Photo Credit: Caterina Kenworthy
Sometimes things just happen for a reason. One thing leads to another to create things we never even assumed would exist. This type of Fate is very rampant in music. An artist must let it happen and run with it. Our recent discovery JJ Slater is a great example of this with the release of his new record An Obscure Moon.
The born and bred New England native seems to have music in his soul. Music comes at JJ Slater in many different forms and he finds a way to channel it into his own unique sounds. He has been known to go deep in the woods of Goshen, MA, by a river where he would absorb nature and practice his instruments for hours at a time (and sometimes crash for the night.)
JJ Slater also works as a piano tuner. In early 2020 he was brought in to tune at Sleeper Cave Records in Western Massachusetts. This earned him some studio time which led to a lot more studio time which led to a pair of EPs ready for the world to hear.
The first is his 4 song record An Obscure Moon. As we enter the night with “Rupi” JJ Slater introduces us to his elegant acoustic guitar playing and beautiful vocal style. The soft delivery welcomes the listener in nice and close to be part of the song. Some well placed crowd samples further that thought.
Enter the dark with JJ Slater
Some experimental sounds are introduced on “An Obscure Moon For An Obscure World.” We remain in a warm acoustical tone but melodies creep in different directions creating something truly interesting to listen to. The sounds mesh together obscurely but somehow creates a full wall of sound. The closer “Daedalus” is an imaginative epic at almost 5 and a half minutes long. JJ Slater allows his voice to sit on top of the compelling sound provided by an assortment of different instrumental tuning. His dark storytelling paints a picture of a journey that we must try to understand.
We had the opportunity to chat with JJ Slater about his music and new record. Enjoy the interview here:
How would you describe your new unique style?
My songwriting style has always been rooted in folk and jazz- I always liked the eclectic, wordy stylings of Joni Mitchell, Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, etc. Musically and sound-wise I take influence from whatever comes my way- from Romantic composers to jazz soloists to classic rock bands. I’ve played a lot of funk and soul music, too, which I think comes out in the guitar playing and the way I like to mesh things together- like puzzle pieces with a lot of feel.
What prompted the album title An Obscure Moon?
I took the name from the Charlie Kaufman movie Synecdoche New York. It’s not the exact quote, but it’s what the main character wants to name his surreal, lifetime-length play. It doesn’t really go further in referencing the movie, but I sort of liked the idea that we are all orbiting each other, and sometimes the people, places, things and ideas we find ourselves attached to, or at least gravitated towards, are infinitely just out of reach. It makes you feel invisible
How did the Covid pandemic affect putting this album together?
I originally went into the studio to record six or seven songs, over the course of a few weekends. By the second weekend, things started looking apocalyptic. The last thing we completed pre-COVID was the live rhythm track to an 11 minute song that’s coming out on the next EP. As we cautiously returned to work, masked up and separated, in the summer, I snuck a few more songs in there. After this four song EP, I have a six-song one for later in the year.
What is next for JJ Slater?
I have another release coming out! And live shows are returning! I have a ton of thrown-together cover gigs to play for money (I need to fund this somehow!) through the summer, and in the Fall I’m looking to start pushing the original sounds really hard. I have some new songs, as well, that are a lot more direct and crisp, that I would like to record before the year’s end.
I was also just offered the Helene Wurlitzer Grant, so next summer I will be traveling to New Mexico to live in an adobe cabin on a mountain for three months, writing songs.
Keep up with where JJ Slater will take us next on their socials: