Singer/guitarist Jordan Jeffares took a moment out Snowden’s first tour in a while to sit down and talk to QRO. Over some Pad Thai, Jeffares discussed the tour, the break from touring, where they are on their follow-up to 2006’s Anti-Anti, playing to new crowds or new material, ‘settling into insecurity’, a crackhead humping a couch, and more…
QRO: How has this tour been going so far?
Jordan Jeffares: It’s been going good. One of the reasons we did this tour is, we’re due for a record, and we needed keep letting people know that we’re still out there kicking and going, just that the record’s taking a little bit longer than expected.
And also, we paired up with this band, Colour Revolt (QRO photos) from Oxford [Mississippi]. They have a different crowd than we do, but we’re similar size bands, so we thought it would be a good idea to go out and co-headline, and meet each other’s fans.
QRO: Is this going to be your longest headlining tour?
JJ: No, when the record first came out, we did five weeks. We did the whole country. We’ve done the whole country twice, we’ve done everything east, everything but the west, twice. So this is a smaller one, actually.
QRO: Before this tour, had you been taking some time off from touring to work on the new record?
JJ: Yeah, I was trying to take the winter.
QRO: Oh yeah, ‘cause winters are terrible for touring…
JJ: Yeah, it’s definitely not the best, although we’ve done it, been snowed in at mountain passes…
The winter doesn’t really bother me as far as touring, but for me, up until Anti-Anti, I did a lot of my own recording, I do all my own demos and everything. And up until Anti-Anti, I was working my ass as I always have, cutting tracks every day. And then, because of Anti-Anti and having to scale down my life, financially, I was pretty much couch surfing for that entire year and a half, when we were pushing that record. At the end of last summer, I hadn’t touched a note, recording-wise, or new material, in a year and a half, which was really weird, because the last six years, it was nothing but recording.
So, after the Kings of Leon (QRO photos) tour last summer, I made it a point to not to take any shows and to solely sit down. Even though I enjoy touring, I like going out, but I knew how distracting it was, so I took the time off, and said, ‘You know, I’m going to work on music for the next six months.’
QRO: How was that tour with Kings of Leon in America & Europe?
JJ: It was really incredible, when you’re playing in Europe and America, those two-thousand, three-thousand person shows, you get to play incredible ballrooms, Fox Theater, Crystal Ballroom, Roseland [Ballroom] (QRO venue review)… Some of them are antiques; they’re incredible places.
It was kind of a mixed thing, on whether we were matching up with their fans, but every once in a while, like in Cardiff, Wales, fans were awesome. London? Not at all. It was horrible. It was the smallest turnout we had, before we went on. It’s a three thousand-person place, the Apollo Theatre, and there were eight hundred people there.
But it was exciting to see how a big tour works, and Kings of Leon are really fun, fun guys. It was good; I enjoyed it.
QRO: At Mercury Lounge (QRO venue review) last night, you were delayed by the fire marshal. Has that ever happened to you before?
JJ: Never. And a lot of people who were there said it never happened there before. So good – great timing…
QRO: Do you prefer headlining tours at smaller places like Mercury Lounge, or opening at bigger places like Roseland Ballroom?
JJ: We had the choice between Mercury and Bowery [Ballroom] (QRO venue review), and it’s better to play a full show at a small place than to hope that you can fill out a bigger room.
QRO: You did a live DVD at Bowery – what was that like?
JJ: It was really cool. It was the best video footage we’ve had yet; I think we had three, four cameras there. They did a really good job.
It was weird to have people on the stage with you, and other people in the crowd, seeing them. It was the first time the thought crossed my mind, ‘Do we look pretentious with people filming us?’ But you get over that…
QRO: Were you at South by Southwest this year?
JJ: Went as a spectator. SXSW changes exponentially every year. I didn’t really have a good time. There’s only so many times that you can drink Hi-Life for free, over and over again. It’s just not my idea of vacation, which is what it’s supposed to be.
Austin’s a great town. I love Austin so much more when it’s not SXSW.
QRO: You’re going to be at the Forecastle Festival (QRO Festival Guide) in Louisville. Are you going to do any other festivals this summer?
JJ: No, we’re not. We’re just doing this tour. This tour was actually, if it weren’t for happening to hook up with Colour Revolt and deciding that we both wanted to do it, I wasn’t planning on doing any of it. I was planning on continuing to get the records out, and get those things in place. We haven’t scheduled anything else.
QRO: Do you do anything differently when you play outdoors?
JJ: Throw a little more reverb and distortion on everything. Clean it up when we play inside.
QRO: How far along are you on the new record?
JJ: I have most of the demos done, and then it’s just about trying to figure out where to record. I think I’m about two songs away from having it completely demoed out, and then it’s just doing test tracks, trying to figure out who’s got the right idea of what I want to do.
QRO: How has been making it so far compare with making your first full-length, Anti-Anti?
JJ: Anti-Anti was like a ‘greatest hits’ of four years. This record, most of it will have been done in under a year.
QRO: Do you feel any extra pressure, with this being your sophomore LP?
JJ: Yes I do, absolutely. Partly because of the time: you spend your whole life making your first record, and you have a year or two to do the next one.
QRO: Where are you on finding a new label?
JJ: I am putting the feelers out, trying to figure out who’s interested, but I’m not dying to get on with anybody, unless the right place, right time, right fit.
QRO: Do you think you’ll release it on our own?
JJ: I’m considering it.
QRO: Why did you leave your last, Jade Tree?
JJ: The label changed, significantly. They scaled down, a lot. They went from three full-time members to now one full-time member.
QRO: How has it been, playing new material live?
JJ: It’s odd, because some of these songs, we’ve only practiced for… We played one song we only practiced twice before we left.
It’s good, because we played the old tunes a couple hundred times each, so it’s nice to… Even though, the fans, the people at the shows are more into the stuff they know.
QRO: How do you balance that, the old and the new?
JJ: You want to give people what they want, but, at the same time, there are people that want the new stuff, who have been to multiple shows. Luckily, the reports back from friends have been, the new stuff’s been going over really well.
But we do half and half, mix it up. One old, one new, one old…
QRO: How did the band all meet?
JJ: I’d just graduated from [The University of] Georgia, and I’d been working on demos. And my brother’s a ‘Tastemaker Atlanta’, and he started circulating the demos, to see if anybody would be interested in being in a band, and he found the first line-up, pretty much.
It turned out that three of the guys were just friends that were in a practice space. They were trying to write music, and they figured they’d work with me, kind of as an offshoot, just to see how things worked. Everybody liked the demos, we started playing, things worked well.
And then, after a year, people started running out of vacation time to go on the road, and you have to make the decision, ‘Do I want to leave my job – leave my insurance?’ That’s the big thing.
After a year, people had to decide: you can’t be a ‘part of the life’. It’s a lifestyle. You can’t have it both ways.
QRO: So what happened?
JJ: Dave [Payne, guitar] had been with his company for many years, so he had tons of vacation time, so he just kept using his vacation time. Chandler [Pentz, drums] ended up leaving his job of ten years.
I warned them, I told them all, ‘I understand, if you need to give this up.’ Because, the statistics are against you. They’re totally against you. If you want to do this, you’ll have fun when you do this, but prepare to live on your brother’s couch.
It’s a big thing. I’m not really that young anymore. I’m 27. But Dave and Chandler, they’re over 30; they’re like 34, 35. I don’t know if I would make that choice. Because I’ve now settled into insecurity. Even though I’m one of the few people I know in my position who has insurance. But I’ve gotten used to hopping from place to place. I’ve just gotten to accept that’s just part of my life now; this is what I have to do to do this.
Corinne [Lee, bass/keys] is a bartender. She does very well, and they’re very flexible with her. Everybody loves Corinne, her employers, and her friends. So they’re willing to let her go.
QRO: Sometimes people can get jobs like that: bartender, waiter…
JJ: I’m a bartender/waiter.
QRO: What was it like, getting the status “most blogged band” on elbo.ws?
JJ: That was really exciting. My brother, again, is a big ‘blogophile’. We didn’t get a lot of physical, ‘glossy’ coverage, but that didn’t really bother me, because I don’t read glossies. ‘Oh well… Missed out.’
The blogs is a more grassroots thing. So it’s nice to know that a hundred bloggers love you, rather than five magazines.
QRO: Do you worry about any backlash against being “the most blogged band”?
JJ: No. There are plenty of things to worry about, in music. It’s a shame that that’s a real thing, that you have to worry about the backlash from the blogger-hatred from the ‘powers that be’ in print media, or whatever.
QRO: What was making the videos for “Like Bullets” and “Anti-Anti” like?
JJ: It was cool. Both of those videos were friends of ours that were young guys who wanted to make some cool art. That was cool, because there was no tension, not clock running. They knew we had no money, knew that we couldn’t pay them, but they do their gigs in the daytime that pay so they can do stuff that pay, like us.
QRO: Kind of their version of your making music…
QRO: You were on Fearless Music TV last month. What was that like?
JJ: We recorded that two years ago. We kept wondering what they ever did with it.
QRO: What was it like when you did do it?
JJ: It’s weird doing stuff like that, that high production. You wonder, ‘How profusely am I sweating? ‘Cause, if there were any more lights on me right now, I would explode into flames.’
That studio’s pretty crazy. It’s in an office space in the Upper West Side, only you walk in, and it looks like your typical, tiny New York cubicle of an office, and then you go through a door, and they’ve got a million dollars worth of stuff jammed into this tiny room.
QRO: Are there any new songs you particularly like to play live?
JJ: “So Red” is one of my favorites, and “Lemon Peel”. Those are two new tracks on the record.
Snowden playing “Lemon Peel” live @ Mercury Lounge, New York, NY:
QRO: What about older material?
JJ: “Victim Card” has always been one of our big set closers for a long time. It’s good to hear people shout for “Anti-Anti”. That’s one everyone knows the words to.
Snowden playing “Anti-Anti” live @ Mercury Lounge, New York, NY:
QRO: Are there any songs you can’t play live, or don’t play anymore?
JJ: We’ve only played “Sisters”, the last track, which is one of my favorite tracks… we can’t play that. That’s one really hard, doesn’t come across well.
QRO: Is it because of the arrangement?
JJ: Yeah, it’s just the arrangement. That and “Innocent Heathen” both need choirs.
When I write, I like to ignore what’s possible live. I like to actually write music for the sake of the song. So I do lots of over-dubbing.
Snowden playing “Innocent Heathen” live @ Mercury Lounge, New York, NY:
QRO: What cities have you really liked playing at?
JJ: Of course, all the big cities. I think every band is probably a big city band.
Other than the big cities, other than having great shows in New York, Chicago, LA, Austin… We have a great time in Minneapolis, because their public radio station is a big fan. We have great shows there, we have good shows in Denver, we have great shows in San Francisco…
I like the driving out west – most touring is driving. It’s beautiful out there, but it’s such a pain to get out there and back. It’s a killer. I wish we could play out west more, but there’s really only five cities out there. You gotta travel two days each way.
QRO: Are there any places that you haven’t been to that you want to go to?
JJ: More of Europe. And I’d love to play more Canada. We’ve played Montreal and Toronto twice. I’d like to visit Vancouver.
It’d be nice to go to Latin America. One day, when we get big…
QRO: Do you have a favorite tour story?
JJ: Sometimes, the question is, ‘What’s your weirdest tour story?’ That one would be showing up to do a gig in this jacked-up place in Jackson, Mississippi. Jackson, Mississippi looks like a war-zone.
We roll up, and the other band is packing up and leaving, before the show even starts, because there’s only one microphone and a speaker, for a PA. There’s like a crackhead humping a couch in front of the loading door, looking at us. ‘Okay… This is going to be fun.’
But we did it, and it ended up being a fun show. Two people when we started, and twenty-five when we finished. And they all said, ‘Man, stuff like this never comes through here. Thank you guys so much for coming.’
Snowden playing “Between the Rent and Me” live @ Mercury Lounge, New York, NY: