Very few of us got it right in our early twenties. Though Jackson Scott’s debut album had proliferated the ‘net for months, only recently, July 23rd to be exact, did Fat Possum release “Melbourne”. The album has an air of sincerity and eagerness able to startle even the most jaded of psych nerds. Fascinated by this twenty-year old’s incredible talent, Bad Sounds had the chance to talk with him just before he literally now, embarks on his first ever, international tour.
(chit chat about Norway, Vikings and such…)
BS: Are you going to Scandinavia on this upcoming tour?
JS: Not this time, but I think we’re spending the entire month of November touring Europe. Hopefully Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and all that stuff. Gunna be a lot of fun, for sure. I mean, I like, haven’t been outside America except for like the Niagara Falls! Which doesn’t really count.
Cool. So this is your first big tour?
Yeeeeeah. Going to be an intense rest of the year. I pretty much moved back to Pennsylvania. I grew up here. Our lease ran out in Asheville so I’ve just been hanging out and recording more stuff and whatnot.
Are your bandmates from Asheville?
No, my drummer, and I, are from Pennsylvania. We’ve been jamming since high school. Our bassist Chase is from North Carolina.
Do you miss the South at all?
It’s nice being back home, I can hang out in the house I grew up in. Now we’ve finally set up with recording stuff, and just been hanging out with friends non-stop. I do miss Asheville for sure. It’s a nice town with a a nice environment for what I like to do.
The Triangle, and Asheville has a very progressive, hippy vibe. Back in the day, maybe ten years ago there were all the goth kids just doing E, but I’ve heard its a really happening place.
Asheville is really awesome. Even since I’ve been at least, it’s been growing. It used to be a random mountain town. It’s not just about one specific scene, it’s perfect for doing anything, doing stuff with people. You can start you own scene. Ok, maybe “scene” is a dumb word. It’s just a nice environment to make art because people are open and genuine. They don’t make you feel weird about doing, your own art.
Do you remember when you first moved to Asheville — how did people react, was it easy to make friends?
I had been making music for awhile, but yea, I was a little self-conscious. Cool thing about Asheville though — for example, I always thought I was just alright at singing. But I got rid of that pretty quickly. At UNC-Asheville there were this group of kids I’d hang out with, just play guitar and sing covers, be un-selfconscious. It was no big deal to sit around and sing songs with other people. Was a good space to develop your own kind of thing, people are quite supportive. If there’s cool stuff going on you’re always going to hear about.
Back home in Pittsburgh, do you feel like you have the same vibe?
Ahh, kindaaaa. It’s funny the house we’re in now is a pretty similar situation when I was living in Asheville, recording the album. No TV and No Internet. Nothing to do but just play, listen to music and read. Now, random high school friends and my parents are always coming by. I enjoy the more mellow rural aspect of Pennsylvania for sure. It’s a funny state.
How do your parents feel about you playing music?
They’re super supportive and into it. They’ve always been really nice, wanted me to do whatever I wanted to do. Learning piano as a kid… I guess was one of the most crucial aspects of my musical upbringing.
Did you ever listen to your like, dad’s records growing up?
I actually got into vinyl much later… but yea, they had Beatles records laying around. I have super old memories looking at cassettes, but for the most part I was like any other 21st century kid (laughs) with an iPod. But I still treat them much like a record, looking at the whole album. Recently, I’ve been more fascinated by vinyl. The concept of making an album as a piece of art — is really cool to me.
What albums were influential to you? Records that you can obsess over?
Yea, a bunch of ’em. Kinda funny, in high school, esp later high school I spent most of my time playing and listening to music. 2010-2011, there’s a ton of good shit coming out. Me and my friend Aaron would listen to No Joy, Ty Seagall, Thee Oh Sees, Tame Impala, thinking, yea, the music industry is pretty raw right now. But most of the time I spend writing and making my own music.
Probably when I’m done with my second record I’m going to take a break and not think about anything for awhile (laughs). Um, but back to your original question, probably a huge one is …The Piper at the Gates of Dawn by Pink Floyd. That and Loveless by My Bloody Valentine during my senior year was huge for me.
Have you heard the new My Bloody Valentine?
Haven’t sat down and listened to the whole thing, but it’s weird, I’ve been in this hyperactively creating-state-of-mind that I almost don’t spend much time, not as a recreational obsessive hatch, as I did before. Now when I listen to new music it pretty much has to interest me right away.
Were the songs on your debut album coming out now, Melbourne, long in the making? Did a lot of the San Fran bands we mention like Thee Oh Sees act as a catalyst?
Well I was in this band in Asheville called Sin Kitty, that made me really wanna do it. I was working with that band to make the album… then there were band tensions and all that…but I knew for a fact I wanted to put out an album. About a month I got to college I snapped into it, so yea, shit… I completely lost my train of thought… oh, I was in Sin Kitty and making this album and ended up writing songs randomly, so they were lying around. My roommate got a four track last summer and one weekend I wrote, “In the Sun”. Recorded it with the 4-track and wanted to make it like a campfire song. I really liked the analog tape sound. So that happened, and I also went to the Ty Seagall show in Nashville. That was one of the more energetic things I had ever seen. I went to talk to Ty, and he was probably pretty drunk, but I asked him, ‘how did you record “Melted” and “Goodbye Bread”?’ and he said, just on the fly, on this 8-track.
So that inspired you.
It’s funny, I realized how easy it is to make things on a four-track. I really dig Ty and Thee Oh Sees. But especially how prolific they can be, without letting it effect the quality of their music– pretty much. It’s kind of a 50’s attitude, like the working-man attitude. When I was making Melbourne, it didn’t quite hit me. I knew I finished a big project, but the whole time making it, the goal was to get in on vinyl. Didn’t care about if it was on a small shitty label…
How did you get in touch with Fat Possum?
Wellll….. what happened was…. I realized it was pretty hard to get in touch with labels, to get them to listen to your stuff… So with this other with my band I realized blogs and the internet is a surefire way to get bands out there. I just posted the album for free and bombarded like tons of blogs with it. Didn’t say much, just sent them a link. People started talking about it and when Pitchfork posted about — a shitstorm out of the blue, including labels which had previously, uh, well, it’s quite questionable…. wouldn’t have really given it a listen….
What do you mean its questionable?
Pretty rare labels listen to unsolicited stuff. Yea, its a bummer because that’s also why the internet is such a beautiful thing. But sending it for free is a pretty legitimate way of sharing music.
Did you get approached with a lot of offers?
Yea, I was down with whatever… But I’ve always been a Fat Possum fan. I liked their attitude and way of doing stuff, and showed some personality. And they have the old T-Rex discography which is pretty raw.
Do you feel after Pitchfork, I mean like you said, this shitstorm, and now you have people as far as Norway listening to your music — are you apprehensive how it might change you?
Very slightly, but not really. Hmmm. I think it would be cool to just build a discography and put out records like I’ve always wanted to. I may be vaguely self-conscious, but it doesn’t really effect the music because — I don’t quite know how to explain it. I guess, I’m grateful that I can put out records and people will actually listen to them. But my first goal was to just put out an album, period.
…I think I can keep myself in check. Creatively. Touring is going to be intense, but I hope we can get through it.
One thing I think is cool about what you said before, and your sound in general –or what has captured a lot of people’s hearts — is in this mess of distortion, when it feels like its going to fall apart, you still have really strong pop melodies. How has your idea of pop changed, have the Beach Boys (you mentioned before) been influential to you?
Yea, I probably came to the realization some years ago, even from random pop songs, I don’t know, like Madonna — really obsessed with melodies. I saw no matter what song I’m writing, even slow weird progressive, I still try to come up with a catchy, meaningful melody for every song.
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes a good melody. To me, it’s one of the most important, imPORTant aspects of a song. One of the things I really get off on are the combination of pop music and very dark other worldly things, like the idea a pop song is a metaphysical thing of tension. Pop should be pleasing to the ear– it’s a very interesting subject — so barriers or interventions don’t matter, you do whatever you have to do to make the song I guess.
I think you put it very well, no barriers, as with MBV, to achieve a kind of lifting feeling amidst a total mess of chaos and noise.
Yea, that’s how I feel about, if the song itself is good- it’s a skeleton you can add anything you want. Thing about a good melody is, it will shine through no matter what kind of style it’s in. Pretty much.
Totally. Thanks for speaking with us, and we look forward to meeting you in Norway!