"For The Quiet Times And The Loud Times"
It's interview time again! Recently I met Unwed Sailor founder Jonathon Ford online. Today I would like to share our exciting conversation with you guys.
Lately Sam from Of The Vine told me about his love for Unwed Sailor. There is also an Unwed Sailor piece in the music list he put together exclusively for me. Since he had seen the band live at their "The Marionette And The Music Box" tour, they greatly influenced his music. Even today, he still worships the post-rock band around Jonathon Ford. In my interview Jonathon told me a lot about the secrets of his music and his current album "Look Alive".
Anne: Thank you for this interview! How are you doing these days?
Jonathon: Hi Anne. You're very welcome! I am doing well. Spending lots of time with my cats and listening to a lot of music.
Anne: Jonathon, you formed Unwed Sailor in 1998. In 2020 you released with "Look Alive", your sixth album after "Heavy Age" from 2019. What would you say has changed for you as a band since the early years?
Jonathon: Quite a bit has changed for Unwed Sailor over all these years, but yet Unwed Sailor has remained reliably Unwed Sailor somehow.
"There is a thread that ties together our band history"
I've followed different musical paths on various albums, but yet Unwed has remained recognizable throughout all those albums. For example, the difference between an album like "The Marionette and the Music Box" and the new album, "Look Alive", is quite striking. However yet, somehow, they are both still recognizable as Unwed Sailor. There is a thread that runs through this band's history that ties it all together somehow. Even in those gargantuan shifts in sound, it remains the same entity. That is something I love about Unwed Sailor, and I hold that quality very dear.
I've also realized how much Unwed Sailor means to me over the years. It's become more and more clear to me that it is an integral part of who I am and a voice for me when I can't express myself otherwise. It's a communication skill that I've learned to let flow naturally, even when I've failed at communicating who I am or what I am feeling with words.
Anne: Talking about "Look Alive". What's the story behind this album? Does it tell one?
"'Look Alive' is about these 'now' moments"
Jonathon: "Look Alive" is about breaking through the things that have confined and held you back and existing as the creative being that you are meant to be. Realizing your full potential and letting that shine through in your life and creativity. Embracing those "now" moments where the past and future are stripped away, and you are fully experiencing and living in the present moment.
Anne: What distinguishes it from the albums you did before?
Jonathon: Musically, Look Alive seems to be a bit more driving and fast-paced than previous Unwed Sailor albums. It also feels more urgent to me, at least for the majority of the album. However, it does eventually slow down and float towards the end of the album.
"We discovered some new elements"
Some punk and dance elements crept their way into "Look Alive", which surprised me when I was writing them. I haven't explored that direction in Unwed Sailor before, so I was taken for a ride when those elements popped up.
Anne: Your music is very special. Mostly instrumental and with your very own style. I think it's pretty gleeful. Are you working on new stuff right now?
Jonathon: Yes, I am. The follow up to Look Alive was just finished, and that album will be released in 2021. I've also started working on the songs that will be the follow-up album to the 2021 album, so yes, I am keeping busy!
Anne: Did you ever take a creative pause?
Jonathon: I did take a creative pause with Unwed Sailor a few years back when I was more focused on other projects. However, through that creative pause, I realized that Unwed Sailor is and should be my main focus and expression.
Anne: Sam from Of The Vine said to me that you were a huge influence on him and his music. He was talking about your EP "Firecracker" in particular. Are there any artists that you would talk about in the same way? Musicians who have particularly impressed or influenced you? I think I can hear some The Cure references?
"New Order has had a great influence on me"
Jonathon: New Order has had a great influence on my songwriting. Peter Hook, the bass player of New Order, has been very influential to my bass playing. I am also very influenced by the 80's music in general – everything from Peter Cetera to The Smiths to White Lion. So yes, the Cure would be in there too (smiles).
Anne: You've been on tour with artists like Sufjan Stevens, Minus The Bear, and Battles, and you've collaborated with Dan Burton from Early Day Miners, Matt Johnson, and many more. That is a real bunch of genres. Also, your music is very multilayered. So it's hard to put you into a box, which is quite good. Is there a genre to which you feel particularly connected to?
"I like all kinds of music genres"
Jonathon: I feel connected to all kinds of genres of music. I would say again that 80's music is the lifeblood for me. I also feel connected to the early-mid 90's music from the midwest. Bands like Rodan, Slint, Tortoise, and the Jesus Lizard. The whole Touch and Go, Quarterstick, Thrill Jockey scene.
I think all the genres I grew up on drip into the Unwed Sailor influence pool.
Anne: You have been part of the scene since post-rock has been around. Do you think there is a reason why it became a bit quiet around this genre for some time? In the meantime, there is much more going on. There are new bands almost every day.
"I want to be consistent with Unwed Sailor"
Jonathon: It seems there are the die-hard post-rock fans out there that stick around for the quiet times and the loud times. Also, as you know, genres become popular then fall off the radar, then come back strong again. However, it does seem like there are bands in the post-rock genre that have remained consistent and relevant throughout the ups and downs. Bands like Caspian, This Will Destroy You, El Ten Eleven seem to keep going strong.
My goal is to be consistent with Unwed Sailor, whether it's quiet or not.
Anne: Jonathon, in 2001, you've founded your side project, Circle Of Birds. Is it still alive?
Jonathon: No, Circle of Birds was a one-time collaboration. It was a fun experience recording that record. Super experimental and in the moment.
Anne: Did you always feel the urge to create music?
"I always loved music"
Jonathon: I've loved listening to music and absorbing it into my psyche since I was a little kid. The drive to create and play music began to germinate in my late teenage years and early twenties. I listened to and absorbed so much music as a kid, that it was a natural transition to start creating my own.
Anne: Does the Corona crisis affect you and your work as musicians? You've always been on tour a lot.
Jonathon: The Coronavirus has definitely affected our touring plans, but it has not affected my writing and recording plans. If anything, the pandemic has fueled my writing capabilities and plans for recording. Since we are not touring, it has allowed me to be fully focused on writing and recording.
New album and Europe tour in 2021
Anne: What's up next for Unwed Sailor?
Jonathon: We are continuing to let everyone know about our latest record, Look Alive, and we have another record wrapped up for a 2021 release. We are also currently in the studio working on even more music to be released sometime next year. Our main focus is writing and recording until we can get back out on the road. We are hoping for a Europe tour in the fall of 2021. So fingers crossed for that!