Exploring True Pop; An interview with John Jagos of Brothertiger

Brother Tiger (photo by Andrew Piccone)

Brother Tiger (photo by Andrew Piccone)

John Jagos, better known by his stage name, Brothertiger, is a Brooklyn based solo electronic musician and producer. He first took on the moniker in 2009, still a sophomore at Ohio University, with the release of the Vision Tunnels EP. Vision Tunnels received significant exposure from sites like No Fear of Pop and Pitchfork and inspired John to embarked on his first full-length record, Golden Years, which was released in 2012 on Mush Records. John swiftly followed up on Golden Years with his sophomore LP, Future Splendors which came out a year later.

Future Splendors not only took Brothertiger in a new and darker direction, it was also the first record he went on tour with. Since then, Brothertiger has been diligently writing and recording music for his upcoming album, Out of Touch for which is expected to see a late 2015 release. The new album was born out of John’s desire to create an auditory journey through a metaphorical jungle of emotional states – from tribulation, despair, and fatigue to serenity, joy, and tranquility.

Out of Touch captures these raw emotions with its earthy and vibrant tones while mixing in the softer and warmer sounds people have come to expect from Brothertiger. The album was was recorded at Vacation Island Recording in Brooklyn and mixed at The Gallery in Brooklyn by Jon Markson before being mastered at Joe Lambert Mastering by Justin Colletti (Dead Leaf Echo). The artwork for the album was created by John’s father, John Jagos Sr. in the early ’80s and ended up being the perfect reflection of the lush and enigmatic elements of the record.

Ghettoblaster recently caught up with Jagos to discuss his college years, finding exposure on Pitchfork, the Out of Touch and more.

I actually went to OU too in the mid late ’90s.  What do you miss most about Athens?  Who were your favorite bands there?

I miss Jackie O’s! And Casa! So, mostly good beer and good food, ha ha. I miss the feeling of living there and not worrying about what I was going to do in the future. Athens was the perfect place for that feeling. My favorite bands were my friends who only played house shows, whose band names changed every week! House shows were the most fun.

Did you do music in college?

Yeah. I went to OU for music production, and I minored in music, so it was pretty much full-on music in school for a few years. I technically started Brothertiger in my dorm room sophomore year, but I didn’t really play any shows in Athens until my junior year.

When and why did you move to Brooklyn?

I moved the summer after I graduated from school. I moved because I initially wanted to get a job in a recording studio as an engineer, but I had to put that on hold in order to work on Brothertiger.

What was it like getting early exposure from Pitchfork?

Very surreal. It came out of nowhere really. I think that was when they had the Forkcast. I think they were a bit more generous in posting back then, but it was still a huge deal for me because I had only been working on Brothertiger for about six months when they posted it.

You can’t be a child of the ’80s, but your record seems to be influenced by that era. Where did you pick that influence up?

I picked it up from my childhood, from hearing songs from that era on the radio and being entranced by them. I loved that sound, and I asked my parents about the songs and when they came out. Later on, as a teenager, I really started to explore that sound, and it became something I wanted to emulate.

When did you begin writing the material for your most recent album?  

I think I started demoing it in early 2014, right after I released my second album. I wasn’t really happy with the album,and so I immediately started working on another one. But I told myself not to rush it, so I really took my time on it.

What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing?  Why was it so troublesome?

“Drift” was a tough one. It was actually the first song I demoed, and it was the last one I finished for the record. I needed to come up with a 2nd verse, and I was having a tough time doing it. I finally got it about a week before I went into the studio, so it was perfect timing. I’m not sure why it was so troubling. Maybe because it was the most emotional song to me, in terms of lyrical content.

Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?

Probably “Wake.” I think it’s a true “pop” song compared to every other song on the album, and it breaks out of the overall vibe of the album a bit. But I really loved it when I was demoing it, and I felt like I needed to keep it on the record to add some variation to the sound.

 Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?

My friend Jon played bass, some guitars, and did some backing vocals on the album. And my friend Nick played drums. It was the first time I had a real drummer on one of my recordings. I think that’s what makes it stand out. I also had my friend Will from LA play some guitar on it while he was visiting Brooklyn.

Who produced the record?  What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?

I co-produced the record with my friend Jon Markson. He’s a fellow audio engineer, and I sometimes engineer out of a recording studio that he owns. He was there for the recording and the mixing of the album, and he played a really big part in the overall sound. Compared to my other material, this album sounds a lot bigger and brighter, and Jon made that happen. I think he and I have a really nice dynamic, because we come from different backgrounds in music. I come from an electronic background, and he comes from more of a punk background. And for this album, it just made sense for him to mix it and co-produce it with me.

Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?

It’s not a huge element of the record, but the concept of finding one’s place in society has been a driving force for me lately. Finding my place has been something that has been on my mind since I graduated, and it worries me every day. But recently, I’ve discovered that life is more about the experiences you have along the way. I know it’s cliché, but Emerson’s quote rings true, for me at least. “Life is a journey, not a destination.” So, I guess this album is about the journey, and where I’m at right now.

Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?

I’ve played a few live, but I don’t want to give it all away just yet. I think “High Tide” has elicited the strongest reaction, probably because it’s so different from my other stuff. It’s slower, and it’s my favorite song off the album. I love playing it.

How did the tour with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. come about and what are you most excited about regarding that?

Well, my booking agent sorted it all out and got it together, but apparently they liked my stuff enough to ask me to come with them! I’m most excited about playing Webster Hall in New York. It will be the biggest show I’ll have ever played in NYC, and it’ll be exciting to play in a place where I’ve seen so many bands I love.

(Visit Brothertiger here: www.brothertiger.net

Catch him live here:

10/21 – Vinyl at Center Stage – Atlanta, GA

10/23 – Caledonia Lounge – Athens, GA

10/25 – Saturn – Birmingham, AL *

10/26 – Club Downunder – Tallahassee, FL ^

10/27 – The State Theatre – St. Petersburg, FL ^

10/28 – Culture Room – Fort Lauderdale, FL ^

10/30 – Neighborhood Theatre – Charlotte, NC ^ 

10/31 – Haw River Ballroom – Saxapahaw, NC ^

11/02 – Jefferson Theater – Charlottesville, VA ^

11/03 – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA ^

11/04 – Webster Hall – New York, NY ^

11/05 – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA ^

11/06 – 9:30 Club – Washington DC ^

11/07 – The Hollow – Albany, NY ^

11/10 – Beachland Tavern – Cleveland, OH ^

11/11 – AR Music Bar – Columbus, OH ^

11/12 – Deluxe at Old National Centre – Indianapolis, IN ^

11/13 – Royal Oak Music Theatre – Royal Oak, MI ^

11/14 – Metro – Chicago, IL^

11/16 – Daytrotter – Rock Island, IL

11/20 – Lost Lake Lounge – Denver, CO

  * with Reptar ^ with Dale Earnhardt Jr Jr)