Published on June 3rd, 2011 | by Ben Illsley
FREE DOWNLOAD: Introducing – Jeff Rowe
There seems a clear pattern in the growth of anti-folk, punk and protest musicians today. More often than not, it starts with an attempt to escape the confines of home and family, the embrace of teenage angst (often naive kind) whilst cutting teeth among numerous punk and rock outfit, before eventually branching away bleary eyed into the dark and oft-trodden world of the acoustic singer-songwriter, rarely escaping the adolescence of what they’ve become so deeply attuned to.
Yes, Jeff Rowe may have sung his early frustrations out with the now deceased BoxingWater, in his self-processed ‚Äòtough town’ of Gloucester, Massachusetts ‚Äì and yes on a whole, as debut album title suggests, the majority of his songs recount everyday life and the emotions held with it. But cast all presumptions aside, and you’ll find a far more insightful, far less callous and altogether more genuine representation of the thoughts and feelings of a man writing as much for himself as for his audience, than practically anyone else on the scene today. A homeboy at heart, a talented musician and an altogether top bloke ‚Äì if you’re a fan of Chuck Ragan, Tim Barry and the early output of Frank Turner, then you’ll love this.
Ben and Clara caught up with Jeff in Kingston last week to have a wee chat, which naturally ended with us talking Vinyl, 50s American soul music, and of course, British sarcasm…
Hello Jeff! Your debut album ‚ÄòBarstool Conversations’ is out now in the UK ‚Äì could you tell us a bit about how your writing process works ‚Äì recording and constructing the album and all that?
Well, the songs on Barstool are quite an amalgamation, some of them are like real old, maybe even 3 or 4 years, and some of them I’d had down for a couple of weeks, if that. I recorded them down south in Richmond, Virginia, and the band you hear on the songs are all friends who I kind of suckered into playing with me last minute. Haha
Now, you’ve just released a new album in the US called ‚ÄòNew Winter, New England’. Was that a same sort of thing? ‚Äì I heard you wrote hundreds of songs towards it…
…Yeah, too many, haha! Yeah, with New Winter, New England I wanted to get something out that had more of a homely theme, where I’m from and what not ‚Äì and so those seven songs on it, they really fit together. So instead of culling through a tonne of songs, I knew I had a small body of songs that would go really well together ‚Äì and again, a couple of those are really old and a couple really new.
So not quite the firing line process
Hah, not at all. They came together pretty smoothly, and thankfully so. But no doubt many of these will crop up again later.
You’ve released a split 7′ on Anchorless Records in the US with a whole load of people ‚Äì including Brendan Kelly (of Chicago punk-rock outfit The Lawrence Arms) and Flatliner’s Chris Cresswell. How did you come about being involved?
I was really lucky to be a part of it ‚Äì Anchorless organised this four way split because he wanted to do a four way split series, but all of us had songs lying around. I’d played shows with Brendan, and I met all the others ‚Äì and we all just thought it would be a great idea. And it was cool and he did it well ‚Äì a very limited pressing, I think about 500.
Are you a vinyl sort of guy?
I am a BIG fan of records, definitely a record kind of guy.
Speaking of which ‚Äì this single certainly sounds like the sort of release we’d expect see over here on Record Store Day. Is it as a big a thing in America as it is here?
It’s starting to be, I mean you can tell via Facebook that it’s a whole lot bigger here. All the hype beforehand ‚Äì wow!
Clara was up at 5.45 in the morning for it ‚Äì you know, bit keen.
If I’m up at 5.45 in the morning I’m probably still drunk!
Broad question here ‚Äì are there any songs out there that you wish you’d had a hand in writing?
Fwoah, that’s an awesome question… (deep intake of breath). Well I really like soul music ‚Äì like Sam Cooke, the songs that he wrote were unbelievable. The way that he sang, the melody etc ‚Äì I’d just rip off Sam Cooke songs if I could.
Well technically wouldn’t be ripping off ‚Äì you’d have written it!
Hah ‚Äì well I’d go BACK and rip him off! Any originals from Sam Cooke ‚Äì for me he’s just amazing. Great songwriter, incredible voice ‚Äì back when I was young it was really my Dad’s thing. I’d have my dad playing Soul, my mom and sister playing Punk/Rock.
You’ve said before that your surroundings influence your lyrics a lot. If you were going to write a song about, I don’t know… Kingston? Or the UK in general? Could you get any inspiration from here?
I like how moody the place is. There’s that tie I guess with England and where I’m from, you know, New England ‚Äì and also like, all the place names are the exact same! Like Richmond, Falmouth, and Plymouth?! I’m all like, thinking of the geography of New England and I guess yeah, I’d write about how moody it all is. And I love the sarcasm here, the whole sense of humour over here. That whole, if you’re walking down the street and its miserable and someone’ll say ‚ÄòIs that nice enough for you?’. Haha, I love that.
Are there any songs on Barstool that you’re particularly proud of?
There’s a song that probably the most personal for me, called ‚ÄòDead Authors’, and the reason that was a really big one for me was ‚Äòcause I was finally able to articulate some stuff that happened in my life. I was finally able to put it words, rather than just feeling, you know? To be honest, I’m not the type to listen to my own songs, haha ‚Äì I cringe a bit when I hear my own voice ‚Äòcause it’s like you’re yelling back at yourself. But that song is definitely the one for me on that record, as well as a song called ‚ÄòKate’ which is about my niece ‚Äì those two are real personal.
The big pre-summer festival vibe is growing over here at the moment ‚Äì do you intend to be back in the UK for the summer, or any time soon?
I think my next plan is the winter believe it or not! It’s not quite sorted yet ‚Äì That’s a tour where I’d be doing support for someone and it’s not quite confirmed yet, but I think I’ll be back in the winter. I’d love to come play some festivals though!
Oh the weather’s GREAT here in the winter…
There’s the sarcasm! Haha, I can tell!
Well we have to live up to now. Do you know a lot about the festival culture around here and Europe?
Not really, no, I just know my friends who have play festivals here have had an amazing time, and they’re like ‚Äòyou have to do it Jeff’, so I’m hoping that’ll come around to me at some point. We have this thing in the UK called Gainesville Fest in Florida which I played, and they just take over this whole city, and they basically overrun it with punk kids and music-goers, so that’s probably the closest thing I have to a festival over here.
You been to Camden? That’s the real punk area here in London I’d say.
Last year I played the Underworld, yeah! Real fun place, love the area.
Just lastly as the typical interview end question ‚Äì any new acts or bands you’d suggest we keep our eyes open for?
I love this band called Dan Webb and The Spiders, they’re AMAZING. They also from Boston, but they have a record out in Europe. That would be my direct suggestion, yeah!
Well, I think that’s it Jeff. Thanks for your time and good luck with the show tonight!
And there you have it. Oh I almost forgot, just because we’re awesome (well, because Jeff’s awesome, but you know…), we’ve thrown in a FREE DOWNLOAD of ‚ÄòAn Island’s Point of View’ off Jeff’s debut UK release Barstool Conversations. Enjoy!
What’s your view? Let us know in the comments section below…