Words by David C. Obenour
While many of us have gotten more used to working out of the home over the last year, this setup was nothing new for Paul Jacobs. An unrelenting creative and creating force, Jacobs performs with Pottery as well as fronts his own six-piece band – and when he’s not out on the road, much of that exists within the confines of his apartment in Montreal.
His latest opus conceived and created from home is Pink Dogs on the Green Grass. Written and recorded between tours in 2019, the turmoil of 2020 allowed for a longer period than usual to let the songs sink in. This added to further reflection and creative endeavors as Jacobs created videos to give life and interaction to the songs over quarantine.
The result some two years later is a psychedelic exploration of indie rock and the roots of cosmic country, all rooted in a mastery of melody and vibe.
Off Shelf: Throughout COVID I have been starting all my interviews off with checking on how you’re doing. Now that we seem to be on the recovery, I still wanted to ask – how have you been holding up? The last year has definitely been odd and challenging in ways that we’re all unfamiliar with.
Paul Jacobs: Hey, I can’t complain. The past year has been very strange for sure but looks like we’re all pushing along. I spent the majority of the lockdown working on getting the album together and creating all the videos so I’ve been on a little mental break for the past month. I quit smoking and got back into baseball so I feel like a kid again, almost…
OS: Pink Dogs on the Green Grass was recorded at home. Was any part of that necessity with quarantining or did this happen before such measures were in place?
PJ: I wrote and recorded this album in between a bunch of tours with my other band Pottery, so throughout the summer of 2019 and just into April 2020, Underneath the Roses was the only song written and recorded during lockdown in the early spring.
OS: Can you talk about how recording at home affected your approach? Working from home and carving out that space mentally and physically is something that’s on a lot of our minds coming out of 2020. Were there any challenges or benefits you felt from it?
PJ: I definitely always prefer the home recording vibe, there’s a lot of benefits to it. The main one is that you can work whenever you want, and you can take your time. Also just with me performing all the instruments it would take up way too much studio time, so home recording really is my only option. It’s nice being able to mix your own stuff and just mess around with production. It’s like Legos, it’s just as fun to build as it is to play. It’s been pretty hard to get inspired during Covid though for sure, same old story.
OS: Coming out in spring of 2021, the world has shifted yet again and things are beginning to approach normal this summer. Has your relationship to the songs on Pink Dogs on the Green Grass changed at all as you’ve had to process personal and societal shifts?
PJ: For sure, the album came out a full year after it was completed so it’s only natural to see it in a different light. I started writing a bunch of new songs directly after I finished so I almost stopped thinking about it, but I put in more work for this album as a whole package than any others I’ve done before so I still feel really good about it. I had to get reinspired by the songs to create the 5 music videos so that was a pretty fulfilling project to get into and complete. All the songs still give me a good vibe and that was my goal.
OS: The album started out with as many as 40 demos. What were the throughlines that first appeared to show you what the album would be like? Was it hard whittling the list down to the thirteen on the album?
PJ: I had a few anchor tracks, like Christopher Robbins, Half Rich Loner, etc, so I just built around that. I just tried out different track listings until I felt like it was a solid full listen, so just a few months of trial and error and getting super critical on everything I created. It’s always a difficult task but it’s a major part in writing a LP so you gotta do what you gotta do, I don’t regret any album cuts.
OS: Do you expect a sort of companion album to emerge from the leftover ideas and sketches?
PJ: It’s possible, I always felt like that would be something better to do down the line. I’ll give the songs the test of time and see what happens.
OS: You have a remarkable knack for pop that’s front and center on the new album. The press release talks about how in writing it, you had further consideration for the music you personally enjoy. Who captures your ear when it comes to these sorts of sounds? Did that filter directly or indirectly into the new songs?
PJ: It must be because I listened to a lot of oldies and classic rock as a kid. We had Detroit radio in my hometown so there were a lot of hits being played non-stop on multiple stations, those songs that are fun to sing along to are the one’s that stick. It’s really hard to pinpoint inspiration for music though, it’s all over the place.
OS: There’s also a breezy psychedelia present on the album. Do you have any favorite artists there? Was there a sound or a spirit you hoped to convey through them in these songs?
PJ: Around the time I was recording this album I was listening to The Notorious Byrd Brothers album a bunch, that might say a lot about the psychedelic feel I was going for. I really liked the tripping production with the earthy sing song vibe, the drumming is really great too and that’s my main thing.
OS: The album was mastered by Oliver Ackermann of A Place To Bury Strangers – can you talk about that process? What was he able to add to the recording that you may have otherwise not have gotten?
PJ: Yeah Oliver definitely isn’t the kind of guy that would be turned off by any noise, and I knew from his shows that he likes his music loud, so I figured he’d be the perfect guy to juice up these tracks for the record.
OS: Memorable live performances are a focus of your’s as well. Have you started to think about what a tour on Pink Dogs on the Green Grass might look like? Is there anything different you hope to achieve at shows having been gone so long?
PJ: We have some touring plans in the works now finally and I am very excited. My mind completely focused on playing music live with the band again. I’ve been missing sharing that energy with a crowd for a while, definitely a big missing piece of my life during the past while. I’m sure all musicians are more than excited to get back at it!