From The Horse's Mouth: Brandon Wurtz (Jesus Sons) on Jesus Sons
The songs that Los Angeles’ Jesus Sons write serve as explicit documentation of living in modern day America. The lyrics are filled with shady characters from the back streets of San Francisco and beyond. The ones lurking in the shady corners of your local watering hole, taking long drags off their cigarettes. Their breath stained of cheap whiskey. The music is the product of each members’ geographical origins colliding together. The amalgamation of these influences results in a grimy garage/psych sound straight out of a ‘60s motorcycle hippie exploitation film.
They will be releasing their debut LP on Jan 28 via Mock Records and Ghettoblaster caught up with Jesus Sons’ Brandon Wurtz to discuss the self-titled album. This is what he told us about it.
When did you begin writing the material for your the self-titled record?
Shannon Dean and I met in San Francisco and started writing songs for this record in early 2012. We had a lot of ideas, lyrics, concepts for what we would do, but not a full band. It took getting a bass player and drummer (Rob Good and Ian McBrayer, later of Warm Soda) in the room with us, along with a lot of beers before we found our sound with the songs we were writing. It’s interesting that I met the future members of our band, Bert Hoover and Erik Lake about this same time in LA on tour when I was playing in my other band The Spyrals. In a lot of ways those two influenced where I was headed in less than a year. The doors to LA were wide open and I saw that if we wanted to have a lot more fun and a lot more freedom we should make that move. Bert and Erik are two of the sweetest men I’ve ever met.
What was the most difficult song to take from the initial writing stage through recording and mixing? Why was it so troublesome?
For me it was probably “All These Furs”. That song went a lot of directions before we figured out what the hell we were doing. Shannon had a good idea what he wanted it to sound like, but sometimes it’s hard to play what is in your head as a full band. The addition of harmonica came in probably for the first time while writing that song. That was a key turning point in our sound. When we both started playing our harps it added this totally new dynamic, suddenly we felt like we got it. We probably played that song a thousand different ways, and when Rob pressed record in the studio, that was probably the best we had ever played it. Listening back I heard this Exile on Main St. vibe immediately and that was an important moment for me while recording that album. I never thought of our band like that before, this whiskey slurring ‘60s sounding blues band. In the end it came out as a real good road song and had to be the opening song of the LP, I knew it the first time I heard it played back.
Which of the songs on the record is most different from your original concept for the song?
“All These Furs”, again. Like a problem child.
Did you have any guest musicians play or sing on the record?
Yeah, if you listen real close you can hear Matt Melton (of Bare Wires and Warm Soda fame) breathing in the other room while we got drunk and made a record in his studio on his Tascam.
Who produced the record? What input did that person have that changed the face of the record?
Rob Good, who plays bass and sang backup vocals was key in making us sound good. He produced and mixed the entire thing while we threw in our opinions along the way. He had so many genius ideas while we made that record. We recorded everything on a Tascam 388, 1/4″ reel to reel tape. He knows how to make that thing hum. We smashed our gear into this tiny room and he somehow found that fine line between clarity, and instruments, percussion and vocals making a uniform rhythm and sound. He’ll be recording and producing our next record as well. Rob Good is God.
Is there an overarching concept behind your new album that ties the record together?
We had a ton of fun while we wrote the record. We became great friends when we put this band together and worked really hard to write and record an album. That was always really important to me with this band, to take it seriously and make an LP, versus just going out and playing shows to have a good time. We put the work in first and had all of these songs written before we even played our first show. That probably doesn’t sound that weird, but we had all played in so many bands that were just fleeting moments. I think the concept of the whole record is that fucking grind. You know the grind. Everybody has jobs and girls and shit they wanna do outside of the band. These songs are about making that life work.
Have you begun playing these songs live and which songs have elicited the strongest reaction from your fans?
The new Los Angeles line-up came together in April last year. We had finished the record at the beginning of 2013 in San Francisco and decided to move to LA. Shannon and I moved down and put together this group of dudes. Bert, Erik and an old friend of mine, Chance Welton came in and had listened to the rough mixes of the record and were super into it. We’ve played these songs and found our own groove with the album tracks. We’ve been playing all of the songs from the record, and a few new songs as well. Jake and Erik, from our label, MOCK Records heard “Who’s Around” first I think and agreed to put out the record based on that song, so that’s my favorite. A lot of our fans love “All These Furs”, “Who’s Around” and “Ain’t Talkin’ Homesick” the most. The coolest thing we’ve noticed regarding favorites, is a pretty even spread across the whole album. Everybody likes a different song. That’s one of the best feelings, to know we’re writing songs that don’t sound exactly the same as each other and are affecting people differently. Hey, as long as it makes you wanna drink and shake it I’m gonna be happy.
(Listen to Jesus Sons’ “Who’s Around” here: https://jesussons.bandcamp.com/track/whos-around.)