Jenn Champion's new album, “Single Rider,” is a potent collection of adult pop tunes.
When Jenn Champion hits the Chop Suey stage on Thursday, Aug. 9, she’ll unveil a new synth-pop sound and something her fans have never seen at one of her live shows: some fun dance moves.
“All of this is new,” said Champion, who admitted she normally isn’t terribly expressive when she performs. “Especially trying to be more upfront as an artist is a little intimidating, but I’ve watched a lot of YouTube tutorials about dancing so hopefully it works out.”
Champion, a member of the defunct Seattle band Carissa’s Wierd who has also performed under the monikers Jenn Ghetto and S, is at a point of reinvention in her life and career. She moved from Seattle to Los Angeles last December with her wife, Arwen Nicks, and has made a sharp break from emo indie rock with her new album, “Single Rider,” a potent collection of adult pop tunes that dropped July 27 on Hardly Art.
“I really got into this kind of weird music called outrun [based on the 1980s arcade game “Out Run”], which is all old synthesizers and a pretty simple drumbeat,” Champion said. “It’s very ’80s throwback. It seems so nerdy every time I put out those bands. Then I was listening to a lot of late ’80s pop, too, like Pebbles and Janet Jackson. I thought, ‘This music is so cool. How do I make it?’ ”
That question led her to Brian Fennell, the lead singer of Barcelona who does his solo work as SYML. In Fennell, whom she worked with on SYML’s 2016 track “Leave Like That,” she found a coach and mentor who knew how to give her songs a shimmering pop sheen while still leaving her “sad artist” roots intact — essential after she dropped perhaps the best album of her career with 2014’s “Cool Choices.”
“It was really fun,” she said. “I was just game. I wanted to do a pop record. It allowed Brian to say, ‘Let’s see what we can do, then.’ I had come in with demos that were really dance-y, but it was just like taking it to another level, too, production-wise.”
The production value is immediately apparent on the chilled out “O.M.G. (I’m All Over It)” but it’s not until the beat drops on “Coming For You” that it becomes clear this is an album designed to make you move. Of course, this is Champion we’re talking about here, so even a snappy drum machine and layers of synths can’t drown out the pain hiding in her lyrics: “We’ll take a long drive through the dark night/Tell me about the lines you fell for and how they always break your heart.”
“Single Rider” finds Champion trying on a bunch of different sounds, but they never sound inauthentic. Some, like the single “Time to Regulate,” carry a menacing urgency, while songs like “Bleed” and “No One — Piano Version” slow things down and show off Champion’s skills as a pianist.
With a new band, new songs and a new sound, Champion has a lot on her plate without worrying about her dance moves, but she sees it as an essential way to connect with her fans. After all, an album of dance music demands a dance party.
“It’s always kind of challenging to really be vulnerable,” Champion said. “Trying to put on a show and being like, ‘I am going to do a little dance routine in the middle of this song’ is terrifying. But for me, it’s a way for me to open up to my audience. I feel like maybe a lot of my fans are like me — maybe it’s hard for you to be at the dance party. Maybe you’re more of a bedroom dancer.”
Jenn Champion, PSA, Stres, 8 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9; Chop Suey, 1325 E. Madison St., Seattle; $12-14; 206-538-0556, chopsuey.com.
Jenn Champion Sonic Boom in-store show, 3-4 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 12; Sonic Boom, 2209 N.W. Market St., Seattle; free; 206-297-2666, sonicboomrecords.com.