Every week we feature a notable rising artist on the verge of success. This week we’re taking a trip to British Columbia, Canada where Jeffrey Trainor creates very personal and indulgent music in his latest project, Western Jaguar.
21-year-old Jeffrey Trainor is the epitome of the DIY indie artist: he wrote, performed, and produced his entire debut Western Jaguar EP, Glacia. Western Jaguar is not Jeffrey’s first musical endeavor, however. He has played piano since he was a young lad, and has played in a couple of small bands including Dry Rain, and for his brother’s band Casinos.
Western Jaguar’s sound can generally be classified as rock, but when one examines closer, the waveform can be more widely described as a cross between the Indie Rock and Ambient Alternative genres. In terms of popular artists, Western Jaguar nestles itself between the sounds of Foals and Local Natives, while also adding more contemporary elements and arrangements such as in Bon Iver and The National.
Glacia is a very haunting, self-reflective album of Trainor’s darkest emotions. The whole album is a very cohesive work of intrinsic thoughts combined great atmospheric layers and eerie whispering vocals. To think that Glacia almost would have never been, since Jeffrey almost deleted the project due to its personal nature. Thankfully, we get to experience this stellar piece of work.
The light reflecting in your hands
Memories of things you’ve had
The feelings gone, it won’t come back
Tilt your head, slow your breath
Every time, it’s rushing in
Every time, it’s breaking
Let me in
Build a minefield in your head
Fuel the fire inside
But still exists a weight
Too heavy, too heavy
There still exists a weight
Too heavy, too heavy
We are in love with this EP, so much so that it is a one of our favorite albums of the year—right along with the likes of RaRa Riot, Tegan & Sara, and other huge artists.
We recently had the chance to interview Western Jaguar, including asking him the Alternative Five: 5 questions that let us view alternative culture from the eyes of the musician.
“Bruce Hornsby and the Range – The Way It Is” would be my first pick, essentially because it became the soundtrack of my summer’s growing up. My mom’s family a two-day drive away from my hometown of Mission, so usually once a year in the summer time we’d make the drive up to spend some time with them. The drives were never dull and music played a key role in that being the case. My brother and I made our own mix CD’s to play, but every once and while my parents said we had to play some of their music and “The Way It Is by Bruce Hornsby was one that was always played. The creativity of the songs and the beautiful piano playing really got me interested in song writing and piano.
The second big influence came in the form of “Explosions in the Sky, The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place.” I must have been in grade 8 when I first heard it and it changed my whole universe in terms of how I viewed music. I always thought about it as a structured building, having specific plans, but Explosion in the Sky, and their post-rock genre in general, changed that for me. I loved the way the music swelled and layered upon itself, getting thicker and bigger, creating a great atmosphere within the songs. I definitely carry that influence with me to this day and I surely show it on “Glacia” with some of the instrumentation.
The most recent major inspiration would be “Foals’ Total Life Forever.” The first song I heard off the album was a track called “Black Gold;” I stumbled across it on a blog or something, but from then on I just listened to it religiously. The whole construction of the album, the atmospheric nature, mixed with electronics, and almost a catchy, pop-y undertone, wrapped in a rock veil; it stuck with me. I still listen to this album weekly now-a-days, that’s how big of an impact it had! “Total Life Forever” basically showed that really, you can make anything you put your mind to; you can capture and create any combination of sounds you see fit. It opened a lot of doors for me personally when it came to musicianship and song-writing.
What are your fondest musical memories?
My fondest musical memory would have to be when I was playing a show with my brothers band “Casinos.” It was for a “battle of the bands” and their regular drummer was out of town, so I stepped in on lead guitar and their regular lead guitar player took over drumming duties. We didn’t really practice too much, but we had such a blast playing that show. There were about 30 to 40 people just crammed up to the front of the stage going nuts, which made us go primal. The pinnacle was that a lady threw her bra on stage and my brother calmly hung it on the chandelier above our heads. Amazing, the whole thing was so blissful. That’s like the peak of music. When you get that emotional response from the people you’re performing too, that’s what we all strive for I think; a connection.
Lately what musical periods or styles do you find yourself most drawn to as a listener?
I’ve actually been listening to some more 19th, 20th century type stuff lately. A lot of Claude Debussy, he was the original master of atmosphere and texture. Genre wise, I cover quite a lot of stuff with my personal listening. For example, I’ve really been digging the new Arcade Fire record along with the Foals, Local Natives and James Blake records that have come out this year. At the same time though, I listen to like Death Grips, Kendrick Lamar and Justin Timberlake, so there’s nothing I’m really afraid to touch. I would say though I am most drawn to Indie Rock-Alt Pop, which just seems to be my ‘home base’ for my musical exploration.
What is Western Jaguar currently working on? Any new projects?
Yeah, I’m currently in the process of recording a new EP with a friend of mine, which is a completely new experience for me. I recorded and produced “Glacia” by myself, with no real input from the outside and I had unlimited time to work on it. I could record, produce whenever I felt like it and I hadn’t released any music prior to it, so really there was nothing pushing me to get something released or no expectations attached to it. But ya, Im hoping some new music will be out early next year.
What is your dream collaboration and why?
In terms of production, I’d love to collaborate with Paul Epworth. He’s most notably done “Rolling in the Deep” with Adele, but he’s also produced some stuff for Bloc Party, Foster the People and Friendly Fires. His production is so clean, so I think he’d be a cool guy to work with. Musically, I’d love to work with Justin Vernon, or Yannis Philippankis. They seem to have very realistic outlooks on music and writing that I associate real closely with. I feel like we could create some cool songs as well, so ahhh, if either of you are reading, give me a call!
What is your writing process like? How do you create your music? What subjects/experiences do you draw inspiration from?
Commonly I start with a loop of a chord progression or piano riff, something like that. Once I have it set up, I’ll usually just let it loop for about 30 to 40 minutes while I experiment over top of it. I’ll play guitar, drums, synths, piano, whatever I feel, and throughout the whole period I have a room microphone on capturing it all. I’ll wait a day or so then revisit the recording and pick out cool things I like and try to form a song around the melodies and beats I’ve collected. Sometimes it comes easier than this, I’ll just sit down with a guitar and a song will come out, just like a basic structure and a vocal line, but ordinarily it takes that long strenuous process.
As far as inspiration, it generally comes from experiences I have and I occasionally from cool imagery like a nice picture or design I’ll see online for instance. For the most part it is experiences though, and mostly dark experiences. They tend to stick out in my mind more because I think those are the times that really shape us as humans and make us who we are.
Controversial question: What do you think about online music sharing, both as a music fan and as a musician? How do you think social media/music-streaming services impacts the rising musician?
As a music fan it’s a huge positive. We are in the golden age of music because of music sharing and social media. Every song is at our finger tips, and every creation people come up with is at our finger tips. Right now, there’s enough music on bandcamp alone to keep a music listener busy for a decades.
From a musicians stand point it isn’t that great though. I do love the fact I can share my music with people everywhere with the click of a button and how I can contact people thousands of miles away who would never get a chance to hear my music otherwise and ask them to check it out. That makes it cool; distance is no longer a factor. The downside is everyone can do this; everyone with good, bad or terrible music. There simply is too much oversaturation online and that hurts the rising musician. You are a needle in a haystack the size of the Pacific Ocean and the Ocean is only growing larger. In that sense it sucks and there’s nothing we as artists can do about it. We’re kind of a slave to social media and music sharing because we have to use it if we want to be heard; it’s a catch 22.
What are your views on the current indie/alternative music scene, in comparison to other scenes such as mainstream pop music?
The scene as growing faster than it ever has, the indie/alternative scene almost rivals the mainstream pop scene and there is an ever growing overlap between them. You could even argue guys like Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are bridging that gap. I’d honestly include them in the indie scene, but they have pushed themselves into the mainstream. It’s like Indie is becoming mainstream, it’s a weird transition.
Foals and Phoenix seem to be the two bands that have really influenced you, in taste and in creation. What are some qualities of their music that draws you in, and how have they inspired you to create music and the Western Jaguar sound?
As far as Phoenix, I see them as a very clean and crisp sounding Indie Pop band. I almost see them as a band that writes songs I wish I could write. They’re so hook-y and catch-y, but that just isn’t something I’m talented at. Sound wise though; their ability to meld complex rhythms and use electronic and acoustic elements throughout their songs really affected my writing. In a weird way, it was almost like a friend saying, “it’s okay to do this, it’s okay to mix these sounds.”
Foals have been by far the greatest influence on me musically. As I mentioned with “Total Life Forever,” the amount of depth and complexity to their tracks blew me away. That’s something I definitely involved in my own writing, especially on “Glacia,” it’s that idea that every listen you could potentially hear a new sound you never heard in the listen prior. It’s this thickness of sound that really intrigues me. Foals’ also have this insane energy to them, with tracks like “Inhaler,” “Two Steps Twice,” and “Black Gold,” but also balance it alongside tracks like “Moon,” “2 Trees,” and “Alabaster” that are very ethereal and ambient. The fact they could mix ambient music with explosive and ruckus rock opened doors for me. Prior to this, I loved both types of music for differing reasons, but I never felt I could mix them with one project, I felt I’d have to have an ethereal project and a indie-rock project, but Foals created a door for me; Foals created a door that led to Western Jaguar.
We love Western Jaguar and we’re anxiously awaiting his upcoming EP, and hoping for a widespread North-American tour soon. Seeing these incredible songs live would be an amazing experience, and we hope to get the chance to one day.We’re glad to have had the chance to talk to Jeffrey and debut his latest cover song. We expect great things from him in the future.