One finds life’s weird, alienated moments in Jaye Jayle’s new album Prisyn — the lonely walk along the perilously-thin shoulder of a country road, the glide through the dark rooms of the house when you can’t sleep, the middle two hours of a sprawling drive. The record’s electronic throb and ominous creepy-crawl are lush and engaging, but they don’t feel made for dancing, but rather daydreaming. In that respect, there’s a lot of the vampire to Prisyn, both in the music’s goth overtones and in the atmosphere of someone wandering through a single moment in a nocturnal life that sprawls in either direction.
“Absolutely,” says Evan Patterson, the man behind Jaye Jayle. “I was raised religious, and early on came to science, and came to the place of becoming an atheist. In my opinion, the hope in humanity is the creative mind and the idea of progression. That’s the only way I find joy in humanity, is people creating new ways to live, and new ideas against the grain of society and the system, not just falling into the atomic family mold or living by a schedule. Especially with everything going on right now, it’s tough to break out of falling into what capitalism and mainstream culture have forced upon us. It’s a thing I’ve always been against, and continue to stay against. I don’t think it’s about being angry or being sad, it’s just about finding where you fit in and how to exist, and trying to exist as long as you humanly can.”
For Evan, Jaye Jayle is a chance to express this specific side of his outlook on the world. Not that he doesn’t have other outlets — as the vocalist/guitarist of Louisville, KY-based shadow-rock trio Young Widows, Evan can vent his anguish and outrage in a crashing, guitar-based form. But with his solo effort, Patterson decided he wanted to try something cinematic, using “fake” digital sounds via the GarageBand app on his phone to soundtrack his strange, incongruous life on tour. The result is something strangely organic for Patterson, a project that rolls with the punches and allows himself to simply unwind into the music.
“The whole idea was gut instinct, doing things as they come,” he says. “I’ve done that so many times–just worked on a song for three months, until it’s perfect. But once it’s complete, you don’t even like the song anymore. You’ve worked on it so much that it’s so painful to perform and play. This whole experience with Prisyn is that it’s free-form. And when I listened to these songs, it’s like I lost my mind working on them. It just feels very natural.”
What inspired the more atmospheric direction of Jaye Jayle, rather than the rock-oriented music of Young Widows?
This is something I’ve been inching toward for almost a decade with the music I’ve been making, with the influences of film scores. And then with this album in particular, due to the fact that I was creating it while touring, while in the van traveling around the country, it kind of made the whole approach to making music a different experience. I could just sit in the van, look out the window, and compose this music from what my surroundings are.
How did that process start for you? Were you scribbling lyrics, or coming up with melodies?
With this record, it was kind of just toying around with sounds I could create on my phone. I’ve never made a record that was completely electronic, and I’ve almost always started with a vocal idea or a guitar riff. It was all analog, it was all sitting in my house or rehearsal space playing. It was similar to that, but I was just scrolling through all these options of GarageBand, trying to find a sound I like. So I’d come up with these sounds, these patterns. A lot of these songs started around the beats. I’d find a drum beat I liked and loop it, and from there I’d come up with the music, the arrangements. The composition generally comes from the drum pattern and what I can explore through that.
While some of the tracks are very stark and bare-bones, others are sweeping and heartfelt. Is there a side of Jaye Jayle’s sound you prefer?
At the beginning of composing the songs, I wanted it to be more synthetic sounds of string arrangements, piano, fake sounds that were supposed to be real, analog sounds. That’s kind of what happened with the title track, “Synthetic Prison.” I just had this idea of the Morricone scores and film scores, of creating this cinematic, almost orchestral piece. But as it went on, and I started collaborating with Ben [Chisholm, known for his work with Chelsea Wolfe and White Horse]. I’d create a complete piece to my liking, and I’d send it to him, and he’d be adding these very modern electronic moments and filters, pushing the beat super hard, giving it a pulse. Initially, I thought, This is rad! I’m going to make these things kind of rad and fake! But as it went along, it was impossible to not incorporate more electronic sounds, and dip more into that territory. It was exciting, because it was like, I don’t have an instrument that can make this sound. Right now, the sound is my instrument.
You mention late composer Ennio Morricone — his shadow does seem to fall over this album quite a bit. Was that intentional, or have you just picked up his work throughout your life?
I’ve picked his influence up over life, and my fandom of film scores. It’s strange that a lot of people have suggested composers to me in my lifetime, but for some reason, his work I connect with more. It is more cinematic. It’s not just classical, or electronic, or rock. I read some quote about him that said, ‘It’s not about the science of music, it’s about the experience.’ I think that’s a beautiful way to describe his music. And with this record, I found that I could make these songs with strings just by myself. I was able to represent my influence from Ennio Morricone. In the past decade, I’ve felt his influence a lot, and I still do now. It isn’t going to go away.
The music may be comprised of ‘fake’ sounds, but your vocals and lyrics lend the record a strong humanity. Was the plan always to sing over Jaye Jayle?
I had no vision of there being vocals while making the music. Originally, I was talking a lot about guest singers. My original concept was to release an instrumental album called Songs for Iggy, and somehow Iggy Pop would find out about it, and he would sing on it. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that was a dream, and the reality is I wanted to complete this record, and make it something more than an instrumental record. Singing has always connected me to music — hearing a story, hearing about other people’s experiences and perspectives. That’s somewhat the educational and inspiring angles of a narrative to a song.
I was talking to [Daughters frontman] Alexis Marshall at Sargent House, because I wanted him to sing on it, but he said, ‘I have no idea how to approach this.’ So I thought, Maybe I get my wife Emma Ruth Rundle to sing on it, maybe I ask Chelsea Wolfe, maybe I could try to get Iggy Pop. But the more I went along, the more I listened to it, the more I reached the point where I thought, I’m just going to attempt to sing on this. I’m constantly writing lyrics, or poems, or stories — especially while I’m traveling. So I booked some studio dates with a friend here in Louisville, and printed out about fifty sheets of poems and stories, and took them in a stack to my friend’s house, and just started going through the lyrics and trying them out. Aimlessly…just, ‘Let’s try this for this song.’ It was surprising how many things worked well. It was a rhythmic thing — especially with being from Kentucky, and having a tune to my accent, it’s natural for things to have a rhythm. So all of a sudden the songs and stories started making sense.
There’s a real intense feeling of loneliness and detachment on Prisyn. Is that an emotional side of things you feel you can only express through Jaye Jayle?
Absolutely. There’s a somberness…I don’t know what it is. I would say I’m a pretty optimistic person, but somewhat pessimistic. And if it wasn’t for art, and having these outlets…I don’t know. I sadly have little hope for humanity, and existence, and I think that always comes out in my songwriting. In saying that, I’m not a sad person, but I do believe that when you’re going through life and walking into a Starbucks or a gas station for months out of your life, and that’s your interaction with human beings for months of the year, those are the things you have to do to survive to be on tour, and you’re hearing corporate music and all this happy bullshit…it’s something that I’ve always wanted to present in my music. And in that same perspective, it brings me an immense amount of joy to represent those feelings.
Jaye Jayle’s Prisyn comes out August 7 via Sargent House, and is available for preorder.
Words by Chris Krovatin