Juffage - Interviews - Soundblab


by Andy Brown Rating: Release Date:

Jeff T Smith aka Juffage has made one of this years best albums; Semicircle is a mixture of electronic experimentalism and unexpectedly catchy pop songs. To really understand why people wax lyrical about Juffage, however, I recommend you see him live. It's here, surrounded by loop pedals, ghetto blasters, amps and synths, that Juffage seems most at home. It's quite an experience for the audience too. Here Juffage talks about how he writes those impressive tunes, "mean-ass guitar solos" and why the Brudenell is best!

You've been on the Leeds music scene for a few years now and seem to have gained quite a following. Your gigs have a kind of communal euphoria about them and people seem to come away pretty happy. Are there any venues you particularly enjoy playing? Any good gig memories?

I played my first show after moving here sometime in late January 2010, so I guess that was just over a year-and-a-half now. Time flies, but it doesn't really even seem like that long, definitely less than a few years! I think my second show here was with Vessels and Quack Quack at the Library, and that was really fun. The Library is a pretty legit venue (only if you never go downstairs) and there was just really good 'vibes' in there that night. But really, it's all about the Brudenell Social Club, let's not kid ourselves. I've played there a bunch of times now but it's always a joy to come back to, it's like "Aaaaahhhhhhhh". I've probably played four/five of my Leeds shows there and it's no accident! Other than that, I always seem to have my best shows at places that aren't normal bars or pubs. Last time I toured the UK I had really great shows in this big warehouse in Liverpool called the Wolstenholme, and in this abandoned restaurant in Milton Keynes. I really like house shows too but that seems to be more of a US phenomenon.

Your music manages to be both experimental and accessible. The compositions are full of surprises and don't seem to follow any kind of set structure, especially when yr playing live. How did you go about writing the songs on Semicircle ?

Well, there's definitely a structure there. With my live shows though, the structure is often determined by how long it takes me to do things. For example, the intro to 'My Weakness' is long because I have to build up the synth and drum parts. Therefore, it's also long on the recording because I wanted to keep that slow-building element to it. So, the songs definitely influence themselves in different ways depending on the process of performing and recording them. Sometimes I write the songs during the recording process, just building them up from a structure I played on the bass, piano, guitar, etc. Other times I'll write the song with my gear set up that I use to play live, and so it's written more around the performance. The way I play live is kind of a means to an end really, but when I record it's all done with multitracking. There's no way I'd record an album the same way that I play live, unless it was actually sold as a 'live' album.

I hear lots of different potential influences in your music; No Age, The Beatles, The Flaming Lips, Casiotone for the Painfully Alone and Andrew Bird to name a few. Which artists have had the biggest influence on the music you write as Juffage?

Hmmmm. There's some obvious stuff people have compared me to like Andrew Bird or Do Make Say Think. But I don't really know what influences me when I write because I'm not sitting down to write a song thinking "I need to write something that sounds like Radiohead!" I've always listened to a lot of different music so I think that helps (the other day my shuffle mode went from Liszt to Black Dice!). Lately, I've been into more 'normal' guitar-oriented bands who are still managing to write pop songs that sound original, like the new Chad VanGaalen album, or Dog Day (this great band from Halifax, Nova Scotia), Dave Bazan from Pedro the Lion, Sky Larkin, Tom Petty...

You've got a masters degree in Music Technology and Computer Music. How important was this to you as a musician? How did it effect the music you make?

Maybe all these guitar bands I am into now are just sort of a backlash against staring at a computer screen to make music for so long! Anyway, I'm really glad I did it and I do from time to time use some ideas I picked up doing my degree, but it probably hasn't had much of an influence on the music that I make at all. It's just like if you spent a year riffing blues scales all day long, you could probably play some mean-ass guitar solos. I spent a couple years mainly building Max patches so now it just means that sometimes I build a wonky convolution filter and use it on one of my recordings. It's good to know though, because it's nice to have a big bag to pick your ideas out of.

Which bands/artists are you enjoying on the Leeds music scene at the moment? Any recommendations? How does the live music scene in Leeds compare with Chicago?

It's really hard to compare the two music scenes but I'll give you my own brief and grossly oversimplified analysis. Chicago's is just so big that it's dissected into various geographical locations and musical subgenres who are all putting shows on in their basement. Leeds on the other hand is smaller and very cohesive, so you always see the same people at every show. There's definitely no shortage of venues or bands here though. I've actually been lucky enough to record some of my favorite Leeds bands at this studio that I work at called the Loom (such as RUNNERS, Heart Ships, Bearfoot Beware). NB, I can even record your band too! Mucky Sailor are also always a good bet, as well as those obvious post-rock belm-sconers, Vessels. There's probably still a lot of other bands here I don't even know about!

Semicircle hasn't been out very long but are you planning the next LP yet? What's the future look like for Juffage?

Actually, yesterday I just announced the details of my new EP, called Small Fires. This is a track from Semicircle with two different versions, as well as two remixes by Ten and Lee J Malcolm (of Vessels). It's up for pre-order right now and is streaming on my Bandcamp page. As far as a next full length is concerned, I'm definitely planning it and have tons of new ideas but nothing really recorded yet. I've been too busy with things like working, booking my upcoming two-plus month tour of the UK and Europe, and answering email interview questions. This really is a one-man operation but it will happen!

Thanks Mr Juffage!

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