Jazz Funeral is the brain child of Paul Adler and his debut album is one that is better to be listened to for individual interpretation rather than through the description of others. Thanks to Paul for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions.
1. Please introduce yourself.
My name is Paul Adler. I’m 22 and from New Jersey.
2. Can you give a brief history of Jazz Funeral?
Playing music has been a part of my life since age eight. I’ve been writing songs since junior year of high school; Jazz Funeral is merely the newest incarnation of these efforts. I went to college at the University of Maryland and when I moved down there, I wasn’t able to bring many instruments with me; all I had was my Mexican telecaster and a shitty combo amp. Sophomore year of college (2008-2009), I wrote a pop punk record by myself and recorded it with Bryan Russell (he produced Envy On The Coast, Hotspur, The Narrative, etc); I finished the record and went to London for a semester. While in London, I experienced an inexplicable change in my writing style, from basic and poppy to slower, darker, and more melodic material. When I got back to the States, I had a year of school left, during which I essentially did little aside from smoke and write music in my room for hours on end, every day. I found a wider set of influences, from gospel, jazz, and blues, to post-rock, to hardcore. I recorded the album as soon as I graduated.
3. Why did you choose to play everything yourself and not create an actual backing band?
To clarify, I didn’t play everything myself--just all the basic instrumentation and a lot of the auxiliary percussion. There are string, horn, and piano parts on the album that I didn’t play. I wrote all the songs myself; I had somewhat of a grand vision for the record and I wanted to put everything I had into it. I wrote ten pages of production notes before I even got into the studio, so I knew exactly what I wanted and I really just wanted it to be me, to have who I am as a person come across in album-form. Additionally, I find that when musicians work and write together, they tend to write towards a genre, and I didn’t want that. I wanted the record to be unique, stylistically speaking. I didn’t want it to be a “rock” record or a “pop” record; those terms carry pretty weighty connotations. I wanted something that sounded new and different to me, and that’s what I got. Also, I can hang relatively competently on all the basic instrumentation found on the record, so it just made sense to me, playing most of it myself.
4. Are there any lyrical themes on the album?
Definitely; please excuse me in advance for the pretension that follows this sentence. There’s sort of a story to the record and it’s absolutely autobiographical, but in the sense that I extrapolate my own story to weigh in, not only on “existence” (that’s become such a spurious umbrella-term at this point) in general, but on how we live, how we cope with our own self-conception. There are a lot of drinking references, too. Additionally, I use classical Christian imagery and thematic notions, but I deconstruct them with the aim of advocating ultimate skepticism. I don’t believe in anything, and I find it nearly impossible to form an affirmative stance on any issue, be it faith, politics, what have you--essentially, if another form of belief or thought exists, has ever existed, or will ever exist, the absolute truth of your own belief or way of thinking is inherently invalidated; that’s not to say that it’s wrong, but your belief is inherently false at a basic level. So, to some extent, that’s what the record is about. The songs are meant to flow together to create a story--there’s an exposition, a death scene, and a denouement, or resolution. Oh, also, I had a dog for most of my life, a black lab/German shepherd mix; he was hit by a train two years ago and that affected me pretty deeply at the time, so references to that bookend the album.
5. How did you record the album?
I went up to Maximumsound Studios in Danvers, Massachusetts. I was there for the entire month of February, 2011, working with two of my friends, who were recording and producing the record. First, I laid down all the basic instrumentation--drums, bass, guitar, some auxiliary percussion, and vocals. Then, my friend from New York came up to help with some of the layers on the record; he’s the sometime drummer for the Dizzie Gillespie band and an incredible all-around musician, so he helped direct the choir parts (yes, we brought in a choir but by “choir,” I mean twenty of my drunk Boston music friends and one incredibly talented soprano) and laid down a little bit of drums, keys, vibraphone, and more auxiliary percussion on some songs. We also had a bunch of guest vocalists come in to layer vocals and lay down some parts. We brought in a pedal steel player, too (he laid down all the pedal steel parts in about two hours in exchange for a twelve-pack of Magic Hat). To finish the record, I actually worked with an arranger, who did a few of the non-live string and horn parts. Recording so close to Berklee had its advantages, and almost all of the kids I worked with were students there, or had been, at some point; that made the process a lot easier for me because these kids, while still my friends, were totally professional and really got into the idea of helping out with the album.
6. What are your plans for the rest of 2011?
I’m taking the LSAT December first, so I’ve just been studying for that for the past few weeks. Between that and trying to find a “real-ass” job (I’m kicking myself for being an English major), it’s been really difficult for me to play and promote my music, but I hope that will change soon.
7. Anything else you'd like to say?
Listen to the record. To me, it’s more like a musical novel or treatise than a straightforward album; maybe it will seem that way to listeners, maybe it won’t. It was written during a miserable time in my life, a time when I was really unsettled about how I conceived of everything around me. While I still feel that way to some extent, I’m trying to move forward with my life and create meaning for myself. I know a lot of kids my age feel similarly--they’re starting to see that the ideas they’ve been brought up with might not necessarily hold any meaning to them, that they’re unsure of everything around them. The media is calling us the new “Lost Generation,” and I don’t know if I like or agree with that. We can and will get better, we’ll make something for ourselves and find contentment, I hope. While this was a somewhat therapeutic process for me, this is a record for anybody who’s ever felt unsure of themselves and their world to the point of hopelessness and abject misery--you will get better; I haven’t yet, but I know I will and I know you can, too. Thank you for your time and for letting me speak my piece. This record is, to me, the most important thing I’ve done with my life up to this point; it means the absolute world to me and I put everything I had into it, so I really hope people connect with it on some level, and maybe even enjoy it.