Inside what used to be a funeral home, in the middle of rural Illinois, there is life. an artist residency, a recording studio, and the home of Jessee Rose Crane and Philip Lesicko, the powerful duo behind fuzz rock band THE FUNS and analog label manic static records. Jessee, Philip, and guitarist Kelly Nothing sat down with us after their show in Bloomington to chat about being in a band, doing what you love, and the importance of never being completely comfortable.
The Funs. “It’s a rose by any other name,” said Jessee. “The name becomes meaningless and it just becomes associated with that sound.”
In 2009 The Funs began as a two piece, just Jessee and Philip, and the name was only picked to play a show. They aren’t fun - they’re snarly, loud, noisy, and confrontational. As their sound has evolved, they’ve considered changing their name, but haven’t found anything better.
“I like that it doesn’t fit, because it just becomes a word that represents all of it,” said Jessee.
Today, The Funs play as a three-piece. After recording layers upon layers of sound for their song “Suncoat,” Jessee and Philip realized they wanted more complexity in their live performances. Kelly Nothing, who had been a long time friend and fan of the band, joined as a second guitarist.
The three agreed that they get along well as a band because of how much they have gone through together.
“So much of love is coping with one another’s disfunction and coping with disappointing each other,” said Jessee. “We’re good at that.”
Jessee said being in a band can be painful, but being able to fight well and communicate allows them to grow and move forward together. After being friends for so long, through so much, Kelly said she knows how to be around disagreements without taking a side because she trusts the love that Jessee and Philip share.
The Funs are an intense and emotional group - they put their all into every performance. Jessee, who is entirely self-taught, said she just wants to play emotion. To her, their music is just feelings put into sounds.
“It’s like not having skin every time - and that’s a good thing.”
Philip said sometimes it can be hard for him to put all his energy into a performance - adding that he’s very affected by any negative energy from the audience. He said it’s a push and pull type of thing, where they play to the energy of the room.
“I think we’re asking a lot of the audience as a band,” said Jessie. “Its unexpected. You can’t really be a passive observer and I think it really takes people off guard.”
Jessee and Philip agreed that they would rather have someone leave the room than watch their band out of obligation.
When they’re back home, Jessee attends school working towards her MFA while also teaching a 3D class for undergraduates. Sometimes Philip picks up jobs at the school, but mostly they just get to do the things they love inside their rural Illinois home. Through years of construction and manual labor jobs, Philip and Jessee acquired the skills they needed to completely renovate and create a house for themselves. The two have spent 5 rough years working on the home they now own and live in, Rose Raft, and they are grateful. All wealth comes from labor, they said, and they’ve worked hard to get by.
“We are able to sustain what we love to do,” said Philip. “And on our own terms.”
The Funs want to reject expectations. They say - work the shitty job for now, don’t give a shit about what other people think of your band, operate outside the system, take risks, don’t worry about being cool, create the life that makes YOU fulfilled, not the one that people are telling you to want.
Jessee said she feels so lucky that she gets to create music everyday. After years of depression and panic attacks, she emphasized that every small step forward is monumentally important.
“Write songs you care about and that make you feel good,” said Jessee. “Spend time with people that support you and care about you. That will take you further than anything else. Don’t waste time with people that don’t support you.”
Be your weirdo self, said Jessee, and make something out of whatever you have.
JESSEE ROSE CRANE
on success, finding creative muse, and pushing through challenges.
SHUT UP AND LISTEN:
During our interview, you talked about how you’ve achieved your own definition of success.
In this context, what advice would you give others in order to define
and find this sort of “success”?
J: Success means different things to different people obviously. People have different priorities in life. I grew up with two older schizophrenic siblings so watching them suffer and struggle with systems put forth by a society ill equipped in understanding their needs motivated me from an early age to figure out a different way to live and to find my own way to survive and be ok. I push myself mentally every day. My advice don’t give a damn about any perceived societal standard.
Figure out what matters most to you and figure out how to do it. Start small but don’t give up. Don’t think about everything at once or you’ll never move. Think about one thing you can do each day that pushes you. I’ve struggled deeply with anxiety and depression. It has been crippling at times. I have Panic Disorder which means when I have a panic attack they last in varying intensity for two hours or more. If you’ve never had a panic attack it basically feels like you are having a heart attack. It feels terrifying like the most terrified you’ve ever been like your staring down that clown from IT inside the Bates motel. Anyway, I’ve had this “disorder”(misnomer) for five or six years and recently I cured myself. It took a lot of time and work but I finally figured out how to diffuse the fear of my anxiety by not fighting it anymore and facing it dead on. The reason I’m sharing this is that, for me, it has been one of my greatest successes in life to date. I beat this debilitating thing that at times, kept me from even leaving the house. There is still a suffocating stigma attached to mental illness that makes people ashamed to talk about it but FUCK THAT. Labels don’t define you. Nothing is fixed. People with mental illnesses are some of the strongest beings currently gracing this blue space rock with a dab of green. My point is that some people won’t or can’t understand the meaning of the work you do but that doesn’t mean it isn’t significant and useful to yourself and others which at the end of the day is much more important than $$$$.
There are things that are communicated to you from an early age both overtly and subliminally about success. Like you need to make a lot of money, get married, have a house, and replicate your DNA. We live in capitalist country that’s driving force is monetary gain. There’s more to life than money but we all need it to survive. It’s so hard not to get trapped by debt or simply getting by. There’s outside pressure to get a “real job” or else you chance being labeled a loser. FUCK THAT. Pursuing crazy ideas is one the most radical things you can do. Make your weirdo tunes to your cat ‘till the cows come home. Make a zine like this one.
I’m successful by my own standards in that I’m alive. I’m mentally healthy. I’m writing and making art every day and I helping others to realize their art and creative pursuits. It’s fucking dreamsville USA.
I did this by rehabbing an abandoned funeral home in a rural town. I would never be able to buy a house but I was able to spend years fixing up a place that I’m lucky enough to share.
SHUT UP AND LISTEN:
Were you initially intimidated by creating music?
How did you get over any fears like this?
J: I still get nervous performing. It’s good nerves lit with electricity and also shitting like 5 times before we play. The only way through it is through it. You can’t get past something unless you do it. Cis Male domination is still a big ugly problem which makes all the more important to connect to each other outside of that. Pay attention. Demand diversity and cultivate it.
SHUT UP AND LISTEN:
How do you conceptualize a song?
J: I write a lot of songs. It can be difficult to keep up with documenting all the melodies that come to me. Getting a loop pedal that stores 99 loops has helped a lot. Whenever I feel crazy like I’m about to pop and crash or smash something. I pick up a guitar and song comes out. I write them so fast that I make videos of myself playing them so I can come back to them later. Sometimes it’s years before I can get them properly recorded. It’s really cool though I have dozens and dozens of these videos through the years and when you skim them back to back you can see the house getting built around me and watch the seasons change from shorts to wool hats. Half the time I’m in pajamas or underwear, my hair wet from the shower stumbling around during the witching hours.
I write a few different ways. There’s magic songs that seems to get gifted from another dimension. Where sometimes you just sit down and light comes into you and the melody and lyrics flow out. Those kinds of songs a rare and ethereal. Sometimes the lyrics and their melody come first like a little bug like climbed in your ear and I gotta get it out. Most of the time for me it comes from playing the guitar. Playing and playing and then a song comes and I make a video and write the lyrics later. I spend a lot of time on lyrics. I care about them. The difference between a good song and a great one is the lyrics. Words are important. It takes time.