If you’re like me, then checking your email can oftentimes induce anxiety. Hordes of messages await across numerous addresses, correspondence is required, and time is of the essence. Some messages hide behind a façade of significance, but are actually useless. Others may appear to be robotic but are actually genuine. Sorting through things like press releases can be daunting, especially when they arrive in mass. However, the message I received that prompted the below was pure, and upon opening it my excitement was confirmed; Jimkata is back, and preparing to embark on an eight date run punctuated by their debut at Tucson’s Gem & Jam Festival.
This titanic trio of synth wave masterminds was one of my favorite artists to see prior to their announcement of what became a four year hiatus. Lifelong friends who grew up in Ithaca, Jimkata is returning to touring form on the heels of their new release, entitled Bonfires. The new record spans ten tracks, is arranged magnificently, and oozes a modern electro revival sound while still quite clearly bearing the analog waves Jimkata has always honed. I got the chance to take a Zoom meeting with two thirds of the group, Evan Friedell and Packy Lunn to briefly discuss the reformation, the record, rejuvenation, and more.
Bones: Fellas, thank you for taking a second to chat. I know how hard it is in this industry simply to stay together, I’m wondering how difficult or easy it has been to get back together. Is it just synergy, is it a phone call, is it planned on a calendar?
Evan: I think for us, we have been playing so long, we could kind of just pick up where we left off. That’s never been a problem. What’s difficult is kind of getting all the gears turning. All the mechanisms that we used to have that we built up. Like touring for example, we had a van and a trailer and a regular crew, our own console, stuff like that. Those logistics have taken more work getting back together. As far as the three of us getting together to jam and play, of course we’re all at different points in life now then when we were 23, 24 years old, but as far as the playing itself it just comes right back.
Packy: I think being out kind of where we were too kind of gave us this new perspective of how much work we had actually put into it in the first place. So we discovered again how hard it is to start something brand new and get it off the ground rather than something people already have an attachment to, good or bad. Like Evan alluded to, it was kind of just second nature just doing it for so long.
Bones: Understood. Getting that gaze can be so useful I think. Looking back at what you’ve done after a period of removal. Did the pandemic extend the hiatus at all?
Packy: The live playing aspect of it for sure.
Evan: Yea, we were initially planning on releasing something, and the original timeline for returning to touring was something like March of 2020, so we had to adjust.
Bones: I thought so. The new record which came out six months ago now, I went through and listened to the whole thing, and it seemed very modern. Very meta, almost as if it was aware of itself. This music strikes me differently than Die Digital and In Motion. How planned was this sound or did you just get back together and it was what it was?
Evan: I think it is different. The way it was made was different. We were kind of starting from scratch. These songs were written when we didn’t really know what was going on or when we were going to play again. I started writing tunes and making demos, without any conception of what it should or shouldn’t be. Usually we would start by playing new things live and get a feel for them that way in the past, but there was no Jimkata at that point, so I was just kind of making things. Then Packy and I started to get together and jamming and started tweaking things and making demos together. Eventually we brought Aaron [Gorsch] back into the fold and it definitely was an intentional process. We ended up spending a lot more time on this than anything we’ve done before. We really had time to digest it and revise it before we got into a real studio to record.
Packy: Like Evan said we had a lot more time to workshop it on our own, but what was interesting about it from records before is we used to play songs live almost all the time before we recorded them. This is almost 100% the opposite. Everything is recorded now before it comes to stage so that has been an interesting adaptation to see how we do all the new stuff live, and how to incorporate the old stuff with that and make it all seamless and cohesive.
Bones: I love the sound. Let’s touch on the run. These eight dates are going to be touring this album, and I know you guys have known each other for a long time, just from a simple standpoint, how much are you guys looking forward to getting together as friends to play this stuff and see the people in the crowd that you have seen for years, just being together again- how excited are you?
Packy: It’s the best. It’s the only reason to keep doing it is that feeling.
Evan: Yea we got a little taste of it in the fall, and we played our first show back in the summer and it was wild. So much fun. It was at this beautiful point where people were getting the vaccine and it was an outdoor show and felt kind of safe and all that stuff before the other waves (of the pandemic). And it was beautiful and so much fun. We did six indoor shows in the fall and they were so much fun. There was a new level especially with the pandemic combined with us not playing for a while, people were so happy to just get out and be human again and sing along to their favorite songs and get a little drunk and we all just realized how priceless that is.
Bones: I get that as well. That leads into my next thought- I know you guys are from New York originally, are there any plans right now to bring this record and these shows to the east coast again?
Evan: Yea, we’re working on it. We’ll have some east coast dates soon, so we’re going to keep going.
Bones: That’s what I like to hear. There’s this sense of rejuvenation and new purpose with making new music and getting back into a touring schedule. How much does that connect to personal life as well, and the gaze that you mentioned being able to step back for a bit and look at your work. Does that stuff migrate onto the stage? Do you feel that sense of closeness as you go back on?
Evan: Definitely. We’ve all been through many phases in life together and with this band, and also with our audience as well. It’s interesting having played a few of these shows and seeing some old fans come out and just talking to people after the show. “Oh man I remember you guys played this show in 2010,” that stuff goes deep. We started by just crashing at peoples’ houses on the road. There’s people we’ve known literally for years in these different towns. That closeness transcends just beyond us to the people around us throughout the years. We’ve all had this opportunity to get perspective on how cool and unique that is in this world. It’s tough to build that and we’re grateful for it.
Bones: I wanted to ask you guys this, As our industry struggles to return, and arts programs get cut, musicians are often the first people called upon to aid the community, yet they are the first people stricken with hardships like work stoppage or increased barriers to spread their art. That paradox has always frustrated me. Have you found that music and art can save a life?
Evan: That’s such a profound question. Yes, absolutely. We hear it from people all the time. Shit like every show someone says something to me, that they were in a bad way, depression, drugs, whatever, and now they’re in a good way because our music was there for them, and that’s more then something I could ever do myself. I know for me that’s the reason why I got into music, it’s like the writing and such really helped me get out of some dark times and trying to comprehend things I don’t understand. It was cathartic to me in that regard, I could always retreat to my own world and play my guitar. I lost my brother at a young age and I feel like music kept me out of trouble.
Packy: Absolutely. It is an acceptable way to go hang out with your friends and actually get into trouble [laughs].
Evan: Yeah we would probably all be in a lot more bad trouble if we didn’t have this [laughs].
Bones: That’s what I like to hear. I really like to extract the emotions behind the music from the guys on stage. Just one more quick thing, I want to know if there is something really dumb you look forward to arguing about back on the road?
Packy: Yeah, like which way to enter the stage [laughs], or making sure the encore is not too insane.
Evan: And of course Sheetz or Wawa [laughs].
Bones: Thank you guys so much. I’m here in Greensboro, and I’m sending you guys NC love and can’t wait to see you back on stage
Jimkata’s Bonfires tour starts Wednesday, January 26 in Steamboat Springs, CO, after which it stops in Fort Collins, Boulder, and Denver, before moving to Costa Mesa, CA, dipping in Los Angeles and San Diego, and landing in Tucson. All location and ticket information is available at www.Jimkata.com and I encourage people to support these pioneers as they get back to work. As always, thank you for reading The Jamwich, and I’ll see you down the line.