Rebecca Garza-Bortman and Bryan Patrick Garza played their first ever show together as San Francisco band Love Jerks two years ago to a packed house of roughly 300 people. They also got married. On stage. At the climax of a rock opera about their love.
So yeah, nontraditional wedding. They had spent the previous year writing the ceremony/performance piece, and were backed by an ensemble band of approximately 20 people that included members of both of their respective bands, Garza’s Scissors For Lefty and Bortman’s Happy Fangs. Bortman’s bridesmaids provided backing vocals.
Not long after this wedding extravaganza, they thought: Why don’t we be a band for real?
“Bryan and I share a love of creating. It felt like the beginning,” Bortman says. “It’s all this work, but it’s not just for one night. You make something that lives on.”
The post-wedding version of Love Jerks is just Bortman and Garza sharing lead vocals and bass and guitar duties. Drums are provided by a mystery friend they videotaped in front of a green screen, wearing rotating masks. The footage is projected behind them at their shows, so it kind of feels like you’re watching a trio.
“Once we built that psychedelic, visual experience, I was like, awesome, we’re actually three members,” says Garza. “And the third one packs up pretty well.”
For their wedding rock opera, they went larger than life—a bit Rocky Horror Picture Show, a bit Queen—capturing that joyous state of being head-over-heels in love.
Their shows now are a little different. They’ve re-imagined some of the songs, and written new ones that are a bit less theatric, instead capturing the intimacy of married life. Stylistically, it’s somewhere between bedroom indie-pop and Joy Division era post-punk, with a sprinkling of that ’70s theater-rock still intact.
“I think they’re representative of what it’s like to consider your life together. That kind of tenderness and delicateness that comes from being just the two of you,” Bortman says. “There’s just that adjustment that happens when you stop being just two randos and start being one couple.”
When the band got married, they didn’t imagine that Love Jerks would evolve into a real band, but they had thought that after the wedding, they would try to record the songs for an album.
“I didn’t want it to dissolve after one night,” Garza says. “To make an album, something tangible that you can say, ‘this represents this part of my life,’ it feels really good.” They are still working on this album, and hope to have it released next spring.
Shortly after the wedding, a friend offered them a gig at a Placerville festival. They also noticed that friends, still months later, were humming songs from the wedding. Once they got a taste of playing a non-wedding show, they wanted more.
Not long after the wedding, Bortman left Happy Fangs, and Scissors for Lefty went on hiatus. They had first met because of those bands, when they shared a bill at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill. Garza proposed to her two years later on stage at the same venue, while his band was playing. He brought her up on stage under the guise that she would be singing on a song. Instead he sang Elvis’ “Fools Rush In” then whipped out a ring and asked her to marry him.
Her answer was “Fuck yeah.” Consequently, this was how both of them responded to the “Do you take this person” question during their wedding vows a year later.
Now they want to focus all their creative energy on Love Jerks, and tour with each other. Nearly every song they have currently focuses on their love in some way. You know, just what you’d expect from a couple of love jerks.
“I promise there are no songs on there that’ll make you want to throw up,” Bortman says. “During Happy Fangs, I was really angry. I wrote a lot of angry songs for Happy Fangs. I wasn’t really angry anymore. I wanted to make music with my husband. I followed my heart as far as that went.”
Love Jerks play at 9 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 17 at the Crepe Place, 1134 Soquel Ave., Santa Cruz. $8. 429-6994.