The Shoe Fits Jena Malone
Lem Jay Ignacio and Jena Malone are an odd pairing. Together they are The Shoe, a contemporary duo with a small cadre of dedicated fans, and they debuted their first full-length album, I'm Okay, last June. Jena is perhaps better known to her fans for her role as Johanna Mason in The Hunger Games and Gretchen in cult favorite Donnie Darko. Lem Jay, in contrast, has been entrenched in the music scene since his days of classical training as a child.
"We actually met in jail," Jena quips at first. "No, we met at an acoustic Christmas sort of art party our friend was throwing at Mandrake in Culver City. I really didn't get up on the stage until really late towards the end of the evening, and most of the musicians had gone home so it was just me and Lem Jay. I was doing a lot of freestyling but in mythical languages — a.k.a. gibberish — so I told him that I was going to sing 'Winter Wonderland' in mythical Portuguese and he didn't bat and eye. He just said 'Great, let's do it,' so we did this crazy 10-minute rendition, and kind of fell in love with each other musically and started creating."
The two share a love for musical theater in particular, which Lem Jay admits he tried to stifle when first working with Jena. "From the beginning, musical theater was such a part of my vocabulary, and in my mid-20s I sort of tried to take it out of my vocabulary just because I was doing more commercial pop things that made me feel like theater wasn't cool," he says. "When I met Jena she had that in her, and we would freestyle pesudo-Sondheim songs, and it kind of came back out of me again and I wasn't scared of it." Lem Jay adds, "I'd say what we do 17% smells like musical theater."
They're fresh off a tour that ranged from crowds of hundreds to 20 people crammed into the cigar room at The Belgrave in London, which turned out to be one of the band's favorite gigs. "Everything kept breaking down and all my batteries stopped working, but I love when things just happen. Magic happens and it creates a completely different show," Jena says.
The organic process of creation is the essence of The Shoe. The whole idea may seem hippy-dippy, but the resulting sounds are undeniably awesome. "It's not a normal band, and that's so important to me," Lem Jay says. "We made a lot of music with no intent really. Eventually we started performing and put out an album, but the spark of our project was really just two friends hanging out and making tons of music."