The look of the Sunset Strip’s legendary rock club, the Roxy, can best be described by the Rolling Stones’ song “Paint It Black.” But recently, passersby have been surprised — and, in the case of some staunch traditionalists, appalled — to see its colorful new look. “The Roxy got a makeover!” shouted artist Kii Arens, the man responsible whose diverse roster of clients includes Radiohead, Dolly Parton, Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars, Tame Impala, and the Beach Boys, not to mention Coachella. Arens also happens to comprise half of the performance art project/musical duo Jynx, one of the bands on veteran songwriter/producer Linda Perry’s We Are Hear label, cofounded by Kerry Brown.
As it turns out, Perry came up with the idea of giving the L.A. landmark a face-lift. “We were talking about how best to promote Jynx,” Perry told Variety. “Our focus was trying to paint something cool for promotion. At the same time, we needed to book them a show but didn’t want to do a typical one — we wanted something that would stand out. On my way to a meeting with the label and Jynx, I thought: ‘Holy s—, let’s f—ing paint the Roxy and play a show there. That kills two birds with one stone. We’ll make this more like a happening, a cool event.’ ” Not that everyone was initially on board with this unorthodox marketing plan. “When I arrived at the meeting and told everybody about this brilliant idea, they all looked at me like I was crazy,” Perry said.
But this well-connected record label owner is crazy like a fox. “Three days later, I called [Roxy owner] Nic Adler and he gave us the approval to both paint the Roxy and book Jynx,” added Perry.
Adding even more artistic cred to the project is Arens’ old friend Shepard Fairey, who loaned his squad of seasoned painters (which includes the son of the Doors’ drummer, John Densmore) to complete the top-secret project over the weekend. “I have loved Kii’s art and design for years,” Fairey told Variety. “The marriage of art and music is even more powerful than either by themselves. And the Roxy is an iconic venue, with a rich history of irreverent rockers, so in the punk spirit of ‘subvert your idols’ I was happy to help Kii bend it to his aesthetic will.” Fairey describes the finished product as “an explosive pop-art jolt to the status quo of black as the chromatic embodiment of rock. Good art and music can please and shake things up simultaneously,” he said.
And that’s exactly what Jynx aims to do with its songs, which Arens likes to call “new new wave.” His mural is in many ways a visual embodiment of his band’s music. “I wanted to mix my standard colors that I usually use, which are just the primary colors, because everything can be born from that,” he said. “And there’s such variety that goes into our sound that it’s kind of, like, limitless. You’ll hear songs that are art-rockers, you’ll hear some stuff that might remind you of the Chemical Brothers, you’ll hear heavy metal. It’s all over the place but it’s a fusion of everything I love and grew up on.”
Before Arens broke into the art world, he made a name for himself in the Minneapolis music scene. He started out as a club and radio DJ in the mid-’80s who would spin everything from Prince to the Dead Kennedys. He was also a rapper who opened up for EPMD, Gang Starr and DJ Quik and Chubb Rock back in the day. Arens’ other half in Jynx is Harlow Black, a magician’s assistant-turned-actress who has appeared on TV shows such as “Westworld” and “American Horror Story.” “I’m also a published poet, a classically trained pianist and a multi-instrumentalist,” Black told Variety. “I started writing songs because of screenwriting — I’m a film graduate who studied under Frank Capra Jr. at the University of Wilmington in North Carolina. And I love creating characters and stories. I write the majority of the lyrics and [Arens] writes the most of the music.” Her most ambitious goal is to make the keytar cool again.
“We met for the first time at the Viper Room,” Arens recalled, referencing another nearby rock venue. “We were seeing the lead singer of the Runaways, Cherie Currie, perform. [Black] was sitting in the reserved booth, but it wasn’t hers. I’m like: Who is this adorable person wearing black spandex and a scarf around her neck? I could tell right away that she wasn’t your average bear.”
She isn’t your average L.A. actress, either. But then nothing is typical about either of these two aspiring musicians. “Jynx is an artistic expression, a happening, [like] a Warhol thing,” said Perry. “They’re a cool place you wanna hang.” Not unlike the recently refurbished Roxy.