GENEVA JACUZZI: BECAUSE IT’S ME
photography by daiana feuer
At first we were just two girls getting to know each other on the way to the Bunny Museum in Pasadena, riding in the car talking about boys and Twin Peaks. Geneva Jacuzzi has long been an enigma, a musician and performance artist who delights in the unexpected. Literally every single performance she has ever done has been different. Whether she’s using a fax machine as an instrument or blow-up dolls as a backing band, on stage she embodies an alien, or a puppet that comes to life when you leave the room, or a monster that lurks in the TV, a ghost in the machine, an unflinching piece of live art. But surrounded by over 30,000 stuffed animal bunnies and bunny-themed collectibles in a house-turned-exhibit—just wall-to-wall with bunny stuff—this girl is all giggles. The mask is lifted and we find a comfortable space to talk about real things, from big philosophical questions about creativity and identity, to the directly personal, like finding a reason to get out of bed every day instead of hiding under the covers. With Technophelia—her first album in five years, available now from Medical Records—coming on the heels of getting sober, Geneva Jacuzzi fought her way out of a dark place and, through music, found the best part of herself worth saving. She performs tonight, April 1, at Sleepless: The Music Center After Hours. This interview by Daiana Feuer.
Geneva Jacuzzi: I’m entering a place where I have to grow up a little bit. I have to be smart. In the past it was a lot of teen angst, even as an adult. How do you break habits?
I often ask myself the same thing.
Geneva Jacuzzi: I went to rehab and I quit a huge habit. It’s funny because there was all this stuff I had to do to work on breaking that habit, but it’s like, does that apply to every aspect of my life? Are these patterns repeating everywhere? Do I have to take a moral inventory of everything? I guess so. You have to change. Change is the opposite of habit. Changing the way you are is so traumatizing, even if it’s for the better. It feels bad while you’re doing it. Our brains are so wired not to change.
That’s why when people go to the woods alone for a long period of time, they have emotional breakthroughs. They don’t have any of the regular distractions that keep you from facing who you are—drugs, TV, work, anything.
Geneva Jacuzzi: It sounds like rehab.
As a performer, do you feel like you’re sacrificing your self to get on stage for the sake of something everybody needs?
Geneva Jacuzzi: It’s always the question of why one person versus another person. Why is this person on stage? Why are these people in the audience? The person up there is putting out a lot. They could suck and everyone will hate them, or they could be fine—who’s to say?—but the person up there has to deal with the consequences of something they’re doing right or wrong. There is a sacrifice of your identity and your ego. It calls attention to the reason why you’re there. If you’re there just to be liked … that could be threatened by anything, technical difficulties, the audience, whatever is going on, losing your voice. There’s a lot more to lose if that’s why you’re up there. You’re putting it up to forces of chaos. Sometimes you’re there for a reason more mysterious—it’s a calling. Every show I’ve ever done is because people have asked. I’m not the person who calls and tries to get on bills. Every tour, every show has been someone asking, ‘Hey, do you want to play this show?’ and me going, ‘Hmmm… OK … yeah!’ To be honest, my initial instinct is always, ‘No, I don’t.’ Getting on stage is scary. It’s a lot of work. It’s emotional. It’s not necessarily fun. It is fun, and it isn’t. So my initial instinct is ‘No’ but I don’t ever say that. I say, ‘Yes.’ I used to have a lot of anxiety before shows, so it was a really big sacrifice for me. I didn’t know why I was getting up there. I guess I wanted to be liked but I didn’t at the same time—I was very off-putting too. There was a lot of confusion. I still get some of that feeling of I-don’t-know-why-I’m-supposed-to-be-there. But I’m trusting that, ‘OK, there’s a reason I’m supposed to be there and I’m going to go do my best.’ It’s a sacrifice but it’s cool. Like anything that you put yourself out for. It comes back with interesting results. I feel luckier than everyone in the audience when I’m up there because if anyone’s going to learn something from the experience, it’s going to be me—or maybe it won’t just be me, but I generally learn a lot from each performance.
After you perform are you fulfilled or empty?
Geneva Jacuzzi: When I was younger I had a band. I used to get really excited and put so much into it and after the show there was an emptiness or depression—almost a comedown. I would get really depressed for no reason. Now it’s the opposite. I have these knots in my stomach before a show. There’s so much to work through before a performance. I look normal on the inside but I’m grinding on the inside with nerves. My brain is on overload. I always have a lot of logistics to keep track of. And then just keeping myself calm. Now after the show is my favorite time. It’s over and I can finally go, ‘Whoa, what just happened?’ I can put the pieces together and figure out what it was I was doing and why I was there. There’s always some aesthetic that I bring to the performance—or a story or a play or a question—and then there’s an element of chaos, unexpected, improvisation, incorporating the audience or people who don’t know what’s going on. Things happen that I’d have never expected and they end up being perfect. They bring the last chapter to the myth or the story—or they answered the question, somehow created a holistic understanding of what that event was or knocked it into the next performance. Created a bridge. Like, ‘Oh, wow—it’s going in this direction. Let’s explore that next performance.’
Are you referring to the things you do in the performance? Or something in the songs?
Geneva Jacuzzi: Those things are ingredients. It’s like writing a story or script, and then you have these characters, and you have these different stories floating around. You’re developing characters and strange occurrences, and then you have random things you want in there, and you don’t know why. Then you start to do it—to write the scene, develop the cast, and physically make this thing happen. Like David Lynch—I’m on this Twin Peaks kick right now. They had the script at least for the parts they were filming, and there ends up being this character Bob in one of the rooms—who ended up being one of the main characters of the series and the film—who wasn’t even in the original script. You start filming or performing and notice elements you would have never seen before and they end up being the perfect thing that completes the whole. And you would have had no idea had you not started this thing [before it was] finished.
The character that you embody as Geneva Jacuzzi when performing—has that character taken on a life of its own that way?
Geneva Jacuzzi: It’s funny. It’s a moniker—it’s not my name. It’s a performance name, and it was just supposed to be that. But as I was moving with this thing and making music and performing, my friends started calling me Geneva Jacuzzi in my personal life. Then when I go to a party they would introduce me as Jacuzzi, and then it was my Facebook name, and that’s just me all of a sudden. It wasn’t meant to be me. I didn’t realize it was happening. It’s interesting because… if you use your own name, being in the public in any way or putting yourself out there and having your name attached to it—especially being a solo artist—it’s really psychedelic. It challenges your ego and how you feel about yourself and the world and how you portray yourself—who are you and what are you. Going in I didn’t have a strong sense of self or identity. I had a weird upbringing. That was my first adult attempt at being like ‘this is who I am.’ Searching for what was authentic in myself through this silly name … being able to separate your self for a moment, dress it up and play with it and say, ‘That’s not me, that’s my character,’ but then realize actually that is me. Or that’s what one part of me thinks of the other part of me. That mirror effect—that Lacanian separation of yourself from the other and your reflection and your double. And all these things explored through a moniker—or a double. The performer.
Lacan, huh? You don’t hear that guy brought up too much.
Geneva Jacuzzi: His ideas are super fascinating to me. His ideas about the mirror stage of development, the separating of the self, looking at your reflection and believing that’s you. It’s this strange psychotic thing we do: ‘I am that thing. I am that reflection. I perceive myself to be that reflection.’ You begin separating from your self when you identify what your self is. We don’t realize at first and it inserts itself in everything we think and how we interact with others. That’s actually how we experience ourselves—through another person or a reflection of ourselves—the other—or through objects and material things. How we find our identity through objects—purchasing your self through a product.
In terms of your identity or reflection in who you want to be, how has music been the reflection of the real you?