The Landscape Has Changed: An Interview with Jay Van Raalte

by - August 01, 2023

When Jay Van Raalte released their live acoustic EP, Record Stop Sessions, the song “The Road Ahead” was a sneak peek into the completed-but-not-yet-released album, Something More and Kind of Less. Now, the album is finally available.

Although “The Road Ahead” has already become a fan favorite, between hearing it on the EP and seeing it live at shows for the last year, it is their second single that has gotten an unexpected response.

“Achtung” was a different song from the start. It is the only song to date that Van Raalte used a drum loop as the primary percussion instrument instead of a live drummer. While they normally use a loop during the production of the song and remove it to record a live sound, this specific loop was too good to pass up. The rest of the production snowballed from there.

“It just felt fresh compared to everything else we had been working on,” they said.

The lyrics were also approached differently. Although Van Raalte always tries to be honest in their writing, they admit that sometimes they get caught up in the craft of fitting words together or making sure they float seamlessly. This time around, the lyrics are direct and as honest as they can be.

The music video for “Achtung” also ended up just as different. The process was something they had never really tackled before, and came with a lot of restraints. That didn’t stop them from coming up with a concept that they really loved: a pseudo-lyric video written on a bathroom mirror.

At first, they thought their two-sink bathroom was going to pose a problem. Is it something that should be addressed? The more they thought about it, however, the more they realized that it could be part of the story. It becomes an ironic turn as the song was originally written about a specific, non-romantic partner, but the music video turns it into a more recent breakup and how the two sinks went from daily use to dormant.

“I was really touched that this thing that was just an accident working around a constraint ended up being the thing that people connected with the most,” they said. “It was a way to bring this song into my present moment, because so much has changed in my life since the time that I was writing it and the time that I was recording it, and having that music video be rooted in things that have happened more recently definitely gave a new angle to this song that didn’t exist before.”

So much of this album was new experiences for Van Raalte, from investing in a home studio to encouraging collaboration during the creation process. It taught them the importance of having other perspectives and trusting that someone else can not only envision their final project but keep them on the right track. They adopted an attitude of letting each song be what it wants to be and doing whatever it takes to accomplish that.

“The biggest is that I need to trust my own instinct,” they said. “Whether that’s redoing something because I know it’s not right, even if nobody else can hear the thing that’s upsetting me, or whether it’s knowing that I need help in finding the right people that I trust that enhance the process.”

Something More and Kind of Less was meant to be an orphan’s album - songs that never made it onto a previous album but were too good to keep to themselves. However, the longer they worked on producing the older songs, the more new songs were written along the way.

“It is a pretty diverse album which was somewhat intentional,” they said. “I feel very strongly, especially with these songs that came from such a different time period, that I wanted to let each one be what it wanted to be and not try to force them all into the same sonic palette.”

While some of these songs might be older than others, playing them back feels like stepping into a time machine. The lyrics might not resonate as much as they did in that exact moment, but there are new memories to attach to them. Maybe it’s a guitar solo that is their guitarist’s favorite. Maybe a fan gave their interpretation of the lyrics and it has taken on a whole new meaning.

“It’s become like a little scrapbook of all of the people that I get to work with and the moments that I have making it,” they said.

Creating this album was such a learning experience for Van Raalte, and they are so thrilled that this “orphan’s album” became much more than that. Now these orphan songs belong to the world, and have made their own home.

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