the Beach Boys

SERF-ING WITH JONS
June 6, 2016 11:57 am

When there’s a will, there’s a way. Jons is celebrating the May 29th release of their debut album Serfs of Today. It was recorded on iPhone, and led to the band’s signing with Solitaire Recordings. The album was so good, that Solitaire decided to release it as-is.

The Victoria (Canada, not Australia) band is also about to embark on 29-date tour, including a show supporting fellow Canadian Alex Calder. And, believe it or not, Jons is already working on a follow-up album.

ATYPICAL SOUNDS spoke with frontman Patrick Rendell on how all of this craziness came to be.

jons

Congratulations on your new album and your signing to Solitaire. What would you like people to know about your band?

We’ve all been living on Vancouver Island for 5 or 6 years. The band started out with Logan, David, and me making music casually and then the band was fully formed when Logan and Keenan met painting houses.

I’ve heard your album Serfs of Today was recorded on iPhone and cassette. Is that true?

Yeah, that is partly true. There was a period where we didn’t really have the means to record drums (and didn’t really know how to either) and so David would play drums on an app on his iPhone directly into the tape machine. For “Orcachief” I played floor tom and snare while David played ride symbol on his iPhone to get the effect of a full kit.

You’re getting ready for a 29-date tour around Canada. Is this your first tour of that size?

It’s been a lot of work setting up the tour and it makes it harder that we haven’t actually done this before. The longest tour we’ve done so far is to Calgary and back so this is a completely different ballgame.

What are your favorite items to pick up at Tim Horton’s to keep you going?

One good way to prepare is to abstain from Hortons’ until you leave so you have a fresh palette. Keenan’s favourite donut is the Old Fashioned.

You will also be performing a show with Alex Calder on your tour. How did you get involved with him?

Bands in Canada are very interconnected and chances are you always know someone who knows someone. In this case our friends Freak Heat Waves were already playing the show and we were going to be in Montreal at the same time. Logan’s brother also plays in Alex’s band so it just worked out.

You seem like a band that would know a lot about psychedelic music. Are there any albums you’d recommend to someone looking to expand their record collection?

Some albums we’d recommend checking out are A Lovely Sight by Pisces, God Bless Tiny Tim by Tiny Tim, Playback by The Appletree Theatre, July’s self titled album and Release of an Oath by Electric Prunes. Also [Pink Floyd album] The Piper at the Gates of Dawn and Friends by The Beach Boys are staples.

Are you working on a followup for Serfs of Today?

We’ve actually been working on our followup to Serfs of Today for coming up on two years now. Dave picked up a Tascam 388 and has become really good with it so it’s a noticeable step up in fidelity. Having Keenan play on the record has been a big deal too. He didn’t play on Serfs of Today and he’s an incredible musician. His playing on the tracks has had a huge effect on our recordings. We’ve been working on it for a very long time and we’ve each grown quite a bit individually as musicians in the process.

Will you be be doing any recording with iPhones, as in Serfs of Today?

No iPhones were used in the making of the record.

I think you’re the first band I’ve interviewed from Victoria. What’s the music scene like there?

It’s really great. It’s a small city but for the size there’s tons of really great bands. Sometimes people pass it by on tour because they don’t want to make the trip to the island but there’s some very cool stuff going on here. I’d highly recommend coming here and checking it out if you get the chance.

Which venues in Victoria are your favorite for seeing live music?

Some of the classic spots to see bands play are Logan’s and the Copper Owl. There’s also a bunch of nightclubs and a thriving scene of DIY spots that are really great to play at.

Are there any local bands you feel deserve more attention?

Some bands you should check out are Privacy, Pinner, Smoke Eaters, Psychosomatic Itch and Fountain. There’s also a small local tape label called Gary Cassettes and everything they’ve put out has been really sweet.

What will you be up to after your tour?

After tour we’re gonna focus on new music. After working on the same songs for so long we’re really stoked to get started on something new.

Will you be performing at any music festivals?

We’re playing at Sled Island in Calgary but thats our only festival this summer.

NEW GOD BLESSES US WITH SWEET HARMONY
November 26, 2015 2:13 am

“Two Brothers: Playing Music, but Not Normal Music that You’ve Heard Before, And Also a Newer Album that Does Sound Like Some Stuff You’ve Heard, as Well as Some Cool Videos”

That’s what the title would have been if it weren’t way too long. What can I say, Baltimore natives New God inspire a little outside-the-box thinking.

Curt and Kenny Tompkins made an impression with their 2012 debut album Motorcar.  The lo-fi record brought a nice blend of indie, electronic, and folk with a solid driving energy. Its blissful harmonies drew comparisons to The Beach Boys. Wilco at times, Dan Deacon at others, Motorcar was a refreshing blend of catchiness and creativity.

The brothers followed their pleasant opener with another strong showing, 2014’s Firework. The album demonstrates a couple changes, but not all of them are objectively for the better. The album does sound a little better—it has a higher production value. However the lo-fi sound of the first record is so good that it leads to a small step up. Firework sounds better, but not that much better.

More importantly, the great energy of Motorcar is not present. In upping their production quality, New God made Firework sound a little more mainstream. The interesting and unique blend of sounds present on their first record is toned down. While the melodies and harmonies are still super strong, the songs are less dynamic. Where Motorcar feels live and real, Firework can feel a bit canned.

Firework is also notably more downbeat, but this isn’t why the energy is lacking. One of the best tracks on Motorcar is “Liar Liar,” a slow burn of acoustic guitar and vocal harmony, evocative of Fleet Foxes or Peter, Paul and Mary. The song feels very present and very personal. Firework has a sort of gloss-over that imposes a distance between the band and the listeners.

Firework does have some high points. Much of the album was written and recorded in an abandoned racquetball court, lending a spacy reverb to some of the tracks, most notably the closer, “Dumb.” This effect gets blended with clean electronics to create nice soundscapes. There is also the catchy-as-fuck single “Summer Girl.” Really the only driving song on the album, a simple back beat compels the airy vocals forward. Fuzzy guitars provide snappy riffs to grab on to. This is where New God is at their best: soaring harmony driven by danceable rock beats.

“Summer Girl” also highlights the band’s knack for good, low-budget music videos. Green Screen images of 50’s/60’s summer fun slide across the background and the brothers’ sunglasses. The classic imagery highlights the band’s early Rock ‘n Roll influences, while the obvious use of technology illustrates their use of electronic sound. “I Know Something About You” shows another creative use of green screen. A couple with cardboard TV heads (very reminiscent of the robot royalty from Saga) “performs” the song while images flash across their faces. While it’s a great visual concept, that is about all the video has to offer. As with the album Firework, it needs a little more variance and/or substance to make it a true journey.

New God has shown us that their creative ceiling is very high. The two brothers are working on their third album, and hopefully this creative streak will overcome the tendency to move toward the mainstream. If they can find a way to capture the great energy of the first album, while upping the general production quality, we could all be in for a serious treat.