I met this girl when I was ten years old, and what I loved most, she had so much soul. She was old school, when I was just a shorty, never knew throughout my life, she would be there for me. On the regular, not a church girl, she was secular. Not about the money, no studs was mic checkin her. But I respected her, she hit me in the heart….* lyrics by Common
Okay, so maybe is wasn’t like that. But the story with Jen and I does go way back. I met this girl when I was 20 years old, and what I liked about her was that her mind was gold. She was an artist, and I was just a dreamer. Never knew later in my life, i’d be interviwing her. …okay okay … I’ll stop.
But, it’s so hard to. Truth be told, I did meet Jen a couple years back. We met at an art gallery in Palm Springs and have been friends ever since. Our friendship has remained rooted in the arts, as she has been my graphic designer for this website and we continue to swap music, art, and political finds, despite wherever Jen may be on the map. I was pretty amazed by this girl when I first met her; her life experience, her knowledge of pop and subcultures a like, and her classic record label.
I had heard about the AppleBird Music Foundation (her record label) from a few friends before I met her. I loved the design work, simple and truth telling. Then I saw a couple of her flyers poping up everywhere on the internet. The look was sleek and clean. And it really stuck out. Especially in a time when everyone had flashy, electro inspired graphics that really didn’t appeal to me. So, when I finally met Jen, it was fire.
She was living in Palm Springs to get away from the big city life and to find a piece of mind. As you can probably tell, her work is inspired by her time well spent here in the desert. It has that Palm Sprinsg lifestyle motif; modern, clean, relaxed, cool.
She is the graphic designer to my banner that you see up above and much, much, more.
I wanted to do a live interview with Jen, so you could get a sense of her vibe, but she is currently living in Washington DC. But, as you know, the next best thing in today’s age would be copoying and pasting an online Google Chat conversation that we had – and I did just that.
So, please, without further ado, I introduce to you virtually to, the legendary, jen ballera…..
me: Name
jen: jen ballera
me: Astrological sign
jen: gemini!
me: Where were you born?
jen: cavite, philippines
me: Where were you raised?
jen: budapest, hungary, to new delhi, india, to berlin, germany, six months in nyc, then , la, then palm springs, now washington dc and soon to be new york
me: Awesome. How do you think all these experiences of traveling around influenced you as an artist?
jen: location is everything. it features prominently in my work as writer, specifically. perspective only really manifests itself when you’re forced to thrive out of your preconcieved “element”. the world is big, and each city has both its dirt and its charm. i always want to convey that.
me: How do you convey that? And what I mean by that is, what type of art do you produce?
Wait – does that make sense? What I ment to ask was… what kind of artist are you?
jen: i consider myself a writer first and foremost, although that is a labored process that i tend to be relatively private about. my graphic design work is relatively minimalist but in my own way i see that clean, concise simplicity as the fundamental basis for the kind of optimism that comes with the knowledge that there is more out there than whats directly in front of you. does that make sense?
– i dont think it does. whatever.
me: I get it. I like it. It makes perfect sense.
– It really coralates with your experiences traveling and all that
– very interesting…

So, from what I understand you also ran/run (?) a small record label? What inspired you to go into the art and business of music? What was the sound of your label? And why did those peopl inspire you?
jen: applebird records is a small, three-person diy operation in the style of many punk forebearers; this time, applied to hip hop. it’s something that we believed had never been done before. hip hop indie labels cater to the prospect of the “hustle”; instead, we went for simplicity, opting to prove that the message is the message, rather than the medium.
– it’s structured into two parts: the music and the art. the design aspect of it remains clean and simple, unfettered by the usual gaudiness of hip hop and the pretentious underestimation of what exists in the backpacker community.
– the music speaks for itself.
me: I also came across your music page. Explain your sound to me. What inspired you?
jen: ha! that music page was supposed to be a secret. it’s a really lo-fi sound, recorded on a $3 thriftstore cassette player, looped with a $5 casio keyboard. i was listening to a lot of the portland band Starfucker at the time.
i don’t consider myself a musician in any sense of the word. but like yoko ono, if it’s art, i have to try it. even if it’s bad. – it’s the only thing that outlives you.
me: true.
– Who are some people that you admire? Inspire you? That you just think are interesting?

jen: the only people i admire are geniune and far from ordinary. wayne coyne of the flaming lips, with his undeniable charisma. yoko ono, aforementioned. lester bangs, who hated everything, but loved it at the same time, and let it pour out in record reviews. anne sexton, my favorite sad poet, and the voice that comes out of me in a lot of my poems. woody allen. is this too long?
me: not at all.
jen: hahaha
– oh yeah
– and lil kim back when she was a boss bitch.
me: hell yeah
jen: if she had stopped getting work done at la bella mafia, she would still be bangin.
me: Where do you see the future going? Yours, the worlds, music?…
jen: moving permanently to brooklyn in january. will always miss and love my relaxing times in palm springs.
as far as the world is concerned, i’ll leave that to barack obama, and for music? psychedelics are back in, apparently, and that was a really interesting time for music. hopefully it comes around again.
me: Real quick, before we must end this interview – Name the first 2 punk bands that come to your mind. The first 2 hip hop crews/solo artsist. The first 2 electronic artists. The first 2 worst artists.
jen: buzzcocks, bad brains.
– pete rock, de la soul.
– electronic? good lord
– uh
– does portishead count
– and massive attack
me: yeah, portishead totally counts
jen: worst artists?
– katy perry
– icp
me: hahaha
– So, where can we find you on the internet? Where can we see some of your works?

jen: erm, im workin on a website. but for now you can find some older stuff on
http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenballera/ [ http://www.flickr.com/photos/jenballera/]
– the applebird records site
applebirdrecords.com [http://applebirdrecords.com/]
me: cool. and your myspace? in case someone wants to get fresh with you?
myspace.com/jenballera [http://myspace.com/jenballera] or
myspace.com/passiveexcessive [http://myspace.com/passiveexcessive]
me: Last but not least, do have any advice to give to aspiring artists that might be reading this? Or maybe those who would like to travel?
jen: wayne coyne again: “enthusiasm for life defeats existential fear”. love your life and you won’t ever worry about the deeper meaning. never take it seriously and if you ever get lonely, just go to the record store and visit your friends.
me: Coolio. And gracias.
jen: hahaha i just quoted almost famous
– good lord…

Here are just a couple of samples of jen ballera’s graphic design work:
Amazing Artists on this flyer and on her label are: Speak + Pheo. Alf Alpha is a desert favorite too.
Design work for her record label, Applebird Music Foundation.
T-shirt design work for her record label
Album sleves created by jen ballera of applebird music foundation

If interested in having jen ballera do some design work for you, please contact her at: www.myspace.com/jenballera