Big Apple Bite: An Interview With January Jane
Image Peter Roessler
An immediate connection at an art exhibition between New York City Alt-Pop trio January Jane and esteemed KLOS DJ and musicologist Matt Pinfield pointed to a productive unison of melodious minds and a signing to label Whiskey Vinyl. "Matt is our brother! We instantly hit it off, and having him on this ride with us has been an amazing thing," guitarist Mitch C. Mitchell raves as he, lead vocalist and lyricist Pat Via and myself indulge in a trans-Atlantic rendezvous.
Pat sets the scene further, "He came to see us play at a converted adult theatre in Times Square; emphasise converted," he laughs. "After the show, we started chatting about music, and before we knew it, we were back at Mitch’s apartment going through demos, talking about our influences." Matt is a music encyclopedia: "The stories he has are epic, and we all got along so well talking shop."
Along with third member Peter Scialla, I ponder about what each segment delivers to the band musically, but also on a personal level. "Wow, what a question to start with, love it!" Pat pleasingly states. "There are so many different parts we all bring personality-wise, but somehow they all fit together like stages of a rocket. We all share the same drive, passion and energy-also humour- in everything we do. Hopefully, the next stop for that rocket is the Moon."
Mitch jokes, "At the end of the day, it’s all about balance... well, balance and being the first band to perform on the Moon. Get Elon Musk on the phone!" I ask if there was a flash in time where the three realised this was their destiny, their future? "Everything happens for a reason, and after writing a great song the first time we met up, that was reason enough to see how far we could take it. Sometimes you feel something big is going to happen, you can't explain it, but you have to go forward with that feeling," Pat estimates.
The band have identical inspirations in their 'Venn diagram of music' as Pat outlines notable figures: "Depeche Mode and Van Halen to Soundgarden and Metallica to the Stones and Billy Joel, even Disclosure and Daft Punk are there. The list goes on and on." He notices that his group's musical style is troublesome to award one title. He continues, "The world and your life influence your music day in and day out so it can change instantly. It's good to be fluid, lets creativity ring a little more freely. I think a big influence on me are singers and bands who had an insane work ethic."
"That's what I love reading and studying. The way James Brown would rehearse or how particular Prince was recording his vocals. I feel like now I'm more into learning how legends became legends and what it takes to reach another level." Mitch shares a thought on the subject, "It’s awesome to think that the Rolling Stones would be on stage right now if the world were open. 'If you’re a musician, you play until the day you die (Eddie van Halen)."
Lead single Versions Of You, from EP Your Drug dropping on June 18th, is a snappy number, European in texture and applies a gratifying balance of electronica and instruments. "Thank you! Appreciate that very much," Pat accepts. "Lyrically, the song started when I saw a model on the train looking at her portfolio and seeing how unhappy she was. It sparked questions about the different versions we see of ourselves and how we see each other. It also reflects how we are affected in our relationships."
"The music has spanned a few years with the recording starting in Manhattan where I laid down bass, drums and some chords. Then Mitch laid down the guitar and Peter with the keys." The song was tenderly picked back up in 2020 after BMG aspired to make it a single and finished it in Brooklyn.
Mitch reveals that, ironically, while it took years to complete, Versions Of You flowed naturally from the start. "There are a lot of one-takes on the final recording of that song that we kept from the original demo we did in 2017, like the guitar solo, lyrics, and a bunch of core elements. When it feels right, it usually is right. We had the unique luxury of coming back to this song with fresh ears in 2021 and buttoning everything up before the release."
I wonder what we can expect musically and thematically from the EP and if any affectionate moments stay with them from the period of recording their art. Pat goes first, "The music has the streets of New York City running through it. We are influenced by all aspects of this beautiful crazy place, including the people in it." Thematically, it's the rollercoaster ride of love and everything that comes with that, set in the dizzy depths of the Big Apple: "And I think it's the memory of the entire recording process from start to finish, where it has taken us, and what it took to get here."
Mitch takes the reins with humour, "I do have this fond memory of us taking turns hanging out of the window in our Midtown studio with microphones to capture the sounds of the city. So the sound of NYC is literally in our music, as is our penchant for risking our lives to get the perfect take."
Pat thinks of England and to more illustrious days ahead when we can feel the thrum of live music through our bodies freely. "100% yes! We love playing live, and as soon as we can get on the road, we're in. The U.K. is on the shortlist of places to play, and onstage is our favourite place to be."
"Honesty, most of what we do is really just an excuse and a vehicle to get on stage. We cannot wait to see you live!" Mitch enthuses.
As we draw the curtains on our chat, I pose the question of a sophisticated dinner soiree, three guests, living or not. Who do you choose? "Honestly, my brother, mother, and father - COVID has been tough, and I haven't seen them in over a year! Hopefully, that happens soon," Pat lovingly says. Mitch concludes with a touch of kindness, "Luckily, I just saw my parents, so I’ll say: Pat, Pete, and Eddie Van Halen... you’re invited, too, of course."
Article by Beverley Knight