I’ve noticed on the good ole Facebook that a few of our very own Wes musicians have been releasing some albums. Featured here is their new music and a brief q&a with JDV+:
FXWRK (Coral Foxworth ’15) just put out her debut EP, FXWRK EP. This collection of sound is full of heavy window rattlin’ bass, chilled out atmospheric chords, and unpredictable high hats. She’s played some big shows on campus and has worked with Wes alums like Khalif Diouf ’11 (Le1f), DonChristian Jones ’11, and Evan Okun ’13 (E. Oks). One of the songs is called “Trapsody in Blue,” need I say more?
The atypical perry jerry boys that go by the moniker Let’s Party Hats! Hats! Hats! just released a smashing little taste in their Pain Hurts EP. Comprised of most pious Sean Winnik ’14 on sax/guitar/vocals, Adam Johnson ’14 on guitar/vocals, and Nate Repasz ’14 on drums/vocals, LPHHH makes a two track garage hardcore EP that, through the power of music, will take off your socks.
Magic music man, Jaime de Venecia ’15, just let out his debut album Weight and no one is mad about it (apologies because the hanzi/kanji/hanja/ch? nôm wouldn’t work on our formatting and someone could conceivably be mad about that). The album’s tagline “small man/big emotions” gives a little taste of what’s in store. The album is dripping wet with raw feeling, all packaged in a smooth almost retro pop sound that washes over you in a noiiice reverb-y haze. I was able to stop by and ask the guy himself (I kid, I’m in a different country than all of you) about his music and some of what lead up to it.
Q(me): What/who are your main musical inspirations?
JDV+: I draw general inspiration from a wide variety of genres, but within the context of this particular project, I think my main musical inspirations were Pink Floyd, Elliott Smith, Evenings, The Weeknd’s House of Balloons, Explosions in the Sky, and Groundislava. Themes from The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera also definitely influenced my ideas for this album. Reflecting on all the music I’ve listened to throughout my life, I’d say that my three favorite albums are Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) by the Wu-Tang Clan, You’re a Woman, I’m a Machine by Death from Above 1979, and Kid A by Radiohead.
Q: How did your past in Manilla impact the album?
J: I’m honestly not sure how much my upbringing in Manila has influenced my ideas and the music I’ve made – especially since I (regrettably) never really engaged with much art from home growing up – but I feel like it probably plays some sort of role, perhaps subconsciously. Generally speaking, I(‘d like to) think some of the songs on the album – the instrumental ones especially – have somewhat of an Asian vibe to them. So maybe that’s it. I don’t really know at this point in time.
Q: I think the album title (Weight) is pretty apt because of how your your emotions come through on every track. Even the tagline “small man/big emotions” creates the image of the weight created by these emotions. What emotions did you want to convey to the listener and what was particularly hard about getting through?
J: I’m glad that whole idea came through to you. A central idea of the album is definitely how heavy and overwhelming life, one’s own introspection, and the truth is. I am a very emotional person. I suppose the general emotions or feelings I wanted to convey in the music are melancholic, to say the least. The hardest part about doing that was attempting to strike a yin and yang-like balance between melancholy and contentedness/hopefulness with both the music and the lyrics. I didn’t want the album to come off as too depressing or overly dramatic (although it probably does at times…).
Q: I see that you have three tracks, one at the beginning, end, and in the middle of the album that feature the voice of Azusa Hayano, a Japanese geologist most famous for his part in the Vice documentary “Aokigahara Suicide Forest.” I’m guessing you’ve seen the documentary. How did that affect the album?
J: I have seen the documentary maybe five or six times now. Azusa Hayano’s candid and comforting demeanor really resonates with me for whatever reason. He’s just so real. I hope to meet him someday… That would be amazing. Funnily enough, the decision to include those samples came extremely late in the game – within a week of releasing the album, actually. I initially wanted to include samples from The Unbearable Lightness of Being (the movie), but I changed my mind last minute when I remembered how damn soothing his voice speaking Japanese is. I just hoped that the samples would add to the whole ‘oriental’ feel of the album.
Q: In the album extras, I noticed in the extra content more stuff, such as the “Great Wave off Kanagawa,” from or referencing Japan. What is your connection to Japan and how did that influence the album?
J: I actually have little to no connection to Japan. I’ve technically been in the country many times, but only at the airports in transit so I don’t really count that as being there at all. One of my favorite movies of all time is Lost in Translation. I think about it so often. I don’t know why. In my mind, Japan is the perfect place to lose oneself (with or without someone else) and find solace. While producing the album, I became fascinated by Katsushika Hokusai’s work and ukiyo-e art in general. I know nothing about visual art, but I find Japanese art and architecture so beautiful. I definitely wanted a similar feel for the album artwork (which was done by my ridiculously talented friend Jacqueline Pisano). I am currently saving up for a four or five-day stay in Kyoto (without electronics, technology, etc. – you know, your textbook “spiritual journey” or whatever). I initially wanted to do that alone, but the more I think about it, I think I want to go with another person. Hopefully I get to do that sometime next year or in 2015. Also, Japanese food is probably my favorite cuisine.
Q: Why did you want to bring another voice (the wonderful Annie Maxwell ’15) into the album?
J: When I wrote “the Warmth,” I knew I couldn’t / didn’t want to sing it from the start. I needed it to be a girl. If it were me, it would’ve just sounded wrong and contrived. (I recorded a version for shits and giggles and, sure enough, I hated it.) I also just wanted to try writing lyrics for someone else for once – I had never done that before. I originally asked my friend Isabel Francisco (who goes to NYU) to do the vocals for it, but due to scheduling conflicts back home this past summer, it just didn’t work out. When I got back to school, I struggled to think of someone to fill in. This one night, however, Annie played and sang me some songs she wrote (we’re starting work on a collaborative project very soon). That was the first time I ever heard her sing. I immediately knew she was the one for the job. Sure enough, her vocals on the track sound amazing. Definitely my favorite and the best quality. They were so much easier / more enjoyable to edit, mix, and master than any of my own vocals. If you’re reading this, thanks again Annie. Really.
Q: What are some of the things we can look forward to in the Cone+ project?
J: Conceptually, the whole cone+ thing is very ~yung~. Right now I suppose it’s just an idea I have for a larger collective of artists (slash religion/worldview/cult) in the future. (Isn’t that what all the cool kidz are doing these days anyway?) I have a few friends at Wesleyan and from home who make really beautiful music and I want them to be a part of the vision. But yeah, I have a lot of work and thinking ahead of me before this whole cone+ thing becomes an actual thing. In terms of what to look forward to, I hope to organize a showcase / tiny show sometime next semester.
Q: Lastly, on the bandcamp, it says that the album is supported by Lars, what’s that all about?
J: I wish I could tell you. I do not know this Lars guy at all, but I am grateful for his support. He has a Bandcamp fan account, which I suppose is for listeners and enthusiasts as opposed to artists/producers/etc. I listened to some of the other stuff he ‘supports’ and I really like a lot of it, so I’m happy he feels a similar way about my music.
JDV+’s album Weight can be listened to in it’s entirety plus downloaded at his Bandcamp.
FXWRK’s FXWRK EP can be downloaded at her Soundcloud.
Let’s Party Hats! Hats! Hats!’s Pain Hurts EP can also be found at their Bandcamp.