Friday, July 31, 2015

Interview: Jape

Jape (Photo by Mark McGuinness)
“When music hits me...I sort of feel like the world is okay.” 
Jape’s Richie Egan speaks to Gary Meyler ahead of this weekend’s Indiependence.

The following article was published in the 30th July edition of Cork's Evening Echo.

Richie Egan just doesn’t stop. From releasing multiple award-winning albums recorded in his Malmo studio to countless gig and festival appearances, the artist best known as Jape simply refuses to stand still. Even as he chats from his Swedish home, it’s difficult to picture the Dubliner doing anything other than swooshing about his living room in his socks, head bopping to a beat only he can hear. And it’s this infectious energy, be it when he’s performing solo or surrounded by bandmates, that elevates Jape’s live shows to another level. Yet all this enthusiasm means little if not channelled correctly. This is where the songs come in.

“When I hear a song or a piece of music that inspires me, it’s still the best feeling in the world,” explains Richie when quizzed on his self-confessed obsession with music. “When music hits me that way, for those few minutes I sort of feel like the world is okay. In my own work I’m looking for that feeling too, it’s harder and harder to find but I suppose it’s stronger when it eventually comes.”

Five albums in and those tunes keep on coming: the ceiling shattering folk-pop of Floating on 2004’s The Monkeys in the Zoo Have More Fun Than Me, the dancefloor busting beat of I Was A Man taken from 2008’s Choice Music Prize-winning Ritual and the culturally conscientious synth sonics of The Heart’s Desire from this year’s This Chemical Sea to list some highlights.


“I usually take a long time over songs, going back to them and tweaking them,” says the man who started out as one sixth of Dublin instrumental rockers The Redneck Manifesto. “I think maybe that’s a flaw because it takes me ages to get stuff done. I just need to be able to stand behind them and feel like they are true to me. The problem is that what feels true to you can change over time and so you start to wonder whether any of it was true in the first place. I definitely think there is a point when you are getting too complicated with an idea and then it’s usually time to step back. ‘Mixing past the money’ is what Quincy Jones used to say.”

Speaking of stepping back, it seems screens and devices dominate lives and eyes these days, an observation alluded to by the lyrics of The Heart’s Desire which comes with words of advice: people need to “take the time to breathe”.

“I wrote that song when my mother was dying. All the world seemed a bit trivial to me and the only thing that gave me some peace really was meditating. John from [Greystones group] Solar Bears gave me a mantra and was very nice to me around that time. I was trying to teach myself to meditate with that song really, and become part of everything. Don’t get me wrong though, I love Twitter!”

It’s this sentiment which is typical of Jape. The songs on the new album are so much fun but look beneath the hood and the words show there’s a lot more going on. At a time, this was typical of pop songs, The Walker Brothers’ Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore a prime example of heartbreak perfectly packaged in a pop song, and it’d be nice to hear more of it. Thankfully, Richie seems to agree.

“I love the idea of a happy melody with sad lyrics underneath, the idea of dancing through the tears. I think it works because being alive can be hard enough and music gives us a real lift. A lot of people don’t really listen to lyrics though and just want to dance. That’s cool, but a song can have depth even if it’s not heard on first listen. Like Steely Dan’s Do It Again. Everyone knows the chorus but the lyrics in the verse are really, really suggestive and ambiguous. I worked it out there a while ago and was blown away by those lyrics. Check it out.”

This Chemical Sea - surely a cert for a third Choice Music Prize album of the year nomination when the voting comes around come March 2016 - seems a natural progression from 2011’s Ocean of Frequency. Richie admits he worked himself hard on this one, constantly tweaking and reworking, remixing and mastering ensuring each song achieved maximum potential. Although there was one particular song that nearly got away.

“The track I Go was one that I had finished but after a while I realised it wasn’t even close to being done. So I went back into the studio and had another few days working on the whole second half section of it. I’m really glad I did because that’s probably my favourite track on the record now.”


For more on Jape visit:

Official Website

- Jape plays Friday of Indiependence Music & Arts Festival this weekend (31st July-2nd August)
- Visit indiependencefestival.com for further details

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