Interview
Jay Reatard



jay Reatard's Blood Visions took a lot of people by surprise upon its release in late 2006. Reatard (real name: Jay Lindsey) wasn't terribly well known outside of punk circles, and his sound was either best defined as the messy, snotty, garage goofs of the Reatards or the angry, spastic, post-punk jamz of his other outfits like Lost Sounds or Angry Angles. Either way, it probably came as a bit of a shock to hear the startling efficiency, catchiness, and outright balls of Blood Visions, which compressed 15 neurotic manifests into under 30 minutes. Reatard's effort started burning up the blogs early in 2007, and I know more than one person who has listened to Blood Visions way more than anything released this year.

For me, it was almost like discovering Alien Lanes by Guided By Voices all over again. Of course, where Bob Pollard dreamt up witches, airplanes, and ghosts, Reatard's focused all his attention on this record on the manic, nervous energy of a sociopath who's about to go on a killing spree. Interestingly enough, it works on a number of levels and rarely sounds cringeworthy. In 2007 Jay released a number of follow-up singles, each poppier than the one before it. It'll be really interesting to see where he goes on his next record. Stylus caught up with Reatard during a late summer tour stop at the Black Cat in Washington, D.C., opening for new labelmates the Ponys.

What's the deal with the short (19 minutes) sets when you play live?

When I first started going to shows when I was a kid, and bands played for over half an hour, I hated it. I like short records, too. After 20 minutes, there's not very many bands I can still listen to. We usually play 12 to 15 songs, within 20 minutes, we try to keep it short. Plus we play everything three times faster live.

It was great; I don't have any complaints.

The Europeans really complain about it a lot. 45 minutes is a short set to them.

They like to listen to jazz over there; not that there's anything wrong with that, we like jazz here, too. So, what made you decide to make Blood Visions the first Jay Reatard solo record? Obviously, since you've played everything on it yourself.

A lot of other records I've made under band names, and I would always think up the band name, and I would usually play every instrument on the record myself as well, besides the Lost Sounds stuff. But I was going to do that again and think up another fake band and take fake pictures with people who aren't in the band and sell it as a band and then find a band later, but the label thought a solo record would be better. I always thought solo records by most people were cheesy, like the Kiss guys and the ones they did. Very rarely do I think it's people's best work. I did it to piss off the rest of the Lost Sounds. They were always mad at me for putting out too many records, "You need to concentrate on this one band."

It definitely seems like this one has gotten a lot more attention than your previous work.

Definitely, it's pretty weird. I put less work into pushing this record than I ever have, so I guess it's all luck whether people like it or not. I don't know.

Do you think it has anything to do with it being on In The Red?

I don't think so. They put a lot more money into the Lost Sounds record. We had a team of people trying to do publicity. I think it's because I decided to stop screaming so much. It opens up a whole new crowd of people I guess.

Are you still living in Memphis? How are things there?

Yes, and I don't know. It's like 105 degrees and depressing, but I like it.

Do you think that will be your home for a while?

Yeah, I like it. I've lived there most of my life. It's a good place to be based out of if you're in a band. It's rich and really cheap. The food is awesome and you're in the middle of the country so touring is pretty easy to go west or east or wherever. I don't plan on moving any time soon.

Do you feel like you're part of the music scene there?

No, I've never been accepted into any sort of music scene there. I'm just like the black sheep of those kinds of situations. There are some alright bands there. The guys in my backup band, they're all in different bands there and they're really young kids and there's some good stuff.

Can you tell me how you got those guys to play with you?

They've got a band called the Boston Chinks. I didn't think they were so good when they started, but over a year's time, they've gotten twice as good each time that I've seen them. I figured since they were already a band and they were already playing with each other and I didn't want to have to form a band dynamic on my own, I got them drunk and gave them a bunch of pills and I asked them if they would do it and kept them to their word.

Did you know when you recorded Blood Visions that this was the band you wanted to play with?

No, it was the opposite. At first I didn't really want to tour or anything, but then my label was like, "Hey, this record is selling; you might want to do some touring." So I broke up with my girlfriend, moved out of my house, and hit the road.

Was this girlfriend Alix Brown from Angry Angles?

Yeah. That Angry Angles band, we played a lot of these same songs. After the solo record was out, it didn't make much sense to keep these two bands, so after that band kind of dissipated, I found some new people to play with.

So: Blood Visions; broke up with the girlfriend; decided to go on tour and recruited the Boston Chinks, and there you go?

Yeah.

Is there any chance the Angry Angles stuff will be released on CD? I mean the three hard-to-find singles.

Yeah, In The Red is putting it out. We're going to do revised versions of all those songs and do eight more new songs. I just have to find the time to finish recording. It's not easy to get inspired to do re-recordings of bands that have broken up.

You just released a handful of seven inches under your name and I didn't see any for sale here.

We sold out off all of those last night. All the singles were European-only stuff, mostly. I see that stuff on eBay now, and I remember selling it to those people the night before.

Are there any plans to rerelease that stuff?

In The Red is going to do a DVD/CD combo thing of a live set we did in Amsterdam. It's going to be like a 16-minute live DVD, and then all the singles and stuff on the CD.

That Go-Betweens cover ("Don't Let Him Come Back") you did on one of those singles is fucking rad.

We normally don't do that one live too much. I hadn't listened to it in a long time, and I went back and listened to it and now it sounds like a different song. I don't know how people would recognize it unless they were into the Go-Betweens. I don't really care for much of their other material, but that one song is great.

Are you going to be on the road for a while?

Yeah, all the way into December, after a month off to do some other people's recordings.

I want to talk about this character you're inhabiting on Blood Visions. Obviously, it's someone with some mental problems.

It's a concept record about killing a girl.

So, the object is a girl.

It's pretty negative stuff.

Was there a girl in particular you were thinking of when recording the album?

Yeah, a couple.

Do you think that for people listening to Blood Visions who didn't listen to your previous work with the Reatards or Lost Sounds, would this seem like a left-field record, or would your old fans see where you were coming from?

It's polarizing - a lot of people who knew my music, they hated it. I guess I'll trade them in for smarter people. I don't know - I think it's the best thing I've ever recorded. I don't really like any of the other records I've made very much. I try not to think about what people think.

Do you feel like you're continuing in the same vein with these singles you've just put out?

Yeah, they're even poppier.

As far as the killing aspect of it?

I guess they're not. Maybe some of the new songs are love songs? The singles are just a departure; the next LP will sound a lot like this one, more of a punk record. For the singles I was trying to experiment with something that wasn't as aggressive.

Those singles are amazingly poppy. Are those demo versions of Blood Visions songs as the b-sides to some of those singles?

Yeah, those demos I actually liked more than the versions on Blood Visions because they're so stripped down. I didn't have anything else to put on the singles, so there they went.

They definitely have a different vibe than the Blood Visions versions.

When I recorded those I didn't have access to anything more than an acoustic guitar, a Radio Shack mic, and a Casio. I downloaded/stole some recording software and recorded demos.

So how long did it take you to do Blood Visions from start to finish?

I recorded an entire version of the album and then scrapped it. It took about three months. Then when I recorded another version of the album it took another six months.

Wow, it feels so immediate. It doesn't sound sloppy but it definitely feels in the moment. It doesn't sound like something you had spent tons of time on.

I try to create that feel. You don't want it to sound like you put too much effort into it. There's a lot of stuff people don't really hear, because a lot of the songs will have eight guitars on them. You're spending time with each song to do eight guitars. All the drums were done in one day in one take, so it just took me time to go back and change stuff. I kept changing lyrics. And a couple of the songs started as one song then I used the drums that I wrote in my head for that song and wrote a new song on top of it. I tried to keep it sounding like it was a band and not one dude, which is hard to do.

This whole time you're working on this record, you're still thinking about these one or two women?

Well, it started as one then it turned into two while I was making the record.

Do these people know this record is about them? Have they heard it?

I'm sure. I don't think they like it.

What about the cover artwork? Where did that come from, watching the Carrie movie?

Between the time I was 18 until 24, I dated this girl who was about 10 years older than me and took care of me. But this was the first record I made as an adult, when I didn't have to answer to another collaborative member of the band, so it was supposed to be like I was a big fat baby. Now I finally get to start my life at 24.

It's a pretty eye-catching cover.

A lot of people don't get it. A lot of punk people say it looks like a Dwarves album. They never copyrighted blood.


By: Dominic Devito
Published on: 2007-10-24
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