FORTHCOMING ALBUM CASTLE IN THE SKY OUT AUGUST 5 VIA SINDERLYN
NYC pop performance artist, Jennifer Vanilla (they/them), shares their new single “Humility’s Disease” off their forthcoming album Castle In The Sky out August 5 via Sinderlyn, home of HOMESHAKE, Cults, and more. Directed by Luca Venter, “Humility’s Disease” is a campy adventure where Jennifer Vanilla, aka Becca Kauffman, portrays a pseudomasculine devil-like figure with two angels surrounding them.
LISTEN + WATCH VIDEO FOR “HUMILITY’S DISEASE” HERE
“Humility’s Disease” follows “Take Me For A Ride” that NYLON called a “maximalist fever dream,” and “Body Music,” which Stereogum called “infectious” and Them. featured in their “Favorite Songs Of The Month.”
Director Luca Venter quote: “I’m always wanting to make something seemingly wholesome yet demented,” Venter says. “We initially started talking about this video at the end of 2020 but postponed and met up again in the summer of 2021 after both realizing that we wanted a new concept. We wound up shooting a few days before Halloween, which was a convenient, if not entirely accurate, way to explain our antics to the neighbors. Playing off of themes from what I call the ‘Jennifer Vanilla Extended Universe,’ we ended up at this idea that the devil would have two angels on his shoulders working over time, leaning into the hilarity of seeing them all on a day out in the neighborhood, and imagining what the devil’s apartment might look like. The SFX makeup by Nina Carelli brought out this comical, animated feeling I had been thinking of since I first heard the track and I was constantly amazed by Becca, Jo and ry’s performance while I was shooting and editing the video.”
JV Quote: Have you ever worried that there was something truly and absolutely wrong with you, deep down inside and from every possible angle? Sat on a secret feeling that you were an unlovable monster, a massive disappointment to the world, utterly rotten at your core? Feared that your instincts were completely fucked, that your anger made you evil, that your mind was an inhospitable trap you would never escape, that your own body would never do, that you ought to be ashamed of yourself, that the world wasn’t meant for you? Don’t be so humble! Johnnifer Vanillo is here to talk you out of it all.
Johnnifer Vanillo is my alter ego’s alter ego— Jennifer Vanilla with the skin off, on the verge of spontaneous combustion due to intense internal friction. Toxic sludge is bubbling up, the guck stuck under the surface of the burning nether regions we condemn. Their monologue is an eruption, a confrontation, a coach’s pep talk to let the ego sing— if only to quell the inflammation and then settle into a balanced peace.
In this world, the edges around “good” and “evil” dissolve into a puddle of damp, sputtering flames, angels and devil-figure swirling the elements of their supposedly oppositional poles into a perverse reworking of whatever you thought right and wrong ever were. There’s nothing wrong with humility— it’s just that too much of it can destroy you like a disease.
Collaboratively crafted by Kauffman and co-writer/co-producer Brian Abelson, who also worked with Jennifer Vanilla on their 2019 debut EP, J.E.N.N.I.F.E.R. (Beats in Space), and whose credits include releases on Lobster Theremin, HAUS of ALTR, and more, Jennifer Vanilla’s forthcoming full length is a deft and mercurial “jennifreaky” journey, traversing 90s dance music, no wave, post-punk, art pop, new age and experimental R&B.
Kauffman, who uses they/them pronouns, was a member of the experimental Brooklyn pop band Ava Luna before they began releasing music as their alter ego, Jennifer Vanilla. Through this persona they’ve crafted musical albums, choreographed stage shows, a neighborhood variety hour, fake commercials, a public access television program, and sought-after merchandise-as-conversation-pieces that have been the talk of the town in New York’s music, art, and fashion spheres.
Born in a dewdrop high up in the sky in an idyllic realm known as “Jenniferia,” the sexless humanoid alien Jennifer Vanilla opened a portal to the eastern coast of the United States using a magical braid that became entangled with the earthling artist Becca Kauffman. Together, the two embarked upon a musical adventure that ignited the imaginations of countless humans. A quintessentially 80s name (the decade of Kauffman’s birth), Jennifer became Kauffman’s everyperson, an archetypal mold for building connection with strangers.
Today, in the early 21st century on the bustling streets of New York City, Jennifer Vanilla is a container, a portal, a joy delivery system, a self help regimen, a social mirror, a Times Square celebrity, a shark-toothed advertiser, a kicky talk show host and an ebullient mascot. Kauffman inhabited Jennifer and transformed through Jennifer, and vice versa. This conversation in fantasy has taken shape as their debut full-length album, Castle in the Sky, to be released on Sinderlyn Records.
“Consider this an invitation, I’ll be your guide,” Kauffman beckons on the album’s sauntering second track, which, like much of the album, is driven by Kauffman’s nimble and virtuosic vocal delivery. Variously steely, theatrical, sensuous and authoritative, Kauffman’s vocals harken the sparkling precision of Ann Steel, the growling tenacity of Laurie Anderson and the wispy tenderness of Shelley Duvall in Faerie Tale Theatre.
Jennifer Vanilla performances often are exercises in the transformation of reality through fantasy, testing the limits thereof, while the songs of Castle in the Sky are an artifact of that laboratory. Many of these songs took on numerous incarnations over the course of years before arriving at their album form, mutated in direct response to audience reaction. The fantasy was always open to interpretation: blurring the boundaries was the point. “We could each be enacting our own personal fantasy of what was going on throughout the show,” says Jennifer Bear, who would recite poetry during Jennifer Vanilla shows written by their real world counterpart Elsa Brown, a vocalist and lyricist on the album.
Jennifer Vanilla has become a way for Kauffman to test drive their desires and curiosity, reflecting fantasy back through the mirror of an audience and seeing what sticks – even Kauffman’s artistic endeavors that exist outside of the Jenniferian realm, like a recent reenvisioning of a neighborhood intersection as part of their MFA work in Art and Social Practice, are still informed by the Jennifer Vanilla toolkit. At this point, the line where Becca ends and Jennifer begins is up for debate, and that ambiguity is central to the JV project: Jennifer Vanilla functions as a funhouse mirror that implores each of us to examine all the distortions in our reflections and refractions.