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Premiere: Ary Jansen Shares Debut Collection 'Cut Off' + Interview

Premiere: Ary Jansen Shares Debut Collection 'Cut Off' + Interview

Kiki Van Newtown / Photography by Frances Carter / Monday 3rd September, 2018 3:09PM

Cut Off by Tāmaki-based Ary Jansen is a cogent explanation of life as a 20-something, surviving in the wilds of late capitalism. Pithy lyrics like “WINZ told me to stop being pathetic / but it's such a marketable aesthetic” are one-line time capsules for 2018.

Jansen has crafted a lo-fi gem that sounds like it was written from a light grey cloud on the edge of a thunderstorm. Movement is written all over this record, from the sonata-like structure of the songs, to the oscillation between upbeat bedroom dance bangers and slow slogs through emotion. It’s all about capturing the liminal spaces of self. Album opener ‘I Wanna Be Ignored’ pushes this statement up against everyone’s favourite-song-to-sentimental-bang-to ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, capturing a depth of ennui that underwrites the millennial experience.

And it's not just the lo-fi sound, but the DIY-ness of Cut Off which makes these lyrical themes more real, less edited. Laconic phrases paired with driving bass lines sum up everything we’re all thinking and struggling to reconcile. Jansen sings “I say my prayers over cigarettes and beers and thank luck for being born white, middle class and mundane” and it’s an observation found all over this record - the arbitrary appointment of privilege. It’s an acknowledgement that while everything is fucked, we can still find meaning in the fight. Kiki Van Newtown (Hex) spoke with Jansen about his debut collection and more, listen to Cut Off here and read their conversation below...

First off, can you give me a brief run-down of your musical history. What was the first album you loved / what other bands have you been in / how did you start playing music?

The first album I loved was Blink-182, self titled. I was ten and I saved up all my pocket money for it on CD. It's the one with ‘I Miss You’ and ‘Feeling This’ on it. I remember listening to it and really feeling it. I’m in Ragged Veins and I’ve been in Team Ugly & Ralph plus a few more. I started playing music in a band called FATANGRYMAN when I was in highschool. I couldn't play guitar then but I did anyway.

And did you just learn by doing it?

Yeah pretty much just making stuff up! I couldn’t play any chords but I played bass so i just transferred that and made noise.

Oh rad! Did this way and process of learning shape your relationship to music in any notable ways?

Yeah I think it's definitely more fun than being forced to learn! I think I have a pretty DIY / slapping things together attitude to making music. Growing up, my parents were both in a band and we had stuff lying around that I was allowed to play on so I just did.

I really like the prominent bass on the EP - it's like a really clear thread through the whole thing. Vibe-wise the album reminds me a lot of the K Records bands like Beat Happening, the early Beck stuff, and Moldy Peaches, so a real Pacific North West vibe.

True! That's the second time someone’s mentioned Beat Happening and that kinda sound. I haven't listened to those bands in years but I used to love them!

Yeah I love them too! So how do you put together your songs? Do the lyrics come first? Listening to it there are so many little golden lyrical moments.

Usually the music comes first. A lot of those lyrics are recycled parts of old songs that didn't make it anywhere, but I liked the phrasing so I recontextualised them with some other words - but yeah, I do come up with phrases and then kinda write them down or remember them until I have a place for them. But never like whole songs.

What is the line that goes "WINZ told me to stop being pathetic but it's such a... aesthetic."

Such a marketable aesthetic.

I love that! And I like in the first song 'I Wanna Be Ignored' how you lift a line from 'I Wanna Be Adored’. It’s like, yeah we all do, but this is the real world!

I looooove that song haha!

Me too! It makes me feel like my never ceasing vibe of desperation is acceptable!

It feels like basking in it!

Your songs jump around from being at times really pretty, to being dancey, to having these really sexy moments. It's all wrapped up in overt recording techniques. Like, nothing seems hidden on this EP. I have noted that it "feels like a bunch of really solid ideas that you’ve very gently moulded, so that they don’t lose their original intentions.” Was this ever the goal? Did you think about how people would interpret these songs, and how you hoped people would react to them?

Yeah kind of, I think I hoped that people could relate. I'm expressing some pretty personal feelings but I'm hoping they're relatable and it’s not just me being an exhibitionist.

Yeah! I also wrote "sounds like reading a zine, but in the old-school style” and by that I meant, before zine makers became all concerned about quality of paper and using organic inks.

Haha not a Bebo?

Haha I'm too old for that! But you know, when it was about an energetic "getting out and getting down" of the feelings into a physical representation. So what was your recording process like? Did it take long to write and record all these? And were they recorded off the bat or did you do much cutting up and editing to them?

I was pretty disciplined about it. I’ve wanted to write and record a solo EP for years but I kept putting it off. I was being too lazy and thinking it would just kinda happen one day. So this year I was done with uni and got a day job and then every weekend I went to my parents house where I’ve got a little set up in their sleep-out, and I recorded - or tried to.

That took about six months, and I wrote all the songs at the same time as recording them. And there's a bunch of cutting and pasting for sure, a bit of a collage really.

What sort of recording setup did you use?

I recorded onto my laptop with a two track but I only had one line in because I only have one mic. I recorded all the guitar and bass through an amp and the keyboard and drums with a midi keyboard. And then there's some acoustic percussion and some banjo as well.

Yeah I love the banjo on the track ‘Cut Off’.

Thanks! That riff I’ve been playing for so long. It took me so long to find a place for it!

I just wanna acknowledge the really great harmonies on ‘Cut Off’ too.

Haha yeah! I can't really sing so I surprised myself with that one.

You sing great! Now, can we also talk about the song ‘Don't Worry’?

It’s kinda about being in a relationship when you're both depressed lol.

This one has those long bathing sort of phrases. It's so ominous! It sounds at once like a lullaby that you're singing someone while holding a sledgehammer. It's a very brutal sort juxtaposition of these things.

Yeah heavy feelings.

Haha oh yup! It made me feel like when you barely have the energy to help yourself but you are trying to be helpful to a friend, so you just send them memes.

Exactly! Sometimes that’s what you need though, a good meme.

Totally! It’s like someone reaching out and just resting their hand on you.

I like that.

Okay and then the last song on the EP ‘Cut It Out’. It's such a fucking banger! This one is a wasted night lurching from Mt Eden to Grey Lynn, trying to find the party and ending up sneaking in to swim in the rich neighbours pool. Was it intentional to put this little party at the end of the album?

I wrote it really fast and couldn't be bothered thinking too hard about the lyrics. I was kind of just telling myself to loosen up and stop caring too much haha! But yeah, I wanted it to be a sigh of relief after the heavy stuff [on the EP]. It was for me anyway!

Yeah it really is, it's great! I also wanna talk about this feature that runs through the EP. It’s like a cut in the middle of the songs - some major shift or a pause. Each song has like ‘movements’ like in sonata-form. There's heaps of motion, and turning of corners, which makes it feel really dynamic. But there's also always a return to themes, but sometimes from a slightly different angle.

Woah. I just couldn’t really remember how to write songs and I knew there needed to be a next bit and then a next bit so they kinda ended up in 3’s.

HAHA I love that! So from what you've said your music creation is really a sort of process art practice?

Yeah, but also there's so much self talk in there! Everything sucks but we can make it better but everything sucks but we can make it better!


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