Music Bugle Exclusive – Q & A – JJ Slater

Photo courtesy of Little Star PR.

By Nicholas Jason Lopez

Who says you can’t go home?

With a sound crafted for every season, native New Englander JJ Slater (Humble Digs, Organ Transplant) recently dropped his new EP ‘An Obscure Moon,’ complete with groovy folk, jazz-infused psych rock tunes like “All My Ashes” and “Rupi.”

The foundation for ‘An Obscure Moon’ was formed from a set of songs that Slater had written in 2018, that all came to true fruition once he tuned a piano at Sleeper Cave Records and worked on it throughout 2020. The first set of songs (featured on ‘An Obscure Moon’) involved the theme of leaving, while the later set will revolve around the idea of coming back home.

With ‘An Obscure Moon,’ Slater hopes to arrive soon at his latest destination – your personal playlist.

The Music Bugle had the opportunity to chat with Slater about ‘An Obscure Moon’ and more.

Music Bugle – What was your goal for the ‘An Obscure Moon’ EP?

JJ Slater – I had 10 songs recorded and selected these first four because they did a good job of showing four different sides to what I was doing- the folksy, autumnal pop, the funky, psychedelic ambience, the uplifting ballad and the jammy experimentalism.

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

JJ Slater – New England is a pretty diverse place, but I do find an overwhelming scrappiness, along with a tendency to not hide what you’re feeling, or try to bullshit anyone. If people are like that, they are pretty quickly called out.

Music Bugle – Which of your songs were the hardest to write?

JJ Slater – All of these were fairly easy, “Daedalus” was a collaboration, so it happened in steps. On the next EP, there are a couple songs that took years to write, but I’m never really in a rush to finish or let it stress me out. I’m always quick to jump on trying a new idea to freshen things up.

Music Bugle – What excites you the most about your style of music?

JJ Slater – My music definitely has gotten more streamlined and I’m less inclined to try and show off being clever. I like to try and make things cinematic without being too big and emotionally exciting and relevant, without slamming people over the head with buzzwords. I also like how it can be chill and ambient, but have a funky, quirky rhythm. One of the few perpetual active influences I have is Paul Simon and his early 70’s records exemplify this a lot.

Music Bugle – What was the moment that made you want to become a musician?

JJ Slater – I think I always tied playing, writing and recording together, from day one. It started as a bum-steer attempt to make an impression on a girl, followed by a way to escape the world, followed by a way to react to the world I had to be a part of and now as a way to connect with everyone through myself. It’s the thing I think about most day-to-day and ultimately what I want to perfect before anything else, even though that’s nearly impossible.

Music Bugle – What was your most memorable moment while onstage?

JJ Slater – I’ve had a ton of great moments on stage, but my favorite is closing out a sold-out night at the Iron Horse in Northampton with one of my favorite original songs, raising a glass and having the whole audience sing along.

Music Bugle – How have you been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic?

JJ Slater – Obviously, without gigs or readily available employment, I had to find another hustle. I started helping fixing and flipping pianos in Easthampton and mainly focused on writing. It was a pretty welcome break from the grind, for at least a chunk of time.

Music Bugle – What’s a quote that motivates you to keep doing what you do?

JJ Slater – Tobacco, an indie producer also known as Black Moth Super Rainbow, once said, “Relax and listen to what your balls tell you.”

Music Bugle – Who are you listening to right now, music-wise?

JJ Slater – Lots of Kanye and Billy Strings. Also, on a little Flying Burrito Brothers kick.

Music Bugle – Where do you go when you need a break? 

JJ Slater – I hit the bars, now that they’re open. It’ll get old and I’ll be back in the woods soon enough. 

*Photo Credit – Caterina Kenworthy*

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