Interview: Jake Troth
Fri, 18 Oct 2013 10:40:58
Jake Troth knows how to write an unforgettable song. That's exactly what Double Black Diamond is loaded with. He tempers extreme catchiness with expert craft for a formula that's immediately powerful and poetic.
In this exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor in chief Rick Florino, Jake Troth discusses Double Black Diamond and so much more.
The songs are intricately and expertly crafted, but that never overpowers the catchiness of the hooks. For you, is there one thread that ties the album together as a whole?
I like what you said. That's the line I was walking a lot. Ideally, the album was made to sing along with a bunch of people. At the same time, as a new artist, I feel like I have to prove myself and I want to impress people. However, I also don't want to leave anybody out by making things too complicated, difficult to understand, or sing and dance along with.
Was the recording relatively immediate?
The idea or concept for Double Black Diamond was started a couple of years ago after seeing the movie Harold and Maude. If you haven't seen it, it's about a young kid who falls in love with an older woman and starts to figure out what living life is about. It's having a good time and not overthinking things. I wanted to make an album that could be the soundtrack for a modern-day Harold and Maude. I had songs from a couple of years ago I hadn't released prior to seeing that film. I wanted to put more effort into them and revisit with some producer friends of mine. The whole project was a combination of taking some of my better older material and revisiting it and also writing new songs to fill the space that needed to be filled. Songs like "Everybody Loves You" I wrote in college four years ago. Then, other songs were written this year. I had been through a couple of relationships, and I wanted to write material based off what I had been experiencing. This record has been a three-year process. The overall theme is just finding light in situations that seem to be darker like heartbreak or having to move on from one to place to another or losing friends.
Is it important for you to paint pictures with the songs?
Yeah, I like to draw a lot. I've always been a very visual person. I try to walk that line of being detailed lyrically and also making sure the sounds you're hearing paint as much of a picture as the lyrics do. I had a lot of help with that on the production side. I try to make the sounds represent whatever images are going on in my head, whether it's a snare sounding like a confetti gun at sporting events or a bass player playing like "a whale".
What's the story behind "On My Way"?
"On My Way" came from me living in a studio apartment and sleeping on the ground on a hard wood floor. It was my attempt at trying to come up with a song that could be played on the radio. At the time, I had a collection of songs, but I didn't have a song I felt could be played in a playlist with all of the songs going on in pop radio. I just came up with this little piano idea. I don't remember coming up with it. I know I was in my apartment, and I stumbled on this piano riff. I started shouting simple phrases and whatever came into my mind around my apartment. I almost got kicked out of my apartment because I was making too much noise trying to make this song [Laughs]. I realized a lot of music on the radio I liked was rap, and the main thing I liked about rap was its very competitive and it's got a lot of braggadocio in it. It's very egotistical. I wanted to take that concept and flip it a different way. The song "On My Way" is about me trying to help someone by calming their nerves and playing them or a song or just showing up and being with them. I'm taking their mind off things. I have a couple of friends I've had to do that with. I'm happy I'm able to do that. I wanted to write a song about that. The song is about showing up and trying to help this girl out who I've had a crush on for a long time and playing some songs for her because she keeps getting her heart broken over and over again. I took it to Shama "Sak Pase" Joseph, and helped me make it even more impactful. He worked on Watch the Throne and with Rihanna.
What else inspires you outside of music?
Most of my friends are film guys. Austin, who did the "On My Way" music video, watches like three movies a day. Whatever ones he likes the most, he'll tell me to watch them. I'm heavily inspired by visual art, sculpture, drawings, and fashion. It's personal experience combined with dreams, aspirations, and art in general. I've been thinking a lot lately about not overthinking things. All of the songs represent my gut reactions.
What artists shaped you?
My dad used to play blues all the time in the car. He played blues all the time. My brother would drive me to and from school. We're five years apart. He was always listening to OutKast, DMX, and early Jay-Z. He loves rap music. My mom listened to the radio. I ended up combining all of those things for my sound. I also went out and did my own thing in high school and got into heavy metal and a lot heavier rock 'n' roll. I've been trying to figure out how I take my favorite things about all of those things and make them fresh. Specifically, my dad listened to a lot of Eric Clapton and B.B. King. I really like bands like Green Day that had great guitar riffs or lead vocal lines. I like The Beatles a lot and Outkast. Working with Big Boi was a huge deal. Recently, I've been listening to a lot of instrumental music. There are bands out there that make incredible music and say a lot without any vocals. That's what I've been listening to a lot recently. For heavy music, I listened to Converge a lot and my friends band Between the Buried and Me. Their singer Tommy and I have done a lot of music together. They were a huge influence when I was in high school. They helped me realize you don't have to stay in the confines of your genre. You can explore other things and get as weird as you want. Their songs are really out there. I didn't want to lose the simplicity of pop in it so I'll listen to them and go back to Michael Jackson. How do I combine tech-death metal with pop R&B and make something completely fresh and interesting? I love listening to heavy music. Death Grips are truly a great band too. Finding a true original sound in heavy music is hard because the incentives for being in a metal band certainly aren't making a large sum of cash. It's cool how supportive metal fans are. I love supporting independent people.
Get Double Black Diamond from Jake's website!