I was even more intrigued when I noted JPNSGRLS are represented by local Vancouver indie rock label, Light Organ Records, founded by Jonathan Simkin of pop label, 604 Records (Carly Rae Jepsen, Hanson, Marianas Trench, Jessica Lee, Theory Of A Deadman, etc). The great thing these companion labels really embody is that they seem to sign artists based on who they already are and their ability to write great songs, rather than primarily on their perceived potential to be shaped and molded into a selling product. JPNSGRLS are no exception.
The band is set to release their next album, "Circulation" in the summer of 2014 and if their first single is any indication, it's bound to be a killer. The video for "Smalls" premiered on PopMatters on July 5th, 2014, and the band is set to open for platinum-selling Vancouver band, Marianas Trench at an intimate bar show on July 12th at The Roxy. Charlie and Chris were nice enough to answer some questions for The Music Blog, here's what they had to say.
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Charlie: 50/50. Chris and Graham are formally trained and technically very sound at their instruments. In fact, Graham even has a year of music school under his belt (Vancouver Community College) and Chris played jazz throughout high school. Whereas Oliver and I don’t know the first thing about the names of notes or keys or time signatures. But I think at one point or another each of us took private lessons. I had guitar lessons a lot as a kid but as I started writing more my mentor and guitar teacher Al would kinda give me song-writing pointers instead of learning scales and things of that nature. I think I’d have the same amount of trouble reading an ancient Egyptian scroll as I would reading a piece of sheet music.
- Who would you cite as your musical influences?
Charlie: If we had to narrow it down to one band, gun to the head - I think we’d all say Led Zeppelin. Personally these days to stay inspired I listen to St. Vincent, Dirty Projectors and Local Natives. Their rhythms and harmonies and song structure keep me guessing in a way that I try to apply to JPNSGRLS when I write.
Chris: Strokes, Rage Against The Machine, The White Stripes, Arctic Monkeys, Death From Above 1979 and Tokyo Police Club, Black Sabbath, and The Pixies.
Chris: For sure helping. Now we wouldn't go as far as to say these platforms are perfect but they are excellent tools for making our music accessible to as many people as possible. Yes with the internet came piracy which most artists would argue as inherently bad for “us” but it also brought new levels of exposure for up and coming bands that didn’t exist 20 years ago.
Charlie: One of the best parts of being in this band is getting fan messages from places I’ve never been before. Recently we got a message from a fan from the Netherlands who wants to cover our song "Red and Green” for YouTube. In my opinion opportunities like this wouldn't be possible without the global platforms mentioned in the question. Still in my mind nothing compares to the feeling of taking the vinyl out of the packaging and reading the liner notes while it plays but that’s not necessarily an option for someone on the other side of the world.
- What is your favorite venue to play in Vancouver?
Charlie: The Commodore Ballroom. We opened for Mounties there in March and it was a life-changing, incredible night for us. Also I love playing DIY house-party shows more than anything. So I guess my runner-up answer would be a living room.
Chris: The Commodore, hands down. But if we’re playing a bar, I love playing The Biltmore.
Charlie: Me too.
- What is your opinion of the Vancouver music scene? Is it a positive experience to be part of the community or could certain things be improved?
Charlie: Vancouver has been good to us and we have played I think everywhere we possibly could over the past 6 years or so. My main qualm with the city is that it needs more all-ages venues. When I was 16 and 17 and booking the shows, the options were incredibly limited and I think it’s actually gotten worse since then. But there is a great organization called “Safe Amp” that’s trying their best to do combat that.
Chris: My biggest beef with the Vancouver live music scene is that when you play at a lot of bars in the downtown core they will only let you play until about 10:45 at the latest so that their DJ has ample time to play after. Some venues will even have a set of tickets to the earlier show, and a separate set of tickets for the late show, so you can have all these fans come to see you at a bar/club and then after your set go out for a smoke or some air and the venue doesn’t let them back in because they haven’t paid cover for the DJ show. If a venue could only have live music until a certain time because of noise restrictions or bylaws that would be one thing, but the fact that these venues are going for the money grab of potentially doubling the money they can make off of cover in one night shows that they really do not care about the bands at all. Half of the fun of going to a local show is being able to have a drink with the guy in the band you just watched, and as a performer being able to mingle with the crowd and build some genuine relationships with your fans. Now you can’t exactly do that if the minute you step off stage everyone that paid cover for the bands is being herded out the door so that the DJ crowd can make it in.
- What do you think the advantages are to being signed to an independent label as opposed to a major one?
Chris: Well we have no experience with a major label, but we cannot speak highly enough about our experience with everyone in the Light Organ family. We’ve never been asked to compromise our integrity or change, we’ve pretty much been given complete control of what we produce musically and our image. We were signed because of who we are, not because of who they wanted to mold us into.
- What were some of the best moments of your recent trip to Singapore for Music Matters Live?
Charlie: The loyalty of the fans in Singapore was unlike anything I had ever seen before. We played five gigs in five different bars over four days and the festival had about sixty bands. Some of our fans managed to see us play every single show and help build our buzz like crazy over our little trip. Thank you kindly, Singapore.
Chris: We are supporting Marianas Trench at the Roxy on June 12th and playing Car Free Day on Commercial on the 15th, then after that we are heading to NXNE in Toronto. The weekend before our album comes out we are actually playing at Keloha festival in Kelowna (July 12th).
Charlie: We shot a video for ‘Smalls’ which i love and am proud of which will be coming out leading up to the Circulation release.
- How does 'Circulation' compare to your earlier releases?
Chris: "Circulation" is the culmination of 4 individuals who have been playing together for long enough that it is starting to become second nature. With “Sharkweek,” we were still getting our chops both on stage and in the studio and it took us over a year to record it. We finished the whole EP before getting signed to Light Organ so with the signing period and getting everything ready for it to be released there was almost a 3-year spread between our first day recording “Sharkweek” and the first day recording “Circulation”. By the time we made it into the studio with Steve Bays to record “Circulation” we were like junkyard dogs chomping at the bit to record our parts and we recorded the whole 12 song LP in 7 days. The album really showcases the diversity of our sound while still being consistently and quirk-ely JPNSGRLS. There are 12 tracks that all have an individual identity and their own place on the album.
Charlie: Well I wrote most of the songs on the Sharkweek EP when I was 16 or 17. So sometimes when I listen to it I do have some cringe moments. I am proud of that album and love it for what it is but I truly believe that on “Circulation” my songwriting, singing, and lyrics have improved. I mean, The Sharkweek EP was written by a hungry, unsigned, young band so it has a bit of a - “Hey look at us! Look at what we’re doing!” - vibe whereas Circulation feels a lot more comfortable in its own skin. Also, the stories I am choosing to write with this band have changed quite a lot. On Sharkweek, nearly every song was about my heartbreak or my partying or my feeling of being unsatisfied with the environment I was in. On Circulation, I decided to write from outside of myself a couple times and get some other voices heard. For example, one of my personal favourite songs on the album is called “Brandon” and lyrically, it follows the real life story of Brandon Teena, an american trans man raped and murdered at age 21 in Nebraska purely because he didn’t fit the cultural norm of what a man or woman was supposed to be.
Charlie: How much we love our fans and how we really are jack shit without them. So if you want something from us: A picture, an autograph, the explanation of a song, whatever it is! Contact us and I promise I will try and make it happen. Also, there’s been a few rumours of some people wanting to do JPNSGRLS covers for YouTube, nothing could make me happier, on top of that I’d even like to encourage anyone of any musical experience to do a cover of one of our songs. My motto growing up, playing in bands was “I can’t sing so I might as well sing.” And I think that should apply to more people.
Chris: Reach out to us on Twitter, Facebook, or our website if you have any questions on how to play something and hopefully we see you out on the road sometime soon! PEACE!
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