August 30 2014

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Beauty And The Beat: Z Berg Goes From The Like To Jjamz—And Finds The Perfect Red Lipstick In The Process


Just to be clear, this is not Z Berg’s first rodeo; she toured the world heavily with her all-girl group, The Like, in the early aughts. But when it came time to head out with Jjamz, the newly formed, indie-pop five-piece she fronts with band mates that hail from established acts like Maroon 5, Phantom Planet, and Rilo Kiley, Berg decided to wipe the slate clean—stylistically, at least. The Angeleno has ditched the sixties baby-doll dresses and Twiggy-esque bob you may remember as her onetime signatures and has gone back into the recesses of her closet to unearth things she hasn’t worn for ages—”and that closet has recesses,” she assures us. Part of that self-liberation came from no longer being in an all-girl group where onstage outfits were coordinated. “It’s nice to dress up and be like, ‘Oh wow, I’m the girly girl,” the singer explains in a whiskey-soaked voice. While crossing the country promoting Jjamz’s debut album, Suicide Pact, Berg called in from “somewhere in Texas” to talk with about finding the perfect red lipstick, avoiding pants at all costs, and a secret stash of “fancy lingerie” that gets her through those long, long weeks on the road.

This is the band’s first official tour—how has it been so far?
We’re driving from Austin to Billings, Montana. It’s a 24-hour drive—you’re lucky you caught me at the beginning, while I’m still sane! So far it has been really, really fun. Being on tour with my best friends, you can’t fuck with that. Strangely, it hasn’t been that different [from touring with The Like], only it takes a lot less time to get ready—I stopped wearing really heavy eye makeup, so it takes off 20 minutes of getting-ready time.

Why did you ditch the smoky eye?
I have such a habit of changing my look constantly, and people very rarely recognize me. I’m talking personal friends—I get double takes because I look so different. The last year of The Like, I was trying so hard to stick to one specific look. So then when we decided to take a break, I was like, ‘Oh my God, I’m not putting this eye makeup on.’ I’ve been wearing eye makeup practically every day since I was 11!

So, what’s your new look going to be?
I’ve been very serious with a red lip every day, and maybe a little bit of mascara. If you’re blond, you can’t wear much eye makeup if you wear red lipstick. I’ve chosen darkness. I’ve gone over to the lipstick side.

Have you found the perfect red lipstick?
Generally I’m such a drugstore makeup person, [but] lipstick is the only thing that I actually will shell out for. I used to wear a Revlon red, and I liked the YSL red, but MAC Lady Danger is absolutely my favorite; it stays the best, and it has the perfect matte—any kind of gloss gets all over everything.

And the bob is no more, it seems. Why did you grow it out?
My hair was so short, and growing my hair out has taken so long. It’s finally at the length where I can let it be what it is. The last time I desperately wanted to cut it, it was before our record was coming out. I broke up with my boyfriend… I truly had a Sliding Doors moment. I was like, ‘I’m chopping it off and dyeing it blond.’ And then six months later I was like, ‘Oh my God, kill me.’ [Now] I use Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray, and then just drugstore hair spray—I’m the only girl I know who still uses hair spray, probably because [my hair] is so thin it gives it body without weighing it down.

What are some of your other tour essentials?
My friends have a clothing company called Elkin—they have the most beautiful dresses in the world—and I have six of those on tour. That is definitely an essential. I have a bunch of American Apparel chiffon tops that have been nice with the summer heat. And then I’m a serious black ankle boot person, so I brought seven pairs. But I think I found the perfect black, low-heeled ankle boot! I got them in a vintage store in Asheville, North Carolina. My other favorite is online shop Spanish Moss, I got these great gold-heeled boots there. I only really wear heels because I’m a tiny person.

So no comfy sweatpants for the 24-hour drive?
I don’t own sweatpants—I literally don’t wear pants. It’s a strange affliction, but it’s mine. It’s funny, we were doing a bunch of radio sessions and I show up dressed to the nines. My version of looking like a lady is a little like looking like a tramp, but it’s important to look like a lady in my work. That said, my dresses are all 29 inches long—but they’re still dresses!

Do you have any sort of pre-tour routine?
I hate things like facials and massages—I don’t like pampering, I don’t like strangers touching me—but I do generally buy a solid 20 pairs of underwear. Every tour I would buy underwear so I wouldn’t have to do laundry on tour, and now it’s been so many years of me buying underwear before a tour that I brought 65 pairs with me. I love Hanky Panky, and then I truly love to go to the department store and find fun, colorful, hilarious underwear. But then I also have an extensive collection of Kiki de Montparnasse, Agent Provocateur, fancy lingerie… I’m addicted to undergarments!

Beauty And The Beat