Thursday, February 14, 2013

Interview with Jeff Johnson of The Numbs

Hey Cairo homies and lovers!

We're so pleased about the show this upcoming Saturday, 2/16, with MarkMcGuire, Spencer Clark, The Numbs, and Marcus Price.

I was able to sit down with Jeff Johnson of the band The Numbs, to discuss his music, his influences, and his sordid past (a hardcore band in high school with a name you're just going to have to ask him in person).

Hi Jeff Johnson.
How long have you been playing music?
As a kid I played piano, but I wasn’t very good because I didn’t put very much effort into it, I didn’t like practicing. But that’s when I started playing music, if you want to be specific.

What about experimenting in non-classical music/soundmaking?
I was in this hardcore band in high school, which was really funny.

What was it called?
I don’t wanna say, it’s so bad. [laughs] After high school I moved to Seattle to go to the University of Washington – where I didn’t really play music, but then I started getting some pedals and stuff and I would just make weird noise. I never really planned to play in front of anyone; I was just fucking around.

What musical project(s) have you been part of prior to The Numbs?
I was in "U" – that was with Travis Coster [of Naomi Punk]. That was really cool – I think that’s when I started being in a real band, in the sense we played some real shows.

Did you like the way that felt, to perform?
I don’t know, I still don’t know why I perform – its kind of weird. I just get tripped up about it, you know, like standing in front of people making weird noises. I overanalyze it.

Where are you from originally?
Eastern Washington – Pullman. There are some parts of it I really like. I feel like there’s more sense of adventure – of course I was younger then, and maybe you have more of a sense of adventure when you’re younger – but you go out into the countryside and it’s semi-lawless and you can run around and do whatever. And in the city it’s harder to feel that, it’s harder to get into weirder places. One cool thing about growing up in Pullman is that the campus there would be really empty in the summer, and there would be so many weird buildings that we’d explore. It’s harder to find that stuff in Seattle. I do miss that.

What were your influences when you were making music for your current project, The Numbs?
A lot of people say that it's really influenced by Black Dice.

Do you yourself think that?
It’s like one of my favorite bands, so, of course it’s gonna be influenced by that. I listen to a really wide variety of music, and another band I has really been influencing me, especially lately, is called Coil – I’ve been obsessed... yet my influences are unspoken, they are just what has come out. Creative output is always a sum of your creative input; it’s what you listen to and do that influences you.

The name of your band is The Numbs – when I first heard it I thought it sounded like a band of multiple people or a punk/post-punk outfit. Can you speak more to the name?
That was really a lot of it - that it’s really misleading. I like the idea of pretending I’m in a post-punk band with a lot of people, but it’s actually just me. And that’s just the ring of it. Maybe you can make some argument about like, apathy or something – or actually I don’t think that’s true. I just like the word too. It’s sort of like the idea was establishing a sort of mythology of the band – it’s evocative of something, and I kind of like that.

I think with band names, people hear it, and sometimes they’re like, oh that’s a dumb name, or it gives them an idea of what it’ll sound like, and then they hear the band and the name now means something completely different to them.

Can you describe what it’s like when you make a song, or the process?
It had been really slow – I think I went into a big lull maybe because it’s wintertime – but now it’s mostly over. I’ve been feeling really creative. I think my songs start with a seed, like when I’m jamming or messing around just making some sounds. That’ll become the seed of the song and I’ll build the song around that– a lot of building the song happens at random points when I’m out and about and I’ll have an idea of what I could do with the song. A lot of the songwriting happens outside of actually physically working on it. I’ll have a lot of ideas outside of working on it, and then I’ll go to my practice space and I’ll find that I can’t get to that previous idea, but then I’ll discover something else in the process.

I’m bad about trying to like, write the perfect song, I always try to stop myself because it just makes it so I don’t write any songs.

Would you call yourself a perfectionist, or someone who’s always trying to achieve an ideal sound?
Yeah but it’s really dumb because songs are temporal – you hear them and maybe they’re good in that moment and maybe they’re bad later. I think I am a perfectionist in a bad way. It’s like crippling.

Yet I think a listener wouldn’t guess you were a perfectionist because your music almost has a –
A messy feeling?  Yeah it’s funny - I wanna make some like, perfect song, but when I’m really in control of the songwriting process where I really feel like I know exactly what’s happening with it, then I usually won’t like the song. So if I am being a perfectionist then I usually won’t like what comes out – in fact having some unpredictability to it or messiness, is more enjoyable for me.

Check out a track by The Numbs below, and if you're craving more, the now-defunct duo "U" Jeff was a part of once put out a very radical digital mixtape - find it over at Cairo Records

Catch Jeff's set and all the action this Saturday, February 16th. 

The show begins at 8PM and is $5 at the door.
All-ages, forever!

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