I have heard her name EVERYWHERE. Hayley Jane and the Primates have so much buzz surrounding them these days, it seems like there is a balloon of success right around the corner and it’s about to burst. This September at the Catskill Chill, I finally got to experience Hayley Jane and the Primates firsthand and it was clear to me right away what all of the buzz was about.
This band is fresh and pure with an appeal that comes from different directions. The band are all schooled and career musicians. Haley Jane’s lyrics are poetically creative and come from a deep place. She was gifted with a set of pipes and is often compared to Janis Joplin in reference to the power of her voice and her style of performance. Coming from a vaudeville background, she pours herself into the performance of every song. I stated in another article that her performance keeps your attention like a moth to a flame. Hayley Jane is a true performance artist.
I feel it important to point out that a huge appeal to me is that she accomplishes all of this without having to sell sex in any way. Her lyrics aren’t chock full of sexual innuendos and her stage presence and mannerisms don’t have sexual implications (except when she’s dancing for the Devil). My point is, she doesn’t sell sex to get herself over. She doesn’t need to. It’s refreshing to see a young female artist who is attractive and can create and perform great songs without defaulting to the obvious. I think that adds to the appeal of this band.
Within an hour of arriving at our cabin at Catskill Chill, along came Hayley Jane walking by smiling, being friendly, and twirling a Mardi Gras style umbrella. It was too perfect of a situation. That’s the kind of place Catskill Chill is. I HAD to ask her for 5 minutes. Of course she obliged!
Hayley Jane: Well, with the Primates . . . you know, I come from theater and so it was an interesting transition to folk and rock n roll and jam music and all this stuff and there’s so much. I did bluegrass for a while and reggae and traditional, Jamaican rock steady reggae, so there’s all sorts of like . . . It’s just this big wild mess and so we’ve really been trying to hone that and try and figure out what we’re doing. So that’s been going well and I’m a dancer too so we try and put on a full audio-visual . . . you know.
GD: The comparison word I often read with you is “Vaudeville.”
HJ: Vaudeville, yeah, yeah, exactly. I know how to tap dance. I took all different kinds of dances and stuff, so it’s funny I’m more trained as a dancer than I am a singer. But I’ve been singing since I was nine.
GD: As far as what you’ve been doing with The Primates, is this all somewhat new? Your name has been blowing up HUGE and that is somewhat new.
HJ: Yeah, I think we caught our stride. Do you know what I mean? I think we’ve gotten comfortable. I think we figured out a little more of what we stood for. Especially me as a female, you want to empower. It all kind of started when we all started to let go, me especially, when I started to let go when I was onstage. Just kind of say, “Fuck it” and just really, you know . . . I’m very theatrical and precise with my words and my movement, and when the band would start to swell and they would just take over, my movement – I would let go of that control and let the music take over and THAT’S when crazy stuff started happening, when it was more like . . . I wasn’t as in control. The music was more in control and that’s when I think really interesting things started to happen. I was so used to doing dance moves and singing words very specifically for theater because you have this director that’s telling you what to do. So, as my own director, it took me a while to be like, “Hey, you can just let go.”
GD: You let go of the structure.
HJ: Exactly! And that’s the fun part about it. I use jam music very loosely . . . very loosely because it’s all genres. When the band starts to just go, especially as a singer, you stop singing for a minute and let the band have this beautiful moment and that’s my moment . . . My instrument is my body as well as my voice, so when the band is jamming I’m dancing and that’s the way I sync up with them. It’s great. It took me a while to figure out how to dance without somebody giving me the moves – “Here, this is your dance number.” And now it’s so cool because it’s like a free for all and it’s different every time so it’s an adventure.
GD: As far as songwriting, you are the primary songwriter, correct?
HJ: Yes, my guitarist Justin writes a lot of the music.
GD: But they’re all your songs?
HJ: Yep, melody and lyrics I do pretty much the bulk of. The guys have chimed in with lyrics, definitely. Justin has some really good lines in some tunes for sure.
GD: I’ve heard an awful lot of positive things about that.
HJ: I can safely say that’s my favorite part, the lyrics, the words. Dance is great because you don’t have to use your words.
GD: Well, word on the street is that you are doing very well in that capacity!
HJ: Yea, we’re having fun and people seem to like it. I just remember that first moment where you look down and you see that person singing words that you wrote, and that’s a pretty magical moment. That gave me the confidence. I was like, “OK, they like it.” And you do it for you too, but it’s such a rewarding feeling when you see somebody and they want to know the meaning and they want to know why, you know. And they even come up with their own meanings and that’s my favorite part because I used to tell a lot of stories. I used to tell the story of what the song was about and why I wrote it, before the song, which was fun and people enjoy that but you kind of take away the chance for it to affect them in a way that’s relevant to their life. Now I’m very careful about that. I’ll tell it sometimes and then I won’t because some people hear certain lines and it means something TOTALLY different than what I wrote it for, but who cares? It’s so neat to see how your music can affect somebody. That’s my favorite part. I keep saying everything is my favorite part. ALL of this is my favorite part. Everything that’s been happening in the last year is just unreal. I’m just riding the wave, trying to keep my head.
GD: Well it sounds like you’ve been doing a good job of that!
HJ: Yeah, my band is killing it. They’re all teachers. They all teach music, every single one of them. They do that during the week and then come and do all this and I just can’t even imagine.
GD: Where are you guys based out of?
HJ: Boston. Right now we are in the midst of contract discussions with an agency.
HJ: Yes, it’s a very big time of change. It’s a very big transitional period which is always a little nerve wracking. You want to make sure you’re making the right moves, not only for you but for your band and you wanna make sure you’re going with the people that feel right. It’s not always about . . . for me it’s so much of who they are and personality and if we blend well together and work well together, so that’s what I’m looking for and I think I’ve met some people I feel real good about. We’re working on the contract stuff right now which is terrifying. The words in that contract, you are like, “What does this mean?” You have to have somebody get it out in layman’s terms which is what lawyers are for. Thank goodness for lawyers doing their homework.
GD: You were the opening act at Gathering of the Vibes?
HJ: On the Main Stage, yeah.
GD: I heard you won a contest to do that?
HJ: Yeah, we won through Sonicbids. We signed up for Sonicbids so long ago. The first gigs we got were through Sonicbids. Yes, Sonicbids, we signed up for that. We also signed up for Road to Vibes. We were trailing in 2nd place in Road to Vibes and then we were selected in Sonicbids.
HJ: That has been a huge push. That was just amazing!
GD: Is this your first Catskill Chill?
HJ: I came here and sat in with some people last year. Dead Set and I sang with Pink Talking Fish last year. I’m gonna do a couple sit -ins and then we’re playing tomorrow at 7. I can’t believe I’m playing Catskill Chill. It’s so exciting. It’s just so wild. You know, you work so hard and then you finally get to do this stuff that you saw people do, you know what I mean? You get to be there and do it yourself . . . I’m not very eloquent right now. I’m just overwhelmed.
GD: It’s all good. Hey this is all off the cuff and I just snatched you because you walked by and we thought we recognized you.
HJ: Well you did a good job for sure!
GD: I look forward to seeing what kind of bigness is coming, seems like you have an incredible amount of momentum.
HJ: Yeah, I can’t wait to see what’s next!
I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Hayley Jane and the Primates for the first time at Catskill Chill. It is easy to see that this band is on a fast track to big places! True story – while watching Hayley Jane and the Primates perform on the DC Corner stage, the guy next to me says to the guy next to him, “Dude, remember this right here because there’s gonna be a point where we will see this girl huge and say we saw her small here!” Needless to say, I am proud to say that I too saw her small. If you would like to share the same sentiment, you had better get out there and see her immediately, if not sooner!
Hayley Jane and the Primates