When Hayley Jane lived in Monterey, California, she desperately tried to get people to refer to her by those first and middle names only.
It came from her love for British primatologist Jane Goodall, and the name finally stuck when she moved to Boston. So when she needed to create a moniker for her barely formed band, giving a nod to Goodall seemed appropriate, and she settled on Hayley Jane and the Primates.
“It seemed pretty obvious … especially with primates’ relationship to humans,” the singer said. “I knew I was never going to be a biologist since I had such a hard time with science, so I thought it was a great way to pay homage to her. And it just so happens that the guys (in the group) are big, hairy dudes. Humans are primates. The second we forget we are animals, we think we are better. It’s just a reminder of where we come from.”
Hayley Jane and the Primates brings its electric live show back to River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 S. River St., Plains Twp., on Friday, March 30, at 9 p.m. The group performs an eclectic range of music — from Americana and soul to rock, folk and jam band sounds — but since its creation in 2007, the Boston quintet has constantly evolved.
While the band explored its sound, the unexpected death of its first bassist, Devin “Dabbo” Caucci in 2011 shook the members to their cores. It halted progress for a while, as they “weren’t equipped to handle it,” Jane said. But Caucci’s death also brought her closer to guitarist Justin “Juice” Hancock, and the two began writing together.
From that moment, the band found its groove.
“In the last two years, I’ve had a clear view of bridging folk music, jam music, and the theatrics and visual aspects of the show,” Jane explained. “Just allowing us to kind of play what we want to play and making up our own parts. Everyone is responsible for their own parts, so the songs are a piece of each of us. I never wrote like that before, but now that we have this new lineup, we trust each other to put together our own parts. It feels much more like a group effort.”
The band released its sophomore record, “We’re Here Now,” in September, and Jane said it continues to take shape as they perform on tour. While she called the album “all over the place,” she also noted that it represents the band well.
“We’ve got that slow, soulful feel of ‘Lose You,’ and then total bluegrass with ‘Mama,’” Jane added. “There’s the folkyness of ‘To the Moon,’ and we get super funky in ‘Make It Alright,’ and then we get more heartfelt and lyrical in ‘Madeline.’ That’s what I love about the scene we’re in — no one is telling us to pick a genre.”
While the band’s lineup rotated many times since it came together around the Berklee College of Music scene, Jane remained constant. She boasts a hefty musical theater background, including a role in the original production of “Sleep No More” in Boston, and decided she wanted to create a truly expressive performance while the Primates played — something to compliment the music but not take away from it. Pulling influences from her theatrical background and using lights like the jam band scene, Jane creates choreography for the songs to demonstrate the emotions in each one.
“I always liked to make up dances with my girlfriends when I was little, and I wanted to bring a level of that to my show. And also, to have other females on stage is super empowering,” Jane said. “There’s a lot of animal movement, where we’re lionesses to gain that power behind it, the strength behind it. Lionesses hunt together; the women hunt together. I always loved that idea. I really wanted to represent that — the vulnerability, the oppression mixed with strength and all the emotion.”
Jane said the dancers’ bodies elevate the music in the same way the lights do and act “as another instrument.”
“I try to let go and give up some of my control to the music, let it kind of shoot through me,” she said. “That’s my favorite part. It’s hard watching videos of it. It feels so good when I’m doing it. But then I watch it, and I’m like ‘I look crazy.’ But I’m not going to stop; I think it’s important.”
A snapshot one of her photographers took at a concert — of seven young girls staring up at the Primates’ stage — struck a chord with her.
“It was that moment I realized I can’t stop being genuine,” Jane said. “I have to fight through insecurity to be myself and not let all the outside (expletive) stifle who we want to be, and who we really are. That’s what the movement is about — that’s what the live show is about.”
If You Go
What: Hayley Jane and the Primates
When: Friday, March 30, 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Where: River Street Jazz Cafe, 667 S. River St., Plains Twp.
Details: Tickets cost $12 and can be purchased online at riverstreetjazzcafe.com. The show is open to ages 21 and older.
Can’t Make it to this Show?
Catch Hayley Jane and the Primates this summer at the Peach Music Festival on Montage Mountain, Scranton, running from Thursday, July 19, to Sunday, July 22.