Thursday, March 24, 2016

Chicago musician Jesse W. Johnson shows off his versatility on new EP, will perform at Township


Veering between raw fury and quiet beauty, Chicago musician Jesse W. Johnson shows off his full range as an artist on his new EP, "Primal Scream."

Johnson will perform March 25 at Township,  2200 N. California Ave., Chicago. Big Black Bird and Andy & the Pandy's also are on the bill.

Doors open at 8:30 p.m.

I had the chance to talk to Johnson about the EP.

Q - Great talking to you again. "Primal Scream" is much more upbeat than your previous effort, "Cannon Rows." Was it a conscious effort to make a more energetic album this time around? 

Hey Eric! Thanks. I definitely wanted to to show the whole of my range on this release, everything from melancholy stuff to rockers.

Since my last solo release was entirely acoustic, it was really fun to get a band together and explore some different territory here. I think it turned into a really cohesive record and these songs are also a ton of fun to play live.

Q - In making "Primal Scream," what were your goals and do you think you accomplished them? 

I really did want to make a record that showcased more of my range as a songwriter and also what people can expect from a live performance. I love to go from quiet to raw & loud in the same set and even in the same song.

I definitely think "Primal Scream" does that and still does a great job of having its own identity with a thematic string tying everything together. I also wanted to make something that sounded raw but modern, at once old and new.

Yoo Soo, (my bandmate/producer), did a great job nailing our vision. 

Q - It seems like there should be a story behind the EP's name. Is there? 

Not really. I wrote the title song and the name just immediately seemed to make sense.

I was thinking about the past and future being big shadows that follow us around, always out of reach. All of these songs are about being in the moment and not knowing what's gonna happen next.

With that overall sense of struggle in mind I really liked the name for the whole EP, but I try not to think too hard on finding a theme or concept to a record. I love how great records flow and how the songs bring you through different emotions but end up leaving you with a certain feeling.

I don't think you have to write a concept album for that to happen. It's all about having songs that work well together but are different enough from each other to take you on an interesting journey. 

Q - What is the status of Jet W. Lee? Do you see the band making another album?

Definitely! Patrick, the other founding member of Jet W. Lee, is currently living in New York, but we have a whole album of unreleased material and we're just waiting till we're back in the same area and can do some touring.

Q - What will you be working on next? Do you have any dream projects or collaborations?

This week I'm be starting work on a new full length record with the same group I did "Primal Scream" with. We've been playing some of the new songs out for a bit and I'm really excited about getting them down. I'm shooting for it to be out early 2017 and I'll be touring a bunch behind it.

As far as dream collaborations go, I'd love to work with Jessica Lea Mayfield, David Bazan or Lana Del Rey. I love their styles and writing and think we'd make some great, dark music together.