It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from Jeremy Jay. His last album, Dream Diary, was released in 2011 on K Records and offered us his ultra-louche indie dream-pop in an impressive way, all talk-sung and lyrical in a voice that’s strong and melodic- possibly sardonic yet inviting and reassuring- all at the same time. Visually potent, to say the least, Jeremy Jay creates a world with every album. And his latest record is no exception.

Abandoned Apartments feels like an abandoned apartment. It feels like the music you hear in the background at night, in your industrial loft space, after having just returned home to find that your lover has left you. It feels blue, it feels cold, and it feels haunting, ethereal. It also feels like growth. A definite progression from the more playful (sometimes borderline-bubblegum) records of the past, Abandoned Apartments is a more minimalist, melancholic variation of his prior synth experimentation, but with Jay’s particular brand of mercurial charm left (gratefully, and successfully) intact.

Abandoned Apartments is out now, in Europe, via Modular, and will be released in the States on January 24th through K Records.

Photo by Marcel Castenmiller

Photo by Marcel Castenmiller

Hillary Sproul: You haven’t recorded an album in how long?

Jeremy Jay: The last one came out in 2011.

HS: So it’s been a long time in general.

JJ: Yeah, but I’ve gone on a lot of European tours. It’s easier for me to since I live in Europe. What’s hard for me now is coming to the States.

HS: How often do you come to the States?

JJ: Once a year, if that. The last (tour in the States) was 2012 but the one before that was 2009. But I’ve done six European tours in between that, so it’s different.

HS: You live in London. Do you like the lifestyle more?

JJ: Oh, yeah. I love living in Europe. One of the major differences is driving. I don’t think you have that so much where you live, in New York.

HS: No.

by marcel castenmiller

by Marcel Castenmiller

JJ: In LA, you’re just driving 1-2 hours a day in traffic every day. I haven’t had a car in three years and it’s so great.

HS: Why did you move to London?

JJ: My girlfriend. We live together.

HS: Did you meet in London?

JJ: We actually met in Paris.

HS: And then you moved to London?

JJ: Yeah. I was DJing and she was playing a show at the same club.

HS: So, she’s a musician?

JJ: Yeah. And we were both living in London, but we met in Paris.

HS: Do you play music together?

JJ: We have. Nothing’s come of it yet but we did record an EP with a band called Eclipse. But, we haven’t really done much with it yet.

HS: You had said earlier that you wanted to pursue film originally? Was music just something that ended up happening to you?

JJ: No, I’ve always played music. I mean I had high school bands. We used to play shows. I’ve never-

HS: Not played music.

JJ: Yeah, I’ve never “not played music”, ever. With films, the last couple years I did the music for two movies. And I also did a soundtrack that never got published.

HS: What was the soundtrack for?

JJ: It was just a made-up one that I did. But, I handed it in to my publisher and everything but no one picked it up or did anything with it. But I did it. And I also did other music that actually got in movies, and stuff. That’s something that I’m really excited about, actually.

HS: And, that’s something that you want to do more of, obviously?

JJ: Oh, for sure. I love that world, you know. I like writing for an image. I think that’s great.

HS: Do you feel that you do that for your own music? Because I kind of feel that your music is very visual.

JJ: I think, for me, that’s what poetry is. You know, when you read a book and you visualize the image of what the story is? I think that’s what I try to do with poetry. I write about an image or a story. Maybe I wouldn’t call it a story- but a visual representation. Like I write about a thing-

HS: You create a world for a feeling, kind of?

JJ: I think, for me, the best way to say it would be, like if you were reading a book, the words create the image.  I try to do that as a writer. I try to create images with words.

HS: And sounds.

JJ: Yeah, and sounds. For me, I’m really a visual person. Like a lot of people, you know.

HS: Music is your main medium but you were talking about possibly transitioning more toward film. Is that something that is in your mind?

JJ: I wouldn’t say transition. I would say expansion. I’m trying to open up to more and not only do one thing, but that’s not saying that I’m not… I’m taking everything very seriously.

HS: I believe you. You seem very serious.

JJ: (laughs) I’m also the silliest person you would ever meet, probably.

HS: I don’t think that’s possible. Abandoned Apartments is not being released now, right? Isn’t the date being pushed back?

JJ: Oh my god, yeah. There was a manufacturing error. It’s out in Europe right now. But, in America, what happened was that there was a manufacturing error with the vinyl. So they just pushed the date back, which is really annoying, but what are you going to do? But it’s out in Europe now.

HS: The video for your single… Can you give me a little background on that? What your inspiration was for the video and who made it?

JJ: Well, it was compiled by images that I gave to someone, and for one of them, I wanted to portray like a psychedelic portrayal of tour life. Psychedelic meaning images that composed or are composite to each other. You know, when you’re on tour, you’re driving a lot. And when you’re on tour in the winter, the countryside looks really interesting. You go through places like Germany and like the snow-filled meadows and really rural areas that I really like. So I took a lot of shots of that with my video camera and (of the) snowfall in really gothic small German towns. Also, we mixed a lot of live footage. I wanted to show people what shows are like but do it in a way that’s interesting.

HS: Do you have any plans to tour in the US?

JJ: April of 2014.

HS: Do you know where you’re playing yet?

JJ: US of course. And some other New England towns. And, um, California, San Francisco, LA, Olympia, Vancouver, Chicago, Mexico City.

HS: That’s kind of big?

JJ: That’s really small. (both laugh)

HS: But you’re encompassing the whole spectrum!

JJ: But in terms of length, it’s short.

HS: How long do you expect that tour to last?

JJ: 12 days.

by marcel castenmiller

by Marcel Castenmiller

HS: Can you tell me a little bit about your background as a musician? Music has always been in your life, but when you started to play music, how did that happen for you?
JJ: That’s really interesting because for me it was really- I had always made tapes and records, on my own, since I was like sixteen. But I never actually made a record-record or even performed (the music) live until way later. I have so many recordings from my past of various things but I never made it an ambition of mine to be a recording artist, if that makes sense, but then I met Calvin (Johnson, of K Records) and he recorded a record and he just released it and has been doing it ever since.

HS: Did he just hear the music that you had done and just encouraged it or how did that occur?

JJ: I had gone on a tour with him as a singer-songwriter and I opened before his show and that was in the Northwest and I asked him to record me and he said yeah and ended up putting it out. It was cool. He was really supportive early on and really like a father figure in a way that- in a creative way. It was really cool.

HS: Have you worked with him creatively lately?

JJ: I worked on his last record. I played some of the instruments on his last record.

HS: So you’ve continued that collaboration.

JJ: Yeah. And I helped write one of their songs. He ended up not using it but I did a lot of work on his last record.

HS: Do the people in your family play music?

JJ: Actually, my whole father’s side of the family plays piano. My grandma used to teach piano.

HS: Did she teach you piano?

JJ: She taught me, for about ten minutes, how to coordinate your left hand and right hand. When you play- let’s say you want to play the same note in each hand in a different octave. For a lot of people, it blows their mind apart and they cease to function. But for me, she really showed me the easy way to get your mind to do that, I guess.

“Covered In Ivy”, First Single from Abandoned Apartments

HS: Piano was your first instrument?

JJ: It was my third.

HS: Oh. Well, what was your first instrument then?

JJ: My first was trumpet. My second was guitar and third was piano. Actually, we always had a piano around, I just never- I always cared about guitar. You know, guitar- it’s just so, you know. Put an amp and make it distorted. When you’re fourteen, all you just want to do is play heavy metal.

HS: Is that what you were listening to when you were fourteen?

JJ: Yeah, actually. When I was twelve, I had a paper route and I had a tape- I had one tape- that I bought with my paper route money and it was my first tape ever. It was Poison’s Open Up and Say Ahh!

HS: What drove you to buy that particular tape?

JJ: I had a friend who I used to always do BMX with. I was really into BMX bike when I was a kid and he had a bunch of metal records and I loved that one.

HS: You don’t mind if I publish your love for Poison do you?

JJ: I think it’s funny.

HS: Can I look to your music for traces of Poison?

JJ: Yeah, I basically ripped off “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” for every single.

HS: If you listen to it closely enough, you can hear it underlying everything.

 All photography by Marcel Castenmiller