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INTERVIEW: Jesse W. Johnson

Hi Jesse, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Very good! I’m working on a new full-length record right now and things are crazy busy, which is great.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Primal Scream”?

Primal Scream is a song about disillusionment and adventure. I wrote it after a year-long tour and it really just popped out one day. I don’t really even remember writing it. I like it b/c it’s at once melancholy and confident. It’s definitely fun to play live!

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Most of my songs are a mixture of several things, even about several people rolled into one. This one is definitely a reflection of how I was feeling when I wrote it, but it’s more of a big picture than a specific event. I think of this song as the soundtrack of that time in my life a few years ago.

Why name the EP after this track in particular?

It just seemed right. All of the songs are open, honest declarations and they’re a little unsettling at times. I wasn’t trying to edit anything out so they’re each like a scream of their own.

How was the recording and writing process?

I have a hard time remembering the writing process for most of my songs, but these all came about pretty quickly. That’s the most fun when they come out mostly complete. Sometimes when a song takes too long to finish, it’s hard to get the job done. It’s best to get it over with quick.

I recorded these songs with my friend Yoo Soo Kim as producer. He plays viola and sings backup on a few songs too and we’ve worked together for 10 years. It’s easy for us to make music b/c both of us get where the other is coming from. We mostly did these songs on weeknights spread apart when I wasn’t playing shows, so it took a little time.

How has Chicago influenced your music?

Chicago is a great city with a ton of bands and a ton of venues. I’m not exactly sure how the city has affected my music on the whole, but the places where I live definitely do. If you have a lot of living space, that will inspire some different music than if you’re cramped up in a tiny room. The songs on this EP were mostly written in tiny rooms.

What is it about dark music that you like the most?

I can relate to it! Everyone has questions & doubts within themselves and also some darkness. It feels good to recognize that in other people and that’s why confession feels so good too. I also love pop music and happier stuff sometimes, but I gravitate towards darker songs b/c they’re just plain interesting!

What role does Nick Cave plays in your music?

He’s definitely an inspiration as a songwriter and storyteller. I like how he crafts songs, sometimes lets them build slowly, and takes his time getting to the crazy loud parts. Listening to his music is a journey, and a fun one at that.

What gritty and dark things influence the lyrics on this record?

Ohh, good question! Personal doubts, emotional failures, coming to terms with weakness and identity, the dark side of religion, the undead, Cormac McCarthy books, WWII documentaries, and addiction. There’s also some positive things in there too! Like coming out of dark cave after crawling through the grime, taking your first breath of fresh air, and letting out a sigh of relief. That’s good, right?

Any plans to hit the road?

Definitely. This summer I’ll be doing some weekend shows around the Midwest and in Aug. my new band Jesse W. Johnson & Coyote Scream is doing our first tour.

What else is happening next in Jesse W Johnson’s world?

A new record! That’s probably the best thing. Also doing a split 7” with my good friends Coed Pageant!

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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