Monday, October 15, 2007

Jay Reatard Interview

Jay Reatard on his 2007 tour photo: Christina Wozniak

By: Rich Tupica

Jay Reatard never went to high school. Instead he stayed home and recorded songs. As it turns out, this wasn’t such a bad idea.
When Jay was 15 years-old, he went to a small venue in his hometown of Memphis to see a Rocket from the Crypt gig, but left in awe of the sloppy opening band, The Oblivians. This is when Jay Lindsey became Jay Reatard.
After that show he started to record home-made punk tapes that reflected the lo-fi sounds of The Oblivians, with a touch more anger. Jay named his band The Reatards, even though at its first conception, the only member was himself.
Eric “Oblivian” Friedl was a key figure in Jay’s early musical influences. In 1997 Friedl also released the first Reatards 7” record on his own Goner Records.
“We liked the recordings,” Friedl recalled. “I guess I knew it was just one guy and I thought it’d be interesting to see what would happen if he showed up and tried to play it all at once.”
Friedl said he likes the music Jay was making a decade ago, but he is also impressed with his recent, more polished tunes.
“I could put on the old stuff and it still sounds really good,” Friedl said. “But his new record blew me away. I followed him around and watched seven of his shows at SXSW and I loved all of them. I think he’s doing really, really well,” Friedl said.
A handful of 7” singles and LPs were released under The Reatards moniker. On stage Jay was known to spazz, scream, and roll around. However, when Jay and his then girlfriend Alicja Trout formed the keyboard-heavy Lost Sounds in 1999, Jay steadily began to concentrate more on music and less on stage antics.
After the The Lost Sounds split-up, Jay worked with many side project bands, most notably: Angry Angles, Destruction Unit, Persuaders, Final Solutions and Nervous Patterns. He also recorded and released a pile of records on his own independent record label, Shattered Records.
Today, Jay is right where he wants to be, in control. He recently wrote and recorded (playing all the instruments himself) his latest and most successful album to date, Blood Visions. Almost non-stop touring takes up much of his calendar, he spends more time in a mini-van than most people could fathom. However, his hard work is starting to pay off. While touring, Jay doesn’t have to sleep on floors and eat bullshit anymore. He can now afford to live comfortably on the road.
Jay’s latest tour has allowed him to do things his way. He no longer hides behind a band name. He’s not a Lost Sound or an Angry Angle, he’s just Jay Reatard.
To find out about his upcoming deal with Matador Records, read the interview below.

What music did you listen to back in high school?
“I didn’t go to high school! (Laughs)"

How did you stop going to high school?
“I just stopped going! (Laughs) "

What did you do while you were supposed to be at school?
“I just sat and recorded music all day … slept and ate Big Macs.”

What bands were you digging in your teens?
"The first bands that I really liked were Rocket From the Crypt and Nirvana, stuff like that, music I saw on MTV. In 1995 Rocket From the Crypt had The Oblivians open for them in Memphis at this big shitty rock venue. I thought The Oblivians were like the worst band I’d ever seen, but there was something about it I was drawn to. I went to the record store and described the band to the person at the counter. I was like, ‘It’s this drunken sloppy band with no bass.' She was like, ‘Oh, that’s The Oblivians,’ and I bought their records. From there I just started hanging out with Eric (Oblivian) and he turned me on to other stuff I would have never found out about otherwise.”

So The Oblivians were a big influence on your early music?
“I was just trying to rip them off.”

Reatards! in San Francisco photo: Canderson

How did The Reatards start? Wasn’t it just you and a recorder at first?
“I recorded songs on a 4-track recorder. Eric asked me to play a show with The Oblivians and this band Gasoline. It would have been the first show I ever played when I was 15 years-old. I had kind of tried to make it seem like I had a band. I thought nobody’s going to want to put out my record if I don’t have a band. So I lied and said I had one, but when Eric asked me to play the show I had to admit to him that I didn’t (Laughs)."

Jay in the Netherlands photo: Dylan Blue

How did you end up playing the show?
"Eric called up a few people and asked them if they’d play with me. Greg (Cartwright) from The Oblivians was the only person who agreed, he played drums, so it was just a two piece. It was like that for a year at least. It was kind of weird going from ripping somebody off to actually playing with them.”

How did The Reatards transform into The Lost Sounds?
“I don’t know, it really wasn’t much different at first. It was still just me breaking crap and rolling around and getting naked, except there was a keyboard behind it.
The girl in the band, who was also my girlfriend at the time, got really annoyed by that. So basically, under girlfriend pressure I started concentrating more on music rather than freaking out.”

Is that when you became more focused on songwriting?
“That’s when the band got more serious. Originally I wanted to do something like The Dwarves with keyboards, but we got away from that and just kept going until it turned into bad pop-prog by the end of the band! (Laughs)”

What was your first tour?
“I guess the first tour was in ‘97, I went with The Persuaders through the Midwest. Reatards went to Europe in ’98, I was just 18 … and we did a west coast tour. The Lost Sounds was the first band where we seriously started touring three or four times a year.
But, I think I’ve already toured more this year, with this band, than The Lost Sounds did in the last three years of our existence.”

Live at Rob's House! photo: TWITCH

Do you still prefer recording music at your house or would you want a big time producer to record you?
“Not really, I mean, soon I’ll have the option to hire a producer or whatever I want, but I still want to do it at my house.”

What do you use to record your music?
“I use this 24-track digital machine right now. Sometimes when I record I really want to spend a lot of time on something like that Blood Visions album, I recorded all the drums and basic tracks on tape and then dumped it over to a digital machine.
Right now I’m not really recording albums. I’ve been doing demos and 7 inches, but I just do them digitally because it’s a lot faster.”

Angry Angles! Alix and Jay photo: Canderson

How do you decide what goes on a 7-inch and what to save for a full length album? Do you put much thought behind it?
“I didn’t used to, but now I kind of have to. I’m doing this project with Matador Records, it starts in like a couple months, where about every two months for the next year I’ll put out a single on Matador. I was thinking, ‘Wow, I’m going to write a lot of songs, but what am I going to do for the next album if that’s the case?’”

Have you had any offers for a record deal since the release of Blood Visions?
“Just like, major labels and bigger indies. I haven’t really decided who I’m going to do the next full length with. My options are open.”

Blood Visions album cover, In the Red Records

Do you think the Blood Visions LP is your best album so far?
“Yeah, I’m definitely the most happy with it because it’s the first record I’ve made as an adult. I didn’t have to compromise anything about what I wanted to do with it. Something is a little bit more fulfilling about knowing that people are into it more than anything I’ve ever made. It feels good to know I made it myself and I don’t have to share the credit with anyone (Laughs)."

Have you encountered any angry-punk fans who are upset that you don’t play sloppy early-Reatards style punk anymore?
“Yeah, people are like that all the time. There was this guy at GonerFest, before the show he was really drunk and trying to pick a fight with me about playing an acoustic guitar. When we were playing he started throwing vodka in my eyes and heckling, he was all mad. During the acoustic set, it was the funniest time to do it, we fucked up a song so I threw down the acoustic guitar and practically knocked him out, and then I punched him in his fucking face. Some of those people cross the line. They think they own musicians, they think they own a band and if the band changes they take it personally, it’s really strange. I can’t relate to it. If a band I like change into something I don’t like I just stop listening to them, I don’t go to their show and throw vodka in their eyes.”

Are you going to keep operating your record label Shattered Records?
“Yeah, I think so. I just don’t have the time right now. We’ve been touring constantly since March (2007). Whenever I get a break I’m going to start it up again.
The last two releases I was going to do, I felt bad that I didn’t have the time, so I gave them to other labels to put out, rather than making bands wait until I have time to do it.”

Jay at GonerFest 4 photo: Windy Mayes

Are there a lot of good bands in Memphis right now? Has the music changed a lot since the 1990s era of garage rock?
“There are not really a whole lot of bands, at least ones that are good. The people that were playing in the 90s, most of them are still playing the same shit, still. And they’re just sitting around going, ‘Why didn’t I make it?’ There’s just not a big market for out-of-tune, amped up, bluesy punk rock.”

What are some of the newer decent Memphis bands?
“There are some new bands. The guys that back me up, The Boston Chinks, I like their band. The dudes who play with me also have another band called The Barbaras that’s completely different from anything in Memphis; it’s like really sloppy Beach Boys punk. There are newer, younger kids starting to do stuff again.”

Jay, live in Europe

Are you writing new songs right now?
“I’ve been writing and posting demos on this blog I started. I’m recording eight singles that’ll be out this year and a new album hopefully within the next six months, I hope.”

How often do you write songs?
“Every day that we’re not on tour I write. If we go home for two weeks, I’ll try to write 14 songs. I’ll throw away most of them. I like the process of vomiting out a bunch of nonsense and then going through it and figuring out what’s keep-able. Sometimes out of 14 songs there will be enough parts to put them together and make four or five songs that are good.”

How is touring for you? Does it suck or do you enjoy it?
“Touring is good, I mean, it’s getting better. I don’t think I could do it anymore if I had to sleep on floors and shit. It’s gotten good enough now to where we can afford to stay in hotels and eat what we want, rather than crash on floors and scrounge enough change for Junior Bacon Cheeseburgers, I can’t live like that.”

Jay Reatard feature in Thrasher Magazine! 2007

What’s next for Jay Reatard?
“We’re going to go home (after the tour) and I’m going to work on all these singles. Then we’re going to Australia in February or March. After that we’ll go to Europe and then start the whole U.S. touring cycle over again.”

Is it odd for you to play shows in other countries and have such great turn-outs?
“Yeah, in Europe it’s weird. To see people singing along to songs in a language that’s not even their native tongue. If I look down and see too many foreigners singing along, I’ll change the lyrics on the spot just to see them get confused! But yeah, it’s really cool. It’s what keeps you moving and wanting to do it.”

Reatarded Links!

Jay on Myspace:
Jay's Blog!:
In the Red Records:
Terror Visions:
Shattered Records:
Nervous Patterns:
Lost Sounds:
Destruction Unit:
Final Solutions:
Jay's band
Boston Chinks:
The Barbaras:


Jay in Rotterdam photo: Dylan Blue

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