Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay

Posted on 09. Sep, 2009 by in Music, Profiles

words by Devoe Yates

Nothing has given me more pleasure of recent than jamming out to the latest album from Jeremy Jay, Slow Dance. I bought it on a lark recently, and have since gone back and hunted down every rare 7” morsel of music he’s given birth to and spun it on repeat for the past few weeks. Obsessively. While his semi-happy Ian Curtis voice croons over a moody and regal mix of dark bass, punching drums, and Buddy Holly-esque guitar strumming, thoughts come to mind of what David Lynch’s version of a sock hop might be, and you’re taken to a winter place, where the snow outside is unrelenting and the orange flames of the fire dance in the reflection of your glass of cider.  So you can imagine my excitement when I found out Jeremy Jay was cruising through New York for a concert at the modest Union Hall. I went, bought the T-shirt, the last rare 7” inch I had yet to hunt down, and watched in awe as ole JJ himself sauntered about the venue, talking to friends he hadn’t seen in awhile. He was a tall and lanky sort and though he seemed to be the poster-boy for the hipster catalogue, it didn’t bother me the least. His two-hour set soon arrived and the dance floor was packed and bouncing. There were weird awkward versions of dancing and sweat flying about as Jeremy Jay commanded his reverb and filled that place with his shadow dancer melancholy: A magical night indeed.

The next day, I journeyed back to the scene of the crime for a quick interview with Mr. Jay, and found him waiting outside the club from last night, again decked in the finest hipster threads money can quietly buy.We journey inside to do this deed, this interview. It is an awkward endeavor to say the least.

h: Tell me a little about your background.

Jeremy Jay: I was born in Chula Vista California, which is a suburb of San Diego, California. My mother is Swiss, so I’m a dual citizen, I’m a Swiss citizen and an American citizen. I spoke French as my first language, in the household, we only spoke French until I was 13. But at school I would speak English. So, I just spoke both languages. And then we lived in L.A., but I went to high school in Northern California about five hours north, and then I moved back to Los Angeles.h: How did you first get into music?

JJ: When I was eleven, I watched the movie La Bamba, and it actually, of course, changed my life. My aunt, who’s a nun, got me the sheet music to La Bamba and I learned the song on an electric guitar at school, they had an electric Stratocaster and I used it in the practice rooms at middle school. Then I got a Buddy Holly tape, a Richie Valens tape, and…then Nirvana of course (laughs). I played in high school bands, but then I started not being in bands. I just started playing solo shows because nothing else ever worked out. So, for a year or two, I just did that and did a tour with Calvin Johnson, and then I asked him to record me, and he did. So that’s how the first album came about. The first album, A Place Where We Could Go, was kind of ‘presenting,’ if you’ll allow me to speak in the third person, ‘Jeremy Jay as a singer.’ And it shows him as a singer / songwriter, and then from there, I started really putting a band together and doing real tours. The second album, Slow Dance grows a bit more, it’s more of a live show, and it translates to the stage.

h: You have a pretty unique sound. When you started writing songs, was that something that you were conscious of, forming your own sound? Or was that just the way it came out?

JJ: (Silence)

h: Does that make sense at all?

JJ: No. I just do something. And that’s what happens. I mean I’m inspired by things, of course. But that’s what I’m inspired by and that’s what happens.

h: What’s your writing process like?

JJ: The best way that I can answer that is with an analogy, it’s just like every day that you wake up, you’re walking down the street and you see something in the window and it hits you, like, ‘Oh wow! I need to go inside this place.’ That’s kind of what it’s like. It’s not something that you plan, or not something that you can put a finger on. It’s something that you can’t touch, and that you don’t know about. That’s the best way to describe it, it’s seeing something in a window, and then going inside whatever place that is, and doing that. And then that’s kind of like the document of that time, for yourself…or for whatever. That’s the best way to describe it.

h: As you tour, are you finding bigger and bigger crowds? Does it seem like people are finding this new album?

JJ: People in the U.S. obviously haven’t caught on as much as the people in Europe. All the major cities in the U.S. are great, last night was great, but it’s still a little small. San Francisco is the best city to play for us for some reason. Also Vancouver. L.A., New York, Chicago, Montreal, the big ones. The places where people like music. No, I mean it’s true, you go to these small towns, you notice it; people just aren’t as interested in the arts I think.

h: From what I understand, it seems like you tour all the time, seven or eight months a year?

JJ: Without playing live, people become not interested. You can’t be, ‘Oh, I’m just going to be working on my record.’ No. That doesn’t exist. At least for me, we record during tours, so our activity level is very high. So, what keeps things together is shows. That’s what supports us. So that’s how people stay together in my experience and how you sound good on tape is by playing live and exercising the stage. And if you can bring the stage to the studio, that’s the best record right there. Slow Dance is the stage to the studio, mostly. There are some overdubs, especially the song “Slow Dance”. But that’s what a lot of the recordings are, exercising the songs first, for a certain amount of time, whatever that time is, playing it on the stage, and then playing it in the studio.

h: What are your major influences?

JJ: Mainly movies. Or imagery. And words. Stories. You know, I’m a story writer in the sense that everyone’s life is a story. And I kind of paint that picture. I’m into movies like Our Modern Maidens, that’s one of my favorites. That’s recently been really inspiring. A lot of the John Hughes movies have inspired me. We shot the cover of Slow Dance and then we ended up coloring it slightly and it ended up looking kind of like The Breakfast Club style. That’s kind of the image of Slow Dance, kind of John Hughes-y. I mean I love music…obviously, I mean I play it. But it’s mainly movies and the visual aspects of the way things look and also the stories of romance, of love, or life, or dreams.
A lot of times I have movie ideas. A lot of times the way that I think is very visually, but I always end up coming back to music. Like, if I have an idea for something, it always comes back around to doing it musically. And no matter how much I try to do it in a movie…it’s like this fucking thing. I’m actually working on doing a Slow Dance mini-movie right now. You know how American Graffitti is not really about anything? It’s about a slice of life. I want to do a slice of life…night…that’s called Slow Dance…via American Graffitti style.

h: What was the genesis of the song “Slow Dance”?

JJ: Again, I can’t pinpoint that. I don’t know how it happened. I remember I did it during a demo, when I was writing in Olympia. There are several versions of “Slow Dance”. We’ve recorded it several times. All the versions are very different to each other. The second version had a completely different beginning. Now when we’re playing live, we’ve added another ending.

h: So it keeps evolving?

JJ: Yeah, in a way. ‘Cause I mean, you’re not going to dance the same way twice.

h: Would you say that your songs are the soundtrack to these movies in your head?

JJ: Well, they’re the soundtrack of my life in a way. “In this Lonely Town” is about Jeremy going to Olympia, that’s what the story’s about. It’s a very serious thing and it’s done poetically. It’s just like having a dream and then in the morning, writing it down. That’s what my songwriting is.

h: Do you have a lot of dreams?

JJ: Oh yeah. But I write a lot about them in the songs. A lot of people, especially in America, criticize that because the American sensibility is ‘what you see is what you get.’ That’s what Americans understand. If you have anything to do with dreams, it’s not ‘what you see is what you get’ because it’s different. It’s like, ‘Oh my god, this is terrible (giggle).’ It’s very true.

h: You have lots of music videos on the Internet; who does all your videos?

JJ: They’re all very homemade and not professional (swooping chuckle). They’re very unprofessional. Who does them? The last one we did called Lightbeam, I did. I shot everything that didn’t have me in it. And then Sebastien, my drummer, shot the footage with me in it. I set up a lot of the framing though. And I edited the video with Sebastien pushing the buttons and doing the actual work.

h: Have you been shooting footage on the road?

JJ: Not in the U.S. In Europe, yeah, because I don’t drive in Europe, we have a driver. But in America, we can’t afford a driver, so I drive half the time. Sebastien drives the other half. You might laugh at having a driver, but actually it’s the most practical thing. The reason is, as a touring band, you tour seven months out of the year. Now in order to be physically able to do that, you don’t wanna drive. You wanna be able to sleep in the car. That’s another job, you see what I’m saying? Your job is to play music, your job isn’t to drive. Anyway. We should be done.
And with that, it’s time for Jeremy Jay to be on his way, to bless the next city on his tour with the magic of his music. There is an awkward hug and he putters off in his little van with his band and I go to the park up the street to have a moment of quiet.  It seemed as if the old paradox were true once again, that often times as moving as someone’s art can be, it doesn’t always necessarily mean that they’re as cool as their work.  Sometimes it’s better to enjoy the sight of new treasure from afar, and not to question its glimmer too closely, for you might find that what glitters isn’t always gold.

Share this story with your friends:
  • facebook Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay
  • twitter Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay
  • digg Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay
  • stumbleupon Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay
  • delicious Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay
  • blinklist Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay
  • googlebookmark Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay
  • email link Slow Dancing with Jeremy Jay

Related Posts

Tags: , ,

No comments.

Leave a Reply

Get Adobe Flash playerPlugin by wordpress themes