different Fur studios. What we’re going to do with the demos right now is undecided, but the odds of us doing a 7″ are pretty high. Right now we’re wanting to focus on writing a few more new songs and hopefully have a new album recorded by the end of the year.”

“We were also just featured on the Wiretap Music covers compilation. Disc 1 features original songs performed by a bunch of local bands, and then Disc 2 features all of the bands from Disc 1 covering the songs from Disc 1. So we covered a Tartufi song and Little Teeth covered our song.”

About DJ Jen Schande:

“I DJ the first and third Monday nights at El Rio, and every second Thursday at the Uptown in Oakland. My DJ night in Oakland is called Audiowhore, named after one of my favorite Archers of Loaf songs.”

“I really love DJing – I don’t beat match, scratch or anything tricky by any standards, I just really love being able to create accidental soundtracks for people hanging out. I play old blues, r&b and soul and usually throw some indie into the mix as well . . . maybe some rocksteady and funk . . . wherever the mood takes me.”

“My goal for Audiowhore is to recreate one of my all-time favorite things to do which is hang out with friends, play each other our favorite records and talk about the songs we love and the bands that changed our lives.”

Full interview:

Stranger Dance: Can you tell me a bit about yourself – specifically, about Shande, about DJing, generally about your involvement with the Bay Area music scene?

Jen Chochinov: My name is Jen, and I started Schande (pronounced shawn-duh) as a solo project back in 2001. I had just moved to England and really missing being in a band – I was in a Davis-based band called Shove for about 6 years and we broke up at the end of 1997. After that I had bands/projects with friends but nothing consistently active. So despite the fact that I’d never wanted to be a solo act or “singer/songwriter” (that title makes me cringe) or anything like that, out of sheer necessity I started recording and playing shows by myself under the moniker Jen Schande.

After living in England for a few months I was able to get a band together, and so I changed the name to The Schande as I really wasn’t into being that person with a band named after me. In 2004, after moving back to the US, the band name changed to simply Schande and has stayed the same since then.

Schande itself has been a constantly evolving process . . . it’s been based on two continents, two states (Ohio & California), has consequently had a rotating cast of members, and has had a few name changes. For awhile that was kind of cool because themes of transience and wanderlust made a really strong presence in the music, both sonically and lyrically. But, on the flipside, it also kept the music on idle in that it was difficult to grow together as a band with so much change and starting over going on all the time. So that was kind of tough and limiting. Since early 2005 San Francisco has been home for Schande and it’s been really great having consistency and getting to move forward together as a writing unit instead of having to start all over again, learning the same old songs because I moved or we needed a new band member or something like that.

Since 2006 the line-up has been constant and it’s definitely made a world of difference. We’re at the point where instead of boring ourselves relearning the same old stuff, everyone contributes and takes an active role in our new songwriting and it’s made the songs way more interesting and dynamic to say the least. Progress, it’s good stuff I tell ya . . . .

Other than being in a band, I also DJ. I DJ the first and third Monday nights at El Rio, and every second Thursday at the Uptown in Oakland. My DJ night in Oakland is called Audiowhore, named after one of my favorite Archers of Loaf songs. I really love DJing – I don’t beat match, scratch or anything tricky by any standards, I just really love being able to create accidental soundtracks for people hanging out. I play old blues, r&b and soul and usually throw some indie into the mix as well . . . maybe some rocksteady and funk . . . wherever the mood takes me. For the Audiowhore nights, I always have a friend or two DJ with me as it makes it more eclectic and interesting that way. My goal for Audiowhore is to recreate one of my all-time favorite things to do which is hang out with friends, play each other our favorite records and talk about the songs we love and the bands that changed our lives. It’s catching on slowly but surely . . . there’s still a lot of room for the night to grow but so far I’m happy with how it’s building up. All of my DJ nights are free so that’s an added bonus as well.

Lastly, I also write for the local music website Wiretapmusic.com, which focuses entirely on local bands and local music. I do live reviews, album reviews and occasionally blog about something music related. I haven’t been able to contribute as much as I used to do to life getting a bit busy, but I love being able to give shout outs to local bands that make me happy.

That’s pretty much the gist of my involvement with the Bay Area music scene. Will, the guitarist in Schande, has a radio show on KZSU, sets up the annual Scatterbrain Jamboree, and also plays in a couple of other bands. Our drummer, Dennis, plays in Blowie, a David Bowie cover band, as well as Heavy Hindenburgh which is a Led Zepplin cover band.

SD: How did you get involved with Ladies Rock Camp/Bay Area Girls Rock Camp? What drew you to this particular organization?

JC: I had heard of the Portland Rock Camp and was instantly interested in it. A couple of friends of mine had volunteered for the Portland camp back in 2005, and after hearing about their experiences, I knew it was something I wanted to get involved with. So last summer I went to a Bay Area Girls Rock Camp benefit show at 924 Gilman and found out who to contact about volunteering.

What drew me to organization was just how awesome of an idea Rock Camp is. I was very lucky in that I grew up in a very supportive family who were really encouraging about my love of music. That’s something I am truly eternally grateful for. Yet at the same time, I was the only girl I knew in middle school and high school who played guitar, as well as being the only girl I knew who wanted to be in a band. While I was never given a hard time about it or anything like that, there was a part of it that felt weird . . . like “Why am I the only one I know who wants this? Is that weird? Am I weird for wanting this?” So to be part of an encouraging process for other girls to develop their passion for music while being given a sense of complete belonging is beyond appealing and pretty impossible to say no to being a part of.

I had never heard of Ladies Rock Camp until I went to a volunteer meeting for the Girls Rock Camp. Since I had never taught guitar lessons or anything like that before, I figured I’d volunteer at the Ladies Rock Camp, get my feet wet and test the waters that way.

SD: And how was the experience, as instructor/volunteer?

JC: I really don’t know how to put into words how amazing I found the experience to be. It was emotional, heart warming, rewarding . . . just to see all of these women from such diverse backgrounds come together in environment of support and acceptance gave you this feeling that you were part of something so special and so important. Like I said, I’m very lucky to have come from a supportive place but for many of these women it was their first chance to explore playing music in an encouraging environment. So to be a part of that process was so uplifting.

Plus, as a musician you can sometimes forget about how excited you were to learn to play music. I mean, I can go to shows or listen to bands and get completely inspired to write songs or I can fall back in love with music all over again, but it’s a different feeling to be inspired just to learn how to play and create a noise that’s all your own. So to be surrounded by these women who were just wanting to learn how to play so badly inspired me in a completely unexpected and wonderful way. I almost feel like I cheated by being there for free since I got so much out of it!

At the risk of sounding like a total cheeseball, there’s something to be said about dedicating your time and efforts to a cause that isn’t just about you. When I step back and look at my life, I’m happy, I love what I’m doing, but at the same time it’s pretty hedonistic. So taking time out to help others develop their passions or goals makes life so much more rewarding and interesting. It’s hard to put into words, but I’m into it. Definitely into it.

SD: Do you plan on volunteering for the Girls Rock Camp(s) this summer?

JC: I will definitely be a part of Girls Camp. I only have time to teach guitar lessons and so will not be able to be a band coach like I was at Ladies Camp, which is a bummer. I can’t wait for camp to start though, I’m just inches away from beginning to literally count the minutes.

SD: What’s on the horizon for Schande? New music? Upcoming shows? General honkey-tonkin’?

JC: When isn’t Schande honky-tonkeying? I think that’s the real question! Right now we’re mixing a few demos we just recorded with my friend Alex at Different Fur studios. What we’re going to do with the demos right now is undecided, but the odds of us doing a 7″ are pretty high. Right now we’re wanting to focus on writing a few more new songs and hopefully have a new album recorded by the end of the year. There’s a chance we may be working with a label to release our record or we’ll do it ourselves. Right now the working with a label is in talk mode so whether or not it will happen remains to be seen. Regardless, I couldn’t be happier with the new material Schande is producing so I’m really anxious to see how a whole new album will turn out.

We were also just featured on the Wiretap Music covers compilation. The CD is the awesome brainchild of Olivia who started Wiretap. Disc 1 features original songs performed by a bunch of local bands, and then Disc 2 features all of the bands from Disc 1 covering the songs from Disc 1. So we covered a Tartufi song and Little Teeth covered our song. The Covers compilation is really great actually and such a great contribution and acknowledgment to the great music in the Bay Area right now.

We’re hoping for a Northwest trip this fall so hopefully we’ll be taking the show on the road in the next few months. We haven’t done a whole lot of out of state playing so it’s about time to brush up on that. I really miss touring, even when the van smells like sweat and dirty feet it’s still the funnest place on earth to be.

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