Jeff Klein Interview

By   March 29, 2015

Jeff Klein, I think it’s fair to say, is a well travelled musician. Having worked with artists as diverse as Ani DiFranco and The Gutter Twins, he’s also enjoyed a long-running solo career and frequent touring. In 2009 he joined forces with Cully Symington, Ashley Dzerigian, Rick Nelson and Dave Rosser to form the band My Jerusalem, currently celebrating the release of their second studio album Preachers.

A lot of the fanfare of Gone for Good (specifically in the form of the brass) isn’t present on Preachers. Was this a conscious decision you guys made working on the album, or did it just happen naturally?

It just kinda happened while we were writing the album – it also just kinda happened while we were recording the rest of the album, I feel. You know, we still have horn players in the band and stuff, but we just kind of decided as we were recording that they kind of took a little bit more of a textural backseat and less of a front seat, you know? I feel like a lot of the melody lines on Gone for Good –a lot of it was defined by the horns, but this time I find we wanted to use them as textural beds for the song.

I think that’s a big contributer to why Preachers is being frequently described as a much darker album than Gone for Good.

I think I just naturally gravitate towards darker music, even though Gone for Good was a little bit more upbeat and positive, in some sense… I think I just look back to my natural roots for everything – and everyone else’s, too. So, you know, it’s wasn’t exactly on purpose but going along, three songs in, four songs in… It felt comfortable. It felt natural at TST.

That being said, there are lighter tracks on the album, such as “This Time”, “Chameleon” and “Oh Little Sister”.

abundan-houseWell you know, we didn’t want to have a sound that’s just one thing or the other. We really love those songs – we have a lot of songs actually that we recorded that didn’t make the album. You know, that might have been a little darker or fit in a little bit better, but you know we really just love those songs. And I think it still made sense on the album, even if they are a little more upbeat. It’s still the same language as the rest of the record. Especially “Chameleon”, and “Little Sister” is just like, my obsession with French pop music over the last few months.

Can you name check anyone for us?

Well, just like Françoise Hardy and stuff like that. Just the horns and the preppiness – or, you know, or the American sense of it being like Nancy Sinatra or something like that… I mean, that and “This Time” almost remind of like, and old Neil Diamond song. And again, we still felt they made sense on the record.

Did any of the other projects you or other members of the band where working on (such as your Death of the Fox, Rosser’s work on Dynamite Steps or Cully’s work with Cursive or Okkervil River) bleed into Preachers at all?

Well, I’m sure everybodies sensability is kinda added into things, but I like to think of this as it’s own animal. We’re all inspired by things we’ve done in the past, but I’d like to think ideally we came together and this is kind of the product of everyone’s collective talents and brains and whatnot. That being said, you always take a few things from the previous work that you’ve done. You know, a lot of my solo stuff, you listen to it, and then you listen to this – it would make sense that this is the direction I’m going in, and the same goes for everyone else on the album. You Cully, Cully’s a phenominal drummer and he’s worked on a million records, so his sensability adds a lot.

You said that part of the inspiration for the title track, Preachers, came from the preacher character from the second Poltergeist film. The album when you say that really sounds like a soundtrack – I was wondering if there was any cinematographic thinking when you were working on the record?

Well, I hate to admit it but in my leisure time I probably watch more movies than I actually do listen to records. I just love movies. I lmean, I love records – I love both. I could see that a lot of the writing could maybe be seen as cinematic, it’s moody music and I think that mood definitely feels more like a soundtrack. You know, it’s the soundtrack for my life and everyone else involved… And hopefully some movie will use it as their soundtrack!

Have any films inspired you recently?

Well… Recently? You know, I’m a big fan of 70′s suspense, thrillers. Horror-ish movies, you know? I haven’t been super inspired by it but… Maybe The Master. That might brew up some new inspiration.

Between Gone for Good and Preachers you moved back to texas from New Orleans. Did this affect your writing style at all?

Oh yeah, definitely. Texas is a different landscape, different people, different everything. I think that adds to there being less fanfare on the album, you know, New Orleans being much more of the brass-band oriented. Texas has a lot more of a lonesome atmosphere to it – I’m like a sponge, you know? I soaked up my surroundings. I could definitely see that being a large influence for how the record sounds.

Can you talk a little about where the lyrics on Preachers comes from?

Honestly, my way of writing is usually that I’ll do the music first and I will just obsesively listen to everything with headphones, and rewrite each song like 800 times. Usually even in the studio I’ll change it while we’re recording it also. This time around though I tried to make them a little less personal, and just about me. I feel like sometimes my lyric writing has been a little too selfish, so this time I wanted it to be a little easier for other people to digest. These aren’t just songs about self-pity, you know. Again I was kind of trying to create a mood or a vibe, or tell a story within specific songs themslves. It’s different for every song, though the process is the same, being super-neurotic, working on it for hours and hours and hours, changing it up until the final take.

Speaking of specific songs, “Devoe” is such a strong and interesting track, and it has this great wind down towards the end with the repeated line”Under the knife…”, could you talk about that track a little?

That’s because I think most people in their actions are more inspired by their wanting to be accepted by other people, whether romantically or socially. “Under the knife we only want to be someone to someone else”. Whether literally or generally, changing anything about yourself or what you want to be. Most people, their only desire is just to be loved by other people, and that’s what that song means to me.

Can you talk about “I left my Consciounce in You” a little – did you know it would be the closing track?

No, you know, that kind of came at the very end., honestly. We went to the studio and we recorded most of the record live and as we were kinda doing it… Well, I feel we really loved the song but as we were doing it it kind of went to this boring place. So we just put our heads together and kept playing with ideas and came up with, as the song went on, turning it into a completely other, different song, so it gets very bombastic and very wanky (laughs). It’s almost like two songs sewn together, which I dig.

Finally, I’d like to ask about you “Sleepwalking” remix album up on bandcamp. Where did that idea come from, and how did it come together?

You know, we have a lot of cool friends who are great with reworking songs. I thought it would be cool if we had one or two friends reinvent or cover the song to put some more stuff out there for fans to listen to, or maybe get some more fans. So – I asked one or two friends and they said yes, then I asked a couple more friends and they said yes and eventually I had like ten people who wanted to do it. So eventually I was like, “oh wow” and put the whole thing up for download. It was awesome seeing different people’s interpretations of the songs.

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