Analogue Music | J.K. Crowe

J.K. Crowe

By Matt Conner

For the life of me, I can't remember why I started to listen to JK Crowe.

The digital era guarantees your inability to stay in the know. In a given year, I listen to a ton of new music, and every year, I'm surprised that I missed releases by artists and bands that I already know that I like. The market is oversaturated. The more quickly a persona can acquiesce to this new reality, the happier he or she will be as a music listener.

Somehow, in the midst of so much music, I gave a listen to JK Crowe's new EP, Buried. I'm glad I did. The brief, understated set left me hungry for more. The slow acoustic backing for each track is wisely layered with sparse instrumentation that lets each track linger—unhurried compositions in a hectic culture. If this sounds like a welcome invitation, it is.

We recently caught up with Crowe to understand the sonic foundation that gave way to Buried and how he partnered with Roofeeo (drummer for TV on the Radio and others) to produce the release.

Analogue: Before we get into the current story, I'd love to hear a bit about your musical foundation. Who are the artists associated with your childhood?

JK Crowe: I spent a lot of time with my parents and grandparents and everybody listened to music a lot. My grandparents were into a lot of oldies. They liked The Beatles and Otis Redding. My parents liked a lot of classic rock—a lot of AC/DC and Allman Brothers. My older brother listened to a lot of the alternative rock from the '90s like Radiohead and Nirvana. It was really a mix of all of that, pretty musical all the way around.

Analogue: At what point did music take hold for you?

Joe: My brother learned guitar years before I did. I was probably 8 or 9 whenever he stated to play, and I think by that time I'd wanted to be a musician. I mean, I'd idolized the Beatles all that time. I'd take pieces of wood and just pretend I was playing guitar, but I'd never really played anything. But over the years watching him play, I eventually learned how when I was 12, I guess. I think that's when I found Queens of the Stone Age, somewhere around 2001 or something. It was just so drastically different than other stuff. I was 14 or so and it had an impact on me. I just wanted to do that.

Analogue: Do you remember the first song you finished?

Joe: I think I was 12 or 13 when I wrote some songs but nothing lyrically. I do remember the first time I wrote an actual song that all came together. I was 16 and home from school one day staring out the window. I was watching the wind blow in the trees and playing acoustic and some words came to me. It was a song called "Treetops," and it was a very eerie song. From then on, I was like, 'I think I can actually do this and be proud of it.'

Analogue: Did the idea of "doing this" at that point mean that you could make a go at a career or that you could write songs?

Joe: I think it was more that I could write, but prior to that, I'd watched Lollapalooza in 2003 when it was touring the country. I went to watch Queens of the Stone Age, the Burning Brass, Audioslave and stuff. I remember being excited about my first big concert. I went with a friend and we went by ourselves. During Queens' set, I knew that I wanted to do it, but it was really just a want to do it. I don't think making a career ever really dawned on me until I was in my mid-twenties, actually.

Analogue: What was the turning point there?

Joe: Leading up to it, the band that I was in played shows around our hometown and Atlanta and Chattanooga. It was hit or miss. Most people didn't like us, and we probably weren't all that great. I think it was a little off-putting given the scene we were in. I think by 2012 or 2013, things really started to happen. We were playing bigger shows. I think we were probably getting better. More popular bands were offering us spots, and we recorded an album in 2012, but even at that time while recording the album, things started to happen. So it was around that time.

Analogue: At what point do you start writing songs like the tracks on Buried?

Joe: The band I was in more of an alternative rock kind of things—like grunge mixed with Queens of the Stone Age. But I'd always had this acoustic, slower, atmospheric type of stuff I never di anything with. But I don't think I started writing songs like the ones on Buried until about two years ago. I went through some hard times there and the band fell apart. I had to do something and it was the cathartic thing. This is the product of my mindset at the time.

Analogue: How did you meet Roofeeo and move toward making this project?

Joe: A couple years ago, I was going to cut another EP and went out to Joshua Tree and it was an AirBnB type thing in the middle of the desert. The songs themselves I recorded myself and I'm terrible at it. But we tried to do that initially a couple years ago and it just never really turned out. From there it was about trying to find somebody I could work with who could offer something musically as well as technically in terms of mixing, engineering and whatnot. It's the nature of what I'm doing now and the nature of music today. It was a necessity. My manager would throw names out here and there of who would be good to work with. We met with him and it felt good. It was really just an out-of-nowhere kind of thing, which it always seems like it is.

Analogue: I loved the EP when I heard it, but I'm a bit surprised at hearing the rock and roll background that came before it. Which is your musical lane or do you not feel like you have to choose?

Joe: Well, this EP is a representation of more or less what I'm able to do as one person that's just solely set on this project. There's always a desire to have a live band and go that direction but not necessarily back into the rock scene. One thing I've learned by doing this project is that musically I've grown a lot more since then. In the past, I was more set in my ways and saw things as right or wrong—which is a terrible way to look at anything. I've only played in live bands, but you can take the solo artist out of the live band but you can't take the live band out of the solo artist. [Laughs] If anything, I'll try to take a magnifying glass to this project and focus in on the finer points.