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INTERVIEW: JJ and The Pillars

Pic by Kyle Christie

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

It’s been an exciting and rewarding few weeks for us, thank you.

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

Absolutely. Well for one, it’s probably our favorite song to perform live. I feel like it showcases every member of the band: Stefan’s steady/meticulous drum beat, Donny’s groovy baseline, Rob’s melodic and unique electric guitar parts (trust me, I’ve tried to learn them myself, it’s not easy), Alyssa’s strong belt using her attitude to elevate the song and well, I’m pretty proud of the lyrics of this one. And my voice sounds like I had too much whiskey (if there is such a thing).

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

I wrote this when Alyssa and I started dating. I had so much fun singing with her from the beginning (You can literally watch our first date on youtube cover Matt Epp’s “When You Know”) We bonded over our love for “The Bachelor”, many drinks at many Toronto bars (shout out to The Dakota), and of course sharing music. She introduced me to some cool country tunes (I think some Eric Church and Keith Urban) that I had never considered listening to. But we’d usually default to listening to Blue Rodeo by the end of our party nights. “Howl” is kind of about those nights together, which we still have.

Any plans to release a video for the single?

We really want to do a video for this one. We’ve toyed with the idea of the official video for the song being a “live off the floor” recording because, well, the way we made this record, you shouldn’t hear much of a difference. Or we might go out in the woods again during a full moon like we did in our video for ‘The Wolves’. Still open to ideas though. If you’re audience has any for us: let us know! @jjandthepillars

The single comes off your new album Daisy – what’s the story behind the title?

‘Daisy’ is the first song I wrote on the record so naturally it became the theme of the record. I’ve always loved the name ‘Daisy’: she became the sort of ingenue of the record. And I have always loved the flower as well: when it’s blooming and when it’s wilting. Oh and it just happens to be in the top names for strippers in America which, spoiler alert, the song ‘Daisy’ is about. But we’ll save that one for another interview. 😉

How was the recording and writing process?

Writing every song was extremely cathartic for me – a form of therapy. So it was definitely an emotional journey for me – a lot of self reflection . Recording was an absolute blast! We got to work in some amazing rooms around Toronto: The legendary Metalworks (which was super cool) and Loud Mouse Studios (which felt like home)… Oh and we recorded at my actual home in Parkdale. Which Kevin and I agreed we’re some of our favorite days.

What was it like to work with Kevin Dietz and how did that relationship develop?

Before Kevin made this record with us, I think we had spent under 7 days together. That, to me, is unbelievable. I feel like he has been a life long friend with a life’s worth of inside jokes. One of the first things he said to me was that he tried to “capture performances not produce songs”. He helped strengthen our live performances in the studio, it can’t get much better than that.

How much did he get to influence the album?

I think that’s really hard to measure but basically: he let us do our jobs and we let him do his. He made the recording process so fun while not fucking around too much ($$$). Kevin has such a great attitude about making good music and is an absolute genius in the studio. I can’t thank him enough and can’t wait till our next project with him.

Do you tend to take a different approach when you are collaborating with someone else rather than in your own?

Absolutely, especially when it’s a duet like this. I’m a baritone and Alyssa is a strong Alto, but sometimes it’s hard to write melodies that are catchy, not boring, and not stretching our live abilities. This one is kind of at the top of my register in points. When I’m writing for myself, I just sing where I’m comfortable and let the lyrics flow. I had so much fun figuring out where we would be singing in unison, harmony and when we would have solo lines. Finding that balance was a process in itself.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

In mine and Alyssa’s relationship. It was all laid out for me. We’re both goofs who love to dance, sing and… well let’s just call it “Howl”.

Any plans to hit the road?

We’ve got a few one off shows coming up but are really hoping to do a proper tour together as a 5 piece (With Alyssa) in Spring 2019. Until then, just events around Toronto and the 401 circuit in Ontario.

What else is happening next in JJ and The Pillars’ world?

Well, Our bassist Donny has been touring with an incredible band called “The East Pointers” from PEI. Robbie has been the touring guitarist for the country rockers “The Abrams” for the last year. Alyssa, Stefan and I have been gigging in many different capacities in Toronto. We’re just going to be working on more content, booking more shows, writing, and a lot of the boring back end stuff of being a band. We’re hoping it all pays off.

Listen to ‘Howl’ on SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/jjandthepillars/howl-feat-alyssa-morrissey

Stream the full album ‘Daisy’ on Spotify or Apple Music.

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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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