Lady Gaga is just the tip of the iceberg. She’s taken over where Michael Jackson left off with over-the-top, sensationalist pop, but the door to innovation is still wide open, and the things coming through it are far more eclectic, original and entertaining than we could ever have imagined. One of those things is Fans of Jimmy Century, a Bay Area-based electro-alt-disco-dance group.
The group is a threesome of false eyelashes, funky guitars and mohawks. Alicia Perrone, lyricist and singer, and guitarist/songwriter Victor James, founded the group in 2006. They previously belonged to a group called Simon Stinger that had been gaining attention but ultimately fell apart just before they could sign on an offer with Elektra Records. Stand-up drummer Allen Chiu met James at Guitar Center in El Cerrito while Chiu was working there. James “saw Allen spinning his sticks and asked him to do the promo video with (them).”
“We decided we wanted to go forward as a trio ’cause Allen had the coolest afro I had ever seen,” Perrone said.
Chiu is now the stand-up drummer and computer guru.
Savannah Smith, a junior at Mills College and a weekend danceclubber, described Fans of Jimmy Century as “a cross between Kylie Minogue and if Franz Ferdinand where from Ibiza.” She saw them first perform at a private loft party in Emeryville.
“The lead singer had the biggest false eyelashes on I had ever seen. She was covered head-to-toe in gold paint, and wearing go-go-boots, a cat suit and a giant radiating sun attached to her pelvis,” Smith said. “I was like, wow, this is the craziest party I have ever been to!”
It’s hard not to compare Fans of Jimmy Century to Lady Gaga. They both tap into the love of the theatrical and make listeners get up and dance. However, the style of Fans of Jimmy Century is much less sexed-up than that of Lady Gaga – if you don’t consider gold paint and cat suits sexy. They relish in the campiness of their low-budget music videos, like their video “International,” which relies on eccentric makeup, flashy costumes and low-tech effects to create a playful array of color and character. The nearest comparison to their style is “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” which all three band members love, or perhaps the band’s idol Michael Jackson and his “Thriller” video.
“I keep trying to contact him,” Perron said of Jackson, “but he’s out of range.”
Chiu simply considers Michael Jackson “God.”
While the pre-Internet music industry of Michael Jackson, where people went to Tower Records to buy music they’d heard on the radio, no longer exists, James believes the new norm for getting music out there through forums like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter helps more than hurts Fans of Jimmy Century.
“Social networking is huge,” James said, referring to the band’s online presence. “It’s global consciousness, and it’s changed every industry.”
Such networking has helped the band see success early in its career. Fans of Jimmy Century recently played a sold-out show at the DNA Lounge at San Francisco State, and they caught the attention of a CBS producer, DJs and radio program directors around the country. The members have had their music featured in television shows, including “The L Word” and “Ugly Betty.” And, perhaps more importantly, Fans of Jimmy Century is getting blogged about internationally on sites like BestTuna.blogspot.com and ConsequenceOfSound.net.
“They stand out in all the minutia in the electronic age. They are so alive and vibrant, which is what everyone wants in the clubbing scene,” Smith said.
While Fans of Jimmy Century still has a way to go before they hit true stardom, Perrone feels like they’re already there.
“It feels like we’ve already made it,” Perrone said. “You have to feel that way about what you’re doing, because you’re not doing it for anyone else but yourself and your audience, so you have to realize that you’re already ‘there.’ There’s no chasing down anything.”
James echoed the sentiment.
“The universe always provides for whatever you’re thinking about,” James said.
Still, the band recognizes they still have work to do. James and Perrone admited they’d like to achieve “job security” in music.
“Money-wise, aligning ourselves with a brand … would be emotionally and financially beneficial,” Perrone said, and then she added, “Mama needs a new pair of shoes.”