IndieBeat is proud to have Western Jaguar as a constant supporter and recurring artist, and we couldn't have asked for a better residency. We want to thank Jeffrey for his work here on IndieBeat and we hope he'll be back soon to share more of his amazing projects with us in the future.
Unfortunately, all great things must come to an end and today we send Western Jaguar off with an exclusive feature interview. Jeff has shared a lot about the album process with us in his residency posts, but in our chat we go a little more in depth through the tracks and aesthetics that are Wayfarer.
It definitely better represents Western Jaguar but I still don’t think Wayfarer is the definitive Western Jaguar sound. I think I am still searching for a consistent sound that is “Western Jaguar” but I would say Wayfarer is closer to that then Glacia and Solitary Sonics. I still love Glacia and I find I love it more and more the farther away I get from it, but at the same time, I am glad I’m evolving. On Glacia, I made songs that I was unable to fully reproduce in my live show. I think with Wayfarer I made a conscious effort to think about that live experience. I knew I could still layer and make a dense album with feeling and not go too far into that “unplayable” arena. I feel overall this album is a more restrained and adult Western Jaguar offering.
You blend multiple genres and musical elements in this album. I’m curious to know how you would describe your evolution of sound. Do you think this melange quality attributes to the wandering and natural aspect of the record, in the sense that you’re experimenting with new things along the way to form something unique?
I would say I’m learning and experimenting on the fly, which surely is both a strength and a weakness in my writing. In terms of strength, I’m always open to adding new influences into my sound which keeps it fresh for me. I like having songs with different sounds and feelings cause I think that’s an honest reflection of life. Things don’t remain static; things don’t stay the same forever, so I like to have that change. However, the weakness would be the inability to stay in a single path or soundscape. People like to listen to an album that sits together nicely and I would have to say I like to venture out and produce an eclectic combination of tracks. I would love to have an album that flows in the same type of vein but I’ve never felt compelled to write an album with a single core feel. I like the diversity cause I think that opens the music up and makes it more accessible to people.
In your Anatomy of a Gig post, you talked a bit about your performance process. You said you recently added a visual element to your show in the form of projected video. What kind of images do you use for you performance? How would you describe the Western Jaguar aesthetic? How do you transform your sound into the cinematic and visual?
Yea! The visuals came mainly via my guitarist I play the shows with Robert Sweeney. We ended up having to put a projector show together for this show we played in February and we received a lot of rave reviews for it so it’s something we’re hoping to keep up. In terms of visuals, we try to find old video clips and such then splice them to fit certain tracks. For instance, for Frontier Town we have a bunch of clips of a decrepit amusement park, while for Bodie, CA we have clips from a desert car race in the 1950’s in the Mojave Desert. Our goal is mainly to find images and clips that fit the tone of each track. Like I was saying earlier with the sound, there’s no fluid feeling that’s carried throughout the set, there’s these individual moments that we hope the listener can connect to in one way or another.
Stemming off that question, can you tell us about the artwork on this album, both the album cover, and the single cover on Bodie, CA by Jaimi Wainright. How did you pick these images for the album?
I always take a lot of care in the images I pick. If you grab a physical of the album you’ll see I like to make a tight, packaged concept throughout the release. But ya, Jaimi always has a huge influence on what pictures make the final cut. It usually starts with me going through all the photos she has and picking out ones that I think represent the music I am working on. From there, Jaimi and I confer about different ideas and what images would really work best. As I said, a lot of pride is taken in the images and the feeling they invoke, Jaimi and I both put a lot of effort in on that front.
Glacia was a very personal album for you. How much of Wayfarer is based on personal experience?
Wayfarer was far less based on personal experience than Glacia. If Glacia was an inward catharsis, Wayfarer was an outward catharsis. Wayfarer didn’t really deal with my interior feelings but with what I was seeing around me and they way I related to that environment.
Where did the idea to base the album on the ghost town come from? What other places did you draw inspiration? What do these themes of displacement and melancholy refer to?
The idea of a Ghost Town has always intrigued me and it really became the core reason behind the melancholy and displacement vibe. It’s always fascinated me how a place could be a town with citizens, infrastructure, business, commerce and then have that fall away to nothing. The fact a place on earth could go from nothing to something than back to nothing really relates to us as people and how our lives go; we don’t last forever.
Can you tell us a bit about the recording and production process on Wayfarer? When did it start? How was it working with others on this record, including producer Jotham Yelle and your musician friends, compared to your self-produced debut? How did this collaborative process help hone in your sound?
I started recording Wayfarer October 2013. At this point I wrote Council, Frontier Town, Shores and Bathe and was on the cusp of recording them for a mini-EP. Around the time I decided to do this, Jotham messaged me and asked about recording some songs at the Nimbus School of the Recording Arts as he was a student there. I thought that was too good an offer to pass up. So we recorded Council and Frontier and had those finished by January 2014. At this time I also had a Bathe and Shores nearly finished I was on the brink of releasing my EP. However, Jotham messaged me again in February and said we could record a couple more songs at Nimbus and at this point I had already written the basic concepts for Bodie, CA, Vessels and Separator. Based on this opportunity, I knew I had to turn this project into an album project. So in March 2014, Jotham and I recorded Bodie, CA and Vessels. From April 2014 until October 2014 I finished up Bathe, Shores, Separator and two other tracks Ghosts of Madison Park and Blackfoot. Around July 2014, the mixing for the album started and I sent Jotham tracks as I finished them. For the 5 I just mentioned, I did a mix myself before sending them off and then Jotham touched them up and made them, well, better. December 2014 was all mastering and by January 2015 the tracks were ready to go.
What song off this record are you most proud of? What are your fondest memories during this entire album process?
Can you tell us a bit about the 5 additional songs on the physical version of Wayfarer. Are these songs in the same realm of the theme of the album, or closer to the Solitary Sonics releases?
The bonus tracks are an interesting and eclectic collection. The first track is called Cascade which was a song I ended up cutting just because I didn’t feel it added anything major to the record. The following track is an alternate, unedited version of the album’s 7th track Separator. This track was initially 5 minutes in length but I ended up making an edit a few days before sending the album off; cutting it back to 3 and a half minutes. I really like the unedited version because it fills the story of the song out, so hopefully people enjoy listening to that. The next two tracks are actually the same song and were the last cuts from Wayfarer. Now 2 of the same, you’re probably wondering what’s up with that, but one is the actual version while the second is a remix by Jotham Yelle… very cool. The last track is Voyager from Solitary Sonics so that’s funny you mentioned it. I really wanted to get Voyager on a disc and saw this as a good opportunity.
Besides a summer tour schedule, what’s next for Western Jaguar?
Honestly I’m not too sure. I want to play lots of shows and I’m always working on new music. We’ll both have to wait and see because I honestly have no clue
During the residency, we saw another side of your artistry: writing about music. I’ve known this side of you from being internet friends and discussing with you a few news stories about the music industry. Are you a writer by trade, or by hobby? Can we expect to see more of your writing in the future? Have you ever thought about a writing editorial/journalistic project separate from your musician career?
It’s something I am hoping to do more. I actually will hear back Thursday about an interview I had for the paper at my university to get a writing position, so wish me luck!
How was it being our Artist In Residence? Anything you want to say to our readers before we see you leave us and go on to great things due to the prospective success of Wayfarer?
I absolutely loved every minute of it. I loved having an outlet to express the stories of the songs I’ve created and an open channel to my audience through the blog. All I have to say to the readers is thank you for keeping up with me and caring about my music and what I’m doing. There are millions of artists out there but the fact you take an interest in me and the work I’m doing… I am just honoured. I hope to keep in contact with all of you through my other social media outlets, but surely my time at IndieBeat will be something I’ll always remember.