Music For Your Headphones: Q&A with Jordan Jeffares of Snowden

Photos by Mark Likosky 

Jordan Jeffares began his project known as Snowden years ago, back when he was a teenager hanging out in his bedroom. According to him, he was just messing around with recording some demos and “writing lots of horrible music.” He continued to see where he could take things and by the time he was a senior at UGA in Athens, Ga., he managed to come up with a few gems that sparked the attention of his brother and other fellow musicians. One thing led to another and in 2006, after releasing an EP prior, he managed to put together an acclaimed, full-length album, Anti-Anti.

It’s been over six years since Snowden has released much of anything. Jeffares has moved from city to city around the country, switched record labels, and “overwritten” a lot of songs. He is now on the Kings of Leon record label, Serpents and Snakes, and is based out of Austin at the moment. He seems to be happy there for now but he readily admits that he thrives off movement. In fact, he happens to love Philly and could easily see himself living here. Perhaps we’ll see more of him in the future?

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Snowden released an EP in 2010 called Slow Soft Syrup EP, but otherwise we haven’t heard too much. Until recently.

The three-piece band performed at Johnny Brenda’s on Wednesday night to a pretty packed audience. Local bands Busses and Belgrade made appearances, as well. Snowden performed a good mix of songs from Anti-Anti and a few new songs from the album they are currently promoting and will release in May, No One In Control. It’s first single, “The Beat Comes,” seems to steer in a different direction that isn’t as post-punk/British dance music heavy. Jeffares admits to have an affinity for slower songs that you can listen to in your headphones just for yourself. “The Beat Comes” maintains a dance-y, upbeat flow that you’d probably expect from Snowden, but the heart of the song is much slower and somber. It could easily be performed with an acoustic guitar and Jeffares’ vocals. It’s beautiful either way you look at it, though. I especially think the music video delivers this track nicely; the highs and lows are appropriately mixed in visually via seeing a masculine boxer struggle with his desire to embrace a more feminine side.

two.one.five sat down with Jeffares to get caught up on the past six years and to see what’s on the horizon for this mobile man.

two.one.five: So, you released Anti-Anti in 2006. Has switching labels and moving around had anything to do with the delay in releasing a new album?

Jordan Jeffares: I was writing the entire time. Overwriting, really. Some of the songs that I thought were going to be the single on the record aren’t even on the record anymore. I saw what it was like to release a record and I knew if all of your ducks weren’t in a row you risk just flopping a record out there and not getting any traction. I’ve got some records that I really love and I don’t understand why they didn’t break wide open, and you never know what the circumstances are. I’m willing to wait longer and do this record right and have it come out right than just to put a record out to have one out.

two.one.five: As far as the difference between Anti-Anti and No On In Control is concerned, you haven’t released anything for a little while and you’ve moved around a bit, how much has this lapse in time influenced where you are right now with this current record in particular?

JJ: I never knew if I was going to stop making music all together. I just decided I wanted to write a record that I wanted to hear in headphones. The first record had a lot of pressure because a lot of it depended on the live performance aspect, you know. It has to turn heads and be upbeat. I feel like I didn’t follow that at all on this record, so half of it is slow songs. That’s what I love writing, there’s no pressure to make people foot stomp. You can just throw on your headphones and go to bed which I think so much easier. To me, my favorite place is in headphones on the train and not playing with speakers or anything. So, that’s how the writing is different; it’s writing for myself and not as much of performing for other people.

two.one.five.: Yeah, I really love the single you have for the new record. It does have the quality you’re talking about, a slower quality, but it’s dance-y and has this tinge of optimism.

JJ: Yeah, that’s how all my songs start out. They start out slow and I figure out ways to crank it up a bit. If I just add something different it’ll make it more upbeat. The “rock” in me isn’t very strong so I really have to work at it. Sonically, I make a lot of my own stuff and I do a lot of my own mixing. When I’m writing, from a demo perspective, it’s just always harder for me to make the songs pop because the slow, pretty stuff is just so much easier. Now when I tour I get to pick a handful of songs from each record, but I can only see my records getting more dreamy. Some people are into the slow stuff live, but a lot of people like something that chugs along, make their hair blow back a little bit.

two.one.five: Yeah, according to bio I’ve read online it said you were wanting to move away from the “Brit dance party” you pushed on the first record.

JJ: Yes, that’s very much where I was going back then. I was listening to a lot of Bloc Party and Interpol. I still love that stuff, though.

two.one.five: With this new song (“The Beat Comes”), I really did like the music video that came out with it. It sort of reminded me of that video that Spiritualized released last year for their song “Hey Jane.”

JJ: Such a great video. When I first saw that I was like, “Uhhhh!” Yeah, the guy who I was working with as far as I know didn’t have any intention of channeling that. He had initially developed the concept of the boxer but I told him there had to be something darker, something deeper going on. I wanted some kind of sexual tension to be present. I wanted to have the boxer when he was older seen putting on lipstick but the actor wouldn’t do it so we just we see him hold it up to his face instead which I think worked. I wanted everything to be subtle, I didn’t want anything to be blatant. I didn’t want to spoon feed the story; I wanted it to be seen as a subtle piece of art. I feel like that’s something my audience appreciates a bit.

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two.one.five: I feel like it’s something that makes you want to watch it to the end. You’re not in a position to cut it off early because you want to see what happens. Is that one of the more upbeat tracks on the record?

JJ: Yeah, it’s one of them. I knew pretty early on this was going to be the first single. It was one of the few times I was able to write something that’s remotely fun; when that happens I’m like, “Yeah, that’s the first single.” I realized at one point  when writing this album, like, five of the tracks had the word “no” in the title and I had to change some of the titles. I thought to myself, “Man, I must be going through some type of midlife crisis or something.” You know, what does this say about me? I needed to have an awakening of some kind; I can’t keep going like this.

two.one.five.: Have you played in Philly before? Do you have connections to the area? Any fond memories?

JJ: I’ve been coming to Philly and playing at this bar since I don’t think it was safe to come to this area of town. Now I come here and there are yoga studios and stuff. There’s a Fette Sau — you’ve made it when you’ve got a Fette Sau. One of my fondest memories, I was on my way moving up to New York and I stopped here to get on my bike for a little bit. It was absolutely beautiful, it was November. I just thought I’d go for a quick ride and I wound up losing my car; I had no clue where it was. It was such a beautiful day; I was riding over in West Philly near one of the colleges, across the bridge, over the water. I just thought I was in the most beautiful neighborhood I have ever seen. And I lost my car for six hours. I love Philly. It’s always on my list of “to dos.”