This is the part of my site where we have Matt's answers to various questions of mine, a conceit he agreed to participate in because he is a sweetheart.
the ___girl topic | longevity and the rock and roll business | talking to fans | being on tour | sex symbols what now? | childhood music memories (and an interesting side note) | all the world's a stage | dirty south | clothes make the man | being ADD | sexual harassment | webmaster of his domain | the final tea time?The first thing I asked was in regards to the band's take on the concept of ___girls.
The "______ Girl" Topic.
Strangely enough, the members of the band jump, little children aren't totally aware of how big the "_____ girl" phenomenon is. I know that the "_____ girls" are a select group of fan that has entered what I consider to be an "underworld" quality of 'jump fan'...one that frequents the fan page 'seven days' and comes to shows with home-made t-shirts proclaiming their "alliance", or "persuasion".
I know that not all "____ girls" are girls. I know that many "_____ girls" are bi-, tri-, quad-, or quin- "_____ girls"-ual, meaning that some profess to be "Jay Girls" as well as "Evan Girls" (most likely a common occurrence) and I have heard of a few "Jay/Matt/Ward" girl combos, and am aware that some go for the gusto, being "Evan/Jay/Jonny/Matt/Ward girls". I know that there are many "Jay girls" and not so many "Jonny girls", but the "Jonny girls" are very loyal and excitable. Unfortunately I also know that there are many that start off as "Matt girls" and then, with more in-depth research, become "_____girls" of other members of the band.
But this is really the extent of my knowledge. I have had the phenom explained to me by Anne Martinez, a self-professed "Ward girl" but perhaps I am just too thick to understand the depths of what being a "_____ girl" is? I'm assuming that Miss Martinez coined the phrase, though I know for a fact that she is not the first "Ward girl": this honor is given to Mrs. Sue Williams, of Winston-Salem, NC.
Sometimes I go to the website "Seven Days" looking for clues to help me understand this profound affiliation, a gentle affliction that nonetheless sparks much controversy on the list serv "opium" and on Anne's own message board. I find link after link taking me to people's personal diaries, which I was taught not to read as a youngster and I still don't like doing so. Besides, it kind of makes me depressed. But then again, it makes me depressed to read my personal diaries, too.
"_____girls" seem harmless enough to me. But sometimes I get the feeling that if we let the "_____girl" movement gain any more momentum, it will fully eclipse the band, and what the band stands for, and I become scared...how much power do these "_____girls" REALLY have? In many ways, the members of this possibly shady organization have an obvious power over any fans new to jump, little children, and exert this control in subtle but definitive ways. I've seen sweet, unassuming girls and boys fall into the clutches of this undoubtedly elitist population with its rituals and proclamations...and...
I'm shaking now. Absolutely terrified. What am I going to do about this situation? There must be something to stop these "_____girls". They MUST BE STOPPED.
I call my brother Evan.
Me: Biv, what do you think about this "_____girl" situation?
Evan: (after long pause) Hunh?
Me: You know, the girls and boys that claim a certain member of the band to ally themselves with, the member that best represents their personality as a jump fan. For example, "Evan girls".
Evan: I have no idea what you are talking about.
(I then explain to my brother what I know.)
Evan: Uh, do they have my back , or do they want to kill me?
Me: I don't really know, Biv, I really don't! but I think that they're pretty harmless.
Evan: OK, well how about this: they can only be Evan girls if they pay me royalties...to support my poor ass. How about that?
Me: Well, I'll tell them that.
Of course, he's kidding. Some help my brother is. If Evan isn't scared, I won't be, either.
Truthfully, however, I know that in all of the five members of the band jump, little children you'll find part of us that is very flattered to know that there is a "Matt girl" or "Jonny girl" , a "Ward", "Jay", or "Evan" girl out there, pledging her/his allegiance to each particular member in an allegiance to the band as a whole. Who wouldn't be flattered?
So, Matt Girls of the World...Unite! and elect me as your...leader? (At least until you become Ward Girls.)
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Why do you think you've stuck together in this form for so long, and to add to that, has "what the band stands for" (as mentioned in your previous reply) changed at all over this time? Also, my friend Matt Shook wants to know if he's insane or do you play your harmonica upside down? I don't see why it can't be both, myself.
Longevity and the Rock and Roll Business.
I don't think that rock bands start out with the idea of any kind of longevity. Truthfully (though not in our case, no sir) most bands DO start out as a way for geeks to meet chicks. Sadly, many bands are started with dreams of the fame and riches to be had playing rock music. Serious study of VH1's "Behind the Music" can be inspiring to a young musician: "If Ozzy can lead a totally fucked up life and be fucking Ozzy Ozbourne, so can I!" and what not. But just as a fire can inspire you to flee your home, rock and roll's inspirations can be very dangerous. Lots of long hours, little pay, ass kissing, and fighting, liver abuse, STD's, cheezy redneck hootchies that like to be videotaped.
That's why we did it all backwards. Most rockers grow older and develop a 'sensitive side', dragging out the old acoustic guitar and singing in hushed tones rather than screams. Even Billy Idol is on tour now playing many of his hits "unplugged". But we went through our folk period first. We didn't consider ourselves to be a rock band when we started, it sort of crept up on us; slowly snuck up on us while we weren't looking, totally cold-cocked us from behind.
That's why we're a more emotionally developed rock band: we were much more pretentious IN THE BEGINNING. In the process of dumbing down, actually, we've understood that what our more troubled rock 'n' roll peers only need is to make a batch of cookies together and a bit of group counseling. Because that's what we did as a folk band years ago. Folk bands can get away with that shit. Rockers can't. So we learned our lessons well.
All this is to say that one of the reasons we've been together for so long without a major shakeup/fallout is that we truly are best friends. This truly is a marriage...we know each other as well as a group of five straight men could. We know where each of our buttons are, and how to push each other's, and we've learned to steer clear of pushing them. We've learned how to talk to each other and get the best results. If you want something from Biv, you have to be straight up honest. Be careful of Jay's odd sensitivity about some issues. Ward needs to be complimented a lot. Jonny is just going to say things that contradict you, no matter what. And I may be the most edgy and caustic, but I'm smart enough to know when I'm wrong, and will work on it. Little things, yes, but vitally important things, things that have taken seven to ten years to understand about each other.
Sometimes we fear for the future of Jump, Little Children. When things are going badly, like they have for us, this year...we worry. This is our life, this has been our life for so long. None of us are sure what we would do without it. It's been our own private cult for so long it's hard to imagine what the real world is like. So when things are bad we do worry. But I think that the thing that scares us the most is losing each other. Not working together. I haven't met another group like us, people that can work together and get results and still be friends at the same time. There is a reason that there isn't a true frontman in the band. And I think that the reason is that none of us singly could do the job properly. You have to see the whole picture to see the strength of jump, little children, and when we're not running on all five cylinders it's not really going to work for you. I may be the most attention-greedy of the bunch but because I can't write songs like Ev or Jay or play my instruments like Ward or Jonny I'll never be seen as the frontman. And each of us have a similar saying. I don't know the true dynamic of U2, or REM. But I would assume that those guys are like us. I would assume that the situation would have to be similar. We've said that if J,LC died we'd probably find some way or another to work together. Start a catering company or something.
Ironically, before this band I could never stick to anything more than six months, either. Especially when I was little, I would study magic, and then dinosaurs, and then space travel...by college I took a year of clarinet, and switched to oboe, always assuming that whatever it was wouldn't last. I think that we started this band as another escape, another "something new". For a long time it was more of an excuse: an excuse to play new music, an excuse to perform, an excuse to go to Ireland, and to move to Boston. We weren't truly serious about it until we started to realize that it was becoming more than "just an excuse". That we had become sort of addicted to the band, to the idea of it. And then we wanted to succeed with it. When it started being a reason to live, it became so much more personal, both internally and outside the band. Being an artist can suck, a lot of the time. An artist never gets to chill out after work. You not only take your work home with you, you live with it, every hour of the day. This makes your highs very high, and your lows almost frightening. We gave our lives to making this work. Unhealthy? Sometimes. Less so, now, because we're all learning to live our own lives again, because you have to, eventually. But it's still there. We'd still choose each other over anything else...other friends, lovers, even family, to a certain extent.
Ward says that he wouldn't quit this band unless it was a unanimous decision, and one that made sense. If we dried up, and were unable to create anything new and good. If we stopped being able to work with each other. Nothing would be more heartbreaking than to be crushed by something other than those terms. So we forge on, even when it seems kind of pointless to others. Being in jump, little children on a personal side is kinder and gentler than it used to be. Business-wise it's much harder. These things could both change, I'm sure. But I think that we'd be ready for them.
It's not for everyone, the rock and roll band. It's a double major in psychology and sociology. Before this year I wouldn't have thought that we'd make an interesting "Behind the Music" episode. That's changed. But we didn't start this band for the reasons most do...chicks weren't really the point-- not playing classical music was. But that excuse to do something else sure has been an awesome way to spend the last ten years.
And Mr. Shook, I do play my harmonicas upside down, for the only reason that that's the way Sonny Terry (my one harmonica idol) played, but he was blind and therefore had an excuse, and I don't. I like it better that way. But I'm insane, too.
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People After Shows.
The other day I was actually talking to my mother about our relationship to our fans. I don't remember how the topic came up...I think that sometimes, as a mother is apt to do, worries about us for all sorts of reasons, and I was talking to her about teaching music lessons in someone's house, alone. Just me and fans, basically, that I haven't met before. It made her nervous. Not that she doesn't know from first hand how sweet our fans can be. She just also knows how scary fans can be. And she's a mother.
I don't really remember why we started talking to fans. Perhaps it was the folk musicians in us; I always marveled while touring Ireland how easy it would be to assassinate the most famous Irish musicians in the world--they just hang out in bars, sitting targets for any psychotic fan that wanted to take them out. Folk musicians are nice. They genuinely appreciate their fans. Perhaps because there aren't so many of them as Stone Temple Pilot fans, perhaps because they're a safer, more specialized group, or maybe they don't have a need to be "cool". As a folk band we had people come to every gig, just like now. We talked to them, then, just like now. We were uncool, just like now.
Maybe in the transition from folk to rock band we didn't understand that most rock bands don't talk to their fans. But it didn't seem to be any different to us. It was never a question.
I think that bands that try to connect with their fans breed intense fans. I would consider J,LC fans to be intense. Intensely wonderful, devoted, helpful, supportive. Intensely demanding, possessive, emotional. We have fans like Tori Amos, and Ani Difranco, and Metallica. Bands that try to reach out by talking after shows and responding personally to email, and otherwise making themselves mostly available to fans do make a connection, and the benefits are astounding. We have a few thousand truly devoted fans that basically put food on our table. Without their help life would be much harder. We'd all have day jobs, for sure, and being in jump, little children would be more of a hobby. So when we come out to talk after the shows and say "thank you" we really mean it. And I think that from the beginning we, as properly raised Southern Gentlemen, knew that "thanks" were in order to those that paid good money to come and see us play, or bought a CD. So we usually try to talk to people after a show.
This does not mean that there aren't times that talking to fans is the last thing that we want to do. Recently, for me, opening myself to strangers after each show has been very difficult. I consider myself a shy person, and I've said this before. When I'm going through a difficult time personally, I have absolutely no desire to talk to people that I don't really know personally. This doesn't mean, based on what I've said above, that I'm not grateful. Sometimes hearing kind things from fans after a show makes me feel better if I'm down. But sometimes it's just overwhelming. The number of cities where we play to a few hundred rather than a few dozen has increased enormously. This means more new faces, and more familiar faces, to keep track of. I remember when I could remember someone's name after the second time I met them. Now I can meet someone twenty times and not remember them. This is very frustrating for me. It's frustrating when I can feel someone's frustration with me, too: "Don't you remember me? What's my name?". This is the number one pet peeve of all the band members. I can't remember names of people that I see all the time. I can't possible remember names of people that I see every six months, as they come to shows with different hair styles and clothes, at different venues, with different friends.
It used to be easy to make friends of every fan. There were fewer of them. Most of our current best friends started as fans of the band. We would see them often at shows and they would introduce themselves, but again, there weren't that many of them, and it was easier to get to know them. Now it is much harder to do this. We just don't have the time to get to know everyone personally. This has ended up being a problem for some fans. Mail has been stolen, restraining orders have been put out, "Dukes of Hazzard"-inspired car stunts have occurred in the middle of highways. And therefore sometimes my mother worries.
For these reasons sometimes I wish that we hadn't started the tradition of talking to fans after the shows. Because sometimes it can be exhausting. And sometimes our need to connect with the people that we play music for isn't nearly as strong--when we're in more introspective moods. I've tried at times to not make myself as available. I've tried to not go after a show and sign things and take pictures and chat. I've tried to "reverse the process" a bit.
But I always go back. For each piece of stolen mail there are many more beautiful stories about how our music has helped in some way. For every manipulative moment there are people willing to share themselves with us, too. That bring cute presents and delicious foods. And people that work unbelievably hard to help us with the business side of playing music, that side being one of the most unrewarding to us, and we need all the help we can get. Oftentimes the people that help the most and have the kindest things to say get pushed aside after a show by those that are kind of greedy for our time. I hate this. But it doesn't mean that we don't appreciate them, and know that they are there.
Is there "a perfect fan"? I think that there is, to each of us, individually. My perfect fan might be different from my brother's. But there is no point in making a list of things that we prefer to hear and not hear. I could say that the main thing to remember is that we're human. It is absolutely not necessary to be nervous to talk to us, or to squeal, or freak out. And in the same way, we ARE effected by things that people say. We do have feelings. There's no reason to say anything to us that you wouldn't say to someone else that you don't really know well. And geez, please...DON'T ask us if we remember your name. We'll remember, eventually, we promise. Just think of us as five really stupid guys, and you'll be fine. Or maybe get together and make us all little flash cards that we can carry around with pictures and stats. I'm kidding. But really. We all have terrible memories.
We love what we do, and visiting with fans after shows has become a part of what we love. I don't know whether or not it will always be possible for it to happen. I do know that Bono still talks to fans after every show. I imagine that even if we were to ever make it to stadium-status we'd find a way to connect. That is what this is about.
For the folk musicians, for the "un-cool" bands, and for us!
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Being On Tour.
I've been asked if when we have a few hours free on tour whether or not we go to book stores. And truthfully, nothing makes us happier sometimes than a big nasty shopping plaza with a Barnes and Noble. A little Starbucks, a little book browsing, a perfect afternoon. Geeky? Yes. But you know this.
Oh, the love-hate relationship we have for touring. The open road adventure. The necessary evil. The only thing that we have really known, for seven years of our lives. In the last two years we've seen more free time than we've ever had; we're spoiled rotten.
We're not a radio band, per se. Most of our fans have come to us via touring, and we know this. It has been our bread and butter for years. and the basis of most all of our decisions. For the most part we have no ability to live structured lives when we are not on the road. We don't know what to do with girlfriends...we're just too used to their being long-distance relationships. It's a strange thing to know that your life is always going to involve some aspect of living in an airport shuttle bus. You can't grow roots too deeply. We might be gone for a month, or seven months, all depending on a number of factors at any given time. You can have aspirations for things: joining a gym, taking a language class, getting a day job at Kinko's. But none of these things can happen, 'cause we're always going Back on the Road. You can feel it long before it's time to actually go--sometimes an excitement, sometimes a dread. That "Itch". You start cutting ties, moving your clothes out of their drawers and into your travel bags. You pay as many bills in advance as you can. You stock the park n fly with necessary items.
I don't think that anyone in the band craves being on the road, any more. It is a big part of our job, and sometimes, of course, you don't like your job. But I think that over the years we've gotten better at it. We pace ourselves better. We try to have more fun. Yes, we're usually back to the hotel right after the show: I'm on the internet, Wardie is reading a book, Jonny is doing his routine and Jay and Evan are being quiet together. But more recently we've tried do be more like a rock band. We carouse more. We try to go out on the town more. And most of this behavior is thanks to Vance McNabb. Without him we'd probably continue to be as boring as we've always been. But man, we're still pussies when compared to most of our peers. "Pussies" being the term that we are called, by our peers.
The nice things about the road: finding an amazing restaurant. A local coffeeshop. An out-of-the-way clothing/book/record store. We may go to the same restaurants every time we visit a certain town, and eat the exact same thing each time on the menu, but this only makes sense; after all, when we've found something good we can only have it once maybe twice a year. A lousy town is one where the rider (the food provided by the club, mostly cold cuts and sodas) is preferable to anything local.
Thanks to touring I got to see my grandmother almost every other month before she died. "Magazine" is dedicated to Ki-ki because we would always stay at her home if we played Spartanburg, Greenville, or even Asheville, in the early days. Thanks to touring I have kept in touch with friends that would have long forgotten. Thanks to touring we have met many amazing people. Disney World twice. Disney Land once. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Graceland. The Petrified Forest, the Grand Canyon. Almost every state in the United States of America, and a lot of Canada.
But a nice tour has short drives each day. A lousy one keeps us in the park n fly for more than five hours a day. Most of that time riding is spent reading, or playing video games. We have a nintendo 64. It might be time for an X-box. But we make the most of it. You can't write songs on the bus. For some reason, it's nearly impossible. Too much shaking around.
We all have an individual bunk in the bus. Mine is cluttered and chaotic and always the dumping ground for other people's junk. Jonny's is full of porno and beat-poetry but pretty well organized. Ward's is always immaculate. Jay's is sparse but trashy, for some reason. And Evan lives in the cave, a lower bunk that doesn't get much light. He mostly listens to music down there. With his headphones on. And a Clemson blanket (that belonged to our grandmother) covering him up to his chin.
Driving is a responsibility for all, except me. I have never driven the park n fly. It is long rumored that I am a horrible driver. This may or may not be true, but I am not telling. The others do not want to risk their lives by allowing me to drive. The order of drivers is this, in order of duration: Vance, Ward, Herbie, Jay, Jonny, Evan.
The best gig we've ever had was in Paris. Not only because we were playing in France. But because we played the same venue every night. For two weeks. By day we could have fun in Paris. At night we'd work. It was perfect. It would be wonderful to do that anywhere. I think that when people romanticize about touring they assume that travelers are allowed to enjoy the places they go. This is rarely true. Anyone on a tour of any kind is usually cooped up in the venue that they are playing that night for most of the day. This does not allow for much sight-seeing. So the best gigs are the residency ones, where you do a few shows in one city.
Colleges are usually really fun because everyone is nice.
And so on, and so forth. It's such a fascinating way to live. So many stories.
I don't know what it will be like to be completely off the road someday. To have to have a schedule to follow. I have absolutely no concept of that anymore. I don't know whether I'll miss being on the road. Like I said, we've been pretty spoiled with this time off.
But I have a feeling that the "itch" will always be there, waiting for us.
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I'm trying to write this as the P&F goes thump, thump, thump down the highway. After about 22 hours of this, let me tell you, it's uncomfortable. I don't really like the long drives. But I do get a lot of Sims playing in. Recently my Sim town was visited by the Black Plague...I went to start the game and there were no Sims left. Their houses were still there, but no one was home. Sim Jay, Sim Matt and Evan, Sim Jonny and Hayne, Sim Ward and his wife, Sim Penelope Cruz, had met a strange and untimely end. So I'm starting over. My goal this time is to actually make the Sims look like us. Yes, scary. My first attempt on produced a Sim that that looked like me as a burn victim.
People play 'the Sims' because it makes them feel like God. But my Messianic Complex...that's another Tea Time.
Here's what I think about the possible Sex Symbol Status of J,LC:
You don't get to choose your fans. Not very well, anyway. Your music chooses the fans, your actions choose the fans, and your results choose the fans. You can make small changes that might attract or frighten a certain group of people but for the most part you don't have a lot of choice. This is what I've been told, but at the same time, when we were marked as a hippie band early on, Evan started wearing makeup and dyeing his hair, to keep the hippies away. And when Cathedrals started getting airplay, our fans changed a bit. But for the most part we've always had a fair amount of chaste young females in our audience. I say "chaste" just because regardless of who is who is not a hootchie, our female fans are pretty well mannered and not of the hair-band loving Backstage Betty-type. Those that put the "oooh" in "groupie". Our girls may talk but they rarely put their money where their mouth is. And that's fine...we wouldn't know what to do with them if they did.
Unlike many, we did not start this band to get laid. I don't even think that this ever crossed our minds. It was such a shock for us to find that "sexy" was a by-product of playing rock and roll on stage. Listen, I'm a nerd. In my mind's eye I still have braces, ugly glasses, and velcro tennis shoes. It still doesn't make sense to me that I could ever be considered sexy. The hip-shaking thing started as a joke, really. The first time it happened was at the King Street Station, in Charleston, during an early version of "Lannigan's Ball". No one in the bar was watching us. A crowd full of people completely ignoring the band. So to get their attention I stood on a nearby chair and danced like a fool, shaking my ass to Evan's drum beat. It worked, and I've never stopped. I even remember my friend Colleen, the only one in the room that was listening, remarking "you certainly were silly tonight"! and that was the response I was used to getting. It wasn't until the crowd got a bit bigger that the "silly" turned into "sexy".
And maybe since then I've tried to hone in on "sexy". All of my songs have a sexual nature; for "why" you'd have to talk to my therapist. And perhaps I've had a few girlfriends that encouraged me to wear clothes that fit me. And I started spending money on things like haircuts. The older I get, the sexier I feel...but this doesn't have much to do with being a rock and roller. I just like the feeling of experience.
Jay Clifford has always been hot. Sure, he had a mullet back in the day, but we forgive and forget... Jay's sexiness is oftentimes attributed to the fact that he doesn't say much. The dark and silent type, works every time. He's got beautiful features and a beautiful voice and can write beautiful songs. That should add up to "sexy". And I think that he knows it, but not in a conceited sort of way...rather, in the way that all attractive people know that they have power over others.
Ward embodies "Geek Chic" but does have classically handsome features. Jonny's friendliness can be sexy. And his propensity for getting nude, if you like that sort of thing. And my brother inherited all of my father's sexiness: he has the same commanding presence, the same way of lighting up a room when he first enters.
I would say that all this this sexiness is a natural occurrence. None of our current girlfriends were fans before they started dating us, and I think that they think that we are sexy. But magnify this natural occurrence a hundredfold by Darwin's "survival of the fittest" theory, which explains that females of most species will choose a mate that is perceived to be "super-natural"--the strongest males, or the leaders of the pack--and you've got screaming girls. Translated into human terms: put anyone on stage and they're going to be sexier.
So these female fans scream at us when we walk on stage and write us poems and chat in rooms and even sometimes ask "what are you doing later", and we, for the most part, try not to let it get to us. Not that it would get to us in a bad way. I'm sure that if we were the type of guys that wanted to sleep with someone new every night we could, but our fans would then be different. They'd know that we were going home with them, and then they'd be different kinds of fans. I think that our female fans feel secure knowing that their fantasies, if they have them, will probably be kept fantasies, which is usually better, anyway. We're safe.
Perhaps this is why the "____ girl" phenomenon began? Out of a state of fantastic frustration? It's certainly why I put Nicole Kidman on my desktop. She isn't someone that I would actually like to be with. She is someone that I don't know personally, but like the the way she looks and I think that she's a great actress, and this causes my heart to race a bit when I see her in the moving pictures.
What does Nicole think of this? Would she be flattered? Or annoyed? I'd say that it can easily be both. Both a boon...I'd be bold-face lying if I said that it didn't boost my ego to hear and read some of the things I have. I'd also be lying if I said that I didn't try to play it up sometimes, for certain effects, for certain situations. I'm well aware that oftentimes I'm something people are drawn to when they see us for the first time. There is a bit of calculation going on. If I can appeal to the more primal forces that move a human being with all my hip shaking and carrying on, then perhaps they'll stick around long enough to actually listen to the songs and fall for the band as a whole.
...and annoying. It's disconcerting to be treated like meat sometimes. It's sad to think that some people think that I'm all songs about sex, and not very deep because of it. And I know that Jay has had to deal with plenty of greasy record types telling him to do this and that and look this way and that because he was the lead singer of a rock band. But if I were to say that it was difficult sometimes to be a "sex symbol", I wouldn't get much sympathy. That's OK. It does sound silly.
But "silly" is "sexy". I find myself giving advice to the incredibly sexy Cary Ann Hearst, who wants only the most unattractive photos on her flyers and never wants to be thought of as a sex symbol, because that's not what her music is about, and she's an artist, blah blah blah. I tell her that she is what she is. You can no less deny what she can do with her voice and her songwriting ability than you can deny that she is a voluptuous dynamic personality that turns people on sexually. I tell her that some people she meets in her career will only want to talk about the music. And others will only want to talk about how she looks. That is the music business. That's life. And that's human nature.
As long as we know the difference between "silly" and "sexy", we're OK. And we're a pretty silly bunch of sex symbols. But thanks, anyway.
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