srijeda, 25. prosinca 2013.

Jack O’ The Clock – All My Friends (2013)

Album godine. Čini mi se.

All My Friends is the culmination of four years of us getting to know one another as people and musicians, featuring a mix of pieces we’ve been refining on stage since the five of us started playing together back in 2009, and new material composed in the studio. 
The album is a series of vignettes on personal relationships in all their uniqueness and difficult sublimity. Its thirteen pieces showcase our usual core of voices, violin, guitar, hammer dulcimer, bassoon, bass and drums, in addition to an expanded woodwind/brass section, guzheng, no-input mixer, and found objects like wine glasses, corrugated pipes, heating grates, and more.

A record of great genius! Think early Van Dyke Parks meets...nah, forget it, think Damon Waitkus meets an extraordinary gang of accomplices and delivers, third time in a row. Amazing production. Extraordinary compositions. You need to hear it. - Fred Frith

Like most truly inventive bands, Jack O’ The Clock are difficult to describe, but there is something special going on here. Nominally this is artsy-prog-folk, and though it could be called avant or experimental, there is none of the cacophony that suggests. Jack O’ The Clock are pushing their music in new directions, but they remain dedicated to songcraft, and their music has warmth.- Kinesis

San Francisco area band Jack o’ the Clock has been described, in these pages and others, as a cross between Henry Cow and Gentle Giant, with a mix of New Weird Americana. This, their third release, does not deviate far from that description, yet still broadens their already wide oeuvre.
The lyrical theme of All My Friends is friendship. The combination of words and vocal melodies are haunting, and even disturbing if you listen closely.  However, one can listen to the vocals of this release as just another instrument without being distracted. While a ostensibly a five piece in which each band member plays multiple instruments, they compliment their guitar, hammer dulcimer, violins, psaltery, bassoon, flute, bass, piano, drums, percussion, and accordion with church organ, harp, and a brass / wind section. But this plethoria of musical tools results in more of a chamber rock than orchestral feel.
Not sold yet? Try out All My Friends on the group’s Bandcamp page. Listen to tracks 4-8.  From disjointed percussion on The Pilot, to modern-rock-riffing-turned-contrapunctal-jazz on Saturday Afternoon On The Median, I dare you to not come away intrigued and wanting more.
If 2013 were to end today, Jack o’ the Clock’s most recent release would easily win my nod for album of the year. Bravo.- Mike Borella, Avant Music News

Every once and a while something truly interesting comes by my desk; Jack O’ the Clock’s latest record, All My Friends is just that type of record. Hailing from the San Francisco Bay Area, this five-piece group led by Damon Waitkus presents a daring variety of experimental folk that is immediately accessible, yet so masterfully nuanced in its arrangements to the point of striking the perfect balance between the pop fan and the snootiest of art music connoisseurs.  It’s no wonder that Jack O’ the Clock has received such high praise from the legendary Fred Frith, calling Damon Waitkus “an extraordinarily courageous composer [with] some of the freshest and most surprising music.” This is high praise indeed from such a monumental figure, one who no doubt has had his fair share of influence in the Bay Area music scene through his involvement at Mills College.
To give an idea of sonic pallet, Jack O’ the Clock sports hammer dulcimer, glockenspiel, banjo, violins basoon, waterphone, clarinet, harp, vibraphone, flute, piano, accordion, guzheng, and a million other things I’m not even going to begin to list. So the question becomes, what instruments take priority? And at what point do we say, “ok, this is Jack O’ the Clock’s format for how they use these instruments?” Well, the answer certainly isn’t as simple as the question. To say that these guys make a habit out of a certain ‘place’ in their band for particular instruments would hardly do them justice. The arrangements have a wild sense of poetry, giving a sense that the precise question at every moment was “how are we going to make sure that this time around we don’t just let all the musicians fall into their standard role?” To make things even funner, rather than giving us lyrics with the album booklet we get a list of instruments per song, which becomes an absolutely wonderful game as you listen to fascinating compositions where each tone and texture is handled with the utmost care.
There are so many pieces to talk about on this album; however, I’ll choose to mention just a few that really leapt out at me. My initial surprise with the album was the subtle brutality of the the opener. Any record that opens up with the quiet pronunciation “All My Friends Are Dead” while backed by avantgarde beauty (with a slight sense of terror, I might add) most definitely leaves an impression. The funny thing is that it’s not really about dreary moods. The way that the piece transitions from strange beginnings to gorgeous moving parts (backed by an unsettling maniacal laughter) to pure bassoon fun, uplifting interplay between instruments, and an eventual shift to banjo driven folk all exhibit just how far this talented group of musicians can take an idea.
“The Pilot,” for me, was one of the strangest tracks on All My Friends. The piece is rather minimalist with a fascinating sense of repetition and mood. Mesmerizing vocal harmonies floating over found percussion, the gentle rattle of sticks on found percussion, and a woodsy vibe produce a trance inducing effect resulting in a sort of modern spiritual. Plus, the latter half of the song features some Jon Anderson like vocals backed by a suddenly lush arrangement of traditional instruments that would make any prog fan grin from ear to ear. “The Pilot” is but one of several songs on the album that demonstrate Jack O’ the Clock’s dominance of the short piece. Another fine example would be “What to Do in Our Neighborhood 2,” which in a minute and a half delivers fine use of syncopation, powerful doubling of instruments, stop and go movements, and wonderful dialog between voice and band all in one short but meticulously composed piece.
Not to say that the band doesn’t excel at long-form music. On the contrary, as “Old Friends in a Hole” makes absolutely clear. From dark, even dangerous, ambient musing,s a sort of Jethro Tull like vocal line creeps along as the arrangement gets wider and wider with an increase in texture and harmony. Light percussion becomes increasingly apparent and an eventual horn solo carries us into a majestic swell of postrock-like atmosphere and then right back to ambient with the swelling of brass and tinkling percussion galore. This is definitely one for a sit down and detailed living room session where you can absorb every nuance of harmony these musical sorcerers can conjure up.
For proggers like myself, Jack O’ the Clock presents a fine lesson on what it means to write songs that are at once approachable and human while simultaneously being incredibly profound in terms of timbre, depth of emotion, and harmonic complexity. A brilliant and courageous work of American folk served over a strange backdrop, calling  to mind the likes of Joanna Newsom, Phillip Glass, and Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, “All My Friends” certainly is a brilliant and courageous work of music with the capacity to get better with each listen and ultimately leave you thinking, “wow, that was really cool.” -

Jack O' The Clock is an American band and a completely different one. To begin with, all of their three albums have the same kind of design in their covers with old pictures that take you far away in time and space.
All My Friends (2013) is their latest album released in March completely independently and it took 4 years overall to be completed.
I didn’t know the band when I was approached to do a review of their new album and I admit that the band didn’t convince me in a first moment, but I was wrong! Jack O' The Clock is a completely unique band and All My Friends (2013) is a brilliant album!
Jack O' The Clock is formed by Damon Waitkus (vocals, guitars, etc.), Emily Packard (violins, psaltery, etc.), Kate McLoughlin (vocals, bassoon, flute), Jason Hoopes (bass, piano, vocals) and Jordan Glenn (drums, percussion, accordion). But they used a big range of guest musicians in All My Friends (2013).
‘All My Friends Are Dead’ is the track one and it’s a beautiful piece of music. It’s a great beginning for the album. Unfortunately, there are no lyrics in the booklet of the CD, but you can find them on the band’s website HERE. One thing is certain, listening to the first track made me speechless, this is truly amazing!
The band achieved their unique sound using tons of different instruments. Just for you to have an idea, only in this first track they used instruments such as music box, banjo, flute, glockenspiel, violin, viola, bassoon, acoustic bass, vibraphone, accordion, waterphone and clarinet. Just to name a few of them.
Then ‘The Academy’ follows and it’s an interlude with speeches and claps. More of this will be presented later. Glued with the previous track is ‘A Lot Of People Are Dead Wrong Most Of The Time’ (one of the best track names of the year). The diversity of the band’s sound is just incredible. And on top of that, we have great vocals by Damon Waitkus.
‘The Pilot’ is weird. Half is like a mini symphony made of percussion. The second half is very proggy. Attached to it we have ‘Deepwater Turbines Turning’. And the small interlude sounds exactly like the name states.
To follow that, we have ‘Half Searching, Half There’ with their beautiful weird-Folk-driven trade mark sound.
‘Saturday Afternoon On The Median’ is supposed to sound like a live recording but in fact it isn’t. There’s Zappa moments here and there with very strange Jazz moments while Jordan Glenn’s drums and Jason Hoopes’ bass hold everything together brilliantly. Attached to this track comes ‘Disaster’ that is carried away by piano and drums. And ‘Analemma’ has amazing melodies and vocals.
‘What To Do In Our Neighborhood 1 & 2’ are Pop, great Pop. Part 1 is beautifully penned and executed with special attention to the bass and vocals. Part 2 is just a wonderful sequence where the 5 strings violin of Emily Packard shines a bit more.
After a more simple approach they go back to their Jazz weird moments with ‘Old Friend In A Hole’. That starts exactly as an old Jazz standard and a trumpet (by Darren Johnston) cries loud alone in the night. But it turns out to be a Jazz song with a twist, there are speeches here and there.
The final track ‘All My Friends Are In My Head’ ends the album as it began, in a circle. And it’s just superb!
All My Friends (2013) is the first contact that I have with Jack O' The Clock’s music and I can say I’m a fan already.
4 years in the making, a great production and an astonishing sense of writing and arrangement make All My Friends (2013) one of the best albums of this year.
Jack O' The Clock is what you get when you put together After Crying, Frank Zappa, Donovan, The Beatles and Indie Pop.
A must have album! -
Jack O' The Clock are an American outfit based out of Oakland, California. Band members include Damon Waitkus (voice, guitar, hammer dulcimer, etc), Emily Packard (violins, psaltery, melodica, etc), Kate McLoughlin (bassoon, voice, flute), Jason Hoopes (bass, voice, piano) and Jordan Glenn (drums, percussion, accordion). There are many other instruments listed in the credits too numerous to mention. It is the variety of instruments used that help to make All My Friends such a unique album. This is one of those albums that is hard to pigeonhole. I hear folk, pop, ethnic sounds all with an avant-garde/experimental twist. Its progressive yet quite accessible. Often the arrangements are sparse but highly imaginative and the song craft is excellent. Perhaps what makes this album so enjoyable for me are Waitkus's lead vocals. He has an endearing voice and although it is not exceptional it is very pleasing to the ears.

The first track "All My Friends Are Dead" starts with those words amidst quiet instrumentation. The singing is almost fragile, virtually breaking apart, delivered in a half talking/singing style that does not often work but does so here. Bassoon, glockenspiel, strings and other instruments serve up an element of whimsy adding to the song's folk-like charm. "The Academy" is another whimsical track with gentle instrumentation almost like leaves fluttering on the breeze. It's a short tune leading directly to "A Lot Of People Are Dead Wrong Most Of The Time". It is a little more upbeat with a cool fuzzed out guitar solo amidst the quirkiness and reminded me a little of what XTC was doing in the 80's. The strange "The Pilot" is filled with percussive sounds and has a much sparser arrangement digging deeper into the avant-garde. Unusual instruments like corrugated plastic tubes and a heating grate are used adding to its unique flavour. The vocals here subtly remind me of Jon Anderson and really help flesh out the sound. Another highlight is the ethnic flavoured "Half Searching, Half There" featuring the guzheng (a Chinese plucking instrument) and delicate acoustic guitar. It is a mellow track with a nice flow and soothing arrangement.

All My Friends is a highly unusual album with a quirky nature that only adds to its charm. An accessible avant-garde album; who would of thought? If you are searching for something a little outside the box Jack O' The Clock may just be the band for you. Recommended! - Jon Neudorf

How Are We Doing And Who Will Tell Us? (2011)              

Jack o’the Clock are an unbelievably great band, Damon Waitkus is an extraordinarily courageous composer, and this is some of the freshest and most surprising music I’ve heard since, well, since their first record. Hallelujah! -Fred Frith

Pushing the limits [of song form] out in every direction, be it 20th century classical, Americana, chamber, progressive rock, medieval music, just about anything one might imagine...Beach Boys-like harmonies mix with chugging metal rhythms flanked by beautiful classical-inspired melodies courtesy of violin and bassoon. Field recordings and sound effects mix freely with their inventive arrangements, where almost anything becomes possible, yet always remains listenable...There’s an amazing amount of originality in these twelve tracks, and those looking for some intrepid, barrier-breaking music would do well to start here.”  -Peter Thelen, Exposé Magazine

Jack O’ The Clock take us on a journey away from the three minute pop song to a nirvana of freeform yet relaxed musical complexity....Pulling this kind of trick off takes no small amount of skill and that, perhaps, is the key to this album as with such skilled musicians more chances can get taken...We have a band that can go from synergistic synchronicity to inspired Americana and even to freeform post rock without breaking sweat. – Bluesbunny, Glasgow, Scotland.

The melodies are catchy, the composing tickles my prog ear, and the musicianship is solid...This is terrific music — likeable, substantial, and deserving of an audience.”

Folk in Opposition?...Think a lysergic Incredible String Band crossed with a mescaline-addled Fairport Convention. Maddening patterns rub elbows with delicate melodies and bouncy upbeat tunes turn dark as the crew runs the gamut from pretty to pretty weird. If this sounds like a fun wild ride, then I've made my point. – Warren Barker, Progression Magazine

Parts are surprisingly melodic and at times even quasi-ambient down the road of "majestic junk folk" — the band's self-stuck label — the album's twelve songs travel. The quintet, a group of skilled players led by multi-instrumentalist Damon Waitkus, takes itself just seriously enough to produce cohesive bits of music that shun conventional three-act, verse-chorus structures that could also be billed "hillbilly funk" or "backwater fusion." And isn't this what fits the "progressive" bill? ...the perfect album for the discerning listener looking for something different yet not alienating.” -Elias Granillo Jr., Prognaut

Peculiar Americana. The designed-for-sustained-thought stories and sorta-folk-rock, sorta-venturing-onto-new-paths music remind me of Joanna Newsom, if she were male, had a gently limber and precise voice, was less interested in death and more interested in alive weird outsiders...Or how R.E.M. could have followed Fables of the Reconstruction had Michael Stipe's stories got longer and more detailed while the band stretched out to comment on the plots. -Brian Block, Greensboro, NC

An original work full of inventive compositions - Mark Johnson, Sea Of Tranquility

Rare Weather (2009)          

This is a goldmine...At times it sounds like symphonic and grand enough to be mistaken for Anathallo or Sufjan Stevens, but with more kitchen utensils being used for percussion. The standard song is maybe an acoustic guitar, banjo, dulcimer, music box, accordion, bassoon, violin, drum kit, and rusty barrel for good measure...The lyrics are really imaginative and tell fun stories not too far off from Picaresque and the instrumental “Suckers ‘n Marks” sounds like an amalgamation of the Secret of Monkey Island soundtrack and a Tom Waits tune...this album is accessible and, moreover, fun.”

Jack O’ the Clock calls themselves ‘majestic junk folk,’ but you can decide for yourself what to call the quirky mix of guitars, banjos, hammer dulcimers, bass and violin, to name a few...the more you listen, the more the details of lyrics, melody and orchestration unfold...On the band’s website, a featured track, “New American Gothic,” haunts you with melancholy, warbling vocals layered with guitars, harp and violin. A shorter ditty, “Suckers N’ Marks,” was designed for [documentary film] Carny Girl to sound like “black and white stills of carnies having a night on the town half a century ago.” Somehow, they’ve accomplished this feat as well as anyone could; whether you’re familiar with folk music or not, the music seems to take you back to an earlier time, before auto-tune, synth and teen pop sensations. 
–Darcy Wallace, Eugene Weekly

As Laurie Anderson said in one of her performances, ‘Get ready for difficult listening.’...Listening to Art music is usually an exercise in humbling oneself before the great composer. On this recording, the sound is accessible and not at all full of itself. There are enough traces of standard compositional techniques to keep the listener grounded in the here and now....Given the mechanical repetition of a lot of the sounds, it would be easy to put these guys into the same category as the electronica types. What's different is that the sounds are all produced by found items and there is something human and grounded about the result...The lyrics and singing raise this recording to another level.
–Jeremiah Sutherland, Bullfrog Music

This 5-piece band uses ambient noises and earthy sounds to create their folk music. The result is a desolate, wintry version of twangy folk. Spiking the songs with an eclectic array of traditional Americana instruments gives the tracks depth. Besides the normal guitar/bass/drums arrangement, Jack O' The Clock gives us dulcimer, banjo, flute, violins, saw, bassoon, recorder, trombone, accordion, and half a dozen other instruments, each played with aplomb...If you are a fan of musicianship, you will get quite a lot out of Jack O' The Clock.Snob's Reviews, Toronto

Rare Weather is a rare musical gift...Every track can stand on its two feet...I look forward to what Jack O' The Clock comes out with next.” – Keith Gaboury,  SF Examiner

AMN Interviews: Damon Waitkus (Jack o’ the Clock)

We recently sent a few questions to Damon Waitkus of the critically-acclaimed San Francisco area band Jack ‘o the Clock. He was kind enough to reply at length. Previously, we reviewed their most recent release, All My Friends.
The group is playing on on 11/8/13 at the Starry Plough in Berkeley, CA, with Inner Ear Brigade and Chuck Johnson.
Your music has been described using references to Henry Cow, Gentle Giant, Sufjan Stevens, Frank Zappa and others. Are those individuals and groups your actual influences as well? What other influences do you have?

I was into first-generation progressive rock as a teenager and those guys were in there for sure, but I also loved melodic, lyric-driven music like Paul Simon and (a bit later) Leonard Cohen, also The Smiths, David Bowie, and early R.E.M., among a whole lot of others. In my early 20s I discovered Henry Cow and Laurie Anderson, who were gateways to Modernism and contemporary experimentalism. Then I found Charles Ives, Morton Feldman and Gyorgy Ligeti, became “serious” about composition and foreswore songwriting as a guilty habit every two weeks or so. Scott Walker and David Sylvian helped me find my way back a few years ago. Around this time Nicci Reisnour, who was also studying composition at Mills, said the only sort of rock or pop music she thought would be worth making might sound something like Sufjan Stevens’ Michigan album, I thought that was good enough for me and we founded Jack O’ The Clock.
Kind of a caricature of 20-odd years of listening, but it does the job. I’m speaking only for myself here. No one else in the band except maybe Jason had any sort of prog rock listening background, and everyone has other influences, including some folk across the board. To paint the others’ backgrounds with an even broader brush, Jason’s coming from metal and improv, Jordan from jazz and improv, Emily and Kate from the classical and new music performance world. Kate’s trained as a conductor as well as a bassoonist.
The avant/progressive rock community has been very supportive so far and that has probably one reason that pedigree turns up. And of course Fred Frith has had a huge influence on the band as a musician and mentor, so you often see us described as a RIO band even though we have little in common with that very specific sound, which is also true of a lot of Fred’s music for that matter. If it was the singer-songwriter community that responded to us, I think you’d see a different list of reference points.
When I talk about influences I sometimes feel that I’m drawing an arbitrary line between music and other art, and ignoring huge tributaries of aesthetic information. Kafka and Beckett are impossible to ignore. Also Chekhov, Grace Paley, J.M. Coetzee, and Raymond Carver. And films by Charlie Kaufman, Lars von Trier, Werner Herzog, Atom Egoyan, Coen Brothers, Stan Brackhage, Jan Svankmajer, Harmony Korine. There’s a spiritual heft to much of this stuff that’s hard to find in popular music.
Compositionally, are Jack ‘o the Clock’s tracks the work of one or two main writers, or are they group efforts?

I’ve done most of the writing so far, with Jason contributing some music to the second two albums. The simpler songs we put together in the usual singer-songwriterly way: by ear, with my guitar or hammer dulcimer providing the chords and backbone, the others working out their own parts, sometimes with a notated head or detail-idea also coming from me. More involved pieces like First Of The Year I often bring to the group unfinished–there won’t be a full score, but there will be some fully notated passages, some passages where I furnish chord changes, and others which we work out together by ear, and all of this will be subject to change as we rehearse and see what works. Seeing how my ideas are transformed by other musicians is one of my favorite things in the world, and it’s distinctly different with an open-minded band than it is with “composed” music in that the band takes ownership, feels free to improvise in places, vetoes certain ideas, changes certain harmonies: you don’t go back and rewrite endlessly as the composer, the music is just given over to the band at whatever stage it emerges and evolves because everyone is free to tweak what they want without breaking protocol. It does mean you have slips of paper half x-ed out all over the place and no score, but who cares about that, we’re usually trying to get it to memory anyway.
Lately though our composing has been more truly group-oriented, with Jason and Jordan beginning to bring notated music and initiating ideas. Emily has also provided harmonic material for a couple songs we’re just beginning to perform, and we’ve composed-out ideas based on recorded improvisations. Often the lyrics will make certain demands of the basic structure, and those are still coming from me, though the music can put pressure on the lyrics as well. This material isn’t recorded yet, but is some of the most comfortable-sitting, fun to play, organic music we’ve come up with and I think that comes across live. Our live sound engineer, Sarah Howe, has also been getting more involved in the new pieces, recording and triggering samples that become integral parts of the songs, and is additionally working on a video for The Pilot.
I’ve been talking about the live band. I have a somewhat heavier hand in the recordings because there are always several songs on each album that are composed for the studio, like Old Friend In A Hole and Blue Tail Fly, where I take advantage of certain instruments and effects in ways that would be impractical live. The rest of the band has an enormous influence on these too, but they contribute a bit more blindly, adding parts as the pieces are recorded without hearing the as-yet-unrealized sections of them, and I see them through myself.
For the most part, All My Friends sounds highly composed. Do you improvise as well, either in the studio or live?

Yes to both, though you’re right that it’s not the way most of the music is made.
Well, I feel like free improvisation and improvisation within a song are two different questions. Jason and Jordan are brilliant free improvisers and play out regularly in that capacity with other musicians. Jack O’ The Clock has done a little of this, usually circumscribed pretty strictly by song or set, in the tune Analemma for example. I have been slow to admit to myself that different standards of pacing apply to songs than apply to free improvisation and instrumental art music, but for some reason when you introduce words and melodies, it’s very difficult to then drone convincingly for twenty minutes. As I’ve moved away from writing instrumental music (and lain off the Feldman a little bit), I’ve found myself tightening up the songs, and this probably accounts for an increase in brevity and density since Rare Weather. I find myself bringing different pacing standards to bear depending on what sort of music I’m listening to, and a nicely-paced free improvisation can be sublime, but I try to keep my songs as fat-free as possible. Half of them still can’t fit through the door.
As for improvisation within a song with a predetermined structure, that happens all the time, both on recordings and live. Usually not by me.
The lyrics to All My Friends are evocative, touching, and a bit creepy at times. Aside from perhaps friendship, are there any major themes therein?

Thanks for asking about the lyrics: they are half of the experience as far as I’m concerned, but the music gets most of the attention, which may be my own fault to some extent for insisting on such dense arrangements.
I think I’m coming to the end of a long period of writing preoccupied with alienation, isolation, decay, and the end of life. Over the past decade or two I’ve watched a striking number of people from my parents’ mostly Catholic, working-class social and familial circle succumb to alcoholism and mental illness in their 50s and 60s, and it has thwarted a lot of my expectations about the predictability of the arc of life. It’s hard for me to extricate the increasing dominance of fear I observed in my parents, which led to self-isolation and self-destructive behaviors, from their arguably self-defeating rightward political shift, all of which seemed to precipitate early decay. In the background were their stolid, often difficult, strong-willed immigrant and first-generation parents, who worked hard, were engaged in politics and community, and lived long, more or less healthy lives. I got to know my grandparents’ growing up, and the difference between the two generations has become increasingly apparent to me as I’ve gotten older. Songs like All My Friends Are Dead and I Watch The Planes canalize voices from that older generation, whereas Shrinking and Fire At Noon are more focused on the middle generation. There are a lot of mysteries there, and with a lot of my lyrics for the first three albums and the upcoming one, I’m trying to put a wedge into those cracks, to attempt to better understand, but also to concretize those uncanny feelings in hopes that others can experience them. Most of my impressions are of an emotional and spiritual nature, so it is usually more important to try to create an experience than to say, “see, this is what I think is going on here, here’s the cause and here’s the effect…” I hope to keep the narratives from being moralistic or polemical. Many of the lyrics are dreamlike because they actually do derive from big dreams or waking fantasies that incorporate unconscious elements. The album covers are cut from the same cloth, selected from boxes in attics and thrift stores because they seem so scintillate with similar unanswerable questions about the past.
All My Friends feels sunnier to me than much of the earlier work, including the bulk of the new album we’re working on (which includes a lot of older writing from this same period), maybe because it’s beginning to turn towards the present a bit more, introducing lateral friendships even as those darker, vertical obsessions persist. I like a little bit of a gothic patina from time to time but I’m wary of fetishizing the underbelly of life. Even What To Do In Our Neighborhood and Old Friend In A Hole, which deal with depression and suicide, include some sort of apotheosis, though it’s an uneasy one.
Listening to your three releases in order, a progression from a more experimental-folk approach to a more avant-rock approach can be heard. Do you see the band continuing along this path, or taking a left turn or two?

Stacks of steel strings and vocal harmonies are two sounds I’ve never been able to get enough of, I don’t imagine they’re going to disappear completely from anything Jack O’ The Clock produces, but hand in hand with the band becoming itself as a band and collaborating more readily is a desire to let the live band sound take center stage a bit more. Also, there are aspects of the “folk” that came out of left field as far as I’m concerned, organically enough because I don’t remember deliberately trying on any hats, but which I’m not as enamored of as I apparently was, fast-pickin’ banjo tunes for example. I’m not a big fan of camp or of museum-piece music, and some “folk” gets under my skin for being too precious or sanctimonious. I like the sounds and respect the virtuosity of serious players, but reverence is boring.
Your releases have received quite a bit of acclaim. How does that make you feel?

Good! It’s also good practice for seeing the ego for what it is, because you never get exactly what you want, whatever that is. But I’ll take it, I’m glad someone’s listening.
Any plans for the band to play somewhere other than the west coast?

A trip to the UK or mainland Europe would be fabulous, not to mention the East Coast, but I can’t say anything definite yet. It’s all logistics and money. We’re a bunch of professional musicians and teachers and everything we do is self-funded on a shoestring budget, no label.
When can we expect to hear new material from Jack ‘o the Clock?

Something will have to have gone seriously wrong if we don’t have a new album in 2014, maybe relatively early. I was compiling an EP’s worth of tunes that were either too bizarre for one of the earlier albums or couldn’t find a comfortable place in the sequence of songs–they get mad at me when I call them outtakes–but the set kept feeling incomplete. Maybe it was because there was no guitar or dulcimer on any of it and I couldn’t take it. So we’ve been working on recording a couple more songs from our live sets to add to it as well as a few new in-studio productions and making a full-length out of it, currently called Night Loops. They’re all nocturnes, pretty haunted.
What do you do when you’re not composing, practicing or playing?

Emily and I have a 17-month-old daughter whose development has been indescribable to watch. We spend a lot of time together, and I’m sure she has had a hand in bringing about a shift away from past-orientation and deathmongering. I also teach music, do some volunteering in the mental health field, try to practice yoga, and go poking around in the woods whenever possible.
Aside from anyone mentioned earlier, what have you been listening to lately?

The new album by ex-Books’ Nick Zammuto is beautiful and stunningly produced. Dirty Projectors do things live that others struggle to fake in the studio, and their latest album has some of the best melodies I’ve ever heard on it–that have the ghost of familiarity about them while being far too idiosyncratic to sound cliched. It’s so rare in rock to hear sunny, ebullient music with so much punch to it as those two artists, and I find them both really open-hearted, along with Sufjan Stevens who we’ve already mentioned.
I think Joanna Newsom is a tremendous songwriter, maybe the best I’ve heard of our generation, and is only getting better.
I also listen to a lot of solo guitar: John Fahey, Leo Kottke, Bill Frisell, Tom Lattanand, Chuck Johnson.
Others I return to periodically: Tinariwen, Ali Farka Toure, Randy Newman, Japanese Gagaku, Eric Dolphy and a host of other 60s Blue Note recordings, Fairlight-era Kate Bush, Gil Scott-Heron, Bach, Bulgarian Women’s Choir, Ghazal, Art Elliot, The Band, Chimney Choir, The Cardiacs, late Coltrane, Malcolm Dalglish, Cassandra Wilson, Anthony Braxton, Elvis Costello…

Jack O' the Clock: Folk twang meets found sounds

Jordan Glenn (from left), Kate McLoughlin, Emily Packard, Jason Hoopes, Damon Waitkus Photo: Carly Hoopes

This Oakland band utilizes the multi-instrumental talents of its five members to create sophisticated experimental folk. Its members met while pursuing various music-related master's degrees at Mills College, but they didn't start writing songs as Jack O' the Clock until they had all graduated.
Jack O' the Clock's twangy Americana music incorporates found sounds, such as city noise from birds and pedestrians, and found instruments. Band member Kate McLoughlin uses a glockenspiel that was found in a junkyard - the band calls it the trashophone. Through elaborate layering of vocals, intricate instrumentation and everyday sounds, the quintet builds complicated folk with classic storytelling.
Next month, the band plans to tour the Northwest, and during the spring and summer will be recording an EP.

Lineup: Damon Waitkus, voice, guitar, hammer dulcimer, banjo, pianet, percussion; Emily Packard, five-string and baritone violins, banjo, psaltery, melodica, saw; Kate McLoughlin, bassoon, voice, flute, recorder, percussion; Jason Hoopes, bass, voice, piano; Jordan Glenn, drums, accordion, percussion.

Who are your musical influences?

Almost everything. We all share a fondness for folk and new experimental music, and from there we branch out into our own personal interests, like free jazz, less free jazz, certain African music, prog rock and a lot of what is found in the classical section.

What inspires you to make music?

It is an active, nonverbal response to the world that I think we've all become addicted to having in our lives. It's somewhere between a habit and a daily practice. Also, it is an excuse to get together - a structure for a basically social ritual.

What elements go into the songwriting process?

The majority of the narrative songs begin in dreams that feel like they have a broader-than-personal resonance or mythic quality. Other work comes from inward, current events or patterns in the world, which seem similarly haunted or uncanny. Then there is a lot of experimentation and revision.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing music together?

Our first few shows were really quiet performances involving harps and wineglasses and minimal amplification, and there is something of that aesthetic in the earliest recordings. It all got a good deal louder when Jason joined and Jordan got up off the floor and started playing a drum set.

How has living in the Bay Area affected your music?

There are people around taking real chances in music and just generally being supportive of it all the time, and this just isn't the case in some other places, as far as I've seen.

How would you describe your music to someone who'd never heard it before?

We usually say "majestic junk folk." It means there is some sort of striving for bigness in sound and theme, but also that it's pedestrian and unassuming with familiar sounds in it.
Check it,
Next gig: 9 p.m. Fri. $10. With Dominique Leone and Fred Frith. The Starry Plough Pub, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. (510) 841-2082. Check out Bandwidth's Web page. Share local show or band photos and videos, start writing a blog and more:
To be featured in Bay Area Bandwidth, you must have a confirmed gig coming up and a recording that readers can buy, download or listen to via a Web link. Then e-mail us at with: band or artist name, gig info, website and/or MySpace link, a one-paragraph bio that includes your lineup, city location, description of your sound and a link to your two best songs. Do not e-mail music files or other attachments. -

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