Published Aug 19, 2008The gaping holes left in muscular, inventive post-rock by the demises of Blood Brothers and Pretty Girls Make Graves receive a refreshing dose of salt water with Jaguar Loves inaugural trip to the sea. Former Blood Brothers high voice Johnny Whitney and guitarist Cody Votolato joined forces with PGMGs chief sound manipulator Jay Clarke to create Take Me To The Sea. Traversing paths of melodic accessibility only hinted at in their previous groups, these Jaguars have velvety soft coats to accompany their considerably sharp fangs. Its more streamlined than BBs awesomely schizoid punk smorgasbord and displays more adroit songwriting chops and tempered experimental urges than the best Pretty Girls had to offer. Opener "Highways of Gold could almost be the expected evolution of the musicians involved, but the acoustic alt-country tinge of "Bats Over the Pacific Ocean nods to some serious trajectory changes, confirmed by the positively beautiful, pristine and bluesy classic rock ballad "Georgia. Codys tasteful guitar work absolutely shines; his utilitarian song-service sophistication yields utterly memorable, ego-free parts. Whitneys vocal abilities continue to grow and while his occasionally pitch-challenged yelp may still turn off some listeners, his increasing sense of melody, gut-busting delivery and surreal lyrical mediations make him a uniquely vital force. Jaguar Love will temporarily fill those post-rock holes but this music, like the body of liquid its aimed at, doesnt exist in one place or state. Theres a whole sea of sound to explore.
Hows the tour been going so far?
Cody: Its been really good. The routing has been really intense because were in a van. Its been a fucking crazy few weeks. The next few days the drives are a little shorter though.
With all the sounds on the record, how does the live set-up work as a three-piece?
Weve got a couple guys playing with us right now, playing bass and keyboard, so were at peace in the live situation at this point.
How has the songwriting approach changed with Jaguar Love?
We really tried to just go with the flow as much as possible. There were certain songs that were figured out by a certain member a little bit more than put together and some songs we just wrote off the cuff. Its been pretty rad; we definitely tried to look at the songs in a more sort of conventional structure. We really wanted to take a stab at doing some songs that felt like, you cant say somethings timeless, but trying to write a song thats more classic.
Have there been any particularly prominent influences on the new material? What were you listening to when writing and recording the album?
Typically, I personally try not to listen to too much stuff when Im writing so that Im not directly influenced, but I think Im always able to recognize my influences from a period of time later on down the road when I revisit it. But prior to starting to write for the record I pretty much just listened to Elliott Smith every day for three or four months. Definitely nothing sounds like Elliott Smith but I really wanted to accomplish some of that simplicity. For example, "Bone Shoes and A Broken Heart is just a verse and a chorus, verse and a chorus and its over. That song, to me, is inspired by "Between the Bars or something. Its a song thats so simple; it comes and it goes, you know? I wanted to do something like that.
Have you done anything to change the way you play, being the only guitarist in this group?
Not really, I try to keep it pretty simple, in terms of the amount of pedals and stuff that I use; Im not really the most "tech kind of guy. I think as time has gone by, my playing has just gotten a bit more simplified, less ADD, but then there are songs like "Vagabond Ballroom where it still sounds like Drive Like Jehu or something to me. Then there are songs like "Georgia; the guitar in that song is a little more classic feeling, a little more bluesy, which is different from anything Id done in Blood Brothers.
What gear have you been using to get those guitar tones?
I used a lot of different gear on the record. Primarily the amps we were using on the record were Dr. Zs. Its a boutique company sort of similar to a Matchless, but its more affordable at this point because its still a smaller company. Luckily we have Jay, he produced the record and hes a total fucking pedal nerd and tech nerd, so we were able to get some pretty rad sounds. But for the most part, I dont use a lot of distortion pedals or effects. Well, I use a lot of short delay but aside from that, not much; I have a micro-synth Ive been using on a couple songs. Mostly its just a guitar through an amp though. Live, Ive been playing just one guitar for the whole set. Its fun to mix and match, which Ill probably do more in the future; we dont have a lot of time on this tour to be fucking around on stage. Im also into just having the one guitar and saying "fuck it and playing it.
Does Johnny write the majority of the lyrics?
Yeah, he writes all the lyrics. Recently we did a B-side where theres a song I wrote all the lyrics and the melody for. Thats going to be on the Japanese release. Its not something were going to do often. We needed a B-side and I had a song ready and we were able to record it on a tour bus in Europe. But Johnnys the singer, everything on Take Me to the Sea was written by him.
Is there anything else youd like to say about the record?
I hope people will give it a chance and listen with open ears. I know people are always very critical of what someone does thats new. Were extremely proud of it theres nothing anyone could say we could take personal. But you always hope people enjoy what you do as an artist when youre trying to show it to people. Its naïve to think that an artist doesnt care what people think of course you want them to like it or youd just play in your bedroom or practice space for yourself. People are overly critical of artists, I think. But the responses have been good so far and we know we cant please everybody. (Matador)