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Joel Jerome Chats With the Amoeblog Before His Performance Nov. 18 at Amoeba Hollywood

Posted by Billy Gil, November 14, 2014 03:45pm | Post a Comment

Joel Jerome has been one of the best songwriters in L.A. for years under a number of guises—with his bands, dios, dios (malos) and Babies on Acid. Recently, he’s been going under his own name, under which he’s released the Beck covers album When Beck Was Cool and now a collection of his own songs called Psychedelic Thriftstore Folk. It’s perhaps the most direct and honed release he’s put out yet, consisting of songs new and old that have been whittled down to pop perfection in his home studio in Echo Park. I caught up with him a bit before his Amoeba Hollywood performance Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. Instead of teasing you with some “quirky” factoid about our interview, why don’t you just take two minutes and read it??

What made you change the name under which you record, from dios/dios malos to Babies on Acid and finally Joel Jerome?

Joel: I finally decided to have everything I do under one umbrella, one name, since I write, arrange, produce and record all my music. I decided to just have it under my name so I could have the freedom of having different players for different shows. I’m the one busting my ass for this, so I may as well take full responsibility and have it all go under my name.

One of the things I've always liked about your music is that you keep songs around and rework them. Are you sometimes not satisfied with the way something came out, or you just have new ideas for how to record the songs?

Joel: I think of my songs like traditional songs from back in the day. Just songs that you can do a million different ways with no one way it should be played or recorded. If it’s a good song, it can work in many different ways, and sometimes I get so excited or inspired by a sound or vibe that I pull out an old song and try to do it in that style, and many times I’m happy with it, either way pretty happy with it. And yes, sometimes I’m not satisfied with how something came out, especially stuff from “albums,” so it gives me a way to do it better. It’s why I’m re-recording a lot of dios stuff from the three records we put out because I was never really happy with any of it. They will be released in a series of EPs titled “dios on dios.”

I love the way, for instance, an older song like “Stay in Bed” now his this kinda hazy Santana vibe. What kind of stuff were you into or listening to a lot when you made this record?

Joel: Santana? Really, Billy? As the kids say, “SMH.” [Note: I love Santana.] It was just a different take on the song when I accidently played the opening G chord as G minor on organ. Then it took on this Doorsy, joint-smokin’ driving vibey song. This record in particular was actually re-recorded when I decided that I needed to start over and get the basic tracks recorded together. I had originally tracked everything myself bit by bit (which I will make available as an alt takes album sometime down the line), but once I started playing these songs live, they had a better feel with a band. So I got the guys to come in and lay down more than half the tracks from the record again and build from there.

You can also compare versions from the Babies on Acid record of “Slumber Party Mass” and this one has kind of a breathy, milky orchestral pop vibe, whereas the last one sounded kind of quicker and more bashed out. Is that kind of the difference between the records, recording quickly for that immediate vibe vs. fleshing things out with more orchestration?

Joel: Just different approaches to the same song. The Babies On Acid record was recorded and mixed in two days, with me doing everything. It was really just something I did to test out new equipment I had recently acquired. I stumbled on the recordings a year later and was suprised at the vitality and feel it had, very different than other recordings up to that point. So I decided to compile them, Burger put it out on cassette and hopefully I’ll release it on vinyl someday. For this record, I recorded it more like I had in mind when I originally wrote it, fleshed out with more instrumentation and textures.

I really like some of the newer ones on this record I hadn’t heard before, like “Black Gold.” That song is really densely layered and detailed, can you talk a bit about your recording process?

Joel: Well, I just go into my little recording play pen and twist one up and see what ideas come out. Jason [Hanakeawe, drummer on the recordings] named that song, by the way—it was originally titled “Ojay.” It was on the last dios record, but I was not happy with how that one came out, so I redid it, and I still think I can do it better. But it’s just a matter of me getting in my cave and seeing what inspires me. I really don’t like making “Records”; I’m more of a singles kind of guy, so with this record, I was constantly going back and forth between unfinished songs and adding bits here and there as inspiration hit. I definitely forced myself by working on stuff whether I was inspired or not, and usually after not hearing a song for a few days or weeks, I would begin to hear things I could add.

You’ve also worked as a producer for a number of L.A. bands. How does your process differ when you’re recording your own music as opposed to someone else’s?

Joel: One myth I wanna dispel is that I PRODUCE bands. I’d have to start charging WAY more if I were to produce, and it’d have to be with the right band. The only band I ever co-produced was PISCES, and even then, they had the last word on what stays and what goes. I record bands and am there to bounce ideas off of. Most of the bands these days have a good idea of what they want and what they want to sound like, and I’m just there to guide them and help them make it happen, help them get the best they can out of themselves. I PRODUCE all my own stuff because its all my ideas, and that’s that.  If iI ever PRODUCE a band, they will have to let me have creative control and decide what’s what like they did in the old days. I would help choose songs, instrumentation and sometimes even players. That’s what a real producer does. So my process is very different for myself than it is with bands.

The songs kind of tunnel into one another on this album. Were there specific things you tried to do to make the transitions seamless?

Joel: I took my time with sequence and picking out which songs go well with each other on the album. There were other songs I was considering that didn’t fit with the overall vibe of the record, so I left them out. I just made sure to listen to my gut and just trust my ears.

Even though you live in L.A. now, I appreciate that you’ve repped Hawthorne and the South Bay. Do you think the South Bay is unrecognized as a place that has bred great musicians?

Joel: I guess. I mean, when you think about all the talent that has come out of the area, it’s astounding: The Beach Boys, Redd Kross, Chris Montez, Emmit Rhodes, and the list goes on. But ultimately it’s L.A. Los Angeles is and always will be a great musical city.

Who are some new bands in L.A. you’re digging right now?

Joel: I’m very lucky to be recording so many good local bands. I’m just giddy because of it. If I had the inclination to be a manager or someone like that, I would have a goldmine of talent to get rich off of! I do have a label now, Pyschedelic Thriftstore Recordings, and I have so many bands I would sign right now (so if anyone wants to be my financial backer for this, just hit a brother up).

Bands like Dirt Dress, L.A. Witch, The Buttertones, Feels, Tashaki Miyaki, Froth, Levitation Room, MASSENGER, True Neutral Crew, etc. etc. I’d have the baddest label in L.A.!! ANYBODY WITH MONEY OUT THERE THAT WANTS TO PUT OUT GREAT BANDS HIT ME UP, I GOT MY FINGER ON THE PULSE!

Can you give us a top 5? You’re favorite records of all time, or any other subject you prefer.

Joel: Nope. I hate best of lists.

Relevant Tags

Echo Park (12), Live (8), In-store (15), Amoeba Hollywood (872), Dios Malos (2), Dios (3), Joel Jerome (5), Interviews (31)