Song Premiere | Stellar Jays, “Great Unknown”

Bittersweet but infused with determined optimism, Stellar Jays bring a shine to their jangly Alt-country American rock and roll with sweet vocal harmonies and shimmering reverb. Crunchy blues leads dance with sparkling acoustic chords, while an in-the-pocket rhythm section keeps things trundling along as we head off on our melodic journey into the great unknown.

While Stellar Jays are a relatively new endeavor, its members have all been music obsessives since an early age. Primary songwriter and lyricist Siems grew up playing music in DC, from grade-school band to college rock and roll with deep 90s alternative and classic rock roots at the intersection of Neil Young and Gram Parsons. Besand learned to play at summer camp and found his musical calling in red dirt country music after moving to Austin, TX. Congleton is a familiar face in the Pacific Northwest scene, handling bass duties for a roundtable of Seattle indie bands, dabbling in rock, soul, jazz and blues. Seemingly born for the limelight, Perkins grew up in chorale groups and musical theater and has a soft spot in her heart for Motown. Drummer Schuringa, a California native, has been playing drums since the 5th grade upon discovering Led Zeppelin and Creedence Clearwater Revival, and has held down the rhythm for bands from coast to coast.

Stellar Jays are set to debut on August 18 titled Early Winter. Today the band has dropped one of the singles off the upcoming album, “Great Unknown.” Vocalist/guitarist Brian Siems says on the single: “I wrote this song while messing around with different tunings on my guitar. For some reason, I decided I wanted to try my hand at slide guitar, naturally made a beeline for the Allman Brothers, and found my way to open E tuning. I loved how it creates such a dreamlike sound and tried to carry that through the song. Lyrically it’s a love song, but it’s not a song I could have written in my 20s. It’s about how love and your relationships keep growing, evolving, and surprising you as time goes by.”

The music on Early Winters was written throughout 2022 in sessions in Seattle and Winthrop, WA, while the lyrics were penned predominantly at altitude. “I end up doing some of my best songwriting on airplanes of all places” explains Siems, who travels frequently for his day job in international development. “It’s something about being alone with your thoughts at 30,000 feet. The first lines of the song ‘Early Winters’ came together while looking out the window over the Arctic Circle on the way home from Kenya.”

With the bones of the song charted out and the lyrics in hand, the band would rehearse in the historic Old Rainier Brewery in Seattle to work on arrangements and bring the music to full bloom. Early Winters was recorded and mixed at Earwig Studio in Seattle in just under a week, at the dawn of 2023. Don Farwell (Foo Fighters, Ginger Baker Trio) engineered and mixed the record. It was mastered at Resonant Mastering by Rachel Field (Pearl Jam, Brandi Carlile).

Thematically, Early Winters is a meditation and rumination on perception and misperception, both micro and macro. “It’s fascinating to me how two people can look at the same situation and have totally different feelings or experiences, whether that’s in a relationship or when looking at the country and our shared history,” says Siems. Themes of personal relationships – love, marriage, divorce, and dynamics between parents and children – run through the record. A number of songs also wrestle with America’s complicated past and politically-charged present, reflecting on how divided peoples’ perceptions can be.  “There’s just such a huge gulf between what I thought America was and stood for and what it turns out we are,” Siems explains. “Or it’s more like we’ve always been this complicated tangle of history, factions and cultures that today seems to be pulling more apart than together, and I wonder whether things will have to get darker still before some distant dawn.”

Yet, for the emotional and philosophical gravity within, Early Winters offers hope of an early spring. Stellar Jays are firmly rooted in a shared, profound love of energetic live rock and roll. There is joy to be found in the creation of music, and that joy is palpable in the ringing chords and catchy hooks of the record. “We collectively spent enough time depressed and crying in our beers during the pandemic,” says Siems. “We’re hoping this album just delivers a bit of the happiness we had creating it to anybody listening.”

Photo Courtesy: Homayoun A