Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – Jarrett Lee Of The Long War

By Nicholas Jason Lopez 

Photo courtesy of The Long War Facebook page.

Vancouver Indie Rock band The Long War have come a long way since their victory in the 2017 CBC Searchlight Competition. They’ve come to make 2020 their year with the lyric video release of their new single, “Endless Summer.” An official music video will follow in the second week of July 2020.

Described as a “cathartic breakup anthem,” the song deals with the pains of loss in a time when it felt like summer would never conclude. Written in Summer 2018 in the midst of a Vancouver heatwave, it went on to be recorded in 2019 at Protection Island Studios in Maple Ridge, British Columbia and was produced, mixed and engineered by Jonathan Anderson and mastered by Harris Newman at Greymarket Mastering.

The Long War is vocalist Jarrett Lee, guitarist/vocalist Chad Gilmour, keyboardist/vocalist Jess Lee, drummer Neil Williamson and bassist Jonny Battistuzzi.

The Music Bugle had the chance to chat with Lee about the new single and more.

Music Bugle – How would you describe Vancouver to someone who has never been there before?

Jarrett Lee – Mountains and ocean. Vancouver is a beautiful, quirky, laid-back, inspiring place where you really feel a strong connection to nature. There’s also a great arts community, musicians really support one another. It’s a transient town in a lot of ways, full of folks that were drawn west for whatever reason, myself included. Vancouver loves Brooklyn, Portland, craft beer and paddle boarding. We take most Fridays off and move at a slow pace, which suits me just fine.


Music Bugle – What excites you the most about indie rock, generally speaking?

Jarrett Lee – There’s a freedom in indie rock. It feels like a genre painted with a wide brush. It can almost be anything, there are no boundaries in it and the possibilities are endless – the net is cast wide. I try to keep an open mind musically, get out of the way of myself when I’m listening and categorizing what something is or why I should or shouldn’t like it. If it moves me, I’m in. It’s genre-defying – there’s a philosophy of open-mindedness when I think of indie rock.


Music Bugle – What was it like winning the 2017 CBC Searchlight competition?

Jarrett Lee – We always joked it was “surreal,” which feels like a funny way to describe something without really describing it. The real reward is that it pushed us to work even harder to propel forward. We became instantly more committed to the project. CBC Searchlight certainly put the wheels in motion for us and it gave us a sense of validation. It opened some doors for us and allowed us the challenge to continue on this path. We learned pretty quick that if we wanted to make this a reality, we’d have to work harder than ever.


Music Bugle – What inspired the band name? What does it signify?

Jarrett Lee – The band name comes from our drummer Neil. He’s a methodical guy who pays immense attention to detail. It made sense for him to name the band. Neil had a book full of ideas for lyrics and band names – one of them being “The Long War,” which he pulled from the song “The Long War Shuffle,” a b-side by one of his favorite English bands, Elbow. We liked it immediately and that was it. I won’t even get into how hard it is for a band to decide on a name. We were lucky to be on the same page.


Music Bugle – Given the circumstances many have faced around the COVID-19 pandemic, perhaps loss specifically, does that change the meaning of your new single “Endless Summer” at all?

Jarrett Lee – I originally wrote “Endless Summer” during a heatwave about a failed relationship and being stuck in the mindset of loss and the trauma of the empty spaces people leave behind. I try to have some objectivity once a song is completed and have always sided with the philosophy that once a song is out in the world, it’s no longer mine.  Upon interacting with it, a listener is free to interpret a song however they choose. I try to write with honesty and intention, but I know that over time, the context of my life can change and so too the meaning of a song. COVID-19 is a historically altering event and with everything going on right now, “Endless Summer” has taken on a life of its own. It’s very possible there’s a shift in how it is perceived or what the song means to people.


Music Bugle – Does social media make it easier or harder for a band to stand out these days?

Jarrett Lee – I find social media to be both a tool and a mystery. It’s hard to quantify its value, but I’ve learned that it’s another outlet for creativity and engagement. Where else can a fan reach out to their favorite band and get a response instantly? It’s about that interaction, attention to detail and crafting a cohesive feel and narrative for your band. If you approach it authentically, creatively and methodically, I think you can absolutely use it to stand out.


Music Bugle – Who are some of your musical influences?

Jarrett Lee – I grew up listening to Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Steely Dan, CSNY and The Beatles. I used to crank out the classics before walking to school with my pals, which I’m sure confused them. There was a grunge phase too, where Pearl Jam was everything. Then, came Joel Plaskett, Jeff Buckley, Radiohead and finally, Wilco to name a few. My Dad and my Sister Jess, who plays keys in The Long War, are both multi-instrumentalists that studied jazz, so there was a lot of jazz going on in my childhood home, which I later learned to appreciate. Fun fact – I’m named after pianist Keith Jarrett.


Music Bugle – Of course, this depends on the COVID-19 pandemic, but did you have any future plans set out for the summer?

Jarrett Lee – Touring our sophomore album ‘Under a Heavy Sky’ was the big one. We had plans to hit British Columbia, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal. There was also a Pacific Northwest tour in the works through Seattle, Portland and Los Angeles and a few festivals scattered about, one in the United Kingdom. Plans have since changed. Right now, we’re working on improving our live stream performances by implementing higher quality video and audio with our in-house production team Galaxy House. We’re still wrapping our heads around it, but like many bands, we’re adjusting to the times.


Music Bugle – What do you feel people should know about the band that they might not already?

Jarrett Lee – We’re all lifelong musicians. Each one of us has been at this for a while to some capacity. Coming together when we did was really quite lucky and special. I spent a lot of time on many different stages. I’ve toured, recorded and played in some cover bands. I’ve had drinks thrown at me, guitars stolen from my van and been told numerous times to turn the volume down when the hockey game is on. There was a time I quit music, that was when I came out west. I arrived, linked up with my lifelong friend and Long War lead guitarist Chad, who encouraged me to play a few more times with him. Luckily, I did, from there, The Long War was born.


Music Bugle – What made you want to become a musician?

Jarrett Lee – I’ve idolized musicians my whole life. It may have been when I heard ‘The White Album’ for the first time I realized I had to do that. Music was such a huge part of my upbringing, it was almost unavoidable. I used to hide out in my basement teaching myself chords, learning tunes by listening to them and rewinding over and over until they were unplayable. Eventually, I’d write my own terrible songs and dream of turning on the radio one day and hearing one of them. In hindsight, I’m glad that never happened. I can be honest when I write a song, say whatever is inside me, express any feeling through melody and lyrics. It’s cathartic, it’s creative and it feels natural, but it’s when you get to share that feeling with a group of amazing musicians to a crowd of like-minded people that it all comes together and truly feels special, like you’ve discovered some secret to life.

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