Jaguar Love interview

Formed out of the remains of seminal post-hardcore outfit The Blood Brothers, Jaguar Love wouldn’t be the first name you’d attach to an album like Hologram Jams. While Johnny Whitney’s screeching vocals are difficult to mistake, the record is bursting with giddy pop hooks and lively synth melodies.

Of course, the band had laid down these foundations on their debut; but while the critically acclaimed Take Me to the Sea was a departure from the relentlessness of The Blood Brothers, it was still essentially a guitar record. With Hologram Jams, however, the band has announced themselves as an authentic pop force. Crossfire caught up with Jaguar Love’s Cody Votolato to find out all about the new album released this Monday.

How are you finding life as duo?

It’s been really great! Johnny and I have been writing music together for over 12 years. It’s the first time I’ve ever collaborated with just one other person on something, but I think that after so many years we have set up a foundation with a really supportive working relationship both artistically and mentally. It’s been really fun traveling with just one other person as well, although we do now have a live drummer.

Was it strange to be working with a drum machine for the first time?

Definitely. I had never used Reason or Logic which are the two programs we used for Hologram Jams. Johnny had written the Neon Blonde record in Reason so he had much more experience with it than me. It was daunting but I just dove in and figured it out. The first song I came up with via drum machine was Everything is Awesome. It was really cool, because I wasn’t totally sure what I was doing, but was still able to compose a song. There are really just a few things you need to know in order to get a foundation going. I remember being pretty amped about it once I was done. The flood gates pretty much opened up from there and I spent the next few months writing everyday…

What were the reasons behind your switch from Matador to Fat Possum?

It’s a pretty good story actually. I was hanging out with Brit Daniel at SxSW last year and we figured out that his publicist was the same as The Blood Brothers back in the day. He called her up and we all met up to hang. I hadn’t seen her in a long time and catching up I told her that Matador was on the fence about whether or not they wanted to pick up our next record. She was close with the owner of Fat Possum and brought him out to our show the next day at Beauty Bar. It was the same show that Matador was at to check out our new vibe and see if they were into it. I only met Matthew from Fat Possum briefly after the show as they were all quickly off to check out Andrew Bird who is another Fat Possum artist. Johnny and I were sort of in limbo after that wondering whether or not Matador was gonna pick up the record. I got a call a few days later that they were gonna pass. We knew that Matthew liked the show so we reached out. We got home from tour and immediately started working on demos to get him some music. It wasn’t long before we were talking details and confirmed to release Hologram Jams on Fat Possum…Stoked.

What would you say are the key differences between Hologram Jams and Take Me to the Sea?

The most obvious one is the fact that there are no live drums. The electronic feel of Hologram Jams is much different than that of Take Me to the Sea. Aside from that, I think that there is a much heavier pop influence at the core of Hologram Jams that didn’t resonate as much on Take Me to the Sea. Take Me to the Sea has a much more “rock” flavor to it.

After the Blood Brothers re-issues on Epitaph last year, what are your feelings towards that band now?

Nothing but awesome fucking feelings towards the Blood Brothers!

Are you still in contact with the other members of Blood Brothers? And what do you think of Past Lives?

Yeah, totally. I just went and saw them play at Doug Fir in Portland a few weeks ago. They were great!

Was Jaguar Love always intended to be a pop-orientated project?

Yes. Definitely.

There also seems to be a significant hip hop influence on the new record, was that intentional?

We both have always been really into hip hop music. I would say that it had a pretty big impact on this record. I love Dr Dre. The song I mentioned earlier was totally inspired by The Games “Hate it or Love It.” I remember listening to in the shower and thinking, “I wanna song that feels as good as this song does.” Not that Everything is Awesome is as feel good or as good as the production on that song, but it definitely inspired it.

What are the central lyrical themes and concepts on Hologram Jams?

There are several lyrical themes on Hologram Jams including but not limited to;

1. Senseless Jubilation
2. Finding Joy in even the most inexplicable tragedies
3. Cherry Soda and creating new colors from its inevitable regurgitation
4. Exploding Plants
5. Ugly but adorable undersea invertebrate
6. Basement house parties
7. Fun.

How has your live show evolved since dropping down to a two-piece?

Well, we spent all of last year performing as the two-piece. I think it worked in the right atmospheres, but not always. It’s sometimes hard to pull of a two piece and not appear like you are singing karaoke, Haha. We recently found a drummer and have played about four shows with him. I’m pretty sure from here on out we will have live drums. It’s just more fun for everyone involved – band and audience alike. It brings up the vibe considerably I’d say.

Any new records that you’re excited about, or you want to plug?

There is a band from Australia called Young Heretics that only have an EP out right now. It’s called Dreamers, but I have a copy of their unreleased album that is really good. My older brother Rocky Votolato’s new record, True Devotion, just came out the week before ours did in the US too, which is really great.

Finally, what’s next for Jaguar Love?

We’re in the beginning of a US tour taking us back through SxSW into mid April…then hopefully… Europe bound in may…. After that I’m really excited about playing Sasquatch festival in the NorthWest!

See Jaguar Love live this May 2010 at the following dates:

21 May – Stag & Dagger – London
22 May – Stag & Dagger – Glasgow
23 May – Night & Day – Manchester
24 May – Hoxton Bar & Kitchen – London
25 May – Bar Academy – Birmingham