Aspiring musicians are often advised not to "quit their day jobs," but that's exactly what The Bearkeys have done.
Luckily for the two Davis locals, they are actually quite good. Jenny and Mark Bjerke (pronounced like Bear-key) combine to create dreamy, folksy tunes that can transport listeners to an ethereal world.
A little more than a year after their wedding, they are currently in the newlywed stage -- not only of their marriage, but also in their musical collaboration.
The Bjerke's grew up in Novato. Mark, now 24, started teaching himself how to play the drums and guitar in early high school, and learned piano later. He has a degree in music from UC Davis. Jenny, 22, has been around music her whole life; both of her parents are musicians.
Jenny remembers meeting Mark for the first time in junior high school. She used to tease him about his last name.
"I used to call him Mark B-Jerky," she said. "Fate would have it, that would be my last name, too."
It was not until after high school when Mark and Jenny crossed paths again. The two spotted each other at the library of the junior college they attended and started chatting. Mark was instantly attracted to Jenny's sense of humor.
"I remember thinking that I was a pretty funny guy," Mark said. "But this girl, she's really funny."
The twosome spent the summer hanging out and playing music together.
"I was worried about going to a JC and being trapped there forever," she said. "And then there was this guy who was brilliant and was going to transfer to a UC. I had butterflies every time he was around."
Creative Collaboration Begins
After two years of dating, Mark and Jenny were married. But when they decided to partner up for life, writing music together was not part of the plan. As newlyweds, they wanted to be sensitive to each other's art and not invade each other's creative space.
Jenny, who is into soft, relaxing music, and Mark, who prefers upbeat music with a lot of energy, did not foresee being able to write music together.
"I still have my doubts," Mark admitted. "We clash so much creatively."
Jenny is inspired by folksy artists such as and Local Natives. She grew up singing Beatles songs, describing them as the kings of simplistic melodies.
"I'm all about the organic sound," Jenny said. "The pepper shaker is one of my favorite instruments that we use."
Mark, on the other hand, has invested a lot of his time into learning audio engineering. He is a perfectionist when it comes to his music. He uses Pro Tools, an audio creation and production software, to turn Jenny's simple melodies into fully produced songs he can feel proud to sell.
Mark describes his and Jenny's musical inspirations as "a Venn diagram with very distant circles."
Quitting their Day Jobs
Besides their musical differences, Mark and Jenny each had personal apprehensions about pursuing music wholeheartedly.
As a child, Jenny witnessed her mother get mixed in with the wrong crowd trying to live the rock'n'roll lifestyle, making a music career seem very unappealing to the young singer/songwriter. Mark was afraid people would see it as irresponsible. But the two of them have realized music enhances their life.
"We're not just playing music to be crazy and wild kids, but to do something we love," Jenny said. "Life without music would be very sad."
Putting their doubts and differences aside, the Bjerkes recently quit their day jobs to focus more on writing music. Though they wrote plenty of songs on their own, the twosome finally wrote their first song together, "Galaxies and Vastness," after being married for a little over a year.
The song was a product of a personal project: Jenny decided she would write a song every day during the month of February. Mark decided he would help by giving her song ideas. They uploaded the songs on their YouTube channel and received a positive response from viewers.
"This marriage of music here is a really good blend because we're partnering together our different styles," Jenny said. "It can really reach a diverse crowd of people. I don't think our music is hard to listen to, but I don't think it's dull either."
Though they just started writing music together this year, The Bearkeys have already played at Pete's Coffee and Sophia's in downtown Davis, and they are pursuing more gigs for the near future.
They will spend this summer recording and producing the songs from their February Project to make a full length studio album available for purchase through Bandcamp, an online publishing platform for bands.
They plan on staying in Davis and supporting themselves by selling songs, performing live shows and through the music lessons that Mark already gives. The couple hopes to save enough money to go on a mini tour after Jenny graduates.
"We want to go on a road trip and play different spots all over the country," Mark said. "That's our little dream."
Keep an eye out for The Bearkeys at the next Davis Art Walk.