Months ago, I got to spend 24 hours with Jilly Weiss and Russell Simins at their home in Indianapolis. It’s the perfect midwest home with an unbelievable garden, lots of pink flamingos, a record collection I would die for and their adorable elderly cat, Armani.
Jilly and Russell met like so many musicians have before but their connection is something magic. They first met in 2013 when We Are Hex and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion played a few shows together. Then, in 2015, the bands went on tour and Jilly and Russell fell in love. “It took awhile but we found a way to be together,” says Jilly. “The first time I visited him we wrote one of the songs we play now… we kind of knew we had to start a band.” SERVICE was born.
Consisting of Jilly on vocals, Russell on drums, Mitch Geisinger on guitar, John Zeps on bass, and Sharlene Birdsong on keys/guitar/vocals, the band is currently working on their debut album. But the life force of SERVICE is tied to Jilly and Russell’s home. “Russell writes on guitar and I’ll add in my two cents since I’m here and vocal parts and Matt (previous guitarist) usually comes over around the table just like this and add his parts,” explains Jilly. “We’ve never been happier because we’re a lot more free in this band.” While Russell directs a lot of the songs, he loves the collaboration aspect with Jilly. “I’m so enamored with Jill as a performer and an artist,” says Russell.
It’s clear their respect for each other plays a huge part in the band. “The cool thing about Russell and I working together is he brings the pop sensibility and I bring some sort of crazy dark energy. That’s an exciting mix. I don’t know many bands who aren’t from the eighties that do that,” says Jilly.
The band continues to grow with the exploration of previously uncharted territory for Jilly… love. “We love the ambiguousness of the name, it sort of has a threatening sexuality to it. I actually have a lyric in a We Are Hex song, ‘I’ve never wrote a love song and I won’t start soon’ because I don’t feel I’ve ever really been in love until now. I think SERVICE is a love story. It’s still expressing dissatisfaction with life in general and people suck but underneath that is this love and sexuality that I haven’t explored in music. It’s more honest,” Jilly explains.
The best part about Jilly and Russell is not only how much they love each other but how much they love music together. As we drove around Indianapolis we listened to Exile on Main Street and they sang “Rocks Off” with such joyful abandon I felt that I was witnessing a moment in rock n’ roll history. “That was a big record for us,” Russell says. Jilly continues, “We kinda obsess over something and then spend the weekend with it. We had a Betty Davis weekend. You’re here on Swell Maps weekend. We had a Nina Simone month.” “Some of it also inspires us for songwriting,” explains Russell. “We always start by thinking we should cover a song and we spend a month thinking that but then we realize we should take what we learned and apply it,” finishes Jilly.
The intensity at which they experience life and music is directly reflected in SERVICE’s performances. Jilly is a dynamic performer who has a knack for climbing any heights close to the stage. Jilly was always great in We Are Hex but in SERVICE it’s a whole new level. “I have more abandon. It’s a little dangerous, I’ve hurt myself at every show. I want it to be dangerous, I want it to be like the Stooges or the Birthday Party and I’m going to get hurt doing it because I’m not 17.” Russell continues by saying how legitimate Jilly is on stage and how nothing can be predicted other than when they start playing, it’s go time. “Punk rock is the life giver. She is that. It’s natural to her. I wouldn’t be in a band with someone doing it because it’s the cool thing to do,” says Russell.
SERVICE’s debut album will be released on Corpse Flower sometime this summer. They are not a band to miss. Whether you see them live or check out their recordings, listen closer and see if you can hear the underlying love story of Jilly and Russell. Rock n’ roll creates the best bonds between friends and lovers and their love of rock n’ roll gave birth to SERVICE.