JELANI ARYEH: CRAFTING CHAOS AND NOSTALGIA IN ‘THE SWEATER CLUB’

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JELANI ARYEH: CRAFTING CHAOS AND NOSTALGIA IN ‘THE SWEATER CLUB’

Photo / Silken Weinberg

For Jelani Aryeh, moving to Los Angeles marked the beginning of a tumultuous yet transformative chapter. The chaos of city life—fire alarms blaring, witnessing fiery car accidents, and grappling with a sense of isolation—served as a backdrop to his creative process for his sophomore album, “The Sweater Club.” This new project encapsulates the raw energy and personal battles he faced, infusing his music with a profound sense of unease and longing.

Drawing from a well of intense experiences and nostalgic memories, Jelani channels his journey from a promising football career to the uncertain path of music. “The Sweater Club” not only reflects his inner turmoil but also his relentless pursuit of authenticity and self-acceptance. As he prepares to bring his new music to life on tour, Jelani remains committed to evolving as an artist while staying true to his unique vision. Join Jelani Aryeh on this introspective ride through chaos and nostalgia, as he continues to carve out his place in the music world.

 

Living alone in Los Angeles for the first time seems like a significant theme in “The Sweater Club.” Can you share a specific moment or experience from that time that deeply influenced the creation of a song on the album?

That’s a through line throughout the course of this project. There was this one week that felt especially chaotic. I was freshly moved into this apartment complex they had just built right on La Cienega. It felt like every day I was woken up by fire alarm test and there would be this big brother-esque voice over the intercom saying “this is a fire alarm test, do not use the elevators followed by a big boop noise that would play on loop for what seemed like forever.  Another event was just passing a car on the i-10 that was engulfed in flames and spreading to some fellow palm trees. I witnessed another car crash in real time –it looked like one of them failed to turn on their headlights and as they were merging caused the other car had spun out. There was so much chaos surrounding me.  I realized throughout the course of living there i would just take the stairs instead of elevators because I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. This influenced the song “The Fallback” on the record. 

Your focus track on the LP “Breaking By” has this raw energy that feels very personal. Was there a specific emotion or experience that drove the creation of this track, and how does it tie into the broader narrative of the album?

Thinking back on what went into this track, I was trying to capture this general unease I felt every day. It always seemed like i was fighting this invisible battle inside myself that never let me fully be at peace. That quite honestly might just be anxiety. It felt like everyone I encountered could see into the depths of my soul and during conversations it’d be hard to maintain eye contact. A lot of the lyrics are random one liners from different pages in my journal rather than so much this one pointed narrative.  

The title “The Sweater Club” has a nostalgic feel to it. Could you share a memory or moment from your past that encapsulates the essence of this title and how it relates to the music on the album? 

The song “Bugaboo” directly captures what the title feels like to me. In 2005, I was a kindergartner at this school Miramar Ranch that I only went to for that year, but i remember just getting out of this food assembly ( with the triangle caste system of food groups) and  they were playing “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers throughout the halls. That was the only time I went to a school with lockers in the actual main hall inside of the building. Whenever i think of the album title, I’m immediate brought back to this place and time in my life. The album has nothing to do with school, but it may just come down to life being simple and pure and yearning for that era again.

 Ladygunn is all about authentic voices, your music often delves into themes of isolation and longing. Can you recall a moment when being yourself made you feel isolated from what everyone else was doing?

I’d say the transition from football to music. Although that was ages ago, I felt like the only one in this rare situation. I think there was potential to play at the next level – I mean, I’d spent my whole life up to that point just doing football and camps and what not. As soon as I made the shift to “oh, I’m making music,” it was not well received, and I started to pull back from certain people who didn’t believe in me. It took a long time to break down this kind of macho shell and to soften into myself. I think in a way I shot directly to the opposite end of that binary and I’m still trying to balance the two now.

This is your sophomore album, that’s a significant milestone in your career, how do you stay true to your artistic vision while also evolving as an artist?

 Thank you! I’m always going to try to make whatever it is I want to make at the end of the day. If something feels right to you , then it’s right! Don’t worry what someone else has to say! I think it takes a lot of patience and being ok with wasting time too. I’m definitely not the best with deadlines but an album is ready when it’s ready, you cannot rush that. 

As you prepare for “The Sweater Club Tour,” what aspect of performing live are you most looking forward to, and how do you plan to create an immersive experience for your audience?

This was the first project I made with the live show in mind! It was such an important part of the creative process. I’m just looking forward to the act of playing the actual songs and seeing how they change from night to night and seeing how people react to certain songs. I’m quite excited to have a full visual accompaniment alongside me and the band too!

With The Sweater Club’s release, you also released the music video for “Breaking By” who shot the video, and what was the inspiration behind it? 

My pal, director Brandon Mosquera!! Although it’s a pretty rocking song, it feels like it has this weird electric quality to it. It sounds like cords fraying to me or the sound of nerves firing off. It feels like a collapse inward but also euphoric and blissfully freeing somehow. I wanted it to be slightly performance based to match that push and pull energy of shaking the pain away but also letting it take a power and control. The screens and visuals add to the kind of electric frenetic quality of the song. A lot of them feel like thoughts or feelings passing through the railway which is our bodies. Frank’s FYF performance of “Self-Control” and “The Sweater Song” music video by weezer were Brandon’s influences when crafting the treatment. Big Spike Jonze guy over here! 

What can fans and music lovers expect next from Jelani Aryeh?

You’ll just have to come along for the ride! Let’s just say a lot of new music 🙂 

As Jelani Aryeh embarks on “The Sweater Club Tour,” fans can look forward to a captivating live experience that brings his introspective and evocative music to life. His journey through chaos and nostalgia is a testament to his resilience and unwavering commitment to authenticity. With more new music on the horizon, Jelani invites listeners to join him on an ever-evolving artistic adventure, promising moments of raw emotion, introspection, and connection. Stay tuned as Jelani Aryeh continues to navigate his path, creating music that resonates deeply with the complexities of life and the pursuit of self-discovery.

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