Interview by Joe Cortez
Songwriter Benjamin Jaffe came to prominence through his work with Americana duo HoneyHoney. Now, Jaffe returns to his roots as a solo artist with the upcoming release of his debut solo LP, "Oh, Wild Ocean of Love."
Jaffe took some time out to answer a few questions via email and talk about his process, influences and more. Check out our conversation below and for more on Jaffe, head over to benjaffemusic.com Special thanks to Girlie Action Media for arranging coverage.
So Benjamin, what sparked the return to your roots as a solo artist?
Hey! Thanks for asking. My band, HONEYHONEY, had been grinding for so long that we were at a bit of a breaking point. Sooze ( my partner) had an opportunity to work with a great producer on some songs she'd had for awhile, it just presented itself as a good time to take the foot off the HH pedal for a while. I'd had some songs of my own that weren't right for the band just kickin' around so I finally had the swat on the ass to do something with them.
How has being a part of a duo for the better part of a decade informed your process as a solo artist now?
I think its worked both sides of the coin. What I mean is the inherent compromise in collaborating can lead to some repression, which in turn creates a lot of energy. Outside of my partnership with Sooze I could explore a lot of ideas that wouldn't have been right for our band. At the same time, my collaborative muscles have been built up for years now so getting into the studio with Howard Feibusch, who produced the record, came easily.
From the bits that have been teased thus far, there appears to be a lot going with your upcoming album, “Oh, Wild Ocean of Love.” Can you speak about your influences both in recording and writing?
I think I'm getting a better handle on my difficulty focusing. Its been an obstacle but the more I just say fug it and move towards what Im drawn to, the more comfortable I am with working. What I mean to say is my attention is always drawn in so many different directions musically, drums, piano, guitar, or jazz, folk, chamber music, things I read. I wanted the record to be 25-30 minutes of music that felt continuous, like a mixtape. I didn't quite do it but I gave it a whack. I read David Byrnes " How Music Works" and the part about music reflecting its context struck me. All the parts on the record reflect what I was able to play at the time and the space we recorded in. The drums for instance, my drumming muscles aint to strong these days but my rhythmic ideas are. Thats why the drums are pretty quiet, and theres a lot of layering, I wasn't able to play the parts at the same time so we created this different sound with the approach of, " work with what you got". I don't think this has answered your question. I love Randy Newman and Radiohead and the Supremes.
You seem to be at ease and have a confidence about you in gliding between genres, from folk to soul, pop and rock. What fuels this playfulness in your music?
Oh maybe this was what I was talking about in the last question. Haha. I love improvising. I had a great drum teacher when I was a kid, named Randy Kaye. We would have hour long lessons and improvise the entire time, totally free improv. I think that helped me get comfortable winging it. Ive never had the patience to really devote to a style. I think if you're comfortable being expressive you can jump around and actually use the genres for what they are, jump points. It also helps to accept that its just music and who gives a shit if you blow it.
What can you tell us about your future plans with this release? Are you planning any more future live dates soon to coincide with album?
Just wanna keep playing. And working on the next piece. Honeyhoney will probably do some more stuff next year. We're on a tv show too [The Guest Book on TBS].