Cool Stuff

Billings Gazette
August 1996

Pope Jane plays new tunes
by Jacqueline Johnson

Everything about the Billings band Pope Jane is unusual -- the name, the lineup, the song list. At the band's debut last summer at MontanaFair, it's original name Mother Lode was quite appropriate. Bass player Holly Hoagland was eight months pregnant with her third child at the show. The band discovered, though, that the name was already used by an '80s metal band, so they moved on, choosing instead Pope Jane after a late-night naming session at 4-B's.

As for the all-female lineup in Pope Jane, once again it was Hoagland's influence. "She was on a mission to make it an all-female band," tells vocalist/guitarist Danielle Egnew. Egnew, orginally from Billings, performed extensively in the Northwest with her former Seattle-based band Danielle Marae. She and drummer Kristen Coyner met in the Northwest, Coyner's home area, and came to Billings to perform together. Guitarist Rita Brown had moved to the area three years ago from Pennsylvania and was looking for a band. Originally a drummer with jazz leanings, Brown learned the guitar to fill a void in the band.

Since then, Pope Jane has performed all original music throughout the Billings area, recorded a self-titled cassette with 10 original songs and has made plans to record a second tape this fall. "Basically, the thing is we keep getting hired in place of cover bands even though we were told you can't be successful unless you do covers," Egnew said. Pope Jane has played several times at Casey's and Magoo's in Billings and at Clyde's in Powell, Wyo., and the Silver Dollar in Cody, Wyo. "They loved us in Powell", Coyner said. "The next weekend we played up here and we had all these people come up to us who were from Wyoming and drove up for the show."

Egnew is the band's primary songwriter, although every member of Pope Jane has contributed at least one song to the 60 original songs the band performs. "We just figure it's a great opportunity we have with all the people out there at our shows to say something meaningful," Egnew said. One of the band's songs, "Loophole," which Egnew wrote while still in Seattle, is about a panhandler who turns out to be God. The song has received some airplay on Billings' Christian FM station KRSQ. Brown wrote the music for a song, which Egnew added the lyrics to and titled "Everybody Needs an Auntie Mame," as in the musical "Mame." The band's most-requested song, "Rain," criticizes those who "choose not to better their circumstances, then complain about it," according to Egnew, who wrote the song. "Two of our songs are you left me and I'm so sad songs; the rest have real thoughtful themes," Egnew said. Egnew's voice is powerful and distinct, driving the band's sound. Hoagland sets the groove with her bass, creating a sense of balance to Egnew's at-times blistering vocals. Brown's guitar is complex and focused and Coyner displays a true sense of dynamics on drums. Keyboardist in the former Billings band Silenced, Hoagland switched to the bass for Pope Jane partially because of Silenced band mate Robin Martinez's influence. Martinez is now Hoagland's instructor on bass.

All four woman take their music seriously. They hope their time playing in bars will enhance their style for a recording contract. They've made contacts at several recording companies, sent their tape out to radio stations in more than 20 states, some of which have given their songs airplay, and are set to perform live on a Great Falls public radio station. Meanwhile, they've sold out of 500 copies of their first tape through Barjon's bookstore in downtown Billings and at their shows.

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