Jilly Weiss is finally writing love songs in Service

‘I never wrote a love song and I won’t start soon,’ Weiss sang in We Are Hex, a mindset she abandoned when she met bandmate and husband Russell Simins

Andy Downing
Columbus Alive

Jilly Weiss tried to find an upside to the long pause caused by COVID-19, but it was a struggle.

“I felt like I had no outlets, like I was going to kick somebody’s golden retriever in the park or something,” said the musician, who joins her Service bandmates in concert at Ace of Cups on Wednesday, Nov. 17, alongside past Alive Band to Watch DANA. “It was a creative time, but almost like an angry creative, and I was just ready to be done with it.”

Now, with the band set to resume playing shows, Weiss is starting to embrace those few silver linings that have only recently begun to reveal themselves. During the pandemic, Service was able to reshuffle its lineup — “We had the opportunity to make the band we wanted,” said Weiss, who started the group with partner Russell Simins — and better stake out its own musical territory.

“We had time to think about exactly how we want to sound and who we want to be,” said Weiss, who was buoyed by recent additions Bobby Hussy and Isabelle Helle, who joined longtime guitarist Mitch Geisinger in rounding out the five-piece, whose malleable sound veers between crypt-black, buzzing rockers and loose-limbed guitar squalls. 

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Weiss and Simins also had plenty of time to write, amassing enough material for a new record, which the musicians intend to start work on after its already completed, long-delayed full-length surfaces sometime in the first half of 2022. Lyrically, Weiss described her approach as darkly comic — “like a sad biopic about a creative person with a drug problem, but John Waters writes the last scene.”

“I’m trying to look at everything from addiction to jealousy to these feelings I’ve had my whole life, where I have this strong sense that I’m not in the right place doing the right thing. I always feel like, whatever I’m doing, I’m supposed to be doing something else,” Weiss said. “And I’m trying to present all of that, but with humor — not drama, or any sense of self-importance. I want to embrace the ridiculousness of it.”

Weiss and Simins first wrote songs together at Simins’ New York City apartment shortly after the two first connected when Weiss’ band, We Are Hex, opened on tour for Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, a band for which Simins has long played drums. Going in, the pair had no sense of expectation, or even of what shape the music might take.

“And I think the first time we knew we had a band we wanted to show people was when I wrote the song ‘It’s You,’” said Weiss, who now lives with Simins in Indianapolis. “It was one of the first of the first things we wrote together, and some of the lyrics are from stuff I wrote down in my notebook the first time we hung out together. And that’s when we knew this … wasn’t a pet project, but a way to communicate things that maybe other people could relate to, or make people feel like, ‘I’ve felt like this, too.’”

“I never wrote a love song and I won’t start soon,” Weiss once sang with We Are Hex, an idea she abandoned right out of the gate with Service.

“I actually played that song on the tour when I met Russell,” Weiss said, and laughed. “And I sang it every night with conviction as I fell in love with Russell. I do think I found my soulmate, and that makes you humble. It’s much easier to be that person who said I’d never write a love song, because then you can’t get hurt. Now, we have hurt each other, and we’ll continue to hurt each other. But we also continue to love each other in a sort of boundless way, which is scary, but also puts you in a place of vulnerability. But, creatively, I see vulnerability as a very good state to be in.”