Jeanne-Mairie Duval, Jenny Plummer and Tony Duval
Having divorced parents is hardly the stigma it used to be, but for a child whose parents have split, it doesn’t matter how many other couples have. Even after that child has grown and can appreciate her parents’ reasoning, there’s still a tiny voice inside that wishes Mom and Dad would resolve their differences and stand beside her, forming a complete family unit as they raise their hands in the air and sway from side to side singing the chorus to ABBA’s “Fernando” before breaking into a heartfelt kazoo duet. Or maybe that’s just Jeanne-Mairie Duval. One year ago, the 24-year-old student convinced her parents, Jenny Plummer and Tony Duval, to form a cover band called Broken Home. Tony tackles seasoned pop hits on acoustic guitar, accompanied by Jeanne-Mairie and Jenny’s vocal harmonies, kazoo duets, handclaps, maracas and dance moves. It’s not quite The Partridge Family, but it is one of the more innovative cover acts you’ll see in Sacramento.
How did the band come about?
Jeanne-Mairie: I was just being funny, and I said if I was going to do a band, it would be one of two ideas. I’d either have a couple of other girls with me, and we’d do Supremes songs and call ourselves the Super Creams, or I would have Mom and Dad in a band with me, and we’d be Broken Home. Everybody kinda laughed about that, but I thought, “That could work!” So, I went to them each separately, because it’s not like we hang out all the time.
Tony: This part is actually like The Parent Trap.
Jeanne-Mairie: I was at Mom’s house talking about the Broken Home idea, and I was like, “Should I talk to Dad about it?” She was like, “Oh, I don’t know.” So, I just kept going separately back and forth. Whether they said they’d do it or not, I’d say, “Mom says she’ll do it if you’ll do it. Dad says he’ll do it if you’ll do it.” Then I picked a date for band practice, and we got together and started picking songs.
Which songs do you play?
Tony: Jeanne came up with the label “'80s folk” for our style. Not all of our songs are ‘80s, but we won’t cover anything after 1984.
Jeanne-Mairie: We’re not going to cover any Green Day. Nothing new. I don’t know what my favorite song we do is. Right now, I think I’m really liking “Free Bird.” The kazoo part on that just kicks ass.
You do “Free Bird?” People always shout that at shows!
Jeanne-Mairie: That’s how it started. We had this horrible, horrible show in Concord.
Jenny: The first Tuesday of the month, they do a gathering there, mostly people in a Scottish re-enactment group.
Jeanne-Mairie: Renaissance. So, we get there, and there’s no place set up for us. People are milling about, a lot of people were in this hot tub, and there were people playing Risk—intently playing Risk. So, we started to play, and we got some people watching and got some applause. Then, all of a sudden, it dived. I have no idea why. So, of course, some guy starts yelling, “Free Bird!” and we can’t bust out with it. So, I’m like, “OK, that’s it. We need to learn ‘Free Bird,’ because that’s something someone’s always going to heckle.” If you just put it out there in front, you’re heckling yourself.
Jenny: We really do our own satirical version of “Free Bird.” On the more serious side, Jeanne and I do very straight-up numbers that are harmonized. I like the harmonies we do on a Hank Williams song: “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”
Jeanne-Mairie: I like that one. If not placed in the perfect spot in the set, though, it really can kill everything.
Tony: It slows things down a lot. We kind of require a boisterous, rowdy energy.
Jeanne-Mairie: We need a lot of drunks.
Many divorced couples can’t stand to be in the same room together. Have you always been amicable?
Tony: We were at war for about six years. I mean, for six years we used to have to be patted down for weapons before we saw each other.
Jeanne-Mairie: It was a really messy divorce. I didn’t even get to see that much of it, but I remember it being really ugly. But after awhile it seemed like things just mellowed out, certainly after our teenage years.
Jenny: I think that was the deciding factor of mellow. There is not a divorce issue that takes priority over teenagers going through an angst period.
Is Broken Home an example of how a divorced family can resolve its differences?
Jenny: It could be. Families can come together and just not go into the areas that are old and worn out. Just remember the good times. Come together and have fun instead of fighting about it.
Jeanne-Mairie: I think there’s nothing left to fight about. Custody was the big thing, but my sister is 20, and I’m 24, so there’s no custody issue. I think that band practice is like family therapy. It’s still a work in progress. We’re not fighting, but it’s not like I think they’re going to get back together.