The Effervescent Alt Pop Of Jess Penner
  • WEDNESDAY, MAY 27, 2015

  • Posted by: Don Saas

I used to work at the mall. Two malls, actually. And at two different locations for the same chain of stores, F.Y.E. And although there was a host of things that I hated about that job -- mostly related to upselling people on shit they didn't want or need -- my least favorite part of the gig was the CDs/DVDs headquarters would send us that we were then forced to play in the store. It was overflowing with basic Top 40 pop garbage and my own personal hell, modern country. But, every once in a great while, a good indie track would find its way on the CDs, and I would count the minutes until the CD looped back to that particular track. It was how I heard "Dog Days Are Over" by Florence & the Machine for the first time as well as Mumford's "Little Lion Man" and "Home" by Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes. And I can easily hear "Good Times" by Jess Penner being one of those tracks that would have helped get me through a miserable eight hour shift on my feet dealing with the public...I don't care for the public.

"Good Times" is a zesty, bouncy pop number that I can easily hear dominating the charts by the end of the summer -- that main vocal hook just burrows its way into the "can't ever unhear this" corner of your mind. But it has a rawness and intimacy that is consistently missing from modern top 40 pop. It feels confessional while still being the sort of track you bounce your head back and forth too on your long commute. It's accessible without sacrificing directness and personality. "Good Times" is a genuine summer pop spin. Now, if we can only get the track on Spotify so I can put it on my phone.

We had a chance to chat with Jess about the track and her music. Check out the single below as well as our chat with the artist.



I think it's safe to say that all of us could use more "Good Times" in our lives. What are the "Good Times" that you're talking about in the track?

Jess Penner: The track is about appreciating the little things, the simple things. It's a reminder to myself that as long as I'm still breathing and the world is still turning I have the chance to make something good of the day. It's also about fighting the urge to compare my life to someone else's ("they say the grass is greener where you water a lot"). I've heard people say that comparison is the root of all unhappiness.. and I think that's the truth! If we all directed half the energy we spend thinking about how other people's lives are better on being thankful for what we actually have, the world would be a much happier place.

Who were the figures influencing your sound as a songwriter? I can't help but hear elements of early alternative pop acts in the jangly guitars and hooks.

Oh man, alt pop is the shiz! My mom was super into oldies when I was growing up so I listened to a ton of doo wop. The very direct and straightforward story telling that happens, and the undeniable hooks from that era made a huge impact on me... sort of shaped in my mind what a song should accomplish. When I first personally fell in love with music and started playing guitar it was with the alt bands of the 90's like Nirvana, Bjork, Nada Surf, Radiohead, etc., so I guess that's why you get the jangly strat / surf rock tones peppered all over my records.

What's it been like having so much of your music featured in TV, film, and other mediums?

It's super great and super weird at the same time. Sometimes I just start singing along and don't even realize it's happening for a few seconds. It's amusing when I'm home and a tv show or commercial comes on and I hear my music. A lot of times I don't get a heads up so I'm completely surprised and part of me is like "Eeeeeee!!!". When I'm out in public I always feel awkward about it... like I don't really know how to react. I half expect people to start looking at me for some reason, like they know my secrets! I get a lot of texts from friends like "I'm in Anthropologie (or Jamba juice, or Kinko's) and they're playing your song!". I actually got a Facebook message a couple of days ago from a friend visiting the Philippines. The filipino equivalent of McDonalds was playing one of my songs and he was like "congrats on your success" - haha. I guess my music goes well with adobo and pancit ;)

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