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French Girl 

Chic Meets 

Effortlessly Cool

Story: Jennifer Rolf

Photo: Cory Weaver

Fresh off a tour with indie-pop trio Cannons, we caught up with Jane Ellen Bryant and Daniel Leopold, better known as Jane Leo, at Austin City Limits Music Festival. Although we missed their sole ACL performance the previous weekend, one listen to the new single “Wow” and their neon-noir sound that blends elements of pop, punk, electronic and avant-garde had us tracking them down to learn more about this intriguing duo who give off French-girl-chic-meets-effortlessly-cool vibes.

 BTT: Was this your first time performing at ACL?


Jane: Yeah, first time as Jane Leo. We’ve performed as our solo projects but never together. 


BTT: How did you meet, and how long have you been together as Jane Leo?


Jane: We met five years ago in the Austin music scene; we had the same producer. It’s kind of a small circle once you’re in the scene here. We started writing immediately, and we didn’t actually release anything until two years ago.


BTT: How did you get connected with Cannons?


Jane: Their manager was a friend of ours, and we got to play with them in their Texas shows last year, then their manager became our manager and we got to join them on tour this year. So, we just got to be really good friends with Cannons. They’re the best, and they wanted to have us around, so it was great.


BTT: You’re from Austin. What does ACL mean for the music scene locally and globally? 


Jane: I mean, I grew up in Austin and it was always just like a staple. I grew up coming to the festival in high school, so I think it’s really neat to be able to be a musician that’s based here and get to have that world stage in your backyard. There’s a lot of negative things to Austin growing so much, but that’s one of the best things—people from all over the world are coming here, so if you’re a musician here, you can meet people from all over the world and have them see you play.


BTT: Who are some of your inspirations?


Jane: Yeah Yeah Yeahs have been big, the Cars, Talking Heads…


Daniel: Brigitte Bardot, Serge Gainsbourg…there’s a lot of European influences. The Kills. That’s kind of where our head space is. It’s American but very much not so as well. But even a lot of hip-hop because it’s the both of us to a drum machine with the electronic beats and synthesizers and all that, so kind of nothing’s off limits. There’s also Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra going on.


BTT: What inspired you to get into music as a profession?


Jane: As a kid I was in my room alone performing to stuffed animals and that just made me really happy and feel the most alive and fullest I’ve felt. And then writing is this even greater extension of that, to be performing our own music and see people singing along. So I never remember wanting to do anything else.

Daniel: I was tiny. I found a guitar that had like three strings. Everything I do is hyper-obsessed. Here I am 35 years later, still doing it full time for about 15 years, and it’s one of those things, once you get to that level you can only look back to remind yourself to give you perspective that it’s hard work in that world, and I love it. I love every ounce of everything. I don’t know if Jane would say the same thing, but literally everything that’s hard, easy, everything, I love it. Press. We get the press requests, “Let’s do press!” “Let’s wash the van!” I love washing the van. I wouldn’t say it’s a blessing but something close to it. Everything you’re doing has a trajectory, it has purpose, it has intention. That’s a life well-led. 


BTT: Did you have supportive families along the way?


Daniel: Yes and no. Coming from families that are supportive when you’re young, [you] kind of grasp on to their idea of what that means, because they get you started young. And they’re like, “Oh, yeah, I want you to be a country singer, then a folk singer.” And then with this new thing that we’re doing, they might say, “Well, wait, what happened to the rock and roll icon that you used to be? You used to be really masculine.” I’m like, “No, no. It changes.” And you have to run with that. Same with Jane, [who] came from a very Americana/folk world. So yes, they’re very supportive. But that’s a double-edged sword, because it’s like, you only want and need to handle that kind of support for so long until you’re on your feet, and then you have to kinda do it on your own. 


BTT: My last question. How have you approached any challenges or setbacks that come your way? Have you had that “no” in your face at all? 


Jane: I’ve been into tennis lately, and this is a segue, but a tennis player recently said there’s no losing, you just learn. And I think you hear “no” more often than you hear “yes” in this business. So you get used to hearing that a lot. And I’ve started to take that as like, if someone says no, then that’s because it’s not meant to happen, or there’s something better. It’s not personal or there’s…a different thing, like, oh, this door is closing, that means that something else is opening. And it sounds cliché, but it’s so true. 


Things kind of phase in and out, opportunities phase in and out, you know, but as long as we have each other, and that’s been huge. Coming from different projects, where when you’re in your head, and there’s only you and your echo chamber, it’s like, you know, you can get really down really quick, but most of the time if one of us is down, it’s like a teeter totter—we can kind of balance each other out and get perspective. And we’ve both been in this long enough now that we kind of know what kind of bullshit to expect, and then also, we know what to appreciate. There’s so much good happening right now that we’ve worked so long and hard for, so we’re kind of riding that high. 

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