By Nicholas Jason Lopez
With the release of singles “Look Alive” and “Haze,” Unwed Sailor are set to release a new seven-track LP ‘Look Alive’ on June 12, 2020 via Old Bear Records/Light In The Attic.
The group continues their quest of expanded instrumental music, composed by Johnathan Ford (Pedro The Lion, Roadside Monument), which range from post-rock to dreamy soundscapes. The inspirational ‘Look Alive’ follows last year’s melodic ‘Heavy Age,’ written in a time where Ford’s life reached a dark period.
The Music Bugle had the chance to talk with Ford about the upcoming release and more.
Music Bugle – How did you guys decide upon the band name?
Johnathan Ford – Unwed Sailor was a nickname given to me by Jason Hamacher and Shelby Cinca from the punk/hardcore band, Frodus. I was in a band called Roadside Monument in the 1990’s and we were scheduled to do a U.S. tour with the band Frodus. We could not find a van for Roadside Monument to tour in, so I decided to jump in the Frodus van and go on tour with Frodus as a roadie. On the California leg of the tour, I was christened with the nickname Unwed Sailor. I’m still not sure why they called me that. (Laughs) So, a year or so later when I started writing the songs that would become the first Unwed Sailor songs, I decided to name the project/band Unwed Sailor.
Music Bugle – What has the most difficult challenge around making your latest LP?
Johnathan Ford – I would say mixing the songs for ‘Look Alive’ was the most challenging part of making the record. I tend to be a perfectionist and sometimes, I would get so lost in the particular tone or level of a certain instrument, that I couldn’t tell up from down or left from right anymore. I would literally lose sleep over obsessing whether the volume of the bass was at the perfect level. Mixing a record is such an intricate surgical process. It can drive you crazy.
Music Bugle – What was your source of inspiration for the “Look Alive” music video?
Johnathan Ford – “Look Alive” is a dance song to me. There’s a lot of movement and change in the song, so I felt it made sense to incorporate dancing into the video. The concept of “Look Alive” is to celebrate and expand your own personal expression with no holds or constrictions. To truly let go and be your pure self. I believe that dancing is the perfect avenue of expression to achieve that. Dancing is a way to be completely lost in the here and now, to celebrate the exact moment you are in. There are no worries about the past or future. You are just completely in the now using your body to express your pure self. That’s what “Look Alive” is about.
Music Bugle – Without an emphasis on lyricism per se in your music, do you feel that makes it more difficult to get the “feel” of your songs across?
Johnathan Ford – The musical part of my mind usually functions without lyrics. They aren’t really on my musical radar. 99 percent of the time, when I hear a song, the lyrics are the last thing that I put my focus on. I hear the instruments and melody of the voice first. The voice is like another instrument to me, hitting musical notes that are intertwining with the other instruments. I’ve always heard music in that way, so making instrumental music feels natural and right to me. The feel comes easily for me. Sometimes, it almost writes itself.
Music Bugle – What interests you the most about post-rock?
Johnathan Ford – Most of my interest in post-rock is aimed towards bands that were termed post-rock in the 1990’s. Bands like Tortoise, Slint and Bark Psychosis.
Music Bugle – What would you say is the key difference between ‘Look Alive’ and your earlier work like ‘Heavy Age’?
Johnathan Ford – ‘Heavy Age’ is heavy, humid and weighty, while ‘Look Alive’ feels more care free, danceable and driving as a whole. ‘Heavy Age’ feels like you’re gripping something tightly while ‘Look Alive’ feels like you’re letting go.
Music Bugle – How has the band been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?
Johnathan Ford – Like most other bands, our touring schedule has been the main thing that’s been affected due to COVID-19. We cancelled all of our touring plans for 2020. We are doing our best to be safe and responsible while navigating all of this. I’m concerned for a lot of the music venues out there. I really hope they can pull through this. We hope and plan on being back on the road in 2021.
Music Bugle – If you had the chance to chat one-on-one with one of your musical influences, who would you choose?
Johnathan Ford – I would say Peter Hook, the bass player of New Order. I actually had the chance to talk to him at one of his DJ gigs a few years back, but I was too nervous to approach him. (Laughs) His bass playing has defined my playing and my sense of melody so much. He’s my favorite musician of all time.
Music Bugle – What frustrates you the most about today’s music industry?
Johnathan Ford – People not responding to emails.
Music Bugle – Of course, this depends how the COVID-19 pandemic plays out, but did you have any plans set as for the rest of the year?
Johnathan Ford – Yes, I’ve already got our follow-up album to ‘Look Alive’ pretty much wrapped up and ready to go. We will also be doing some rehearsals to get prepared for our 2021 tours. Also, last but not least, keep writing songs.