Real girls in their own place.
Not too crazy and just a pinch of naughty...
Words by Pisha Warden (@macpisho)
Images by Michael Edwards
Two cherries were popped recently here at MIMP.
Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance, also known as the band Jamestown Revival, recently became the first men to be photographed for MIMP. And while they weren’t peeling off layers of attire during the shoot, they certainly held nothing back when we chatted in their studio a few days later, at which point they became my first three-way…interview. For the record, they were absolute gentlemen and an absolute blast. (Besides, ladies, Jonathan is married. But Zach isn’t, and has one helluva mustache. Just saying.)
As a new music fiend in Los Angeles, I’d already heard good things long before we met about this band-on-the-rise, whose folksy, bluesy, harmony-driven and southern-infused songs are as honest as they are poetic.
You don’t have to take my word for it, either. We here at MIMP have your back, and you can watch Jamestown Revival perform the song “Fur Coat Blues,” from their upcoming full-length album, Utah. And as an extra special EXCLUSIVE to our MIMP readers, you can download a live version of ‘California (Iron Cast Soul)’ (This track is ONLY available through MIMP! Awesomesauce!)
Originally from Austin, Texas, Jamestown Revival came to Los Angeles in 2011 after being finalists in an independent artist competition for the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine. While they ultimately didn’t win the cover, the momentum from that exposure carried them west in search of new challenges and adventures, some of which include: performing on The Carson Daly Show, having their music featured on TV (VH1’s Couples Therapy), and recording their first full-length album, Utah, due to be released later this year.
In their Culver City studio on a drizzly Tuesday morning, these easy-going Texans got the interview going long before I even realized what was happening. While finishing each other’s sentences like twins, they talked about the upcoming album, chronic wanderlust, and the adventure thus far.
Pisha: You know you were the first guys to shoot with Michael for Me In My Place?
Zach: We stole the man picture virginity?
P: Sure did! Are you familiar with our site?
Z: We’ve poked around.
Jonathan: I wouldn’t say very familiar, but we checked it out and got a feel for it, what it was.
Z: Lots of great scenery.
J: We hadn’t heard of it previously, but it was a delightful discovery.
Insert the sound of my nervous laughter here as I try to “officially” start the interview, while convincing myself that the hotness I feel spreading across my cheeks isn’t from blushing.
P: First off, how would you guys describe your sound or influences to people who don’t know you?
J: (to Zach) What did you say one time? “It sounds like losing your virginity in the back of your grandmother’s Oldsmobile—
Z: “—while watching Purple Rain.” It sounds like if Burt Reynolds mustache could play guitar and harmonize with itself. No, maybe that’s too generous.
J: It’s harmony-driven, it’s rooted in American songwriting, and we tell stories about stuff we know. Our influences are everybody from classic rock like Credence Clearwater and Led Zepplin to fuckin’ ZZ Top when we’re feeling weird, to John Prine and Guy Clarke—
Z: —Simon and Garfunkel.
J: it’s kind of classic rock with classic master songwriters. I’m not saying we are, but those guys are what we aspire to be.
Z: Maybe this is one of those things that you don’t appreciate until it’s gone, but Texas is rich with music history. The south is. So I look back at all the influences that maybe we picked up and didn’t even realize until we got to LA. We didn’t realize how much we were Texans, and hillbillies—
J: —we’re refined hillbillies, and you can quote me on that—
Z: —yeah, that was a big thing [musically], really understanding where we came from.
P: Where are you from?
J: We grew up in a small town called Magnolia, Texas.
Z: It’s on the outskirts of Houston.
J: The population sign still says eleven hundred people, but I think that’s a farce. But they move slow, everybody’s got a little bit slower pace down there. Zach moved from Lubbock, Texas when we were in ninth grade and we immediately became archenemies.
Z: (smiling) We did.
J: At that point our class had like three hundred people in it, that’s pretty small. A new kid moves in and it’s a big deal, so I was skeptical of this guy. But we became friends quickly.
Z: It was “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”
P: Did your friendship develop because of music?
Z: It was an afterthought. I think it was a little bit later on that we were both like, “Oh, you play music? Oh, you sing a little bit? Me too.” Then there was common ground.
J: And at that point, music started becoming an ever-present theme between us. We wrote that first song when we were fifteen, we couldn’t even drive yet.
P: What was the song about?
Z: Girls! What else would it be about? I only had one thought on my brain at all times! But from there we finished high school and went off to the same college together, Texas State. We roomed together and were always doing the same stuff, but Jon was really into music and I was focusing on studies.
P: What kind of studies?
Z: I have a degree in marketing. It seemed like the practical thing to do. I’m an educated man, there’s a diploma somewhere in a closet!
J: I dropped out of school my second year, but I still lived in the college town. I am a feind for education. I love learning, I read a crazy amount of educational material, but I don’t like structured, formal education. It’s sort of a contradiction.
Z: I would argue that you could get a better education just by traveling and reading than from most universities, but it’s what you’re “supposed” to do. Jon’s a big do-it-yourself guy, he teaches himself things. He has a new hobby every week, but in a good way. (to Jonathan) You’re always bettering yourself and it’s respectable.
P: What sort of books do you read?
J: On my shelf right now, there’s a book about electricity and electrical theory, there’s a book on how to teach yourself PhotoShop, then there’s a book about why society will collapse by 2017.
Z: Towards the end of college I started to get back into music and found the desire to be doing it.
J: There was a switch that flipped with Zach. After that, he made his own solo record and that’s when we toured together, sort of each as solo artists—
Z: But then we’d end up playing all of our sets together.
P: It really happened that naturally?
Z: Yeah. Then we moved out here two years ago exactly this month. We had officially formed Jamestown Revival and we were doing some demo stuff—
J: (excitedly) No, Huntsville! That was a key part!
Z: Alright, you talk about Huntsville and I’ll pick it up from there.
J: So there’s this land that’s been in my family since the late ‘60s /early ‘70s, it’s a thousand acres in Texas and we’ve been going out there since we were fifteen.
P: Sounds like having your own private campground.
J: Exactly. Go take the guns, the four-wheeler, no tv. There’s a busted old trailer house that was hauled out there and has been there since the land came into my family’s possession, way back when.
Z: You gotta be careful where you walk on the floors, your foot’ll go through.
J: It is a piece of shit! But we love it. We’ve rebuilt the back porch three times cuz it keeps rotting through. We have a grill and a big fire pit and huge oak tress and it’s heaven. It’s paradise.
We had gotten back from the tour we’d both just done and I think we were both feeling like “What the fuck are we doing? This isn’t inspiring me.” We were at these crossroads, spiritually almost—loving being together and loving doing music together, but not necessarily loving being solo artists. And we went out to Huntsville for a while, like, “let’s just go write for a few weeks, bring the instruments.” We’d never done that before; whenever we went, we just brought toys. So it was just us, by ourselves, for two weeks and we wrote a couple of songs in this totally free-form manner, in a way that I’d never written before.
Z: It was also a revelation, a change of thought process. Our writing became more autobiographical, writing because it was what we wanted to say, not necessarily what we thought people wanted to hear. And I think that was big, we came into our own. We realized who we were as musicians.
J: We were writing about what we knew on an intimate level, which was the return to the wild, Mother Nature, the wilderness. The return to the simplicity and what makes us feel like we’re at home again.
We left Huntsville with two songs that ended up going on our first EP and knowing that we started something. We didn’t have a name for the band yet; it was the following week when we got back that we came up with the name and knew we were onto something, this felt better than anything.
P: How did you come up with “Jamestown Revival” for a name?
Z: Being a history buff, Jamestown was an ode to new beginnings and the idea of leaving behind the old, coming to a new world and setting forth. And the simplicity of it. It was a rebirth, essentially, I think that’s where it came from. It popped out and it felt good, so we ran with it.
But from Huntsville, we came back and started recording demos. And then this opportunity came up with Rolling Stone (the cover competition) and we ran with it.
J: We didn’t end up getting the cover, but it was a really good platform to officially launch Jamestown. And it did something for me mentally, committing to Jamestown. It was real and there was no looking back.
Z: While that was happening, we had been talking about coming out here—we love Austin, and that’s our home—but it was time for an adventure, it was time for a change. We wanted to be uncomfortable, especially with this new project and the idea of getting that adventure, getting dirt under our nails. So we packed up and moved and haven’t really looked back since. That’s how we ended up in LA. It was inspirational.
J: From start to finish, the new record (Utah) tells the story of the last twenty-four months.
P: So if I was curious about is what you miss about Texas the most or what you’ve discovered here in California—
J: You can learn all of that from listening to the record. What do we miss? That’s track four, “Heavy Heart.” What do we like? Check out “California.” I can reference exactly which songs tell you those exact things, it’s that specific.
P: And Utah? What’s the story there?
Z: We had access to this cabin in Utah and really liked the remoteness of it. The cabin was a decent size with this big great room, and we started tossing around the idea of recording out there. So we rented all this gear, we brought in some good friends to engineer it who work out here, got our band members together, we hauled out all this gear…It probably took us sixteen hours, that truck was just so slow—
J: —I drove the big-ass truck, it maxed out at 55, it was terrible—
Z: But we went out to the mountains for two weeks and recorded the record. And it’s all to tape, it’s all live recording, so it’s got some character and we’re excited about it.
J: We went as old school as we could with this album.
Z: We realized when we got out there that we might’ve bitten off more than we could chew, and so we were scrambling and learned a lot.
J: The way we did it led us to realness. Our whole goal was to really capture moments, capture energy. Sometimes when we play these songs, I can feel it, we get this smile on our faces, it’s like, there it is, there’s the energy. That’s really hard to force or fabricate. That was what brought us out there to record, and that was why we didn’t use headphones or a metronome. We just had our drummer, our bass player, me, and Zach.
We played so we could hear each other and the song was almost living and breathing in that moment, and there were mics everywhere to capture it. We would get so frustrated because a song wasn’t coming, and we would strip it all down and say, fuck it, let’s try something totally different. And that moment was captured and that’s on the record. So the results of this frustration and this realness, I feel like we captured it and that was the goal.
And the thing about the album is it’s not sonically pristine. As an artist, that’s scary. It’s not recorded with isolation, it doesn’t sound like a perfect, pretty black hole that perfect recordings are. You can hear the room; you can hear white noise from the tape machine. It sounds like it has character, and that is the thing that I hope people get. I hope people understand what this record is, and what this record isn’t. It’s a risk, but it’s a risk I think we had to take.
P: What were some of your favorite experiences there?
Z: There was a moose that would come by with her baby.
J: We’re sitting there drinking coffee and this moose and her baby come walking by the back porch, and it’s suckling from her teat, no kidding!
P: That’s some nature for ya!
Z: We had a lot of late nights because we had a limited amount of time and the very last night, everybody was pretty exhausted. We finished just about the time the sun was coming up. We were drinking whiskey, and there’s deer walking by, and the world is sort of coming to life again and it was such a profound moment and it was an awesome sense of accomplishment.
J: And cool trivia fact—as we were sitting down there, fucking exhausted, the sun was bright, coming up full strength. Our sound engineer had set a microphone outside on the porch and you could hear the birds going nuts, just singing and the leaves blowing, and the wind moving, and that is actually the start of one of the songs on the album, it was that exact moment recorded. (He pauses.) So that was the last day.
Z: Whenever I hear that, it takes me right there.
We all get quiet for a moment. The way Utah lights them up leaves me feeling like I was right there, too. And also leaves me with an insatiable thirst for good whiskey.
P: So what’s on the horizon for Jamestown Revival?
J: I want to get this entire record out, tour as frequently as possible and keep it consistent. Write the next chapter.
Z: Yeah, I’m ready for the next chapter. Long term, as long as we can keep our lights on, meet the people we get to meet, and have the experiences we get to have while doing this, then I have no complaints. I’m just excited to grow, I still feel like it’s pretty new and we still have a lot to learn. It’ll always be autobiographical, so wherever the world takes us is what we’ll be writing about. That’s what I’m excited for, to see the progression.
On that note, I’m gonna pour myself a stiff drink and listen to my copy ‘California (Cast Iron Soul)’ on the porch. It just feels like the right thing to do.
For the latest updates from Jamestown Revival, more music, and tour information, visit http://www.JamestownRevival.com.
If you live in LA, check em out this Saturday April 6th at Room 5, starting at 7:30pm!