The Ann Arbor Summer Festival starts Friday June 14th, kicking off summer in Ann Arbor. The annual series of events stretches on for weeks, celebrating the performing arts with outdoor entertainment around the campus of the University of Michigan and downtown Ann Arbor. There will be dozens of unique performances, activities and exhibitions. See the full schedule online.
“Stefan and I are very quiet, introverted people normally, but when we’re playing, we are loud and flamboyant. It just fit for us. Intense on the surface, but actually just a chicken.” - Melissa Coppola of JUNGLEFOWL
Ypsilanti indie-rock duo JUNGLEFOWL is comprised of drummer and lead singer Melissa Coppola and her husband, Stefan Carr on lead guitar. They’ve been recording and performing around southeast Michigan for about five years now. Coppola’s own musical journey has been rather eclectic, from playing multiple instruments, including accordion and piano, in a range of bands that go from folk to punk to classical. She’s on her way to attaining her Doctorate in the Musical Arts from the University of Michigan and on track toward becoming a music teacher. As if that’s not enough, she is also the co-founder of Detroit’s chapter of Girls Rock, a nonprofit music education organization designed to empower girls, trans and non-binary youth to become involved in the local music scene.
CultureShift‘s Jeff Milo spoke with Coppola about all of these facets of her creative life, as JUNGLEFOWL get ready to perform at the annual Ann Arbor Summer Festival.
Click on the audio player above to hear Jeff Milo’s extended interview with JUNGLEFOWL and read the Q&A, edited for length and clarity, below.
Cultureshift: You have the drums, piano, a little accordion, and you play so much else… can you talk about the different head spaces you get into considering all the different instruments and styles of music that you play?
Melissa Coppola, JUNGLEFOWL: Well, I’ve been playing piano the longest, I started when I was 6. That’s definitely my main instrument. I do that everyday, I teach the piano. And I think I probably feel the most comfortable, arguably. But I’ve always kind of had this need to self-teach and learn how to play other instruments, I just find it fascinating. Mostly because, I look at my learning process from the third person. Think about how I learn things and I apply that a lot to how I teach.
But as far the headspace I get into for the different instruments that I play…
Classical for piano. Sort of a punk rock thing for JUNGLEFOWL
Yeah, you know it’s all kind of similar in a way but it’s also wildly different. It’s really hard to describe. When I’m drumming and singing with JUNGLEFOWL it’s all-encompassing, it’s like a complete body/mind/voice experience, and I can’t really think about anything else. Weirdly enough I feel the most free when I’m drumming because I feel like there’s somewhat less room for error. I can be loud and it’s not a big deal. So I’m thinking less about the refinement of it, and I think it’s somewhat refreshing.
Tell folks about JUNGLEFOWL, and that band name, it’s a unique band name.
JUNGLEFOWL is an animal, it’s a tropical bird, for lack of a better word. But Stefan and I came across that band name when we were on a road trip, we were driving somewhere, we were listening to NPR, and it was some program about domesticated animals. So they were talking about chickens. The radio announcer said, well, you know, as some of you might know the chicken is descended from the ancient jungle fowl, and Stefan and I looked at each other and just started laughing. Cause we thought it was so hilarious, cause jungle fowl sounds so intense, but they were using it in comparison to chickens. And we were thinking, that is really funny, that’s a good band name. Because people don’t know what that is, but it sounds really intense.
Only on NPR.
But It really fit for us. It’s a little bird, it’s a very pretty, sort of, rooster-looking thing. Stefan and I are very quiet, introverted people normally, but when we’re playing, we are loud and flamboyant almost. It just fit for us. Intense on the surface, but actually just a chicken.
You guys are in a relationship, but also a creative relationship. What’s it like to get onstage with your significant other and get loud and rambunctious together?
Well it’s definitely a space that we don’t occupy normally, on an everyday level. So when we’re on stage, it’s really fun. That’s just the biggest thing about it. It’s so much fun to have a special project together. It’s a space that we don’t get into unless we’re on stage together.
Some things are easier. And other things are harder. Mostly it’s easier, I think. Because we both know that we’re committed to each other, we’re married at this point. But even before that I think we both knew that neither of us were going anywhere. I think that primarily is what makes it easy to make something together, the trust.
And so we know that we’re both on board, we’re not going anywhere. At the end of the day, even if we disagree in band practice, it’s like, well, we still have to go to sleep in the same bed. I also think that we have worked on our communication on the relationship level and that’s definitely translated to how we work together in a collaborative context, so that’s been great in practice, in writing, also conflict resolution.
JUNGLEFOWL will be performing at the Top Of The Park stage on Friday, June 14 at 8:45 pm as part of the 2019 Ann Arbor Summer Festival.