Jzero Schuurman & Renee Leighann

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Our first true grit couple!!

I’ve gotten to know Renee and Jzero over the past several months while photographing music in Victoria. I was amazed at how active they are in the arts and music community. Not only are they the owners of The Copper Owl but they also run the Fifty Fifty Arts Collective.

When I thought of featuring couples for The Grit of It, they were the first that came to mind. Between running a business, an art collective and playing in bands, I wanted to get to know how they got started and keep it going, together.

The Fifty Fifty Arts Collective

Copper Owl Website

Jzero, do you remember the fist time you met Renee? What was your first impression?

JS: I met Renee at a show she put on for my band. I thought she was pretty cool and we were staying at her house that night. We talked all night, it was fun, now surprisingly we still like talking to each other. Or at least she puts up with my rambling.

Renee, do you remember the very first time you met Jzero? Was it instant attraction? 

RL: I was living in Edmonton and starting to organize music shows at a bar called Wunderbar. I booked his band, and they stayed at my house.  I was feeling at the time like I would never meet someone I actually wanted to date. When I met him I thought, “Hey, I could see myself dating this guy!”.

How long have you been an item?

RL: We started dating pretty much right after we met, which was almost six years ago

What have been some projects that you two have you worked on together?

RL: We were both part of our friend and Calgary roommate Markus Overland’s band Lucid 44 (Jzero is reuniting with them to play Sled Island later this month). We started the band The Dyeing Merchants together when we first moved to Victoria in 2008. We also got involved in running The Fifty Fifty Arts Collective when we moved here, which we are both still involved with (Jzero is much more involved than I am these days). And we opened the Copper Owl together last year. What had been the biggest challenge you faced, as a couple, while opening the Copper Owl? I think the hardest part was the uncertainty…not knowing if we would be able to sustain ourselves and the business, and not really having a back-up plan. We both left our “career” jobs to open a venue, without really knowing if there was enough of a need for another one in Victoria.

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Who’s idea was it to open the bar/music venue, The Copper Owl?

JS: When we found out Castle was closing we both talked about taking it over but Renee took the initiative and I promised to be supportive.

What were some of your fears owning a business with your partner?

JS: It felt pretty natural. Both of us come from the art and music scene and had already been working together on that sort of stuff long before the Owl.

Can you tell me a little bit about The Fifty Fifty Art Collective and how you got involved?

RL: I was asked to be on the board and coordinate the gallery when we moved here, because I had run an art gallery and music venue in Kelowna called The Whitehouse Night Gallery. Jzero was interested in helping with the musical aspect of the Fifty Fifty, so he started helping out and quickly joined the board as well. The Fifty Fifty was started 11 years ago by a group of people who had a space in Esquimalt that they wanted to use for experimental art and music shows. These days my involvement is pretty much limited to grant writing, while Jzero pretty much oversees everything that goes on there, from gallery shows and openings, to coordinating volunteers to sit the gallery, and scheduling bands that rent out the studio. Jzero is definitely keeping that place going.

What has been key in making your relationship work?

RL: I think it’s that we make each other laugh, and we can make fun of ourselves. We are also good at cheering each other up when one of us is bummed out.

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Who is the better half?

JS: Renee, she keeps me grounded and…. she’s my boss.

RL:  Ha! I don’t know, it depends on who isn’t grumpy that day.

What is the best part of working with your partner? What have been the hardest parts?

RL: I get to work with my best friend, which can be really fun.
Sometimes it’s tough to separate our personal life from our professional one. It’s hard to hang out on our days off and not talk about work, even when we are feeling really burnt out on it. And we don’t always agree on things, so that can be tough.

JS: The fact that we can work stuff out together without fear of losing our jobs. We’re honest and we approach problems on a practical level. Things usually get resolved and we become better business people for it. It’s hard to separate work from home sometimes. The odd time we’ll get into a discussion that seems as if it’s elevating into an argument. That’s when I say “lets set up an appointment to talk about this if it’s so important.”

What band/musician were you most excited to have play at the Copper Owl?

JS: Dead Meadow

Who would love to see play at the Copper Owl?

JS: Lee Ranaldo

How do you deal with conflict in your relationship?

JS: We usually argue it out. Most of the time one of us is just being irrational. Once we work it out through conversation at various volumes, it turns out amicable. You can’t be in relationship and stay mad at someone you love. Holding it in just makes things worse too. Generally we’re very communicative.

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Renee, what makes Jzero so loveable?

RL: He’s pretty hilarious, and he isn’t afraid to be himself.

Jzero, if you could take Renee anywhere in the world, where would you take her?

JS: I would love to take Renee to Cuba. I think she would really like it!

Can you write a short song lyric for Renee?

JS: “Lets buy a van and move to San Fran…..??” “I was gonna buy you a tuba, but instead i’m taking you to Cuba!”

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 Renee, How does Jzero inspire you?

RL: He is in 5 bands, he has a radio show at CFUV, a monthly dj night at Cenote, he books all the bands at the Copper Owl, he oversees everything at the Fifty Fifty, and he still finds time to work on his own solo project, Psychic Pollution, as well as his artwork doing drawing and painting. He definitely puts his creativity to work, and that inspires me to do the same

 

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