Hi JP, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?
I’m doing well, thanks!
Can you talk to us more about your song “What If”? Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?
Sometimes your preconceptions can stand in the way of your happiness. As a teenager, you might have one idea of what it means to be a successful musician or songwriter, for example. But as you grow older, you have to ask yourself if you want your happiness to depend on whether or not you’ve achieved some teenage ideal. As a musician, so much time and energy can get swallowed up chasing gigs, trying to build an audience, etc., instead of writing, recording, and playing music. For me, making the decision to put all of my energy into the things I enjoy most allowed me to walk away from a lot of stress and unhappiness, and reconnect with what I love best about music.
Not at present. We’ll see what the future holds.
The single comes off your new album Race To The Sound – what’s the story behind the title?
The album title was taken from a line in the lyrics of the first song, “Where The Winter Ends.” I’m an avid runner, and I often write and edit lyrics in my head while I’m running. Living near the Long Island Sound (the body of water between us and Connecticut), I often run in that direction. “Race to the Sound” lends itself very nicely to the double meaning of running through an area that I enjoy, and embracing new musical ideas.
How was the recording and writing process?
I’ll often record a song shortly after it’s written. Working out the arrangement helps me get the song out of my head so that I can start fresh on the next one. With our previous album, “Nine Kinds of Happy,” we recorded most of the instruments live in the studio—in one day—and I overdubbed the vocals and some of the guitars later. “Race to the Sound” was entirely different, in that I recorded the basic tracks at home, one by one, over a couple of years, and the recordings evolved slowly over time as co-producer Jim Watts and I experimented with the arrangements. Jim’s out in Los Angeles, so we’re exchanging ideas long-distance.
What role does Coram play in your music?
My writing is filled with snapshots from daily life: running, waiting in line at the ATM, and various moments from marriage and parenthood. In that sense, I suppose Coram features quite prominently. But the setting could really be anywhere. I do much of my recording at home, and sometimes the noise outside gets a bit intrusive, especially when the landscaping crews are in full roar. So sometimes Coram has a role in making me decide to wait until things quiet down before laying down that next vocal track, ha ha.
Would you call this a departure from your previous musical projects?
I took a few more risks, musically, and we had a large number of guest artists join us. We had twelve this time, the youngest of whom was 10, and the oldest was over 60—quite a range! But I would say this recording isn’t so much a departure as a development of some earlier themes. One example would be the use of more electronic percussion and instruments, and creating loops to form a rhythmic background. The band started out as a guitar/bass/drums trio, and I’ve gradually expanded to include other sounds.
Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?
The music comes easily, but the lyrics take quite a while. Sometimes they find me, rather than me finding them. It’s helpful to keep a journal. But I’m not very prolific, so it’s always a struggle.
Any plans to hit the road?
It’s not very practical at the moment (kids in school/day job/etc), but we’ll be playing more gigs in the NYC area.
What else is happening next in Last Charge of the Light House’s world?