Much was different for Snowden frontman Jordan Jeffares the last time he spoke with Stereo Subversion. It was 2007, and, a year prior, Jade Tree had released his band’s stormy, post-punk-informed debut album, Anti Anti, to considerable acclaim. Snowden had just finished up a tour with Kings of Leon, barely missing the opportunity to be on tour with one of the world’s biggest bands as their popularity turned stratospheric. Jeffares was tired, but hopeful that their next album would provide “a real introduction to the band.”
Well, it’s 2011 now. Snowden and Jade Tree have parted ways. The band’s last EP, 2010’s Slow Soft Syrup, exhibited a band moving in a dreamier, trance-inducing direction, and a full-length follow-up to Anti Anti has yet to materialize. To top it all off, Jeffares is still tired, both from navigating the murky realities of an increasingly financially timid music industry and tired from handling all of his band’s touring and promotional needs.
Hopefully, Jeffares can take solace in the fact that the music he’s currently making is as lovely and mesmerizing as ever. Slow Soft Syrup, as it’s title implies, moves patiently and precisely, with reverb-heavy guitars and warm organs slowly enveloping the listener in their otherworldly glow, only to jostle them to life with booming, majestic toms. It accomplishes in twenty-four minutes what most full-length albums fail to do with double the time; it creates a rich aural universe to which the audience can only surrender.
So when do we get the next full-length Snowden album that maximizes on the promise of Slow Soft Syrup? Jeffares was kind enough to answer that very question and a few others in our conversation below.
SSv: Slow Soft Syrup seems to be a bit of a change of direction for Snowden. Anti Anti was a lot more heavy and rollicking and Slow Soft Syrup is sort of dreamier. Is this a more permanent change for you guys or is this sort of a temporary diversion for the band?
Most bands have to make a great record and people have to know about it. We’re making music in the most media-saturated period of man, and you’re asking people for 10, 15 minutes of their time. That’s a lot of time.
Jordan: Well, the material on the EP is a little bit misleading as to what the next round of music is going to be like. I did that EP because I needed something I could do and mix myself without going to a studio. Dreamier stuff is a lot easier to do without getting into the nitty-gritty of production, so I didn’t want to throw out the heavier songs and not give them a good shake. So the EP’s kind of a taste of what’s to come and what I could do myself.
SSv: Okay, so when the tracks are listed on iTunes with the phrase “EP Version” at the end of them, that means the full-length versions are going to be considerably different?
Jordan: Well, let’s see, the first track, “No One In Control”, will be completely different. The rest of the songs are going to be redone- not completely redone, but remixed.
SSv: Slow Soft Syrup was given away last year as a free download attached to a plea for donations to help fund the full-length. Was that method at all successful? Did you guys get a good response to that?
Jordan: No, as I pretty much expected. Releasing that was kind of an experiment to see if giving away free music actually meant anything, you know, would it generate more movement or what not, and music is all pretty much free anyway. Giving away a record doesn’t really mean much. It just makes it a little easier for people to get it without having to upload it to Mediafire or something.
SSv: It does make people feel a little guiltier, I think.
Jordan: That’s not really my intent. I’d rather people have my music so they can spread the word about it, rather than futz with “can they really afford to spend money on a band they’re not sure about?” or if they’re fans already and they want to show their friends who don’t want to spend money for one song.
SSv: It’s definitely a lot trickier to navigate the music industry now. You guys were on Jade Tree, but being on a label doesn’t mean what it used to.
Jordan: I was on Jade Tree and that didn’t end up well, and there’s no label now, and we can make a record for little-to-no money. But once you make a record, how do you afford a publicist? So if a tree falls in the woods and there’s nobody to tell anybody about it… There’s always exceptions of bands that put albums out on their own and do well. But, at the same time, there are records that I love that no one’s ever heard of because they never got pushed. So I’ve been trying to figure out how to fund a release in the middle of a recession and the lowest financial times in the music business.
SSv: It’s rough. I’m in a couple of bands that have released a couple of albums, and we might as well not have, for all we can tell.
Jordan: Yeah, it takes a lot of energy to make a record, and if it’s not released properly, then it’s just kind of out there and people go “Ok, record’s out. Time to make another one.” I mean, they take year-and-a-half-to-two years to make. You don’t just crank another one out. But if you love the work, you want it to get a fair shake, and that doesn’t definitely require, but it often does require, a financial push.
SSv: It’s funny, the last time you spoke with Stereo Subversion, you admitted that you were very tired of promoting the band. That was 2007, and it doesn’t sound like much has changed. Would you say that’s accurate?
Jordan: It definitely makes you question why you do it. If you really love music, you can play it in your headphones and it would be satisfying. Unfortunately, when you really break it down to that, it’s like, yeah I really do love making music, but you get tired of what you have to do on the side, all your side jobs. But you have that choice, whether you want to keep doing that, if it’s enough for you.
SSv: Me personally, I’m most sick of carrying my amp, even compared to sending e-mails and setting up shows…
Jordan: Oh god, yeah. People don’t realize this, how much work goes into networking and trying to get a band off the ground, you know. We’re not all Bon Iver, where we can release a record and that’s enough to get things going. Most bands have to make a great record and people have to know about it. We’re making music in the most media-saturated period of man, and you’re asking people for 10, 15 minutes of their time. That’s a lot of time.
SSv: Well, maybe a Snowden song will end up in Kanye West’s hands and he’ll sample it.
Jordan: Yeah, exactly.
SSv: I read an interview where you talked about the romance of the idea of touring having worn off, and you don’t seem to have too many shows scheduled in the coming months.
Jordan: We’re trying to finish the record. Until you finish the record you can’t tour. I can finish the record on my own, and it would be a good record, but that’s not enough anymore. There’s lots of good records out there, because there are so many people releasing music, and if your record is not great, then it’s not enough. I’ve just been waiting to do it right, and this will be the year we get it out.
SSv: Last time, you said you needed to make The Bends before you could make OK Computer. How does the new record shape up against that statement?
Jordan: That was very much a soundbyte. In my mind, you’ve got to bring people in, especially when you’re playing to fresh ears all the time. It’s gotta crack people, instead of being a record that takes three listens to get into. So that was my excuse for writing pop stuff when I want to be writing brooding, sprawling stuff. The next record is definitely not going to be guitar-centered rock. It’s going to be more melancholy.
SSv: So the next one’s going to be weirder and more esoteric?
Jordan: Definitely. To me, it’s a natural progression from the last record, kinda like the EP is. Less guitar-driven, more experimentation with instruments…
SSv: Yeah, I thought Anti Anti was great, but I was especially excited about the direction you were going in with Slow Soft Syrup.
Jordan: I wish I could have put more of the upbeat stuff on there, but I wasn’t confident that I could give that stuff a good mix, give it the production that it needed. So I decided to save it for the next record.
SSv: Do you have a release date in mind for the new album?
SSv: Have an album title yet?
*Photos taken by Valerie Fremin and used courtesy of Sonic Itch Music.