'Hot Sauce Universe' Bonds Husband And Wife

Nov 15, 2016

Credit Janae Thomason

Though it's been done successfully, being band mates with a romantic partner can be fraught with ... challenges.  Where does business end and personal begin?  When is a decision final and who makes that decision?  What if one of the two becomes the breakout performer?

Husband and wife Jay and Jenae Thomason ARE the Bloomington-Normal based acoustic duo Hot Sauce Universe.   Jenae said playing with Jay in HSU brought them closer together.

"We connected hard from the get-go," said Jenae.

When they met in Denver after Jenae had moved from Bloomington-Normal and Jay from Boston,
they quickly cliqued romantically, but both knew from experience to not force the music part of the relationship. 

"When we first got together, we kept our music stuff very separate," said Jenae.  We both have experience  trying to musically work with somebody we were romantically involved with, and those things have not gone well." 

Jay jumped in with "We treaded lightly for awhile."

Jenae said she sat in a few times with a Denver cover band Jay was in.  Once they eased into playing together, Jenae said they bonded over the vulnerability of the improvisational music they were playing.

"It can be scary, it's intimidating." But that risk of vulnerability comes with a huge bond.  You open way up like this," said Jenae holding her arms apart. "In our situations, you could easily fall apart, a lot of people do.  But ours ... it's just brought us closer together.  We have so many forms of communication now because of the music."

"And really that's what being a musician is," said Jay.  "I've always thought this and tell people all the time. 'Being a musician is really communicating something that not everyone can communicate with words.'"

One of the catchy words on "Color Me" is the title to one of the EP's six songs.  Jay said the music to "Supremium" came to him in a dream when he was jamming with his favorite guitarist, Trey Anastasio of Phish fame.  But it was Jenae who came up with the title."

"As a kid I'd go into the record store and if it would be someone I never heard of, the cover would be a big deal.  And the song titles would be a big deal.  I'd look at the song titles and say 'well that has to be a cool song' and I'd be intrigued," said Jay.

They said the title "Supremium" happened organically.

Hot Sauce Universe performing with their "comfortable" props and accessories.

"I tried to fit the actual word 'Supremium' into the song, but 'Love Supreme' is what rang through," said Jenae.

And though John Coltrane didn't register while writing "Supremium," Jay said the chorus could be thought of in that way.

"Obviously 'A Love Supreme' was a huge album, it changed a lot of people's lives and still does. So when the song is talking about something that's giving you all this joy, you can take it that way.  But we weren't thinking about it when we wrote it.  I mentioned it when we recorded it, but we can't CALL it 'A Love Supreme,'" laughed Jay.

On "Back Off Dude" from the EP, the lyrics are fairly straightforward.  Jenae, who writes all the lyrics, said the song sort of wags a figurative finger at a "dude" coming on too strong.  But she said she upped the intensity in the last few lines:

At first you're being playful,then it turns 'round into hatefulYou think you gotta persist,like your manhood is at riskbut your manhood was gone when she told you to run alongbut you stayed all up in her zone instead of leavin' 

"And instead of being just a sassy 'nah you're not good enough,' it's more about boys who get way too aggressive and us girls who have let that become a normal thing we have to deal with," said Jenae. "'Did you just touch me!  Boy you better run!'"

Inappropriate touching has become a national conversation since the release of the "Access Hollywood" tapes of Donald Trump bragging about his ability to touch women because of his celebrity.  Though the song was written before the tape exploded on the internet in early October, Jenae said those last few lines have taken on added meaning.  

"There has been a lot that has been normalized that should not be normalized.  It's stuff we don't talk about because we de-escalate as women.  We don't' bring it back up because maybe we're over reacting or maybe we thought too much about it, or we don't' want to upset the person who did it because it can be dangerous.  You call somebody out and they can get more aggressive, and a lot of us know from personal experience how dangerous that can get.  It's not ok and we can do better," said Jenae.

"Color Me" EP

"It never should have been ok to start with, said Jay.  "I've always thought this way, and even more so now.  Young people need to see how a man is supposed to act, and be respectful.  And so now with this election, it's like, how are you supposed to set the right example when half the country supports  that.  It's absolutely NOT ok."

The release party for "Color Me" is November 19 at Fat Jacks in downtown Bloomington.  Crayons will be included with a purchase, as the album is designed in black and white to allow coloring between (or outside) the lines of the artwork.  Jenae said it will also be the last date of the year for Hot Sauce Universe, as they are expecting a child in February.