Although it’s easy to imagine how merging one’s creative and romantic endeavors could be a recipe for disaster, there are couples in bands that have done it with great success. In Athens, a city with a constant influx of new students and an established music scene, combining what you love and who you love is not unheard of.
One can find a distinct example of a successful intra-band relationship in Jucifer, a metal group founded in Athens in 1993. Guitarist/vocalist Gazelle Amber Valentine and drummer Edgar Livengood are the band’s sole members, and the pair has maintained its presence in metal circles for more than 20 years.
Despite having a solid identity as a duo, Jucifer started with more than just two members. Some of the group’s initial performances included bass guitar thanks to help from a couple friends, but Valentine and Livengood eventually realized that their chemistry together was something worth exploring on its own.
“We had an awesome time playing with both of those guys, and both were great musicians,” Jucifer says in an email. “But after a little while we basically figured out that we are two halves of a whole and that whole is Jucifer.”
Although Jucifer having a couple as its only members is noteworthy in-and-of itself, the band is made even more interesting by its nomadic approach to life. For most of Jucifer’s existence, the duo has toured constantly, choosing to abandon the stability of a physical home base in favor of a virtually continuous world tour.
Choosing to indefinitely live out of a vehicle with just one consistent companion may seem unthinkable to some, but Valentine and Livengood say it was a decision that came quite naturally to them. After spending a good portion of Jucifer’s first years touring, the couple eventually chose to just stay on the road for good.
“We saw ourselves at a crossroads: either buy a house of our own and commit ourselves to mortgage payments, or buy something we could live in on the road and commit ourselves to music,” Jucifer says. “There was really only one choice for us once we saw it like that.”
Rejecting the stability of a shared house, Livengood and Valentine rely heavily on each other for support. Despite their constantly changing surroundings, the two are able to thrive as long as they have each other.
“Life is not about what other people think you’ve accomplished; it’s about what you think you’ve accomplished.”
“At this point there’s really not one place that’s home; yet everywhere feels like it, as strange as that may sound,” Jucifer says. “Home for us is being together and playing music.”
Of course, Livengood and Valentine’s way of life isn’t for everybody, and they are willing to admit that. Despite what works for them personally, their advice for everyone else remains the same: find what makes you happy and do it.
“Follow your path, let the people who understand join you along the way, and don’t worry about the rest,” Jucifer says. “Life is not about what other people think you’ve accomplished; it’s about what you think you’ve accomplished.”
Another successful example of a musical couple can be found in pop rock quartet Jo RB Jones. Rebecca Jones, the group’s titular front woman, and Michael Wright, her boyfriend and guitarist, make up half of the group alongside bassist Henry Barbe and drummer Glenn Reece.
Although it’s easy to imagine how a couple could run into issues with its band mates, Jones and Wright say the dynamic in Jo RB Jones has always been a healthy one. Wright, Barbe and Reece all grew up together in Athens, and their longstanding friendship has served as a solid foundation for the band.
They were also all members of The Hernies before Jo RB Jones was formed. While the two groups definitely sound different, Wright says much of their existing band dynamic carried over into Jo RB Jones.
“We kind of said that The Hernies was Rebecca’s backing band,” Wright says laughing. “But we already kind of had our own dynamic.”
In addition to the good chemistry Jo RB Jones inherited from The Hernies, Wright and Jones also mentioned their dynamic as a couple as another reason for their intra-band harmony. Focusing on everyone’s mutual friendship, the pair generally avoids dragging their personal romance into band endeavors.
“It’s just like a separate thing kind of. It’s like, when we’re playing in the band together, we’re just buds,” Jones says. “It’s like just another band mate, which is a beautiful thing, I think.”
Of course, that’s not to say the couple’s relationship has no effect on the band. Wright and Jones both draw inspiration from each other constantly, and this exchange of ideas has helped forge the band’s current sound and approach to making music in general.
After Jones’ graduation from The University of Georgia last May, she and Wright made the joint decision to move to Los Angeles. Since their relocation, the pair has been exploring the Los Angeles music scene and working on future Jo RB Jones songs in the meantime.
While facing such a drastic change in environment can be unnerving for some people, Jones and Wright say the experience helped them grow both personally and as a couple. Although they admittedly haven’t been together as long as the members of Jucifer, Wright and Jones still seem to have relied on each other for a sense of consistency despite their changing environment.
“I feel like it’s been really good for us. For our independence and our relationship,” Jones says. “This is cheesy, [but] I feel like we’re always getting closer.”
Although both of these couples are special cases in their own rights, a closer look shows qualities almost anyone can relate to. Comfort and encouragement are defining characteristics of most healthy relationships, so it should come as no surprise that these qualities often serve as a backbone for couples that successfully create together.