Long Read: We talked with Jonah Falco about Jade Hairpins inception, the debut LP, the pandemic and how London’s cultural scene inspired the creative process.

Jade Hairpins is the brainchild of Jonah Falco and Mike Haliechuk of Fucked Up. Harmony Avenue is the band’s debut album and might be the perfect soundtrack for this “weird” Summer. We managed to talk with Jonah about Jade Hairpins inception, the debut album, the pandemic and how London’s cultural scene inspired the creative process.

I would like to start by asking how would you describe Harmony Avenue to someone who hasn’t heard it yet?
Harmony Avenue is like superimposing a map of one city on top of another city and still trying to follow directions.

You moved from Toronto to London almost a decade ago, has London been an influence on the inception and sound of Jade Hairpins? I’m just saying this because the British influence is definitely a presence in Jade Hairpins sound.
I have been bouncing back and forth between London and Toronto since 2008 but have only lived here for just about five years. The music that the UK has produced is definitely an influence on how the songs were written. The song writing is collaborative – musically lots of ideas are coming from Mike who lives in Toronto so there is a mix. Living here is definitely giving a different context for living in a city – the scale, economics, and social aspects of living here and not just “digesting the culture” through musical influences – and trying to make music somewhat independently but i think that will probably be felt more on whatever we do next.

When did you start writing Harmony Avenue and who first broached the subject of writing new material?
Harmony Avenue started being written late 2016/early 2017.  It wasn’t until about 6 months later that it really started to take shape.

The whole album is brilliantly constructed, at first sounds a bit confusing but after several listenings it seems that every song tells a different story and even the vocal approach is also different. Is there an overall theme or themes over the album?
Thanks! The structure seems to come from the sequence of the record in a way. It is its own arrangement of musical ideas that intentionally flows between musical gestures and ideas. The vocal approaches had to fit the songs – and to be honest I’m still fairly green as a vocalist so finding my central “voice” is still a work in progress. The most recurring themes are about selflessness and challenging greed and ego.

With Fucked Up we are always expecting something completely different; I love how you guys manage to stylistic change but still sound like Fucked Up, and no one sounds like Fucked Up, that’s quite brilliant for me. But with Jade Hairpins, it seems that you can even go beyond your artistic expression and your own sound influences, in some way Jade Hairpins has its own energy. Do you agree?
Well, I would definitely agree. I have tried to explain this relationship before via FU. FU has always given ourselves a very open range of motion stylistically – it is our method of formal experimentation in a way. Because the unifying elements of the vocal style, aesthetics and history of the band are always there we can all take a 90 minute psychedelic opus as part of the same spark that produced A 90 second punk song. Hairpins exists in a different thought sphere and one that isn’t about mounting precisely the same challenges. It has a different personality and a different relationship to sound.

Talking Heads, Happy Mondays, Television Personalities, Buzzcocks were influences for Harmony Avenue, but somehow seems like a small part of broader spectrum. What other influences did you had while creating this record?
This being our first record we definitely relied heavily on hearing those kinds of influences back when we were putting the material down. I think in the future, now with a bit more confidence toward writing in this kind of musical space, we’ll be able to stretch our legs.

The connection between music and other forms of art – painting, design, video art and cinema most importantly – has become increasingly vital. How do you see this association to your sound and in how far, do you feel, does music relate to other senses than hearing alone?
These connections have definitely been made more common in the current age of somewhat total media access when listening and promoting music. For the longest time likely an LP sleeve was the conduit for visual connection to music, then film, then interactive spaces etc. It’s almost like the expectation of pop music now is to be very multi media focused. I am not sure it is essential to the making of music, but I think it can be a great tool and amplifier of elemental things in the music. Music is evocative, images can be representative or explanatory and help guide the listener and viewer through our ideas or generate ones of their own. We’ve made two music videos in the run up to our record (there is a third on the way) and in each case they are more a connection to the human personalities in the group rather than strictly speaking to a visual expression of the music and lyrics. It’s to evoke feeling not explanation.

“Motherman” is a stellar song, what’s the story behind it?
“Motherman” was the first real Jade Hairpins song. We wrote it with some Canadian friends of ours on a freezing cold night in a garage in the west end of Toronto. We used a Roland TR8, a Roland TB3, Yamaha DX7, an Oberheim OB 8, and a couple other tricky bits of electronics. The parts were all laid down in endless loops and vaguely edited down to a 15 minute opus. Once we sifted through the mass of it, the revealed shape was a kind of New Order synth extended play sort of thing. The vocals didn’t occur until much later, which Mike wrote and we both sang (i’m the verses he’s the choruses). It’s a very peaceful, supportive, and positive song.

What excites you the most about music and the creative process?
When you’re writing a song, whether it’s in studio or in your room, or in the practice space etc… Once you hit flow and you start properly baring down on how your song is going to be structured and sound, the feeling is very special. It’s like language formation or solving a puzzle or something. It’s a very lucky and special impulse.

What’s next for Jade Hairpins? Asking this because on this covid-19 time everything seems surrounded by uncertainty…
Hopefully we will play again when the doors on clubs etc reopen. I know a few places are experimenting with it for now but it still feels too soon to be able to put together a great gig, you know? Who knows what people will innovate though. Enough with Skype gigs and instagram live.

Just to end this in style, thoughts about Brexit?
Not a fan and I don’t anticipate it being particularly good for independent music or channels of small scale distribution music and performance in this industry.

Words: Fausto Casais // Photo: Alisha Dar – Harmony Avenue is out now on Merge Records.

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