By Julien A. Luebbers
The Spokesman Review
Local duo Carmen Jane released their new single “Your Madness (ALT)rd” on Thursday, and kicked off a run of three opening shows for renowned pop violist Lindsey Stirling.
Carmen Jane deceptively sounds like the name of a solo project, and that’s because it started out as one. A few years ago, local songwriter Carmen Jane (one half of the Sweeplings, and also known as Cami Bradley from her stint as an “America’s Got Talent” semifinalist) started performing under her own name as an outlet for music that didn’t fit. into other projects.
“I had more to offer myself in music,” Jane said. She “started exploring some solo opportunities, and writing for myself again, and in that she found Carmen Jane, which is my legal name.”
But Carmen Jane is, as of a year ago, a duo. Jane met Spokane producer and artist Benn Suede and realized “we have something very unique and very special in how we write and work together.”
Suede is a decorated producer and former member of Crown the Empire, a metalcore band from Texas. He moved back to his hometown of Spokane a few years ago, working as a producer and on his own musical projects, including the Young Sires.
“Although it is my name, he is the other half,” Jane explained. “We say ‘I’m Carmen, he’s Jane,’ ” she joked.
The collaboration with Suede “has helped enhance who I am and what my sound is.” It also represents an important transition in the project’s sound. Their newest release is a vivid demonstration of what has changed and what’s to come.
“Your Madness (ALT)rd” is a reworked version of Carmen Jane’s first solo release, “Your Madness” from 2020.
The original song is a dramatic, swelling track with overtly pop-y production and backgrounds. It is unforgettably catchy, displaying Jane’s vocal talent with something of an eerie tone.
The new song, though, takes the original’s pop sensibilities and works outwards, dropping off the edge into darkness at times as the song plummets into brief silences. Suede and Jane brought the eeriness out into the open.
The best way to describe Carmen Jane’s new music is as what Suede called dark pop, a genre embodied by Billie Eilish. “Everything is very thoughtful and there’s an air of experimentation through it, but it’s all pop songs just with a darker tinge or twist,” he said
In “Your Madness (ALT)rd,” the experimentation is significant, periods of stark contrast interspersed throughout the song. The effect is to draw the listener down into the track’s lyrical depths; as Jane sings “all your madness brings me down,” Suede’s production brings the listener down too.
“We use the term disruptive sounds,” said Suede, to describe “something sonically that is really abrasive and completely devoid of any other sound you’ve heard in the song so far.”
In the new track, these sections enhance the “dark” in dark pop. When Jane’s chorus re-enters, it’s a breath of fresh air, but framed now by the disruption. The duo strike a balance between disruptive sounds and the familiar, the comfortable.
The new version is undeniably cool, which Jane says is Suede’s forte: it just comes naturally to him to make a track ooze intrigue and stick in your head. But the duo refuse to stop at merely cool music. They want to push the boundaries of their own sound and songwriting.
“I have a really deep desire to do things that haven’t been done,” said Suede.
For Jane, it’s about storytelling: “I want music to be the connection point, I want to connect with people through the lyrics or the melodies or the story.”
The convergence of their overlapping ambitions makes Carmen Jane an ideal outlet for both. “There’s a constant evolution,” said Jane.
The opening slot with Lindsey Stirling is a recognition of that evolution and a chance to show a large audience that Carmen Jane is worth their attention.
Jane and Suede are opening for the popular violinist this week on a three-show leg through the Pacific Northwest. The final show, on Saturday, is a sold-out set at the Festival at Sandpoint.
Though it’s not the first time either Suede or Jane have played major gigs, it is their first time doing one together.
“Both of us have a lot of experience and have been through a lot to get where we are now,” Suede said.
Their sets will consist almost entirely of unreleased music off of Carmen Jane’s upcoming album, which doesn’t have a release date but is due to be released in the coming months.
For the live renditions, they’ll be drawing a more rock-y sound out of their songs, Suede said. They’re adding a drummer for the shows to round out a trio.
“We can bring whatever Lindsey’s audience is along with us,” said Jane. “We feel confident.”