I had the pleasure of seeing Javelina perform live a few weeks ago at Tree Bar, and I was pleasantly surprised by their intriguing blend of artsy angst. I knew I had to set up a meeting with Joe Graham and Amy Budzinski, the two-headed monster behind the band…
Jesse Jester (JJ): The obvious first question has to be about the name of your band. Why Javelina?
Joe Graham (JG): We really appreciate you pronouncing it the correct way (with a soft J)! We don’t want to be one of those snobby bands who insists on correcting people on the pronunciation, but you’d be amazed at how many different ways we’ve heard people try to pronounce it.
Amy Budzinski (AB): So, have you ever seen a javelina before? They’re native to South America and they’re very cute and unassuming, but they’re totally vicious and territorial. I feel like it kind of describes my personality. I’m very kind, sweet and generous, but I have no problem defending myself.
JJ: That’s awesome! I love the idea behind all of it. When did you guys meet?
AB: It’s kind of a funny story. We actually met on a dating website but we didn’t mesh on a personal level. But I got this feeling that Joe was super creative, so we decided to try and make music together.
JG: I’ve always had latent musical ambitions throughout my life, but I just needed to find the right pair of coattails to ride along. *laughs*
JJ: I suppose it must have been fate. With that in mind, what goes into writing music for Javelina?
AB: A lot of our music is about the masks people wear. The joy of being human is being yourself and experiencing all of the ranges of emotion and feelings. I have lots of great ideas for our songs, and Joe has a way of putting them all together perfectly. He’s always open to all of my crazy ideas, and we’ve both learned so much from each other.
JG: It helps that we’re both multi-instrumentalists who just want to make musical art. We’ll figure out how to label it later, but for now we’re just going to be Javelina.
JJ: That’s a fantastic outlook for your music.
JG: There are no inflated perceptions or delusions. When I was 12, I would daydream about being a superstar musician. Then I turned 13 and realized that that probably isn’t going to happen. I’ve never wanted to compare myself to others in the musical scene, because when you start doing that, you start shooting yourself in the foot. You lose sight of your own uniqueness and suddenly you’re trying to emulate what the others are doing.
AB: The best part of this band is that we have similar visions, and approach everything with equal footing. I could never settle for anything less. There’s no pretense between the two of us; we’re both in our 40’s now. We’re not looking to compete with anyone else, and we have no one to please but ourselves. People don’t have to like what we create. That’s just life.
JJ: I think it was that kind of attitude that I initially liked about your live performance last month. Tell me more about a Javelina show?
AB: There’s no real “normal” setup. We’re not trying to settle into anything. We just want to be known as a creative group. We have jokingly been calling ourselves “post-apocalyptic folk”, but a lot of what we do is just spur of the moment. I mean, our next show could literally just be a spoons and glasses effort.
JJ: That definitely seems a little bit out there…
AB: Well, the challenge for us right now is that a lot of the places that are available for us to play at don’t really complement our style. We’re more of an artistic showcase, and that just doesn’t seem to mesh with the bar scene. But when we first saw groups like So Long, Stargazer, we could tell that being an art major might just work from a musical standpoint.
JG: I mean, we’ve only been a band for a few months now. We honestly didn’t have a lot of direction at first. We figured we’d play a few open mic shows, and now we’re trying it out as an actual group.
AB: What we’ve been doing recently is producing short films and building our music around them. We are totally open to experimentation from that perspective. We enjoy making these “music videos”, if you will.
JJ: What about live though? What’s the future of Javelina on stage going to look like?
AB: We’re still figuring that out. We’d love to incorporate dance art into our shows, and at our last show we did something really cool called “blind face-painting”. Essentially we put a Tyvek wrap around people’s heads and give them a palette of acrylic paints. The idea is that they simultaneously paint each other’s faces without actually being able to see what is going on. It’s very vulnerable, personal and intimate. We’ve also toyed at the idea of coming out as a full air-group, with Joe on air drums and myself on air Theremin.
JJ: That’s a band I’d love to join! *laughs*
AB: The only caveat is that if someone is playing, it has to be a unique instrument. Nothing you’d see in a normal band. Maybe a harp or…
JG: We’ll have air maracas and an air autoharp!
JJ: Oh gosh, I think we’ve gone too far. *all laugh* Back on topic, you mentioned personal vulnerabilities. In seeing you live you definitely came off as a group who knows how to explore that darkness.
AB: It goes back to the masks people wear. My lyrics are very forthcoming – everyone has had shit happen in their life and lived through shitty relationships. I’ve found that you can either put on a fake happy face or you can say “this really hurts” and work your way through it. A lot of my songs are directly related to personal experiences I’ve had. I’ve written about myself, my sister, even my dreams. As a female singer/songwriter, you don’t want to be cliché about it either. It’s easy to play the victim card when you’re angry or hurt, rather than just try to work through the bad things that have happened to you.
JJ: It seems to be an easy way to sell records; e.g. Taylor Swift, Adele, Beyonce, etc…
AB: That’s not who I am. I’m a warrior. I will hurt you! I may be very kind and generous, but don’t cross the line.
JG: It’s a very dangerous band to be a part of…
JJ: Well, you are definitely not what one would call a “typical” group.
AB: Honestly, we just like to throw ourselves into the deep end from a creative standpoint. What’s the worst that could happen? People don’t like it? Like I said, that’s life. And they can suck it!
JG: It goes back to not having any pretenses about it. At the end of the day, the only thing that matters to us is that our music is Javelina. Everything else will fall in line from there.
The next Javelina performance will be a Hurricane Harvey benefit show at the Shrunken Head on October 7. They’ll be playing in support of Benjamin Marshall and friends, and all profits will go directly to the Houston Food Bank. It’s only $5 and Javelina go on at 8 p.m. I’ll be there to cover the event, and am excited to see what these two have in store for the night!
Javelina – Meteor Song