I love this conversation. I'm not saying I have a crush on Jen de la Osa. But I totally do. Fortunately, I have a crush on the other half of Aloud, too. I'm planning to score the other half of my Aloud duologue while they're on the road this fall, so stay tuned for that one of these Wednesdays. In the meantime, DO NOT MISS the Exile release show this Thursday at Church of Boston. The album is beautiful and, as you'll get an inkling of below, the show is guaranteed to be spectacular. See you there!
me: this is me NOT laughing at your username [oasisfan something something]. <3
Jen : hahaha
I love that I've never bothered to change it since I was 13.
me: still a fan?
Jen : Till the end. They were the reason I finally made my parents get me a $30 acoustic guitar off a Speigal catalog.
me: oh awesome.
Jen : Yeah, it was a crappy guitar, but I loved it and wrote many terrible songs on it.
me: did you name it? do you name your instruments?
Jen : No. That's for BB King to do.
me: bb king names your instruments?
Jen : He's a phone call away.
me: can i get that number? :)
Jen : I'll be sure to put you both in touch. :)
okay you ready?
Jen : Let's do it!
me: great! so, to situate ourselves in people's minds a bit... what are you wearing?
Jen : ?
me: that was a joke.
Jen : Olive. Jeans. Purple nikes.
me: purple nikes!
i love purple.
Jen : Me too!
me: i feel like there's something special about people who like purple.
you gotta be willing to feel to like purple.
Jen : Yeah, it's like those people "get it"
so, lemme go back and explain that question. i was really going to ask for you to describe some object in your immediate environment. i feel like the chats are so virtual.
if you know what i mean
Jen : Right on. Well I'm in my living room. It's filled with furniture that Henry and I are selling. The walls are bare save the two paintings I refuse to get rid of. We'll be moving at the end of the month you see.
what are the two paintings?
Jen : The one directly behind me was painted by a family member. He did these since I was a kid. It's a beach mainly blue, palm trees, calm ocean. The place I love the most: the ocean. And perhaps his remembering Cuba.
The second is an Egyptian lady sitting down with fruit around here, mainly yellow. Her boob's hanging out. It used to sit next to the booze in my parents house all my life. My parents had no place for it when they moved to North Carolina, so I took it. Many times did I steal vodka with this lady watching me.
me: and now? do you drink with her?
Jen : Yes. Though these days it's red wine or good beer.
okay that is a fantastic scene-setting job, thank you!
now the real first question: who are you?
Jen : I'm Jen de la Osa. One half of Aloud. I play guitar, keys and sing for Aloud. My partner in crime Henry Beguiristain and I write the songs for Aloud (he's the other half).
um... we're a rock band. yay!
how are you feeling at this point about kicking off the tour next week?
Jen : Ah, well it's really just the CD release next Thursday. The tour kicks off in Oct starting off with CMJ.
me: gotcha. so same question for the CD release show, then. :)
Jen : Ready. Ecstatic. We've finalized the set list over the weekend and started rehearsing it Monday. I can say it's going to be a real treat. We've got some cool things planned and it feels like more of production. I suppose having seen Cabaret last week helped. Don't get me wrong. We won't be dressed up like German strippers, but the idea of upping things a bit. I don't want to spoil things, but it will be a LOT of fun. We've also got the Exile Orchestra and the Exile Choir joining us.
For those of you don't know Exile is the name of the upcoming album.
Jen : Well, I just said we wouldn't be dressed as them. I didn't say there wouldn't be any.
me: aha! crafty...
that sounds great. i'm super excited, especially since i feel like your shows are always pretty transcendent.
Jen : Thank you!
me: thank you!
Jen : :)
me: so, since it's one of my top 3 songs of the year, will you talk a bit about To Die At Sea? did you write the lyrics? (or does that question even make sense?)
Jen : That song sort of started out as something completely different. I'd kind of been obsessed with that Smiths song There Is A Light That Never Goes Out, but the Noel Gallagher version (damn Oasis!). He'd said something about it being the most romantic lyrics ever written and of course there's all this death involved. So I started with the music and thought the best thing would be to die in the ocean... since that's sort of my favorite place in the world. But then it gets a little dark. This person is saying I'd love to die with you in this ocean. I suppose death isn't seen as a bad thing in this song... especially since as the writer I don't have to die! But I only had the first verse and the chorus. I wasn't happy with the arrangement and then Henry came up with the guitar part which is pivotal and then I thought... string quartet... that's what it needs. We don't know anything about doing that, but let's try.
So we did... and then writing the lyrics... that took a while. I went through so many verses. I went to Henry and said we have to treat this very delicately, so it doesn't sound stupid as that'll be easy to do given the subject matter. We broke out the poetry books and read some Dylan Thomas and that sort of got us going and that was that.
well. i think you really nailed it.
Jen : But the basic idea is this character who'd prefer to die alone with the sea, but alone to this person means with the person they love the most. She'd never think to not include him in all her plans.
me: do you think of yourself as a romantic? :)
Jen : I dunno. I like to feel enraptured, so yes. But I'm also wary of falseness, so I'm a little cynical. I suppose that's how it makes sense. Underneath I certainly am. But I'm the first call someone out on some display of love or emotion that is clearly insincere.
me: it takes a certain kind of perceptiveness to see things like that
Jen : Well I feel like that's all tied into music. Recognizing patterns. You see it in people.
me: that's interesting... will you say more about how it ties into music?
Jen : Sure. It's like when you're learning a new song off someone. You watch the chords and you kind of know what chord might come next or how the bridge might go. You can see people acting a certain way you've noticed in others and you kind of know where it's going. The best is when you're wrong about the chords... and the person. Those surprises are help you feel better about things.
It's better when people and songs aren't typical. Don't get me wrong though. I hate math rock or anything that tries too hard to be different. Again, insincere to me. Just let it out.
me: it = ?
Jen : I'm a little hard to please.
Whatever you're trying to get out I suppose. Song wise. Keep the fluids in if it's inappropriate people.
so do you feel like falseness is more characteristic of - american culture? humanity? - than... authenticity?
i ask because you said "feel better about things"...
Jen : Well it can be easier in certain circumstances. I came off a bit harsh. It's not like I've never been inauthentic. It's a normal part of life. I think it's across the board though. People feel superior to other people all around the world. And they try to come off slumming it all around the world too. It trivializes people's real situations. I suppose I just hate it when people lie. Doesn't mean I haven't done it. Like I said I try not to. But it's one of those things that gets my goat.
Yeah, I suppose I was referring to stereotypes there. I hate it when someone plays into a stereotype. Whichever one it may be.
It's that idea that hell is repetition. Repetition is frustrating.
me: :) i had a poetry teacher who said "repetition is holy" - as a way of saying, don't abuse it.
i realize refrains are different from what you're talking about
Jen : haha. I see what you mean there.
me: but it does seem like that's what we have to make sure, when we write.
that the chorus isn't just another cliche.
Jen : In a song of course it's that affirmation of the most important idea in the piece.
me: at the same time as you're trying to write something people can identify with.
but i think ultimately people identify most strongly with the truth.
Jen : Absolutely.
me: i got some advice on performing once, from David Messier, who produced our first album and then moved down to Austin...
he told me not to perform the emotion of a song, but to perform whatever i'm feeling in the moment.
Jen : That's good advice.
me: because people will see that it's honest and connect to that.
not always easy.
Jen : And it makes it a living, breathing piece.
me: but yes. exactly.
what else are you passionate about?
Jen : hmm... well if I lived surrounded by my books, music, movies, wine, coffee and every other day by my friends then I would only want for travel. This is why I love touring. I love to travel. If I could combine that with traveling by boat I'd probably be in heaven. Art and friends and having coffee/drinks with them.
And my crazy family. I'd probably do anything for them coz that's the way we are.
me: right. on.
do you have any family living nearby at all?
Jen : There's some distant relatives nearby. My folks are in NC. My sister was living up here until she moved to my parents a couple years back. My brother's in Miami with my grandparents. I've got a dear cousin in CT.
me: my immediate family is spread all the way across the country. i have a sister in new york, but she's the only one i see more than once or maybe twice a year now. it's hard because i feel like they are such a part of me but it's like... the lines that run between us are stretched. taut.
Jen : I feel you! I just saw so many of them in May when Henry and I got married. It was wonderful seeing them all. It's the fact you grew up with these people you know? No one else understands that part of your life except them.
me: yes, exactly.
that and no one else catches all my movie references :)
so you and Henry go waaay back, yes?
Jen : In fact, we do. Our families knew each other way back in Havana. We met in 97/98? We were 16. Our grandparents thought we should meet after his abuelita saw me playing Beatle songs at my grandparents anniversary party.
me: when did you start writing songs together?
(also, that reminds me of how stevie nicks met lindsey buckingham. but they were crazy.)
Jen : haha
Well we started writing about 17ish? We didn't really start playing together till about then. When we first met we had a lot of stupid bravado and claimed to be in bands already... which is why we didn't ask the other. haha. It was a combination shyness/bravado.
me: but you weren't really in bands?
Jen : I was in a "band" with a friend who "played" drums. We rehearsed once or twice and then I asked Henry to join after realizing he wasn't actually in a band. He thought he was, but no one showed up to practice.
me: oh no!
image: henry standing alone in a garage with a guitar...
Jen : How cute is that though? haha.
me: pretty adorable, since we know how awesomely that story ends!
Jen : :)
me: writing songs together is pretty rad, isn't it.
Jen : I love it. I don't even remember what writing songs alone was like.
me: okay i'm getting all swoony for you guys and that will just lead to more romance questions and even more swooniness... so let me get this conversation back on track, because it's all about getting to know you as a person.
Jen : haha. Right. Hard to get to know me without mentioning Henry though. hahah. but yes. back
me: not that they're separable, exactly.
okay i think you're a good person to ask this question: what is something you hope everyone else secretly thinks?
Jen : Shit...
that's a good question
About anything specific?
me: whatever comes to mind
Jen : Well I hope everyone's thinking that it's good to be good to people because basically in means in the end we'll all be better off and have a better life for it.
what do you believe in?
Jen : I'm going to sound like one of those inauthentic fools, but love. It seems like one of the hardest things to do, but with the most pay off. But real, understanding you're in for disappointment, but you'll be there for people kind of love.
I also believe in evolution.
me: nice on both counts.
i think that's the purple of love.
Jen : haha I like that!
me: for some reason i've been thinking about love as a color for a long time.
but you know, red + blue... how you will be let down, how you will be fired up... all of it.
Jen : I love it. I see non-physical things in color too.
me: like what else?
Jen : Anger is usually red. Blue is pretty tranquil heaven like feelings (like the beach, eh?). Those things are all like an abstract painting.
Got about another 15 minutes before someone comes over to buy more furniture. That all right?
me: i've never been able to articulate what it is about the ocean. that's part of what i love about your song - it goes a long way toward expressing the nature of the sea.... how i relate to it.
Jen : It's the most amazing thing isn't it? It's the one place I could be still for hours. Hopping in and out of it to enjoy and appreciate it. It's just lovely. I grew up around it.
me: oh man. the first chapter of moby dick is also awesome for that purpose. talking about the draw of going to sea.
i still haven't gotten past chapter 6, but that first chapter really pulled me in. i've read it over and over.
Jen : Excellent. I should check that out.
i grew up very landlocked. actually i moved to boston without ever having been here. just because it was on the coast and anything would be worth being close to the ocean.
Jen : Nice! Yeah when we were on tour in Indiana I kept wondering what life would have been like not having some roaring ocean on either side.
me: the sky was my ocean.
Jen : This is why I'm fascinated by islands.
me: because iowa is flat, there's so much sky.
Jen : That's a good way to compensate!
me: and i loved how it changed.
oh i love islands.
okay just a few more questions.
what do you know for sure?
Jen : That I will always write music. I will always love music. And I'll always share that with Henry. Rocking in our rocking chairs.
me: what's something you don't know but wish you did?
Jen : Hmm.. the secrets of the universe! And Paul McCartney's phone number
me: maybe bb king has it.
Jen : True. I'll have to ask!
me: :) time machine/space ship. all of time and space. where would you go?
Jen : Mid60s swinging London. 50s San Fran beat culture. Industrial revolution new england. Lorca's Andalucia/Madrid so I can run into Dali too.
me: oh man. he'd be one to have a drink with!
Jen : YES!
me: okay, the last two questions you get to pick.
one to ask me and one you want me to ask you.
anything you want.
Jen : Oh no, you're making me think! haha. ok. gimme a sec.
Jen : Question for you: If you had to pick one city to spend the rest of your life in and unrest and language didn't bar you from living there where would you go?
me: a city, specifically?
Jen : Yea, real or fake.
me: oh! i might steal that question. that rules. okay let's see.
Jen : steal away
me: man. i'm such a commitment phobe! i keep getting stuck thinking "yeah, but for the REST of my life?"
but i think i'd have to say florence.
if i could live in the greener hilly part.
Jen : oh very nice!
me: :) thanks
okay your last question! what'll it be?
Jen : What comic book character would you be?
me: sweeeet. and the answer?
me: i'll have to look that up.
Jen : Alan Moore is a genius.
oh oh sorry.
the only comic i ever read was strangers in paradise by terry moore.
Jen : Indeed. I don't quite read them often, but I got into Alan Moore over the last few years. Watchmen will leave you pacing the room not knowing what to do when it's over. I finished at 9pm at home one night. Paced the entire apartment, turned to Henry and said "I have to go to sleep. I have to just go to bed". It's quite an ending and it's beautifully drawn.
me: i love that. i think we get similarly immersed in story. please send me any book recommendations you want.
Jen : Excellent!
thank you so much for chatting with me, Jen.
Jen : Thank you MacK :)
me: good luck with getting the furniture sold and and and... i look forward to seeing you next week, if not before!
Jen : Most excellent. Looking forward!
me: i'll catch your/Aloud's other half on here another time, for sure.
Jen : Sounds good. He's looking forward.
me: :) that makes 3 of us looking forward.
ciao till then!