Jay Reatard

Jay Reatard
So tell me what your plan is over the year with the seven-inches...
Yeah, starting April 8 there is going to be roughly one seven-inch a month for the next six months, and then in October [Matador] will compile them together onto an LP/CD.

Were they all written together with an album in mind at the end?
Absolutely not. It’s a singles collection, so every one is written like a single. It would kind of defeat the purpose otherwise. They’re all their own micro-release, so every single is being thought of individually, art-wise, song wise, lyrics wise — every piece is conceptually cohesive. But when you put them together… I don’t know what it’s gonna sound like.

Are you still writing them as we speak?
I’ve got about half of them recorded and handed into the label. I’ve got to write the last one, but I’ve kind of been writing them as I write an album, trying to figure out, ‘Is this a single cut or an album cut?’

Your deal with Matador is unique. What made you decide to kick off your Matador contract like this? Did you come to them with the idea or was it theirs?
It was a little bit of both. In the past ten years they’ve been putting out full-lengths and sporadic singles with bands, and I think they just recognised that there are a lot of record collectors that buy my stuff, so we were just trying to think of something fun to do and more fan-based, rather than just put out an album. They’re made for people who are paying attention

So I assume these are all quite limited and it’s gonna be tough for some people to get their hands on these?
Everything is strictly limited edition. Once the first pressing is gone, they’re gone forever. They start off making 3500 copies and then I think with the last single it’ll be only 400 copies. I think we’ll put out an email announcing the release and when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Wow, you saying that makes me a little nervous [laughs]. [Laughs.]

Are you much of a collector yourself?
Not really. I find people who collect things are kinda held down. I don’t want to be held down — records suck to move. And I don’t even have all my own records.

You're always releasing a lot of vinyl. What is it about the seven-inch single that appeals to you?
You can do whatever you want on a seven-inch; you don’t have to think, ‘For 35 minutes this will be music you’ll love.’ You can just one-off any genre you want and get away with it. Y’know, it’s just fun and there’s a lot more freedom in it.

So how much of this freedom are you using? Are you trying to branch out with your sound?
I try to do that, but somehow it always sounds like the same dude writing the same songs. [laughs].

You've been around for a decade. What do you attribute to your recent rise in stock? Did you notice a point where things started to change?
Yeah, I guess as soon as I started making solo records things started changing pretty fast from that point on. I don’t know what’s motivating more people to listen to us. I suppose it’s sudden exposure, y’know, once somebody writes about you, the next guy reads it and so on. It can be a snowball. But I’d like to think it has something to do with me writing better songs.

Have you seen much of a change in the last ten years with your songwriting?
I really hope so, it’s been ten years! [Laughs] You give a monkey a guitar and ten years later he should be able to write a pop song.

Do you feel you've paid your dues and all of the hard work is finally paying off?
I don’t buy into that shit. It’s not like anybody owes me anything. I’ve played a lot of shitty shows in a lot of shitty bars, put out a lot of shitty records on shitty labels. And now I’m just trying to do everything right.

You've been in how many bands over the years?
I’ve probably released records with at least ten, so maybe 15 bands, I dunno.

I can only really count seven, since those are the ones I have in my collection. Everything else seems impossible to track down.
Yeah, eBay records! I’ve tried to bid on my own records on eBay. I’ll have the last copy of a record, and someone wants it so I’ll give it to them and think I can just get one later from the label/ And then they tell me, "Dude, it’s sold out!” And then it’s like, "How am I supposed to get it now? Fuck!”

Since you moonlight so frequently in other bands, does that mean you get bored easily?
Not really, man. If I get bored I just go and watch TV like any other American, y’know? I’m pretty easily entertained.

Have your priorities or musical vision changed much since the Reatards?
I dunno… I guess… I don’t know how to answer that one. My brain isn’t working well today.

Okay then, what's going on with Shattered Records [Jay’s own label] at the moment?
It’s kinda been dormant for the last year. But I’m putting out a tenth anniversary edition of the first Reatards album, and then I’m putting out Tokyo Electron — who used to be in the Reatards — his new band. I’m traveling so much now that I get to see so many new bands. And I have a new guy distributing and manufacturing stuff for me, so I’ll be able to just pick the bands now instead of packing up everything with bubble wrap and that shit.

You're doing a bunch of dates up in Canada in April and you were just here in the fall. Is it a pleasant experience for you to come up here?
I love Canada. I've only played Toronto, Montreal and Hamilton, I think. As far as Montreal and Toronto go, yeah, we've always had great times there. Hamilton's a bit iffy. Not a rock'n'roll town. [Laughs] It's just one of those places where you go and see what happens.

Jay Reatard’s Canadian tour dates:

4/6 Vancouver BC, Commodore Ballroom *
4/16 Ottawa ON, Babylon %
4/17 Toronto ON, Silver Dollar %
4/18 Montreal QC, La Sala Rossa %

* w/ the Black Keys
% w/ CPC Gangbangs