Rocked Up: The Ladies of Invisible Music Have Very Visible Baby Bumps
How many people can say they headlined a music festival before they were even born? This month, two local rock 'n' roll babies will arrive with serious bragging rights to that effect — as well as a third that has been in the front row for the recent Lake Worth-It local music festival and a handful of other shows. The arithmetic is simple, but the circumstance is remarkable: Five members of Invisible Music are becoming first-time parents, and two of them rocked the local music scene and maternity wear at the same time this summer.
Invisible Music percussionist Tiffany Jezek (Daddy is guitarist Nathan Jezek) gave birth just last week. Still with a baby on board is violinist Susan Snow (Daddy is Jeff Snow on drums). John Ralston, frontman for the eight-piece alt-country band, also has a twinkle in his eye courtesy of his visual-artist wife, Valerie diValentin (who kept her last name after marrying Ralston), who also is expecting.
In August, Palm Beach-based photographer Monica McGivern — whose black and white portraits of 40 local musicians called "The Lake Worth Photo Project" captured the breakout-ready scene — rounded up 26-year-old Jezek, 27-year-old Snow, and 31-year-old diValentin to capture the bloom of the rock 'n' roll mothers-to-be. "She thought that it was so wild," diValentin says.
"I had not thought of it before," Snow says of the group shoot. "You never really know how it's going to turn out with your body changing so much. She [McGivern] just made us all feel so special and beautiful. We were so excited and grateful."
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These ladies don't need help in the beauty department, though. Snow is tall and lean while Jezek is petite, but both have long, blond hair, ivory skin, and pleasant demeanors that give them a sort of fairy-like quality. In disposition, diValentin also appears to live on the sunnier side of life, but in aspect, she is a smoldering brunet.
"I wanted to be sure to photograph these girls since they're such gorgeous examples of pregnancy," McGivern says, "as well as document this amazing experience they're going through together."
When McGivern says the ladies of Invisible Music are going through this together, it's tough to find another word to describe them. The three couples frequently dine together, they vacationed together in the Keys over the summer, and, of course, they write, perform, and record together — Invisible Music was in the studio in August and September and plans to release a ten- to 12-song album called Eternal Jackpot early next year. Even though she's not playing, diValentin — due to give birth to baby girl Frankie Valentina Ralston in early December — occasionally hangs out at rehearsal with a book while the five expectant musicians work with the band's other three members: Dan Bonebrake, Greg Lovell, and Andy McAusland.
To accommodate the ladies' condition and manage the daunting task of coordinating an eight-member band's recording session, the boys turned Lovell's living room into a temporary studio, where they could leave their equipment setup undisturbed and at the ready for months. Mark Ward of Elegbaland Studios lent equipment for this extended period, and Zachary Dean from operatic metal band Bladesong, whom Ralston calls a "mastermind," helped with the engineering. "We tracked everything live, and it worked out really good," Ralston says. "We'd get a couple of songs in a night or a weekend, and then we'd get them [Tiffany and Susan] to come in and do overdub sessions for an hour or two."
What else did they do to ensure Susan and Tiffany's comfort? "We kept the AC on while they recorded," Ralston says. "That was their concession."
All of this togetherness begs the question: Is this triple pregnancy the product of coincidence or careful planning?
Susan Snow, who is expecting a boy (tentative name: Harrison) in late October, explains how the tight friendship among the three couples led to this curious situation: "John and Jeff have been playing together for more than half of their lives and Nathan soon after that. They're like brothers. We've all entered the same phases of life together and got married at about the same time. We said it'd be nice if we all have kids together, and it actually happened."
Tiffany, who just last week delivered daughter Penelope Eloise (inspired by epic hero Odysseus' wife), pinpoints the origin of this mommy mania to something Jeff Snow said about a year ago. "It was a fleeting, joking comment. I think Jeff jokingly said, 'Let's get the ball rolling,' and we're all so close that it entered our minds. The ball started to roll soon enough. We were the lucky ones who went first."
Jokes among the new parents run from plans to make the kids little rock stars and artists to contemplating a future when Penelope and Frankie battle for Harrison's affection. Ralston didn't seem particularly amused by this one: "Frankie's not going to be allowed to date for a while, so Harrison is not going to be in the picture." The membership of Invisible Music already tests the size limits of local stages, but this summer it had additional members, kinda. "We laugh about how we're a ten-piece band," Susan says. "We have two semi-invisible musicians up on stage."
In all seriousness, though, there's also that matter of just how far back on the burner a cooing and giggling miniature version of yourself can put your music career. The happy six have plans for managing that too.
"It was hard playing the last shows we played," Susan says. "I got tired easily. It put thoughts in my head about what's going to happen when the baby's born. I anticipate being able to pursue music." A violin teacher by day, she has flexible hours, so it's not going to be a huge adjustment. Plus, they just might have a couple of babysitters around in the form of her husband's parents.
Ralston, who just sent off his own album Shadows of the Summertime to be pressed on vinyl, sees the full lineup of Invisible Music as more of a record-making entity than a touring one. "I don't think that we have ambitions to tour, but we definitely have ambitions to keep making records. Lines get blurred over who plays on my solo records. When I tour my record, Invisible Music people will play with us."
The Jezeks and Ralston also have family nearby, and everyone has discussed the prospect of certain members balancing family life with touring. "When John's on the road, it will be me and Frankie," says diValentin. "We'll go visit him on tour. This is our life. It will be just the same, but we'll have a baby there."
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