Queen of Jeans: A Band With Vision.
Miriam Devora does not smoke pot. This, she acknowledges, might come as a surprise to the rock critics who have praised her band.
“I’m not a stoner in any way,” she says over a beer in Center City.
It’s late January, just a few days after two feet of snow were dumped on Philadelphia, and the band has hunkered down in Oscar’s Tavern on Sansom Street.
“I’ve done it a handful of times and I just got paranoid,” Devora says.
In a few days, Queen of Jeans will play a sold-out album release show at Kung Fu Necktie. Their self-titled EP has already gained distribution in the U.K., thanks to London-based Super Fan 99 Records. Back in the States, Indianapolis label Third Uncle Records has taken up the QoJ cause – all this before 26-year-old Devora, along with guitarist Matheson Glass, 27, bassist Nina Scotto, 28 and drummer Patrick Wall, also 28, have played a dozen shows together.
Queen of Jeans formed in early 2015, borrowing their name from the iconic South Philly denim outlet King of Jeans.
Devora was in a psychedelically influenced band at the time and wrote the first batch of songs as a side project. She made Queen of Jeans her top priority after Glass and Scotto signed on. Wall joined six months later after answering a Craigslist ad on a whim.
“We’d basically been casually online-dating drummers,” Glass now says.
In true Millennial fashion, the band found it difficult to seal the deal with people they’d met on the Internet.
“No one wanted to commit to us,” says Scotto, grinning.
But eventually, they found that commitment. Wall, like Scotto and Glass, was drawn to the completeness of Devora’s songwriting craft.
“I could tell that this was a band that had a vision,” Wall says. “I was immediately excited.”
“It’s worth mentioning you didn’t have a drum kit,” Devora adds. This little jab is true, as it turns out – Wall’s first time playing the songs on actual drums was the day he joined the band.
Devora says her influences skip the majority of recent college rock. Instead, she draws a more direct line back to the 1960s, citing girl groups like The Ronettes. In fact, the only contemporary act she acknowledges as an influence is Warpaint.
“I’ve seen someone use the word ‘stoner’ to describe us three times in 500 words,” says Wall. “One person said we would be too high to notice if we ever got popular.”
But if you want to think of them as a bunch of lovable California burnouts, they’ll take it – even if they respectfully disagree.
“If you put us in the same class as Best Coast, I’d say, ‘I can do that.’ We’re at the mercy of other people, like, ‘What playlist would you put us on?’” says Scotto. “But I haven’t been offended by anything anyone’s said.”
Because everyone in the band is an experienced musician, they’ve been able to avoid rookie embarrassments. There have been no ill-fated dive bar tours and with all four members working day jobs, shows are carefully chosen to make each performance worth the effort.
“We keep busy to the point that sometimes we all complain about it,” says Devora. “But that’s a good complaint to have.”
They’ve been busy in London as well, despite having never been to the city. The EP, recorded in a sweltering, now-defunct Fishtown industrial space last summer, got indie label attention almost by accident.
“The recording process was completely DIY,” says Glass. “Our friend was recording us. He admitted he was learning as he went along but so were we. And it turned out that we liked it.”
Months later, Super Fan 99 founder Luke Barham heard the single “Dance” while listening to Soundcloud at work. “Dance” starts off with a catchy, if unassuming, ‘60s guitar riff before giving way to a brilliant, twinkling chorus. Charmed, Barham asked if he could hear more.
“I like records that transport me to a different time and place; ‘60s and ‘70s-influenced bands with a penchant for the West Coast often tick a lot of my boxes,” he writes in an email. “Everything I put out is rooted in strong melody.”
Queen of Jeans, then, is a perfect fit. Barham has been able to get the band airplay on London’s local indie station and even earned them a few plays on BBC1 radio.
“There is a real craft to their songwriting and journey within many of their songs,” Barham says. “When they sent through the EP, I was pleasantly surprised at how varied and dark it was. They strike me as a band who have a clear vision and unity in how they deliver their songs.”
The early spring will consist of one-off gigs in Philly and New York. The band’s next goal, though, is to impress their moms.
“There’s definitely a Queen of Jeans parents club,” says Scotto.
“And they all want to be mom-agers,” says Devora. “My mom will say, ‘You sound so beautiful. But you need a new wardrobe.’”
She pauses, then adds, “Don’t write that down.”