Interview: Jaye Jayle

In a fantasy world it would be just making records and making songs in world of people who spend their night lives when the sun goes down, the kids go to sleep and they’re laying in their bed or sitting on their couch they don’t turn on the TV and scroll through netflix or look at their phone. They put on a record and take it in and breathe and feel something that you don’t feel in any other world besides that world.

My first experience with Jaye Jayle was seeing them live opening for Oathbreaker. It seems like their blend of americana, kraut-rock grooves and Morricone-esque soundtracking would be an odd fit for a metal show, their presence and weightiness stole the show for me. I was so impressed by their performance that I became a bit obsessed with both their debut album House Cricks and Other Excuses to Get Out and their outstanding split release with Emma Ruth Rundle The Time Between Us. I didn’t know at the time (even though he looked familiar) that the main songwriter was Evan Patterson from the mighty Young Widows. As a fan of Young Widows this just intrigued m even more. How does a person go from the thunder and fury of Young Widows to the dark, moody and tension filled music of Jaye Jayle? When the opportunity to interview Evan about their upcoming album No Trail and Other Unholy Paths (available June 29th via Sargent House) I jumped at the chance to hear more about this intriguingly unique project. 

We planned on talking after their set opening for Russian Circles at the Empty Bottle here in Chicago. Evan immediately strikes you as a warm and engaged person, he gives everyone who approaches him his undivided attention. It seemed like no matter where we went to begin the interview he was being approached by old friends, acquaintances or newly made fans and he always took the time to share some words with them. I was really impressed by his kindness towards strangers and his patience when confronted with some of Chicago’s more exuberant drunks. The conversation that followed was a real pleasure to have and I’m even more of a fan of the band now that I’ve spent some time hearing about it’s genesis and evolution.

(((o))): How did Jaye Jayle get born out of Young Widows?

Evan Patterson: The initial thought of the project or the idea of writing songs outside of Young Widows was just to not think about anything in capacity of it being performed. It was just kind of writing songs casually. I was actually in Santa Fe, NM visiting a past partner. She had a parlour guitar that was all fucked up, the bridge was already pulling away and the only thing I could do was kind of play on the last five frets to get it to stay in tune. I decided I was just going to write a song or what I felt was a song. It was always just a couple of minutes or a couple of parts. Not a deliberate idea of anything, just kind of a stream of consciousness thing.

(((o))): Previously did you write with a more compositional approach?

Evan: A little bit, once the band becomes involved in a project or any kind of composition or songwriting to me it makes to consider that they are there. There’s Jaye Jayle songs that I work that have no base of anyone playing with me and when we get together and play them they just come out how they are. One the band becomes involved it’s adding the saturation or the color to the song.

(((o))): That kind of my addresses my follow up question. I know that you’re the main songwriter but do you bring raw ideas to the band and let them play to their strengths or do you dictate who does what?

Evan: It’s a bit of a compositional dictatorship in the songwriting process until we get to the pinnacle moment of a song or a piece. I say here’s all the ideas I have and here’s the drum beat and this is where I hear the bass to be and this is where I hear the vocal melody and once it all becomes musical, that’s where the freedom sets in. Then we can say “this section of song is open” but it takes a long time to get to that place but those guys are

(((o))): You have some great players.

Evan: Todd (Cook) is my favorite bass player to ever live on the face of the planet and Neal (Argabright) can play keyboards better than anyone else. Todd and Neal don’t want to be soloists, they want to be part of the composition rather than just doing the same thing or wondering when they get to take the lead. There’s no leads. It’s more of a score.

(((o))): It’s interesting to me that a lot the press around you guys bring up the kraut-rock kind of influences and I hear it a bit but when I think about bands like say Can often times the song is just a really long guitar solo. I hear it in more of say Michael Rother’s (Neu!) solo stuff where all of the instruments are placed well, or contributing to the whole piece.

Evan: When I listen to Can I don’t really listen to the guitar work as much as I do the forward motion of the songs rather than it just being parts. When a Can song starts you kind of know it’s not going to leave. You always know when you hear the beginning of a Can song if that’s going to be the Can song you want to listen to or if you don’t want to listen and that’s usually in the rhythm section. 

(((o))): So the new album is produced by Dean Hurley(David Lynch’s sound collaborator). I love Twin Peaks and the sound design has always been a big part of that, especially in the most recent season. How did working with him come about?

Evan: That sound design is all Dean. I actually had no idea about any of his collaborations with David Lynch until I heard Lynch’s album ‘The Big Dream’ and I’m such a fan of that record. Something about the way it incorporated modern music and that Twin Peaks sound, everything about that. I associated with so much of what’s going on with that record, maybe at times not melodically or vocally what was going on but the production of it completely surrounded me. So I saw that Dean Hurley worked on, produced and co-wrote the record so I just wrote him an email.

(((o))): Nice, that simple huh?

Evan: Yeah, he said “send me some songs” and then he said he loved the kind of strange blues-dirge thing we were doing.

(((o))): One thing I love about you guys is the music does kind of the same thing as Twin Peaks, it creates an environment that you kind of live within during the duration of the music. When I found out Dean Hurley produced it I thought that made perfect sense for what you do.

Evan: Yeah, me too.

(((o))): You recorded it at Earth Analog (Matt Talbot of Hum’s studio) right?

Evan: Yeah in Tolono, Il which is also kind of a Twin Peaks oddball kind of place. It’s an old industrial wasteland that’s a crossroads for trains. Where we were there were trains going by every ten minutes at such a high speed that they would shake the building.

(((o))): Did you have to stop working when the trains went by?

Evan: There’d be times where we’d work around it and there’d be times that we’d just play. There’s train horns all over the recording, mostly in a way that wouldn’t even know and you’d probably just think it’s a synthesizer.

(((o))): In the press release for the album it mentions that it’s designed to be completely non linear, where you can start it at any point. I think that’s an interesting departure from both people who think that the single is everything and the kind of people who write big concepts that are meant to be listened to in a very specific way.

Evan: It’s difficult to listen to a full album. The attention span of a modern human being is so small, I feel like we have the attention span of an ant. It’s just how it is when we have accessibility to everything and everything. With that each side of a record needs to live on it’s own because the is the attention span of human beings. I love records and I collect a ton of record and so many records that I have it’s difficult to get up and flip the side, you know? Being a collector and investing myself in artists from all times, anything that was created on vinyl really, there’s a thing about listening to one side of a record and having it feel complete. Rather than the ending of the first side leaving you hanging, I just wanted to feel like it doesn’t leave you hanging.

(((o))): Not a lot of people take people’s attention span into consideration, haha.

Evan: It’s just a fact.

(((o))): You’re active in a lot of projects, the most active being Jaye Jayle and Young Widows, do you sit down and with intention to write for either or do you just write and decide where it lives later?

Evan: Young Widows is very inactive right now, we’re rehearsing and doing Old Wounds but we didn’t play at all for about 14 months. But it kind of refers back to your first question with writing music and spontaneity of creativity. Jaye Jayle and the songs we write are just what I’m writing right now. Young Widows songs a lot of time were just from showing up and playing and seeing what happens. Composition always kind of came later after we’d been playing for a while. With Jaye Jayle pieces they’re just something I work on every single day for hours and hours, whether it’s playing one chord for three weeks trying to find the melody or dynamic or rhythm within that note or chord or whatever it might be. I absolutely love Jaye Jayle, it brings me more joy than anything I’ve ever done in my entire life. It’s the most euphoric and hypnotic and therapeutic music that I’ve ever created and I feel lucky to have the band because they’re all on the same page.

(((o))): With Jaye Jayle there’s a kind of tension where it feels like it’s about to explode but it never does whereas Young Widows feels like everything is exploding all the time.

Evan: Absolutely

(((o))): Is that conscious decision? Kind of intentionally moving away from that more explosive outlet and stripping it back?

Evan: It’s definitely unconscious and unintentional. It’s more exciting for me to be contained and in control. I was extremely nervous tonight in a way of being in control. It’s so much easier to go full on, just playing loud and having it turn into this chaotic thing. Staying in the environment we have created is exciting because it’s difficult. The instincts of being a musician is at times playing more and everyone having their times of stepping out of the composition. Honestly I feel what’s going on with this music is the tip of the iceberg of what’s going to happen and there’s going to be even more tension and control going forward.

(((o))): You played a lot of new material tonight and one thing that really struck me is the restraint your auxiliary player (Corey Smith) shows, he’ll just rest and wait. Finding musicians like that is pretty rare. That adds to overall feeling that at any moment one of these guys is just going to bust out into a solo or lead line but they never do, is that kind of a theme?

Evan: I don’t know if it’s a theme so much as it is an idea of composition rather than individuals. At times even the singing and the lyrical subject matter and the control of even singing, I don’t even want that to shine. I always think about film and film scores. I just rewatched Badlands and that film influenced me highly. Watching that again and every time the music comes in it doesn’t take you out of the film it kind of puts you more in it. It gives you a narrative and a voice and almost earthly place. I know everyone in the band understands that feeling, we’ve all been playing music for a long time and we’ve never been it in trying to live a world of dominant showing off. We just all want to create an environment.

(((o))): It works really well, even tonight where you played mostly new songs that I had never heard it didn’t really matter because the environment is consistent and holds your attention. Which brings me to the last question. Is it hard to switch from this controlled environment back to the Young Widows sound for you upcoming tour?

Evan: Absolutely. Without a doubt. There’s some teen and post-teen angst that is just a life that I don’t live now and a way I just don’t think about music. There’s some times though, there’s a song called ‘Let him Be’ and we haven’t played it in years and playing the song in rehearsals these last couple of weeks I actually still kind of relate to it in a wild way. The most difficult thing about music for me is playing it over and over again. Writing music and creating music is what’s most important to me. In a fantasy world it would be just making records and making songs in world of people who spend their night lives when the sun goes down, the kids go to sleep and they’re laying in their bed or sitting on their couch they don’t turn on the TV and scroll through netflix or look at their phone. They put on a record and take it in and breathe and feel something that you don’t feel in any other world besides that world. That’s the best world that I’ve found in my life. 

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