Music & Nightlife

Former Carissa’s Wierd member is out of the bedroom and on to bigger sounds

Jenn Champion
Jenn Champion

Read most anything about Jenn Champion (formerly Jenn Ghetto) and her band, S, and you’ll wonder if that “S” stands for shy. Formerly of the Seattle band Carissa’s Wierd (which birthed the beginnings of Band of Horses), Champion’s solo work is often described as bedroom-y and quiet with the vocals sometimes buried in the mix.

S’s latest album, “Cool Choices,” turns that notion on its ear. It’s a smart, fully realized collection of breakup songs characterized by guitar, piano, electronics and intimate, direct lyrics.

The video for the track “Like Gangbusters!” skewers her reputation further. In it she leads a group dance, plays guitar on a balcony and is the subject of two gossipy girls.

“We thought it would be funny to do a paparazzi thing. Living in Seattle, which isn’t a very big city, you’ll be at the grocery store and people will come up to you and say, ‘I’m a big fan.’ It’s super flattering and cool, but…” she says of awkward local fame that’s not really indicative of life as a part-time musician.

“When I was bartending, people would come in and say (gasps), ‘You work here?’ They’re surprised I have a job,” she deadpans.

Champion recently left her bartending job to teach music part-time and focus on artistic pursuits. Since Hardly Art Records (a division of Sub Pop) released “Cool Choices” in 2014, she’s been able to tour more and market the record domestically.

Her first full East Coast and Midwest run brings her and her band to Snug Harbor Tuesday.

Champion has been playing music since she took up trumpet in elementary school. Guitar came a few years later, as did Carissa’s Wierd with Band of Horses founders Ben Bridwell and Mat Brooke, but until now she hadn’t led her own band.

“It took me awhile to be direct,” she says of working with other musicians in the studio.

She also recruited former Death Cab for Cutie member Chris Walla as producer.

“I’d written a couple songs for the record and I wanted it to sound bigger. I’m going to make a band thing. My record before was just me, and I didn’t want to make the same record again. I’d never made a really slick record and I was like, ‘How can I do this?’ I wanted to see what it would be like to have a bigger sound and working with other instruments I could do cooler stuff.”

The collaboration is a fun, thoughtful slice of indie-rock that’s both relatable and personal.

Hardly Art’s support has luckily kept “Cool Choices” afloat.

“It’s hard,” she says of the ups and downs of the music business. “You need a cheer team to say, ‘Thanks for making a record,’ especially if you’re in the Midwest and there are 10 people at your shows.”

Yet the band still has to get past its albatross-like moniker. While a lone S would be hard to find in the bins of a record store, it’s even harder to track down online.

“I think I was coming at it from a place of… when it was cool that you knew about a band nobody else knew about, which isn’t cool anymore,” she explains. “I didn’t think about Internet stuff. It was intentional in a way, but I don’t think I considered it. I wish it was easier to find. People tell me all the time, ‘I can’t find you on Spotify.’ 

Jenn Champion

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday.

Where: Snug Harbor, 1228 Gordon St.

Tickets: $5.

Details: 704-561-1781; www.snugrock.com.

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