I regularly get download links for new albums, but few have excited me more this year than the link to Orangefarben, the sophomore album by Sacramento native, Jules Baeziger of Sea of Bees. What was the story behind the odd album title? Had she retained the wide-eyed naïvety that made her debut, Songs for the Ravens, so sincere?
I had the chance to hear Jules play a few of her new songs at Pianos in February. Then following the show, we headed out to The Pink Pony, just a few doors up on Ludlow, to catch up.
“I love this place!” Jules said as we walked in. We settled into a small candlelit table along the wall. And, after surveying the menu, we decided on a couple of cups of chamomile tea and some crème brûlée to share. It had been a busy week for Jules, but even after playing eight nights in a row, she was still in high spirits. “I thrive off of how people in the audience are,” she explained. “So sometimes, even though my throat hurts, I still just give it my all because you’re sharing something so important, and something so fragile, and you want to show the true passion. It’s important.” And it’s this passion and zeal for life that seems to animate Jules – both as a singer/songwriter, and as a person.
Just then our crème brûlée arrived. There are people who are pleasant to their waitresses. And then there’s Jules. “Oh my goodness, thank you!” she said to our waitress. “That looks beautiful!”
From the first time I saw Sea of Bees play in New York, I knew there was something special about her. A few minutes into her set, and you think, “how charming.” Ten minutes later, and you can almost picture the two of you riding bikes down sunny streets together. She draws you in with her child-like wonder, candid banter, and complete sincerity. If a bird happened to land on her shoulder mid song, you wouldn’t bat an eye. She’s that kind of person.
But it wasn’t easy for Jules. Growing up in the church, she struggled with her attraction to girls and grew unhappy. “Actually, if I’m being really honest, I thought before I met John [her friend and manager]… I thought I wouldn’t be here in life. I was suicidal before I met John. I was playing in a band for a bit, but I was like ‘I don’t think I’m going to be here much longer if I can’t be in love and I can’t do my music. What’s the point of being here?’ [...] I didn’t know what to do! I didn’t want to work for nobody. I wanted to make music. I wanted to love a girl!”
The first time she picked up a guitar it was for a girl in church.
“I was 15? 16. She sang with her brother. I thought she was beautiful inside and out. Very frail. Loving. She and her brother had beautiful vocals together and they played the guitar. I want to do that. I want to express myself that way, passionately. I want to show her that I can do that, too. [...] I played one string on the guitar to learn it for like two years. It was very frustrating. And I’m not trying to be cool, ‘Ah, I learned on one string, here’s my story.’ I just wanted passionately wanted to do it. And it was work, but I was drawn to it, I think for a reason.”
“Do you remember the first song you wrote?” I ask.
“Yeah!” she laughs. “It was for her.” She starts to sing. “It was like, ‘I’m sitting in the corner, thinking about you. Thinking what you’ve done. How you’ve saved my soul.’” She drops the song, and shakes her head. “But it wasn’t about Jesus. It was about her. She saved my soul knowing that I could feel that way about a woman.”
Nothing ever happened with her childhood crush, but eventually, Jules met Lisa, her “Orangefarben.”
“It was pretty crazy. Because it took a long fucking time. And all of the sudden, there she is – at a table where I’m making coffee on the other side. She’s sitting there with her bowl haircut and her nice tight jeans and her salmon dressy shirt. Green pretty blue eyes. She’s looking at me like no one has ever looked at me before. She saw me that way. [...] So I looked at her and I was wearing this nice vintage outfit that day. You know, not the Partridge family – the Brady Bunch. And I walk in, and I start wiping down her table. [...] And the way she was looking at me, it was like her eyes would not stop looking into my soul, and I couldn’t shake it. It was so nice. [...] After that she wouldn’t leave me alone!”
“So wait. What does ‘orangefarben’ mean?” I ask.
“The color orange. It’s because when I first met her, actually that night when we held hands on the rug. We stayed in the whole night, and then we got hungry. And I was like, ‘There’s a co-op across the street, let’s walk to it.’ It was closing, but my friends kept it open and we grabbed some fruit. It was the only thing they could sell. So I grabbed an apple, she grabbed an orange, and we went for a walk outside because we had to leave. And she was like, ‘I can’t open this orange!’ And I was like, ‘Let me do it, let me do it,’ and we were laughing, and I’m looking at her and was trying to show off. Instead I ripped the orange, and it was bleeding all over my hands. I called her my ‘orangefarben.’ ‘You’re my apfel then,’ she said. And ‘apfel’ is German for apple. And it was just a wonderful story. I didn’t sing that song, but girl, I showed her my town, and we felt so strong and in love. She did, too. It but it was like a story in a movie, but beyond that because it was real. Yeah, it was wonderful.”
The two have since parted ways, but from the experience came the album.
“So it’s a break-up album, but it’s not sad or bitter,” I begin.
“No,” says Jules.
“But you know. For most people, it is those things. They don’t write about it like you do. So why did you approach it that way?”
“Because I love her very much. [...] She’s very important to me. I see some things other people don’t see I guess. [...] Everyone has a misery, but she’s too good for that. She’s too cool for that. I think every love is too good for that. She didn’t deserve that and neither did I. We deserved to be happy. We deserved to be encouraged. And why write an album that’s not fulfilling or full of life? And I want it to be full of life for her. You know, there’s always so much misery in peoples’ lives, including mine and hers, but we needed it. We needed love, and I think it’s true love.”
“So are you in love right now?” I ask, an unscripted question.
“Mmm I’m not in love right now. I’m learning to love myself. and be powerful to myself and know what I like, know who I am, know what I can do, know how far I can go. You know. Know all the details of me. I think love comes when you are least growing, and I think I’m just beginning to grow.” She pauses and looks over at me with a smile on her face. “‘Are you in love right now?’ Rachel!” She laughs.
“Ok. I have one more question for you,” I say. “Can you describe your perfect day for me?”
And because it’s Jules, her long, thoughtful response includes wildflowers, rings, a walk on the beach, making out, a nice bath, cooking, watching a movie, and talking. “That is a perfect day. That is a nice day right there,” she says. “No work no nothing. I have that day every day,” she says.
Here’s Jules playing one of her new songs at Pianos: