Usually models are better seen than heard. But model isn’t really the signifier that Jamie Bochert is going for these days. After studying dance as a teenager in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Bochert blew up big in the early ’00s, modeling in every independent fashion rag and for every influential photographer. Her gaunt, sexy, enduringly dark-eyed look had a certain Patti Smith authenticity that evoked a version of New York that was quickly disappearing into urban legend. Then Bochert disappeared herself, quitting modeling and taking the next five years to channel her energies into music. The result of that acoustic soul-searching is her stage persona, Frances Wolf, who plays guitar, bangs out hard but mellow songs on the piano, and sings, often to the accompaniment of her fiancé, actor Michael Pitt (who is also front man of the band Pagoda). In 2005, Bochert appeared in musician KimGordon’s film Perfect Partner, which was projected during live shows to interact with the music onstage. Bochert recently returned to modeling and picked up another job in the process, assisting Marc Jacobs during New York Fashion Week. But music is still her top priority.
She’s recording songs in the Brooklyn home she shares with Pitt, playing shows around the city, and she even landed a chance gig playing backup for Patti Smith at a concert in Paris. Here, Bochert gets on the phone with Sonic Youth singer and bassist Gordon while at work at Marc Jacobs’s studio.
KIM GORDON: Does Marc stick you with pins while you’re talking on the phone?
JAMIE BOCHERT: Not right now. He hasn’t come in yet . . . It’s been so long since I’ve seen you.
GORDON: What are you doing these days?
BOCHERT: I’ve just been working here with Marc and playing shows. I played a show in Paris and a show here. Frances Wolf opened for Michael [Pitt]’s band, Pagoda, a few months ago.
GORDON: I saw some of the clips you sent me—the live clips of your band. They sounded great. When are you going to put out a record?
BOCHERT: I don’t know. I’m sick of recording by myself. I’ve just been recording songs alone in my house, and I haven’t figured out what to do with them yet.
GORDON: I like the way your home recordings sound. You should put your songs out that way.
BOCHERT: What you heard is what I recorded on a handheld tape recorder. I hated the way they sounded on the digital 8-track because they were too clean, so I used a tape recorder and a microphone. I liked that sound a lot better.
GORDON: So put that out. There’s an impulse to not want to let go of something. I find myself doing that, too, where you mull it over for so long and then finally you get bored and you just do it.
BOCHERT: I totally relate to that, actually. That’s kind of what I’ve been doing since I quit modeling. I’ve been focused on figuring out the whole music thing and how to find my vision and just write songs. I’ve been figuring out songs on the piano and the guitar and ways to make the sounds I hear in my head come out. It’s fun, but it’s challenging because I don’t have a lot of experience.
GORDON: There’s a certain point where it’s selfish to not do anything with them. You’re depriving the community. Someone told me this once: If you’re going to be in New York, you need to do something. I was pretty intimidated by the art world, which is what I had really come to do, so I started writing, because it was a way to get in . . . I’m just trying to put the pressure on you.
BOCHERT: I know what you mean. I want it to be so right before I let anyone hear it.
GORDON: You used to do ballet, didn’t you?
BOCHERT: I was a dancer my whole life. That was a constant focus. Dancing kept me very busy and out of a lot of trouble when I was young. I started modeling after that, and then I picked up a guitar and went with that.
GORDON: Do you like playing with Michael?
BOCHERT: Oh, yeah! It’s cool because he hears me every day in the house playing and recording. He knows the vibe I’m going for, so when we play together, he gets the songs. He’s given me a lot of confidence. Plus he’s just a good guitar player.
GORDON: He’s been really supportive of you.
BOCHERT: So supportive. He’s pushed me to do a lot of things I wouldn’t have done otherwise. We played a show with Patti Smith in Paris last October, which was awesome.
GORDON: How did that come about?
BOCHERT: She called me to wish me good luck on a show I was playing in Paris. She was going to come with Ann Demeulemeester, but she had sound check so she couldn’t make it. Patti was playing Nuit Blanche at the Saint-Germain church the following night and asked if I had a guitar with me and if Michael and I wanted to back her up onstage.
BOCHERT: We were playing Patti’s songs along with her son, Jackson, and daughter, Jesse. It was amazing. I was so nervous. The day before the show, I rented a rehearsal space and learned every single one of her songs on piano and guitar just in case. [laughs] Michael and I were freaking out! But it ended up really good.
GORDON: I hope someone videoed that!
BOCHERT: Yeah, my friend did. Do you know Louis Garrel, the French actor who appeared with Michael in The Dreamers ? He was there with a girlfriend of mine and they did a video. It’s not the greatest, but at least I have it.
Photo: Jamie Bochert in New York, March 2009. Hair products: RSession Tools, Nalu Waver. T-shirt: Jamie’s own. Fragrance: Chanel Chance. | Styling: James Valeri/CLM. Hair: Kevin Ryan/Art + Commerce. Makeup: Osvaldo Salvatierra/Streeters. Special thanks: Fast Ashleys.