Typically, when the term “child star” is used, it brings to mind cases of Hollywood’s best and brightest, corrupted by money and fame, leading less than glamorous, less than desirable back-stories. This, however is not the case for Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis and Blake Sennet.
Both Jenny and Blake grew up in front of the camera; Lewis in both television and movies, Sennet almost entirely on television, and the result was two rather lengthy filmographies as well as multiple musical endeavors before either of them were thirty years old.
Sennet, often credited as Blake Soper, 33, started his television career with a guest spot on the Michael Landon series, Highway to Heaven, in 1987. From there, he had several guest roles on various shows and in 1991 he landed the part of Ronnie Pinsky on Nickelodeon’s Salute Your Shorts. He may, however, be more easily recognized today for his recurring roles as Joey “the Rat” Epstein in season 3 of Boy Meets World and Elman in many episodes of 3rd Rock From the Sun.
Lewis, 30, also got her career off and running with a spot on the Twilight Zone in 1985. She also had many guest roles on shows such as Growing Pains, Mr. Belvedere, Roseanne and Murder, She Wrote, finding her way to roles in Pleasantville and alongside Angelina Jolie in 1996’s teen-witch genre flick, Foxfire.
Rilo Kiley’s first album, Take Offs & Landings, was released on Barsuk Records in 2001 and they quickly answered that with The Execution of All Things the following year, this time on the Nebraska based Saddle Creek label. After touring, to promote the Execution album as well as working a stint as back-up band to Merge Records’ M. Ward, the band took a break.
But in true independent music fashion, the band members’ breaks from Rilo Kiley were not spent in college, writing memoirs, or any of the many other things celebrities do when they “take a break.”
Not at all. Lewis used the time to work with Barsuk veteran Ben Gibbard and producer Jimmy Tamborello, providing vocals for the Postal Service’s debut album, Give Up, as well as working solo, and as part of Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins.
Drummer Jason Boesel worked with Conor Oberst, founder of the Saddle Creek offshoot label, Team Love, lending his talents to Oberst’s band, Bright Eyes’, 2005 albums, I’m Wide Awake, It’s Morning and Digital Ash in a Digital Urn.
Sennet used the time to work on solo/side project, The Elected, whose debut album, Me First, was released in 2004 on the Sub Pop label and recorded in Elliott Smith’s personal studio . As soon as the album was released in February, Sennet and the Elected set out to tour and promote the album.
Sennet, having spent the duration of the Rilo Kiley tours in Lewis’s shadow, now found himself center stage, and thusly behind a gas mask for the opening of many shows on the tour.
When he wasn’t sporting the gas mask like a brown paper bag, he was also known to open shows, and perform several songs, facing the band instead of the audience, raising the question is this a gimmick or is he suffering from extreme bouts of stage fright? Whatever the answer, it seemed to work for Sennet and the rest of the band.
Sun, Sun, Sun, The Elected’s second album was released January, 2006, little more than a year after Rilo Kiley’s third, and appropriately titled, More Adventurous album in late 2004. The Rilo Kiley company answered the resounding praise that came from every corner of the music industry, from independent ï¿½zine publications to the Village Voice, and even the New York Times, which called Execution, “impressive and self-assured,” with a new album produced on their paradoxically titled label, Brute/Beaute.
The lyrics of the title track state, “it’s only doubts we’re counting on fingers broken long ago,/I read that with every broken heart we should become more adventurous,” and that is exactly what Rilo Kiley did, with the help of independent music industry giants such as Mike Mogis (co-founder of the Saddle Creek label), Jimmy Tamborello, and Mark Trombino (who oversaw the Jimmy Eat World breakout into stardom).
Whether either The Elected or Rilo Kiley are working on new projects, either live or in the studio, is unclear, although Lewis is currently on tour with her side project, Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins. For more information on these bands, including when they may be slated to release new albums, check out their websites, each offering sound bites from the bands’ latest albums.