Adrien Reju Talks Love Songs with ROP

On a recent late-winter night, Rock on Philly’s Breanna Perry sat down with songstress Adrien Reju, after her performance to a packed house at the Tin Angel. With both Valentine’s Day and the release of a new album of love songs looming on the near horizon, the topic of conversation seemed an obvious choice.


 

My knock on the green room wall was a little timid, but it did the trick anyway. “Hi,” I said by way of introduction, “I’m Breanna, from Rock on Philly?”

I had been communicating a bit with Adrien Reju for a few days before her show at the Tin Angel, where she would be playing a sneak preview of her upcoming album for an audience sure to adore her — Philly’s always been fond of this unassuming musical powerhouse. She’d agreed to let me interview her, but we hadn’t really set a time, and though we have several mutual friends, we hadn’t actually met before. Hence my timidity.

She smiled and waved me in to the green room, which was nice and quiet and mostly empty while her band members were out amongst the crowd. We shook hands and I took a comfortable seat on the floor near the chair she sat in, the two of us settling in with a few shared giggles about friends and Philadelphia. My first question was sort of a softball.

 

Rock On Philly: What prompted you to make this latest effort, an entire album of love songs? And a mix of originals and covers, at that?

Adrien Reju: Well, I played a Valentine’s Day show last year at the Fire… You know the Fire? I didn’t feel like just playing my songs, I wanted to put on a show, because it’s was Valentine’s Day. And I didn’t want to just play your average love songs. I wanted to find a few songs that were a little twisted, or dark, or humorous. So at that show, I played completely different songs. I played “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down).” I did a Jeff Buckley song, “Lover You Should Have Come Over,” and “If Our Love Was an Outhouse,” by Bryant Oden, which is a children’s song, but we just rocked it out. We had a really fun time doing that, so I was like, maybe I should make an album — and instead of doing all covers, I figured: maybe I’ll just mix up covers and originals, get my stuff in there too. So that’s how it came about.

ROP: Do you have a favorite song on the album?

AR: Oh! I really love the Prince cover we did. “If I Was Your Girlfriend.” And Zach Djanikian, who’s a Philly native too, he sings the duet part, and he’s like, so soulful! This skinny guy who’s just got the most honeyed voice.

 

She laughs, and I take the chance to tell her the story of the girls earlier that night who had talked through most of her set and drawn wrath from the crowd around them. “They finally started to get it partially through the Prince cover. They shut up and stopped talking about somebody’s boyfriend or whatever it was, about halfway through,” I say by way of segue. “Just in time, because then you played the Elliot Smith cover after that and we all would have been really mad if we couldn’t hear it.”

 

AR: That might be my second favorite song on the album. The Prince song and that one are actually together on the record, and I just love it. For some reason, they blend really nicely.

ROP: Okay, so if those are your favorites, what’s the song on the album for those newly-in-love, total lovebirds?

AR: “Hemophiliac of Love,” I think. It’s kind of a dark tune, but that’s what you feel like when you’re first in love! You know, your hormones are raging, you get all flushed…I don’t know. That might be the one. Or maybe my song, “Last Call,” which is kind of a dance song. It’s going out and having fun with your friends and dancing with your lover, basically. So maybe that one.

ROP: What about the song to get someone through a breakup? You know, the one they put on forever–

AR: Still Not Over You!” I actually wrote that one for Ali Wadsworth, and I just knew…this would totally be her breakup song. It was actually a really great exercise to write for somebody and I hadn’t ever done it before, but it kind of took me out of my own head. I think I should do that more. I think it’s more challenging to write for yourself because you’re so vulnerable, but when you’re writing for someone else, you can kind of embellish and not worry so much about how it’s going to come out.

ROP: Is there a song that you fell in love with more and more as you played it, or recorded it?

AR: I think “Solo Mission” is that, for me. The way we had been playing it live — I knew it was a good song, at the core — but the way we were playing it live maybe didn’t serve the song enough? The way we arranged it and played it on the record is so lush, so perfect for that song. And I think we’re playing it that way now. So I fall in love with it more and more every time we do that.

 

By this time, the crowd outside has dwindled a bit, and I’ve kept Adrien from her fans for long enough. We start wrapping things up, trading impressions of the show. She tells a couple stories about parking and driving in Philadelphia, which had been a nightmare for her and the band earlier in the day, but she also makes sure to emphasize how grateful she is to Philly’s music community. From XPN, to the fans that supported the album’s PledgeMusic campaign, to the friends and listeners who showed up to the Tin Angel, she feels loved in Philadelphia, and it is evident in the way she comfortably smiles when discussing the city. “I just, I feel like there’s a soul here,” she says. “All of my friends here are amazing people, and there’s a lot of art. Here, you get some characters — I dunno, there’s some crazies here, too — but at least it’s interesting. But that’s it — it’s the soul, the soul of the city. It’s great.”


 

Adrien’s newest album, Strange Love and the Secret Language, just concluded funding via a successful Pledgemusic campaign. While PledgeMusic supporters were able to receive an advance download of the album, other fans will have to wait until the album’s release later this spring to get their hands on a copy. The lead single from the album, “Hemophiliac of Love“, is currently available on Bandcamp.

Image courtesy of the artist.

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