Photography by Jessie Askinazi
“The J stands for Joan of Arc,” reads Rain J. Phoenix’s Instagram profile, and her middle name couldn’t be more fitting. Phoenix is an accomplished musician who graciously lends her Kabbalistic voice and generous spirit to the artist community and humanitarianism alike. Perhaps growing up as a fly on the wall within the cryptic entertainment industry has led her to act as a fiery torch, driven to focus on what’s most tender about mankind: Creating, loving, supporting, giving back and healing.
During conversation, it’s easily discernible that Rain is the product of a flower-child do-si-do. Today, it’s rare for children to be encouraged to pursue innate artistic talent early on in the way that the Phoenix children were. Because of this upbringing, she displays a presence that’s so incredibly rooted, her natural energy doesn’t seem to fit in with our modern-day squirmy societal disorder. She has a tranquil, nursing manner of speaking and gentle, yet cognizant eye contact.
Rain’s latest band Venus and the Moon—featuring Frally Hynes—released a seven-inch record on Manimal Vinyl, and was just on tour with Rufus Wainright throughout April. We caught up with the modern-day Joan of Arc to talk about charity work, LA and feminine power.
What inspires you?
“I’m inspired every day by the positive qualities in others and the virtue that’s being created in the world, and so sometimes I try my best to echo it. I think that the more of us that can echo that historically positive and inspiring voice, the better the chance of some kind of global shift. That’s what I’m interested in—just being one little note on the piano.”
How has charity affected your worldview?
“Through service, I’ve expanded my scope of understanding what art is. I feel like it’s some kind of super power-service for the artist—it can bring us more in touch with the collective unconscious and what we all yearn for: to be happy and not suffer. I personally realized that through art and service I was able to connect more with that vast potential and it imparted my work with something richer than singular creative expression—it added this wrinkle that was connected to everybody else.”
It’s such a different approach to make art when it’s not only for you, but when it’s a vehicle to a universal thread.
“Ego and narcissism are actually just habits—not our inherent wisdom. It’s not our inherent purity as artists (by purity I don’t mean pious behavior or expression because I really enjoy dark art, it’s not like flowers and puppies that I’m speaking to). The way things are now is just based on a habit that we grew very accustomed to—that kind of self-centered focus to try to get ahead or have your art seen, listened to, bought or distributed. It’s hard to make money as an artist and by that nature alone, by the economy of that, it creates a more self-centered artist. The reason I think it’s important to choose something different is because I think we can; I think it’s about our own will, our hearts, our truth. Let’s create a new habit.”
Is that difficult to do in LA?
“It is difficult in LA, but at the same time if we can do it in LA—if artists can begin to reverse that habit of self-clinging and narcissism in Los Angeles, we are the biggest entertainment industry and echo chamber to the world, we have the biggest microphones, this is Hollywood—so if we begin to reverse that habit, it really could change the world. That’s why I’m here. All you can do is be an example of doing something and if it resonates with others, they might consider trying it too. Either way, I admire so many peoples’ art, and whatever anyone is doing at all as an artist is something to rejoice in. I prefer to work on my own judgment rather than to think it’s important to let other people know how to be in the world.”
How did your band Venus and the Moon form?
“With Venus and the Moon, I met Frally at a party here in LA where everyone was playing songs and singing together. She came up after and we exchanged numbers with the intention ‘to write together.’ The next time we met, we wrote a song and that was Venus and the Moon. It just kind of happened organically. I’ve always collaborated with men, so this was a departure for me, and one that I’ve been really happy to explore. It’s a whole different animal to write with another woman and have it come from that feminine energy. I admire her talent so much and we both feel a different purpose with Venus and the Moon. With art, you never want to try anything—you just want to open a door and notice that the door has been opened. I feel like when you try, it gets premeditated and lacks authenticity.”
What made you decide to focus Venus and the Moon on the feminine energy, and how are you harnessing that?
“What’s interesting is, if I—or Frally—had actually decided, ‘Oh, let’s do a band that focuses on the feminine,’ it never would’ve been as powerful to us. When Frally and I met, we started noticing we were naturally creating a greater feminine power together. Femininity is a powerful force and a very healing force—it’s maternal, it’s gentle, and yet it’s fiercer than the masculine ‘brute’ kind of energy. It has this real fierce ability to override hate. It’s basically the energy of love—it’s got a lot of those softer things in it, but also is so much greater than fear. I think there are incredible qualities in the masculine, too, and my hope is that by cultivating the feminine, we can come to a more balanced place between both energies. We’ve had both the matriarchy and the patriarchy in our history—why not find a balance?
Artists who grew up in Los Angeles seem to feel a really strong connection toward the cosmos, nature and the mystic. Why do you think that is?
“I heard something about the celestial body that’s been above us is the same that was in the ’60s here—when all that change was happening, Laurel Canyon and the art scene, that the stars have kind of aligned in a similar way, which makes sense. When I moved back here about five years ago from New York, I thought, ‘There’s something in the water here and people are really coming together and it just feels more like a collective movement toward something new.’ The art scene seemed to be fearless—everyone thinks Hollywood is one note, so we’re just going to do our own thing. There was a real ‘come together’ movement afoot. I felt there was no better place to be or scene to be a part of.”
I just think that because it’s Hollywood and there is such superficiality here, people are forced to connect to something bigger. That gloss can be suffocating.
It’s almost like an escape hatches through the sky.
The stars are an escape-hatch out of the LA industry.
Your parents pushed aside their own desires so that you could fully immerse in your artistry. What has their reinforcement done for you as an adult?
“I basically got too much positive reinforcement as a child. Therefore, I don’t really know when I’ve crossed the line. There’s a joke between one of my sisters and I. There’s a fridge magnet that Liberty gave me. It has a guy with too small a shirt on at the beach, says, ‘I’m too sexy for my shirt, the dark side of too much positive reinforcement.’ I feel truly blessed that it was my parents who were that amazing and open to sacrifice their own thing to see their kids flourish—who said, ‘Whatever it is you wanna do, we’re here to support you.’ In any person’s life and certainly an artist’s life, there’s usually somebody—it could be a schoolteacher, or a mentor. It’s so important to have those kinds of people to be present for your craft and your creativity—especially because it’s not necessarily the easiest road. I’m always going to advocate for supporting other artists. I can even be willing to step aside to shine my light on someone so their light can shine brighter. I just think it’s really important for us to create a community of artists helping other artists.”