I made the trek from Burbank to Venice on the friday afternoon of a holiday weekend to snag a few words with Jacob Summers. He is the originator and front man of LA band Avid Dancer. I reached out for an interview because not only do I love his music, I discovered via the web that Jacob has an interesting and very restricted past in relation to music and I was intrigued. I wanted to find out how these confines affected a growing artist like himself as well as answer my usual curiosities about personal connections with music creation and where that all stems from.
I parked in front of a mint green Venice home. Jacob whizzes by on his bicycle moments after, returning home from his job at a restaurant nearby. Later on he’ll tell me how strange and surreal it is to be at work “serving people freakin’ biscuits” when he gets a ding on his phone from blogs and fans via Twitter calling Avid Dancer “the next big thing”.
Jacob welcomes me warmly, showing me around his place a bit. He lights a cigarette with my lighter and we sit at his quaint front lawn table as the sun starts to set over LA. “I promise I won’t steal this, but I’m going to smoke like three of these.” We both now have glasses of cold white wine in front of us. Any nerves I had driving down here have been eliminated.
Living in Venice specifically, has effected and continues to effect the style of music Jacob creates which runs along the lines of psychedelic pop/acoustic/rock music, a favorite genre of mine. “I ride my bike around smoking a J and I’m like (*big sigh) hell yeah! And then you make a song that’s got some woozy vibes. Like listening to Sublime stoned off your ass riding around the west side. This is why people around the world like to listen to certain bands. ‘I like that band because it makes me feel smooth'”. He was in the Marines when he decided to move to LA to pursue being a studio drummer as well as go to school for recording. “It’s intimidating to be here, but its inspiring. I love that LA is full of people that want to be something. A lot of people hate on that, but what can be so bad about a city full of dreamers?”
Interestingly enough, when Jacob first began making music, he had no idea what any popular rock bands even sounded like. He was raised in a strict Christian household that did not permit the listening of any secular music so his only references were Christian bands like Jars of Clay and DC Talk. (Once when he was younger he went to a Limp Bizkit concert and thought he was going to go to hell!). As a musician, he was behind. Not until he was much older did he finally begin to sink his teeth into the vast world of secular music and realize, he sounded like a lot of bands that were out there. You would think this would discourage an artist on the rise, but it had no such effect. This just gave him more freedom when making music. In the studio, he and his producer never really discuss his sound, Jacob writes what he likes and records, keeping a cohesive tract in mind but also not limiting himself. His forthcoming album will represent this exploration.
When it comes to producing psych pop/rock music, the freedom of experimentation is the most enjoyable aspect. “It’s the same thing as doing pop. We’re going to write a hooky song that can be played on the radio, but it’s going to go deeper than that. Ok, what if instead of doing a chorus or bridge here, the keyboards come in and we jam for 20 minutes? It’s more experimental with production but still trying to make music that people would actually enjoy listening to.” With his own track “All The Other Girls” he explained how its starts with all real instruments and his voice, then at the end of the song, he fades out the real instruments and fades in all GarageBand generated instruments and sounds. “A song literally changing skin right in front of your face.”
Jacob doesn’t necessarily write music to send a message, or at least it didn’t start this way. He mainly just wants people to listen and feel good, “like ‘awe that’s my jam! Let’s go out!”. But there are also some very heartfelt and meaningful songs that he’s thrown into the mix, like my favorite, ‘All Your Words Are Gone’, a simple acoustic song that was not intended to be cool or to please anyone. “I remember sitting down in my room and I’d just moved to LA and I’d just started listening to new bands. I was starting to come out of the whole Christian Household and I felt quite bad about myself…” He goes on to explain how sometimes writing a song is like throwing up. “I was really bawling. It’s like someone putting a mirror in your face, because that’s your words so you can’t get around that, like, that’s how you feel. Doing music is my deepest love. For some reason when I make music, I cry, I laugh, I’m all by myself and I’m having this crazy emotional thing. It’s always been where I can go to really be myself.”
I’m nodding, listening. We’re getting into the meaty part of this interview, the reason I made the trek down the 405 freeway. The sun has set, the wine is finished, cigarette number three sits between his fingers. Jacob continues to explain the darker parts of this artistic career path.
“Being a musician or a songwriter is a blessing and a burden because a lot of what it takes to write a song means to feel things really intensely and then have the ability to put that into something someone can actually listen to, like in a physical form. Usually when I write a song, I barely remember the songs I write the day after, I mean I am high and drunk…you break yourself down to a point where you don’t get in the way. I’m not being insecure where I’m like ‘oh no ones going to want to listen to this’, you just freaking drunk yourself out of that to where it’s like all you have, is whatever is really inside of you minus all the insecurities and a microphone and your recording.”
“I just know my relationship with music is beautiful and dark and it’s everything, it really is. Every emotion that I have at a different time at any moment in my life. It’s like a snapshot of what I was doing that day.”
“I make music and write music because its my therapy, and being able to share it with people, that’s the icing on top of the cake. I’m never going to stop writing because it feels good to me. Whether [a person] sits down after a break up or wherever they are in their life, I hope there’s something on my album for people in whatever part of their life their in.”
Appropriately so, Whiskey shots ensue and I kindly thank him for opening up to me.
Avid Dancer’s debut album releases April 14th. His EP is available now below. He plans on going on tour with Delta Spirit right before his album release. Catch him at his last Echo residency tonight for Free! All Ages!