As their name implies, Miss Jupiter are a local quartet whose music is simultaneously heavy, luminous, spacey, feminine and mystical. They’ve been mostly lying low since playing at last summer’s Echo Park Rising festival, but the newly reconfigured psychedelic glam-rock band emerge from the shadows with a free set at Bootleg Theater on Monday, July 15, as part of Polartropica’s monthlong residency.
The starry-eyed lineup — billed as “an intergalactic space odyssey” — also features Little Galaxies and a rare appearance by indie/garage-pop charmers The Monolators. The night culminates with a screening of writer-director Yoko Okumura’s new short film Lexical Gap, in which Miss Jupiter singer Michelle Rose stars as Lex, the leader of the fictional titular band that includes Polartropica’s Ihui Cherise Wu on drums. In the slyly subversive and yet also poignant film, Rose and her feminist allies consider “redefining the meaning of virginity” as they interact with loutish men, deal with shame and romantic rejection, and crank out riot grrl–style anthems composed by Wu and C.M. Rodriguez with lyrics by Okumura — all in less than eight minutes.
The film spotlights Rose in an unusual digression from her regular role as leader of Miss Jupiter, even as Polartropica’s atypically punky score hints at some of the sonic power that Rose wields in her own band. “With Miss Jupiter, I’ve always wanted her to be a character onstage,” Rose says in an interview at Andante Coffee Roasters, an Echo Park coffeehouse that’s across the street from Spacedust, the singer’s intimate boutique of glittery clothing, jewelry, fanciful Ziggy Stardust–inspired art and other curios. “I don’t want to be perceived as normal. I don’t wear street clothes,” says Rose, who looks stylish in a patterned pink short-sleeve dress with her hair glowing vibrantly in several shades of purple. “Everything I wear onstage, I make. I’ll be wearing a new costume on Monday.”
Rose’s dazzling, futuristic stage outfits are striking, but ultimately it’s her original music — psychedelically tinged hard rock that’s infused with an almost-spiritual sense of optimism — that makes Miss Jupiter stand out from other local indie bands. The group’s 2017 debut album, Amagianascience (pronounced as “imaginations”), encompasses dream-pop idylls such as “Ride the High” and stormier garage-rock passages like “It’s All in You” and “Creatures (Let the Visions Come).” Throughout it all, Rose’s vocals burn serenely through the fog of confusion and darkness with uplifting messages of hope. “I’m overwhelmed with sound and light/Here’s my way out of the gloom,” she offers amid the tumbling keyboards on “Enlightenment.”
“When I’m writing a song, it’s like I’m downloading information from the universe,” she says. “I really feel like we are just tiny representations of what’s going on elsewhere or all around us. I like to think someone can have a huge influence even if they’re just a tiny speck of a person.”
Rose was born in a Chicago suburb and raised in the Windy City, where she graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree. She had piano lessons, studied viola in the fourth grade and oboe in the fifth grade, and played a little guitar in high school. “It never quite came naturally to me,” Rose, 36, says. “Singing was the only thing I wanted to do. I was obsessed with pop stars when I was a kid — Madonna, Annie Lennox, Elton John, Billy Joel. My early years were very Top 40. I liked Amy Grant and Mariah Carey.”
Although she wrote songs in high school, Rose initially pursued a career in fashion. “When I was a kid, I was making clothes for my dolls. I moved to Los Angeles when I was 24 for a job in the garment industry.” But she soon became disenchanted with the reality of the corporate fashion world and was dismayed that much of the actual making of clothes was outsourced to other countries. “It did show me how I’d like to transform the garment industry,” Rose says. “Manufacturing overseas is a big problem. I want to battle all those corporations that oversee slave labor — the killing of souls brought about by the removal of domestic manufacturing jobs. I think people are inherently creative. I think people get frustrated if they don’t have a creative outlet.”
She quit her job in 2011 and eventually opened Spacedust in September 2014 in part so she could showcase her original designs without limitations. “After opening the shop, I realized I was not satisfied, and I realized that I needed to play music too. I had been afraid to play music for a long time but didn’t feel like I fit in because I didn’t play an instrument. But I’ve always found myself surrounded by musicians.”
Rose began by singing backup vocals with Wild Betsy and later sang with Isaac Rother & the Phantoms and Honey Child. “It was reassuring for me — this does make sense,” she recalls. “I’ve always wanted to do music. After I quit my job and found myself in the music scene, it just started happening. I was being given songs by the universe.” She began performing as Miss Jupiter in 2012, making her debut by singing “Cosmic Child” with her then-boyfriend’s band at a fashion and art show at a downtown warehouse. The boyfriend played guitar when Miss Jupiter subsequently appeared as a duo at Don Bolles and Nora Keyes’ ongoing Hush Club at the Hyperion Tavern in Silver Lake. After she and the boyfriend broke up, she briefly performed solo as Miss Jupiter. “I played a few shows with just me on guitar that were kind of disastrous,” Rose says. “As nervous as I was, it still did feel like I was getting that respect and encouragement from people.”
She played her first full-band show as Miss Jupiter at the Virgil on Cinco de Mayo in 2015. When she recorded Amagianascience, Rose was working with such musicians as guitarist Angelica Tavella, bassist Michelle Vidal, and drummers Rachel Fannan and Rufo Chan Jr., among others. But over the past year Miss Jupiter have evolved, and the current lineup includes guitarist Lovelle Femme, drummer Keveen Baudouin and bassist-producer Scott Bassman, an especially fluid and powerful instrumentalist who also plays with The Wyldewood Green.
“I think the concept that’s been ever-present in my life is the concept of the past plus the future equals the present,” Rose says. “As far as fashion and what I hope to achieve with my music is retro-futurism — something familiar mixed with something that’s unfamiliar and new. I like juxtapositions. I love an upbeat song that is actually about something sad. I love a punk song that’s about inspiring someone instead of just being angry, although it’s important to be angry too. … I think about what Lovelle calls ‘word magic.’ If you are constantly repeating something, you will manifest it.”
Alluding to President Trump, Rose adds, “I’d rather talk about bringing what we want than cursing what we don’t want. … I think it’s important for people to feel both a sense of individualism and a sense of community because we are one entity, but we are also part of a greater ecosystem. … It’s the same as my social life. I’ve always been a part of many different groups. I think Miss Jupiter will always be a part of many genres. I’ve always felt like I was kind of a loner because I didn’t have one group to hang out with.”
Does she believe in magic? “Yes, I think magic is real,” Rose says. “I think it’s happening all the time. People think it’s out of reach, but it’s actually normal. I think of magic as transformation, kind of like alchemy itself but more spiritual than physical, like changing a shitty thought to a magical thought.”
After the concert at Bootleg Theater, Miss Jupiter’s next big show will be at the Echo Park Rising festival in mid-August. Not only will she be performing with her band, but Spacedust will present dozens of other performers during the fest. “It’s crazy — four days of madness,” Rose says.
Miss Jupiter perform with Polartropica, The Monolators and Little Galaxies at Bootleg Theater, 2220 Beverly Blvd., L.A.; Mon., July 15, 8:30 p.m.; free; ages 21 & over. (213) 389-3856, www.bootlegtheater.org.