Anyone who was at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma on New Year’s Eve for the Royal Jelly Jive show knew it was the place to be.
A bouncing, grooving time that an authority none-other-than RJJ frontperson Jaleh Lauren Bjelde declared “sexy,” it felt from the crowd like the highlight of 2022 might be in its final moments.
The Mystic, always ready for a party, vibrated with the synergy of RJJ’s core, namely Jaleh and longtime partner in music and love, Jesse Lemme Adams. Adams’ wicked keys swirled around my wife and me as Jaleh’s sultry vox pulled our dancing bodies ever-tighter together. In short, this band resonates.
“Got to make the keyboards rock and roll. You got to make them unexpected and fun,” said Adams when reminiscing about the show recently. “I always, like, try to throw it on the ground at some point if I can, just [to] make it feel dangerous and exciting.”
Now that’s what I’m talking about. Yet the gestalt of this power couple of local music is about more than the energy of sex and funk. Like so many artists have since the pandemic lockdown put them at home with nothing to save themselves but making art, RJJ is evolving.
“We’re not just a little jive band anymore,” Jaleh explained.
“We’re going into a deeper place, a fusion of the Jaleh mysticism, and the Royal Jelly rocking fun dance party,” she said, referring to her solo musical project called simply, “Jaleh.” “[Music for us is] like going to church. It’s our ceremony, it’s our expression.”
RJJ has been one of those can’t miss bands that brings people out for a guaranteed good time, not just in the North Bay but around the country. That reputation and the hard work groove that has sustained the band through years of touring made music a full time profession for Adams and Jaleh. No doubt the hustle to make ends meet and bring music to the party people will continue. But in the inner light ignited by the pandemic, now the band feels the calling for more.
Musically, this shows up in the new Jaleh EP, Roses. Written by Jaleh with Adams and released under the band name “Jaleh,” these mellow, mystical tunes are evidence of the artists “mining the muses,” as Jaleh put it.
This mystical shift comes into the music from a shift in Jaleh’s own life toward physical and spiritual health.
“If there’s anything we’re gonna mine for, mine for muses to just bring out into the world [our] creative expression,” said Jaleh. Putting her right to create first during the pandemic liberated her way of thinking about the purpose of RJJ.
Jaleh shared the image of a Buddhist metaphor called Indira’s Web. Imagine “a spider web and on every point of the spider web, there’s a drop of water. And in that drop, the entire web is reflected. The whole thing 360 degrees around,” she explained. Humans are the droplets, and what they do in themselves reflects out to all the other droplets.
“If we can make each of our own little drops beautiful, that will be reflected in every other drop on the web. And so it’s up to each one of us to really work from home, work from the heart, work in our community,” she said. It’s an ancient story that I have rarely heard told so beautifully, so succinctly.
For Jaleh, starting at home means inviting in the ancient wisdoms of the world that are continually subverted, their benefits kept away from people who need it here in the “developed” world.
“Communities around the entire world are protecting this knowledge,” said Jaleh, who has a degree in anthropology. “This tradition of expression [shows up in] Meshika Aztec dancing, in the wisdom from the plant master teachers [like mushrooms and ayahuasca] and in the temazcal sweat lodge.” These are ancient practices and plant medicine that science is only now starting to catch up with.
For Adams, the recognition that the spirit moves through music might sound a little more practical to some, but it is no less rich.
“We are dropping a new song every full moon this year,” said Adams. The couple’s record label, Moonshade Records, was created just for this purpose. “It forced us to start releasing things every month, instead of holding on to stuff,” he continued.
The rhythm of the cosmos can be a hard taskmaster. “It made a sort of scramble because like you’re just looking up at the moon and fuck it’s like, ‘It’s like already halfway there,’” reflected Adams. He takes it as a gift of the natural world to help bring his offering of music to the world.
Like any great couple, these two musicians bring different magical ingredients to the relationship. It has been that way since they first connected down in San Francisco back in the aughts.
“She had a band called The Sufis, which had a cool Turkish guitar player who had a ’60s psych-rock kind of vibe. They were singing songs in Farsi,” said Adams. “[I thought,] I would love to be in that band. And she was always a glittering personality.” When the Sufis disassembled, Adams started to sit in with Jaleh.
“Even before we met, there was always this musical connection. We were crossing paths,” said Jaleh. They did shows together while in different bands, watching and admiring each other’s work.
The connection between the two became undeniable, eventually with them deciding that “we should both jump ship to each other’s ship and become part of this journey,” said Adams. “It was super amazing and exciting.”
In Jaleh’s spiritual journeys of the last couple of years, she has come to an epiphany that expresses itself through music.
“I feel like we’re gonna bring hundreds of people together for a night, so, what are we doing with this energy? Let’s be mindful about where it goes and what we’re doing with it,” said Jaleh. “I’d love to do a tree planting tour for instance, where we’re playing music outside in the sun. We’re nourishing ourselves [and our audience] with the light of day,” not just in the dark of a club, when many of the crowd might be served better by sleep.
“I do want to continue playing in the awesome majestic music clubs,” she noted, laughing. “I’m not trying to get rid of the fun. It’s just kind of a new chapter for us, a new feeling.”