Interview with JANE IN SPACE

Jane In Space

Jane in Space released a fantastic self-titled debut this year. Combining elements of electronic, rock and Britpop under a deceptively progressive lens, they’re quickly making a name for themselves. Thanks again to the band for taking the time to respond to this interview.

Hello! First off, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to answer this interview.

Tom Vickers (vocalist): Thank you for having us.

Jesse Jensen (producer / multi-instrumentalist): We’re very excited to be talking to you, thanks.

First of all– what’s behind the name of your project?

Tom: Jesse firstly called the project simply “Jane” because he liked the name. The music he was coming up with sounded vaguely futuristic, but also had a retro 80s sound, so I suggested we call it “Jane In Space,” which reminded me of a B‑movie.

How did you guys meet initially?

Tom: Jesse and I met four years ago in a singer-songwriter’s band; when that went sour we formed an indie-rock band with our friend Andrew called “Jenny Haniver” and released an EP titled “Know Rainfall.”  Throughout that time, Jesse was working on the side on what became Jane In Space. When he asked me to be involved, I was initially hesitant about the project because I had never attempted to write vocal melodies to that sort of instrumentation before. I was listening to a lot of power-pop at the time, such as Teenage Fanclub and Big Star, and that was more the direction I was looking to go. However, it turned into something beautiful and very much out of my comfort zone. Jesse and our bassist Josh Stillman have known each other for years and played in previous bands together. Josh might just be the best bassist around. His funky bass really helps bring the songs to life.

I’m really impressed by the way Jane in Space manages to fuse synthwave and industrial music with what is fundamentally pop songwriting, and great songwriting at that. How did this style come together?

Jesse: Thanks very much for the compliments.  The songs all start as sonic experiments – me collaging sounds I’ve made or found, trying to evoke a particular mood.  If something gels, I start to massage it into a pop structure just to focus myself.  But they’re still not “songs” until Tom comes in – he is amazing at finding melodies and actually tying these “things” into real songs.  The last – but crucial – step is muting the temp synth-bass on the track and letting Josh infuse the song with soul.  He takes things a different direction than we ever would on our own and, so from there we’ll go back and re-arrange as necessary.  Playing live also leads to happy accidents and exposes a song’s weaknesses.

Jane In Space - Feel It Alive

In your music– specifically for the song “Feel It Alive”, you’ve described how you attempt to explore the way patterns can change depending on the way they’re experienced. Can you go into this topic in any more depth?

Jesse: Philosophically, that song started because I was interested in exploring apophenia and how it isn’t always clear what makes a beginning “the” beginning and an end “the” end.  Polyrhythms are nothing new (especially in electronic music), but part of what we tried to do here was get polyrhythmic about the timbres themselves.  The song originated when I processed already polyrhythmic loops in alternating fashions, blending them in and out against each other: we applied the same approach to Tom’s vocal as well.  The whole thing ended up sounding very organic – which is funny, considering the downbeat was originally different – but that seemed appropriate: I think I often subconsciously avoid understanding complex systems in favor of trying to find simple patterns.

Your electronic productions are very nuanced and powerful. What’s the creative process behind putting the industrial/electronic aspect together?

Jesse: I spend way too much time overthinking things – see my previous answer as an example.  If I just sit down to “write a song,” it usually ends up garbage; instead, I’m really inspired by programming and processing drum machines and grooveboxes, where I feel like I am wrestling with a machine – trying to force it to be something it’s not: emotive.  Once I’ve found that initial spark, it’s just hard work – trying every trick I’ve ever learned and trying to come up with new ones – and sculpting out what doesn’t work.

The instrumentation is fairly abrasive. Was there any difficulty in writing melodic vocal lines for this material?

Tom: Absolutely! To begin with, I was apprehensive about even attempting to write vocal melodies to this instrumentation but it became easier once I actually sat down with Jesse and listened to the sketches of music he had created. As an example, Jesse once played me some music which seemed so insanely dense that I didn’t think I’d ever be able to fish any melodies out of it. However, we just sat there for a couple of hours listening to the music again and again, looking for what was inside, and eventually I found some melodies. Then Jesse improvised an awesome guitar riff over the top, and that became the track “Helsinki.” Sometimes patience is all you need.

I was actually really impressed by the music video you had produced for “Feel It Alive”. Most of the time good music doesn’t necessarily line up with great filmwork, but the experimental nature of the video really enforced some of the music’s ideas. What was your initial idea behind the video? How do you think it turned out?

Tom: The idea was initially very simple. We asked our friend Permian Strata, who does visuals at most of our gigs, if he would project some visuals over my face with me singing along to the song. That was the initial concept for the video. It really went above and beyond our expectations. He used all the shots he took and melted them in and out of each other and it ended up creating a nightmarish and haunting experience which elevates the song immensely. In some ways I now can’t imagine the song existing without the video. It’s really become part of the song.

What’s your opinion on the self-titled debut now that it’s out?

Jesse: I find it difficult to listen to any of my music without imagining countless other avenues I would have liked to explore, but I feel unbelievably proud of this – it is undoubtedly the best record we could have made.

Jane In Space

Does Jane in Space perform live? If so, what’s the experience like?

Tom: We do; actually, we will be performing at Leftfield Bar in NYC on September 23 with our Aion Records labelmates Charcole Federation.  We were lucky enough to snag Permian Strata to do live visuals; frankly, he’s the reason to come see the show – he is phenomenal.

Jesse: The live experience is another thing I overthink; I want to capture the same feeling that started the songs – wrestling humanity out of machines.  We don’t use laptops – that’s a mission statement for me – and instead we use an Elektron Octatrack programmed with certain tracks so I can manipulate them live, while also playing keys, guitar and drumpads.  On the other side of the stage, Josh is greasing up the tracks with his very unmachine-like funk bass.  Tom is caught in the middle – literally and metaphorically, the bridge between the soul and the machine.

What advice would you give to other musicians, if any?

Jesse: Think hard about when to let things simmer and when to take them off the stove.

What lies in the future for Jane in Space?

Jesse: The music video for “Mental Abrasions” comes out in September; I just watched the newest edit of it and I’m very excited.  After that, who knows – we’re making this up as we go.

The last words are yours.

Tom: It feels absolutely incredible to have put so much work into this and have it get recognized at all.  Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, and I hope everyone out there will check us out at www.facebook.com/listentojaneinspace and www.janeinspace.com.

Links:

https://soundcloud.com/janeinspace

https://www.facebook.com/listentojaneinspace/?fref=ts

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