Singer-songwriter Jenna Kole’s new album “A Scapegoat For Your Apple Eating” is the culmination of her musical journey in the Fredericksburg scene over the last 20 years. It’s her first full-length album under her own name and the unusual title comes from the song “Empty Trojan Horses.” That line refers to the biblical story of Eve in the Garden of Eden.
“Someone has to be blamed for your decisions, the decision to move forward on some things,” said Kole. “There’s a line from ‘Hedwig and The Angry Inch’ where Tommy is musing adolescently about religion and knowledge and he says, ‘Eve just wanted to know [expletive].’ That sticks in my mind. Why does every woman ever have to take the rap after just having the desire for knowledge and for experience? I don’t understand villainizing people having experiences. The thought was changing it to a badge of honor that I could lead you to knowing something.”
Those kind of thoughtful lyrics are found throughout the new album. Kole began writing songs in her teens after forming a band called Encircle which grew out of a jam band called Beyond The Sun. From there she joined Charlie Luger & The Masses, which was an indie rock band. Her next group, Little Black Clouds, followed in a similar musical style. She feels that each of those groups has helped expand her musical boundaries.
“[Beyond The Sun] was such a complete 180 from the type of music that I was doing,” said Kole. “I was realizing there was a place for having fun in music and I didn’t realize that before, because I was just a masochist. I felt like there wasn’t a place for fun and humor. Music was about deep emotions. I was kind of a brooding teenager.”
Her musical partners in all those bands included guitarist/multi-instrumentalist Matt Luger and her then-boyfriend, now-husband Jay Kole. Both Luger and Jay Kole also appear on Kole’s solo album. Besides adding atmospheric guitar and ambient sounds, Luger also helped produce “A Scapegoat For Your Apple Eating.” The album was recorded in parts at Kole’s home, then in Lugar’s home studio.
“[Luger] was a cheerleader,” said Kole. “He did a lot of the instrumentation—almost all of the instrumentation outside of the guitar. Any atmosphere is him. We’ve known each other long enough that I can say these nonsensical things to him about how I want things to sound and he knows what I mean. I’ll say ‘I want a little twinkle-y thing here and a little Jeff Buckley slap back thing there’ and he gets all these shared references. It’s very easy to make music with him now after fifteen years of playing together.”
Kole is also a member of the acoustic band Eyes Like Birds. That band is more of an introspective songwriter group than some of her earlier projects. Her bandmate in Eyes Like Birds, Emily Barker, adds some delicate harmonies to Kole’s new record. One of the songs they sing together is the closing track “Come Over.” While many of the other songs on the album are deeply personal with lyrics that can be interpreted by the listener in different ways, “Come Over” strikes a positive note and is written about Kole’s support net of friends.
“It’s a song about recognizing your resources, the people and relationships you have,” said Kole. “Collectively, my friends have had a tough few years with people dying or being sick. Politically, everyone I know is feeling that. It’s hard to feel like you’re not alone a lot of the time ... it doesn’t have to be the only thing we talk about, but it helps to know that you have these people and sometimes the only thing left to do when everything is really hard is get a good long hug from some friends.”
Kole is hoping that the new album wins her some new fans and expands her audience. She has been playing a monthly gig at The Colonial Tavern every third Wednesday. Often backed by some of the same musicians on the album, including her husband and Luger, she plays songs from all her previous groups along with her new material. She would like to put together a permanent backing band and start playing more shows outside of Fredericksburg.
“I would absolutely adore being able to play this music with a guitarist, a bass player and a drummer to different audiences,” said Kole. “I have my monthly gig at The Tavern which I adore. I couldn’t say a terrible thing about that place because God bless them, they let me do whatever I want and I’ve been playing there for literally 21 years. But I’d like to play for people who haven’t heard me before.”