Music Interview: Jordan Klassen

Published on January 31, 2012.

By Max Hirtz

The Polyphonic Pixel had a chance to meet with Abbotsford’s Jordan Klassen in a coffee shop on Commercial Drive recently to chat about his upcoming Kindness EP, “Go To Me”, the Shins and the mysterious art of songwriting. The EP will be released on February 7, and will contain four new tracks that were recorded in a Langley studio. It is a precursor to a full-length album he plans to release later this year called Repentance.

Hear the first track on Kindness, “Go To Me”:

“Go To Me” is the first track on the Kindness and has been available on his Bandcamp for free for a few months now. The release party for the EP is at the Media Club on February 17.

The Polyphonic Pixel: How has the response toward “Go To Me” been?

Jordan Klassen: I think people really dig it. It was kind of my attempt to write a pop single. In some weird way, I’ve always wanted to write a really great indie pop song. And that’s kind of what this whole new record is about. I wrote the verse for it almost ten years ago, as a kid. And then I wrote the chorus just recently.

PP: How do the other three songs on Kindness compare to “Go To Me”?

JK: I have a tendency to write kind of melancholic tunes. These songs on these two records are songs that were my attempt to try something different, but often I’d veer off the course. And I’d say that the rest of the songs on Kindness are a lot more melancholic than “Go To Me” .

PP: Why did you decide to split the songs you’ve recorded onto an EP, Kindness, and an LP, Repentance?

JK: I started kind of building a team around me, and we all decided that the best thing to do would be to release something in anticipation of the full-length. I’m really proud of the songs and I don’t want them to go unnoticed, so [Kindness] is a bit of an introduction to me, in Vancouver.

PP: Any idea when the Repentance will be released?

JK: Fall. Like September. That’s what I’m guessing.

PP: Who are your biggest musical influences?

JK: Every time I get asked this question in an interview, I always regret the answer I give later. A lot of my friends in the local scene in Vancouver are really influential. As far as long-term artists… Radiohead and Sufjan Stevens, and there’s a singer songwriter called Joanna Newsom who plays the harp, and I really love her. I also always say that as an answer. The Middle East, also. I listen to lots of stuff that kind of sounds like [it's] in the same genre as my music.

PP: Were the Shins an influence as well? 

JK: I love the Shins. James Mercer is amazing. It’s funny actually, because I played in a band when I was in my late teens that was basically just trying to be the Shins for years and years and failing. And now I’m kind of doing my own thing and finally I pull off a Shins song.

PP: How does the songwriting process work for you? Is it usually you sitting alone with an acoustic guitar and working it out?

JK: It’s usually me by myself, and it’s usually quite a painful process. Inspiration is something that I think is not as easy to come by as it used to be when I was younger, for some reason. That’s sad. You’re always trying to come at it in new ways. It used to be a lot of me sitting with my acoustic guitar and then learning some cool new technique on the guitar and then using that to write a song. But now, maybe it’s like, “Oh, I can’t even see how I could write another song on the guitar, so I’m going to go play piano and write on the piano.” That’s kind of the way I’ve been thinking lately. The best times for me to write are when I’m at peace or at rest.

PP: How true to life are your lyrics, or do you prefer to invent stories?

JK: I’d say that it’s super personal. I love the idea of being able to express something in metaphor. But at the same time, maybe my writing process isn’t that personal. People talk about how writing songs is therapy to them, and that makes pretty much no sense to me. To me, it’s like, “Okay, I have some clarity on what’s going on inside of me, and now it’s time to craft an interpretation lyrically.” It’s never been like, “Oh man, I’m just feeling this way and this song is just going to pour out of me,” while I’m sitting on my bed. Never, ever happens like that. It’s always a very thoughtful process for me.

PP: How focused are you on your musical career right now?

JK: My aspiration is music right now. All my money goes into it, and most of my time goes into it. Most of the years taken off my life because of stress of anxiety is from it. At the same time, I’m learning more and more that the more seriously I take it in my own head and in my own heart, the less satisfying it is. It kind of has to stay fun, you know? I can’t be like, “We need to craft the most incredible song today.” It’s more just like, “Let’s just have fun and see what happens, and if nothing happens, that’s okay.” It’s this kind of catch-22, where you spend everything that you have, but at the same time it can’t be the end all/be all of your soul, or it’ll just drive you crazy, I think.

Max Hirtz is the founder and editor-in-chief at the Polyphonic Pixel. He specializes in photography and video. This site is his child.