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Interview: Jamestown Revival

[ 27 October 2014 | Print This Post ]
27 October 2014

From ‘Ulysses’ to ‘Thunder Road’, one of the longest standing literary and musical traditions is the story of a character abandoning his past in pursuit of allures and illusions only a fresh start always assures.

This familiar narrative may have been immortalised by too many classics to count, but it still has enough captivating charm for Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance who are transforming several decades of friendship into a project inspired by the ideal entitled, Jamestown Revival.

The Texan duo have teamed up to produce a collection of autobiographical songs for their first full-length offering, ‘Utah’, portraying a vivid account of two wild-hearted rapscallions trading hometown comfort to chase the insatiable L.A. dream.

Fresh abandon and free living are open themes throughout their work, allowing each song to unfurl with an honest ease and grace, harking heavily back to an era they aspire to the most.

Gemma Brosnan catches up with Jamestown Revival to find out more.

Gemma: You’ve both been friends since childhood. When did you first start making music?

Jonathan: We wrote our first song together when we were 15, a long time ago. It was terrible and I’d like to think we’ve made some groundwork since then, but that was the spark that set everything else in motion, that we can create together and have a lot of fun doing it, but I hope that song stays locked in the vaults for good.

Gemma: Your name is reminiscent of the religious revival period that was popular in the south in the early 20th century. How did you come up with the name and how does it fit into today’s society?

Jonathan: I think we need to go back to why we started this project. Both of us had a solo thing going at the time and my family had some land in the middle of Texas which we had a huge connection with as it always felt like our soul was in this place. We went out to that land at a point in our lives when there was a bit of frustration and decided to bring guitars and a keyboard and it was like the perfect storm. We wrote some songs with a different vibe and outlook and we knew we had tapped into something different, something that sets you on fire and overtakes you and we got on this trip and thought we’ve got to run with this and do something together, make it harmony driven and a real collective effort abandoning everything else for this fresh start and new beginning which was a real departure from everything I’d ever known. I had a career that was paying the bills with security which was a little hard to leave, but it was the best thing I ever did and made us relate even more so to people who had left oppression or gone against being told what they needed to do. Which is a very long winded description of how we came up with the name, Jamestown Revival, and I don’t really know exactly how that part presented itself, but the idea was new beginnings—leaving behind the old and starting a journey towards the unknown.

Gemma: How would you describe your sound to someone who’s never heard it before?

Zach: It’s like drinking iced tea with alcohol in it. It’s Southern and it’s got some bite.

Jonathan: I’d describe it as Americana with a Southern slant and a little bit of classic rock at times and a little bit of country at times and that 70s folk singer-songwriter vibe. It harks back to a period of simplicity. We really value making things count, we don’t feel the need to ham it up too much.

Zach: We try to write songs we really mean that we try to be thoughtful about and for us, it is song-writing above everything else. We look up to the greats and they’re masters for a reason, they didn’t need a lot of stuff because the songs stood out on their own. We still have a long way to go before we catch up with them, but if it’s a good song, you can play it really stripped down and it’s still a good song. That’s our idea of what we want to achieve whether it’s six pieces or a guitar and two voices, hopefully it still translates and we’re able to do that.

Gemma: What’s the hardest thing about creating that level of honesty?

Zach: I think it comes down to vulnerability, the more vulnerable you are, the more honest you’re going to be because it’s easy to spot bullshit.

Jonathan: We played a tribute show to George Harrison and they had a house backing band and it felt so automatic, that we could mess up our harmonies and vocals a little bit and still be ok and nobody would really notice that much because the band was so full, wonderful and big. It was in stark contrast to when we play our songs which are very often stripped back so if one note is slightly out, you’re going to hear it and so is everyone else. We very much believe that you should never go and do something in the studio that you can’t pull off live which in itself forces another aspect of honesty.

Gemma: Who were your greatest musical influences growing up?

Zach: Being from Texas, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark, Merle Haggard, Waylon Jennings and Stevie Ray were a good start.

Gemma: The song California (Cast Iron Soul) alludes to the move you made from Texas to L.A. What was that transition like for you?

Jonathan: We wrote that album about anticipating moving out to California, getting out to California and missing home and feeling displaced and then anticipating moving back so it was a really autobiographical bookended account of that time in our lives.

Gemma: What did you miss the most?

Jonathan: Mainly family, friends, the people.

Zach: Yeah, L.A is great, but I think being from Texas, you start to miss the pace of things, family and friends and the vibe in Austin – everything was a little bit different out there.

Gemma: Austin is one of the country’s biggest music hubs, why did you choose LA to pursue and develop this project?

Zach: Austin is a great city for music, but we had lived in Texas for most of our lives and were too comfortable there. Quite honestly, we weren’t really excited about the idea of just moving out to L.A., the exciting part for us was that it was time to be uncomfortable. We knew a lot of people going to Nashville and we didn’t want to follow that crowd, we wanted to go against the current, which tends to work out for us creatively.

Gemma: You moved far away from both L.A. and Austin to record your album, Utah in a secluded cabin in the mountains. How did this affect the recording process?

Jonathan: We recorded it there partly to escape, partly to remove ourselves from distractions and partly as we didn’t have too many options as we were funding our own record so it was out of necessity too, but the idea of getting away for a couple of weeks and recording was obviously romantic.

Zach: Going back to the bands that we like with older, simpler music, they didn’t need the most high-tech studio to create the best art so it’s more about capturing emotion, about how real it feels when someone listens to it, that was our utmost priority, not how perfectly quantised or in sync the sound is. A little fluff here and there, a little mistake, that’s human and we embrace that rather than trying to make it squeaky clean. The best music to us is usually the stuff that has the most exposed nerves.

Gemma: What about being close to nature, did that have any impact?

Jonathan: Oh, absolutely, things like the birdsong we captured just by sticking a mic out on the balcony at 5.00am after staying up all night recording and the sun was starting to come up. You can’t influence a straight up recording like that.

Gemma: Where’s the weirdest place you’ve heard your music being played since the success of Utah?

Zach: I got caught by surprise in a Starbucks not too long ago and thought someone was playing a joke on me.

Jonathan: We’re pretty big in grocery stores, Wholefoods has given us backing which leads to the suggestion that our music is pesticide free GMO free.

Gemma: What can people expect from your performance?

Zach: I have a very fine jacket so we’ll be sharply dressed if that affects the audience participation in any way.

Jonathan: We like to try and incorporate everything we like so they’ll be moments of energy and highs and then we’ll try and pull it back when we get sparse and reflective so hopefully the audience will experience the different range of vibes and emotion as it’s not all one theme.

Zach: It’s like losing your virginity in the back of an old truck. It’s kinda dirty, you feel weird at first as it feels good, but you’re not sure if it’s a good or bad thing and you might have smoked a little too much, but overall you end up liking it.

Gemma: What next for you guys?

Jonathan: We’re about to set off on a nationwide tour with Nikki Lane which we’re really looking forward to and hopefully we’ll make it across the pond at some point next year as we’d love to have a European tour in the pipeline.

For information on tour dates and tickets go to http://www.jamestownrevival.com/


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