Sensible Reason Exclusive – Jules Jenssen of Normal Instruments, Higher Organix, The Indobox
Sensible Reason had the opportunity to talk with Jules Jenssen drummer for Normal Instruments, Higher Organix AND The Indobox. This weekend will be quite hectic for Jules: all 3 of those bands will be performing at the Big Up. Check out what he had to say about juggling all of these responsibilities and more!
• You completely improvise your Higher Organix shows. Can you tell us more about this? Do you plan your sets in advance at all for this? How do you prepare for a show?
We have all been playing together for so long, that our sensibilities and our ears are very in tune. This allows us to not have any roadmap but still be able to compose in the moment instead of just passing solos around over a simple repeating chord progression. Our tastes change regularly, we listen to so much varied music and draw on influences far and wide. It’s interesting too, as time goes on and you revisit some music you haven’t heard in a while, you can have a fresh perspective on it, as well as hear totally new elements to be influenced by. Alex Sciortino (new guitarist) has been playing with us for 8 months now and is really getting in tune with what we’re trying to do. Its not an easy thing to jump into overnight. It just takes playing and listening to each other and learning the mentality/musical sensibility behind it. I will say, we have some planned out surprises for TBU that may have some familiar faces as well as new!
• How do you manage being in multiple bands, performing as a solo artist, and putting on a festival like the Big Up?
well….its not easy…but its worth it.
Normal Instruments exists only in the moments we’re on stage, so that literally requires zero time other than the shows. The Indobox tends to block out rehearsals when we have new material to learn or record so thats all kinda hammered out at once. Honix, is what it is because Brian and I rehearse almost every day because we live together. It keeps us aligned and we’re always listening and discussing what we’re feeling musically at any point. Stack a couple hundred emails a day + all other festival tasks and having to get a back surgery in early june and you’ll understand why I haven’t had time to produce too many ELECTRONICAnonymous tracks this last year. I’m itching to get back to it, and after the dust settles from TBU I’m gonna get back on my game.
• How does your playing vary depending on which act you’re playing with?
Cool question- The styles of my three bands definitely have a good amount of stylistic overlap. Yet, there are some overall flavor differences that I try to play up in each one. For Normal Instruments, its got the 4 basic instruments (get it?) so there are different layers to focus on and feel. I love playing with all those guys and the different styles that they bring to the table always keep me on my toes while listening. I won’t always know what kind of change the other guys are thinking, or who’s gonna lead it, etc.. so it’s as surprising to us as the audience. For Honix, it’s always been a drum and bass (not read DnB) freakout operation. The core connection that the drums and bass lay down is what allows the guitar and any guests we bring into it to have a solid foundation to lay back on. Stylistically, we’ve definitely gotten a lot heavier in the last year or so. Brian’s always listened to heavier stuff and got me into it a while back too. From listening to more of that, it definitely comes through in our jams. However, we still try to stay true to the styles and feels that we have always done as well while expanding the vocabulary which results in improv with a more dynamic journey. Indobox is nice contrast to the other projects because of the compositions. I love learning songs and it’s the other half of being a musician in addition to listening and being adept in the moment. The genre’s don’t always fluctuate song to song, but that’s kinda the point. I get to play to the music and develop specific parts and feels that best suit the songs. Even down to sightly variating accents on the hi-hat during a 4 to the floor section song to song can really give each beat its signature feel.
• What are you have been digging lately music-wise?
I like this question- In addition to many of the awesome acts on our lineup (seriously, not just a plug) like Nerve, Escort, Holy Fuck, to name a few, I listen to a laughably diverse playlist. I spend a lot of time in the car so having a great playlist that’s ever expanding is crucial. A quick browse through my phones Grooveshark Queue would read something like this (very possibly in this play order, huh)- The Band, Todd Terje or Lindstrom, LCD Soundsystem, Tool (probably my fav band), Seth Troxler, Miami Horror, PInk Floyd, Jerky Boys prank calls, Meshuggah, Paul Simon, The Naked and Famous, Seinfeld stand up or Mitch Hedburg, Zep, Beatles, and my FAVORITE semi-recent discovery, Animals As Leaders. Some of the craziest progressive metal out there, It’s fuckin’ awesome.
• What is your favorite venue to play?
There is something to be said for putting on a festival all year and pouring your heart and soul into it, seeing the manifestation come to life and blasting your music out over a field of beautiful people at your event. That’s probably the pinnacle for me so far. However, having to pick one from out on the road… There’s a lot to pick, and a lot more to still play, haha. I am very fond of Nectar’s in BVT. Not because of the Phishstory (although that is cool, too) but because they have such a good routine there. Great sound (the stage just resonates really warmly), cool staff, good hospitality, Burlington kids rage, and they have fresh Heady Toppers, one of the best beers in the world! Overall just a cozy place that takes it seriously and has fun doing it. Some honorable mentions that I fondly refer back on- Bowery Ballroom NYC, Bells Brewery in Kalamazoo, Fox theatre Boulder, Cervantes Denver (both sides are awesome to play), Royale Boston, The Boat cruises in NYC and Boston are always a blast… ok, I’ll stop there.
• What is your dream venue to play?
Obviously Red Rocks would be amazing, I think that’s on most people’s lists. MSG too…. But those are lifetime goals, cool stuff when it happens. I would love to tour Australia, playing anywhere there would be great. I got a quick taste doing a little impromptu EA stuff there in March, and got bit by the bug. I have to go back- soon. Preferably playing music. Any of their cool festivals like Big Day Out or Rainbow Serpent would be awesome.
• What inspires the music you play as ELECTRONICAnonymous?
Because I haven’t been producing as much lately, and my tastes have continued to evolve I have definitely been doing some sets of other people’s music that I like to dance to. I’ve been on the nu-disco “chug” vibe for a while now and it’s awesome to see it picking up and being seen as a welcome alternative to the overly abrasive EDM thats become all too prevalent. My sets are mainly a mix of my own tracks with a sexy-chug feel mixed with collaborations Ive done with friends like Ian Stewart, as well as straight up tracks I like that fit into the feel im going for.
• What is your role/relationship exactly with the Big Up as the Production Manager of Shireworks Productions and drummer of the host band?
Oh man, it goes pretty deep, We are so lucky to have such a great, strong, dedicated team who are all killing it. As a production manager, I source and hire all the sound, lights, staging, stage staff, rented backline gear, get artists informed of their technical details for the show including set/load in times, contact numbers, hotel info, whose picking them up from the airport, etc… its a lot of info with 70+ bands, but I have a good system to keep track of it all and have always been blessed with a good memory, and that definitely helps a lot! I also help book a lot of the bands and give a lot of input on the headliners and who we want to showcase year to year. The sad truth is a lot of times my music gets put on the back burner when there are a million time sensitive things that need to be done. But, i make time when i can and feel ready for our sets for sure.
• How will The Big Up be different from 2011?
The new venue is obviously a change. We think its great! The bigger, cooler woods are gonna be a huge hit, and the nook and crannie factor for exploration is definitely sweet. The owner is the man and we appreciate his involvement deeply. We definitely have more activities and workshops happening which is awesome. I think the internal logistics are going to be much smoother which will result in a better experience for everyone. I think some of the ways it will be the same are equally as important. I’m mainly referring to the communal vibe that comes with the fans and attendees and bands. That’s what made TBU so special in the past and we anticipate a lot of the same special people returning with some new faces as well.
• How do you choose the talent for the Big Up?
I shoot from the heart with the music I want to see there and share with people. A lot of it is music that people showed me or i discovered and grew an affinity for naturally. When you find out they put on a great live show and they’re not at every other festival in the northeast, it makes them that much more appealing. Discovering new music is a central part of festivals and we also discover tons of new music through the submissions and want to share that with people too.
• What are you most excited for about the Big Up this year?
Aside from Escort, Holy Fuck, Nerve, Beats Antique, and Kung Fu Prince set..?? well, a lot more actually. the schedule is stacked and I hope I get a chance to catch a little bit of most of them. The Nerve and Consider The Source workshops are not to be missed by both musicians and fans. The rock star karaoke with Mun will surely be awesome and hilarious. Seeing so many familiar faces as well as new ones converge upon this vision we’ve been working towards is a big one. It’s a lot of work for one weekend, so there must be a lot to look forward too. Oh yeah, i’m excited to play too!
• Where do you see The Big Up in 5 years? Would you like to see it grow as big as, say Camp Bisco?
If we are able to have 20k people and still present the types of music we want and have our ethos and vibe imparted upon it, I wouldn’t say I don’t want 20k. The quality of the product is essential to the strength of the brand and what helps it stand out among the pack. Boutique is the mentality, and I don’t think you HAVE to lose that feel if you got to 20k. Glastonbury has 250-275k and they still have one of the most boutique things going. Its all about keeping the essence dear to you and the decisions you make. Its hard to balance those costs as an independent fest, and sometime extra curricular sacrifices have to be made for the greater good of the event- but we take it seriously and will always put as much into those things no matter how big it gets.
• The Big Up seems to be doing more to keep the festival “Green.” Can you tell us more about what you are doing to do so?
Festivals can get messy…. and it’s important to try to offset the inevitable aftermath. By having contests and initiatives that invite groups of people to all play a small part in a greater effort (with awesome rewards upon completion) we hope to use the strength-in-numbers advantage that we have to tackle the mess. We also, hope that the natural beauty of the country and landscape can be a big motivating factor for people to be inclined to clean up after themselves. Every little bit helps.
• What’s your favorite festival to attend?
They all have their own unique factors that make them special in their own ways. Small and simple can be just as cool as over the top and huge. The right mix is the best in my opinion. I had a total blast at Catskill Chill last summer, I’m excited to be back there with Higher Organix this year. Camp Bisco has a soft spot in my heart as I have been going for 9 years and have watched it grow as well as grown with it. Going from a GA ticket buying 15 year old fan to playing 3 times now w/ mainstage this year is a cool feeling. I hope to attend some awesome euro and down under feasts as well, as I said before.
• What’s your favorite food to eat on the road?
I am helplessly addicted to Pho, the vietnamese soup. Mike Carter (guitar, Indobox/Normal Instruments) go me addicted and I haven’t looked back. The Pho I got in Sydney, Aus was life-changing,
I am trying to eat better…which is hard but rewarding. So now I have to HATE shitty food (that tastes delicious…) but i think it will be worth the benefits.
I will never turn down sushi, either.
Don’t miss Jules Jenssen this weekend at the Big Up! If you are there, you will literally not be able to miss him: Higher Organix will be playing at the Big Up on Thursday night from 1:30-2:30AM at the Spaceball Tent and Saturday from 6:15-7:15pm at the Heineken Big Up Stage; the Indobox will be playing from 9:45-10:45pm on Friday at the Spaceball Tent; and Normal Instruments will be playing from 9:30-10:30pm on Saturday at the Spaceball City Tent.
Still don’t have your tickets to the Big Up? Purchase them here!