Sensual sleaze 

J. Sherri wants you to have a good time

Sadly, it's a more common sight than not at a local show: While the band plays, a handful of people stand around in clusters, hands firmly in hoodie pockets, nodding politely to the beat or nursing cans of beer.

But J. Sherri will not stand for apathetic crowds. J. Sherri is not too cool to let loose. J. Sherri is here to get feet moving and hips wiggling. "We definitely encourage grinding on each other," says singer and guitarist Lukas Phelan, who calls himself J. Sherri.

click to enlarge Missoula Independent news
  • Photo by Eric Oravsky
  • J. Sherri is, clockwise from left, Neil Gavigan, Sam Wilson, Lukas Phelan and Rachel Patrie.

Along with three other J. Sherris—"I'm J. Sherri, they're J. Sherri, you're J. Sherri," Phelan says—the Missoula band tries to bring a club-banger-inspired sexuality combined with an electronica-noise-punk sound to its live show. J. Sherri has played for an audience about 10 times since starting in February, mostly house shows. They've gotten the cops called twice, which generally means a band is doing it right. They played a show at the VFW when Sam Wilson stopped by to hang up a flier and a bartender asked if he was in a band.

Phelan, a senior in the University of Montana art program by day, got together with Wilson originally intending to create a "Peruvian flute cover band," but lacking any Peruvian flutes, eventually brought in two more friends and the project morphed into J. Sherri, a deliberately sloppy dance band. Phelan and Neil Gavigan play guitars, Wilson commands drums and keyboards and Rachel Patrie sings. Olympia is the designated J. Sherri band practice beverage of choice. For performances, the fellas of J. Sherri dress in drag and sprinkle abundant doses of glitter.

The name "J. Sherri" is meant to connote a cheesy R&B singer, a la R. Kelly.

"Smooth, sleazy and a little sensual," Wilson says.

Wilson, a senior in UM's journalism school, is soft-spoken and wears horn-rimmed glasses. He's been stressed out about getting his multimedia projects turned in for the end of the semester. But he says he doesn't have any trouble cutting loose before an audience.

"I saw your penis once," Phelan says to Wilson.

"Oh yeah. By accident," Wilson says. "My dress was really short."

Phelan's eclectic sensibilities seem to inform much of the J. Sherri persona. His latest musical obsession is vaporwave, a movement that subverts corporate imagery and sounds into electronic music. (The result often sounds like '80s commercials mashed into cassette recordings of synthesizers.) Phelan is inspired by Bad Naked, the one-man, performance-art act that appears randomly outside Missoula venues clad only in a mask and underwear and bangs out shouty, atonal "songs."

J. Sherri might eventually record an album, or it might not. The band's online presence is deliberately mysterious, with a Facebook page that displays several goofy photos and none of the group. "J. SHERRI LUV ALL WOMENS," is all the description says. Phelan cobbled together two short, lo-fi electronica tracks called "Trailer Ladies or You Have Some Real Magic I Think" and "Cat Slapz Tummy Touch" and put them up on the Facebook music page.

"I like that the best way to find out about us is to come to our live show," Phelan says. He hopes to bring in anyone who enjoys music as an experience, as a thing to physically express, from the punk fans to the Ke$ha fans, to the punk Ke$ha fans (and a surprising number of people in this town are both.)

Wilson says J. Sherri's fans right now are mostly just the band member's friends, apparently a party-loving bunch. "Maybe eventually we'll get friends of friends, and their friends to come watch us," he says.

It can be easy to get a little self conscious and awkward at a small show, at least until everybody is liquored up enough. But J. Sherri is here to remind us that first and foremost, music is supposed to be fun.

J. Sherri, Monster With 21 Faces and Shahs play the VFW, 245 W. Main St., Thu., Dec. 6, at 10 PM. $5.

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