Jake Weary began making music around the same time he began acting. You might not know it, given that his previous EPs have been produced under various pseudonyms. It’s been almost seven years since his last release. This EP, Reflections of the Dead, is a bit divergent.
“I approached this EP differently from any project I’ve worked on in the past, and I’ve gone in this unorthodox direction in terms of the way I write music. Basically, anything that felt comfortable, I tried my hardest to change and make it feel uncomfortable…The music should speak for itself, find it’s own path. ”
This was no small undertaking, coming from the twenty-eight-year-old who greatly enjoys his comforts. When Weary isn’t starring as Deran in TNT’s Animal Kingdom, or preparing for his role alongside oscar winning actress Melissa Leo in upcoming indie film Leave Not One Alive, he’s often gardening or doting on his dog Walter.
We meet over lunch in Brooklyn’s Cafe Mogador. Weary has been living in New York since his last season wrapped. I’m having some trouble with my recording app and, at Jake’s suggestion, we use my apple headphones as a makeshift microphone.
“Fun little anecdote,” Weary tells me, setting the headphones speaker within range of his voice, “I actually recorded some of the vocals for maybe one or two of the songs [on Reflections of the Dead] on these headphones.”
I raise my eyebrows at him, like he might just be trying to make me feel better about the slip up, but he isn’t kidding.
“There’s this weird, natural compression that happens where all of the levels are basically on the same plane,” he continues. “So you don’t have to go and put and effect on them after you’ve recorded. Aesthetically, it kind of gives this rugged, rough compression.”
Weary knows an extensive amount about production and mastering. He’s a self-taught artist. You wouldn’t believe the means through which he began creating music at age twelve.
“The first time I ever started recording music was when I had just gotten my first laptop,” he tells me. “It was actually passed down by my dad. I think it was 2003, and there was no app on the laptop that could facilitate recording music, like multi-track recording, except for iMovie.”
iMovie. His first foray into music production was via a video editing program on a hand-me-down laptop. Weary tells me about the process in detail, and it sounds so incredibly complicated and tedious that I imagine his itch to create must have been maddeningly strong.
“iMovie only had two tracks for recording audio. I would beatbox into one recording, play it back, and then record my voice rapping over it on the other track. Then I would export that so that it was one audio file, and then I would bring that in to one of the audio files–this is all probably sounding like gibberish…I was basically just layering over and over again with those two audio tracks to build a multitrack recording.”
At fourteen, while acting in the CBS soap opera As the World Turns, Weary formed a band with friends in his New Jersey hometown. The band was called Laudable.
“It means worthy of praise,” he laughs at himself a bit here. “That was the first time I started ‘gigging,’ playing in front of a live audience.”
Weary played guitar for Laudable and wrote the lyrics to their songs. Growing up, he taught himself a number of instruments, including the drums and the keyboard.
His taste in music stems from the bands he learned to love through his family. From his father, Weary latched onto Peter Gabriel, Phil Collins, and Genesis. From his sister, Prince and Michael Jackson.
“I would say Peter Gabriel was one of those artists I wanted to try to emulate in some way,” says Weary. “I just felt his lyrics were always thought-provoking, even though I didn’t necessarily know what he was talking about. There’s this song called “Shock the Monkey” and the meaning of that song can just be taken so many different ways. I think that’s what’s so special about [Peter Gabriel] as an artist, and what kind of inspired me creatively in my writing process.”
I ask Weary if he intends for the songs on Reflections of the Dead to be similarly ambiguous and open to interpretation.
“When I’m writing a song, I don’t think [meaning] is so black and white. I kind of like when someone listens to my song and at the end is like what the fuck was that about, or what does that mean, or what are you trying to say with this. It just makes [the listener] put in the extra work… listening a couple more times to try to figure out what I’m saying.”
Weary’s music is also sincerely influenced by his experiences at the California Institute of the Arts, where he spent about a year studying at the Theater Conservatory.
“That’s what initially brought me out to LA full-time when I was eighteen. Some of my closest friends, the first couple of months, were all in the music program. My roommate was this incredibly talented jazz guitarist. So that really opened up my world to Jazz and Blues,” Weary recalls fondly.
Other influences from his college years include Flying Lotus. “There was this new age of hip hop and beat makers that was hitting Los Angeles and spreading like wildfire. These artists like Henry Loffer, who goes by Shlohmo, and one of my best friends at CalArts, Jasper Patterson, who goes by Groundislava, they kind of turned me on to this new era of young musicians in LA.”
Though he left CalArts shortly thereafter to pursue acting full-time, it was in college that Weary moved on from GarageBand–he had long since quit producing music via iMovie–and began teaching himself more advanced programs like Logic and Ableton.
“That really helped me experiment a lot more with my sound, even though I had no idea what that was, I was just kind of creating. I still don’t know what [my sound] is,” he laughs.
He’s been working diligently on Reflections of the Dead Since January of this year. Even driving back to his Los Angeles home during breaks on set to work on his music and record.
The title of the EP is pretty heavy, thought the music on the EP isn’t glum in the slightest. Within the past two years, musicians Weary marks as his major musical influences have passed away. Musicians like Prince and David Bowie.
“After they passed, I was listening to their music so much more and kind of really breaking down everything they were doing, and it definitely inspired me to start making music again.”
Comprised of five songs, the EP is certainly reminiscent of the 80’s music Weary mentions. The songs significantly feature drum machines and synths, plus a consistent flavor of throwback dance rhythm, as heard on the EP’s single “Jesse Don’t Dance.” There are some softer tempos, some songs with fantastical elements to the music– like in the dreamy intro of “Nectar of Love.”
Weary also touches briefly on personal losses, but doesn’t go into much detail. Some of that pain is apparently too close to disclose.
“I’m constantly reflecting on these people and their legacy and everything they’ve left behind.”
This album has been more than a reflection on great lives past. It’s also a reflection of Jake Weary, or a meditation on just who that person might be. You could suggest that Weary’s previous EPs, produced under numerous pseudonyms, have been acts or roles, performances in their own right. This is the first EP he has produced under his own name, the first time Weary seems to really be producing music as himself.
“Since I started recording and producing music in 2003/2004, I’ve been kind of lost as to what my musical identity is, if there even is one. I think I’ve always been caught up in this struggle of pseudonyms and making music as myself, and questioning who is this person performing my music, is it someone completely different? When I perform on stage is there just this alternative persona that I take on naturally or subconsciously, and if that is the case, then who is that person? But you are what you create, and vice versa. I think I just realized that it’s just me, and this is who I am, and I don’t need to create an alternate persona for people to accept it or enjoy it.”
Reflections of the Dead releases today and is available on most streaming services and purchase sites. Weary’s EP release show is August 7th at Baby’s Alright.
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