What inspired you to first start making music? And how did you come to be in your current incarnation? Or if you prefer, a brief bio about you.
JR: I’ve been a singer all my life, and my mom had me take piano lessons for three years growing up. I never practiced. I didn’t take instruments seriously until I started teaching myself guitar when I was 17. In college I would sit outside my dorm and play shitty covers of Cat Stevens, Nirvana, Bob Dylan, Green Day, and Goo Goo Dolls. Some people liked them – some people didn’t, but I didn’t care. I used to play for hours every day, shirking my scholarly responsibilities. In the long-run, perhaps this was more important. I didn’t begin writing songs until I was 22, actually a day or two after that birthday. That birthday and the days surrounding it were a blur – this period of my life was one of heavy substance use. I spent three days in bed not eating after that, feeling guilty and sorry for myself. When I finally made the decision to get up from bed, I wrote two folk songs compulsively – one about a man driving with his wife along a road, and feels as if he’s gotten a sign to drive across a meridian and plunge into oncoming traffic, and one about feeling the devil’s hands on your life and heart.
JR: A lot has happened since. I’ve been sober for over five years at this point, and have dedicated my life to music and art. I’ve also picked up synthesizers. My material as Jordan Reyes began as collage work, but over the course of 2018 became sleepwalking, electronic pieces – I felt the need to push myself compositionally, to make something I wanted to listen to over and over again.
JR: I became interested in modular synthesizers years ago, but hadn’t gotten the necessary equipment until April 2018. When I was working a quasi-consulting job in the beer industry, I was flying to project locations at least once a week, which meant a return trip as well. I started reading the Synth Secrets series from Sound on Sound on flights, and became rudimentarily acquainted with the components of a synthesizer. This turned into fixed hardware and eventually eurorack modules. Something clicked for me once I got into eurorack. All that time I was learning synthesis, I knew what I wanted to make – songs that were hypnotic, rhythmic, melodic, but I wanted it laid out in front of me. I wanted the composition to grow, change, and be customized in real time. My music is not so complex. It is a series of interwoven parts that I think work well together, and I manipulate them while bringing them in and out of hearing.
JR: But when I’m in the weeds with my synthesizer, I feel like a ghost, almost. When I perform live, sometimes it’s like being outside of my body – things running on a rail or on autopilot. It’s almost sacred.
Provide us with some info about your latest release…
JR: A Night With My Aunt’s Dolls is my most recent EP, which was released on the Miami label Heavy Days, and I have my debut LP coming this Summer, which is Close on my new imprint American Dreams Records. A Night With My Aunt’s Dolls was recorded in one night at my grandfather’s house in Maryland. I was on an East Coast tour and three of the dates were within 2 hours of his house, so I just posted up there. When I’m at my grandfather’s house, I stay in my late Aunt Julie’s childhood bedroom – it’s a big room, but still has all of her childhood toys lined up. Dolls, dollhouses, books, clothes, religious figures. I recorded the material for that tape in a few hours, just creating stems and putting them together. My aunt was also the other member of my father’s family who was deeply into art, so it was a powerful place to be when assembling the material. It wasn’t quite a night with my aunt, but it was a night with her memory and the things she left behind.
Which ones would you consider your main influences both music-wise & non-music-wise?
JR: I grew up listening to an unhealthy amount of Christian music. My mom had tapes of classic pop songs reworked with a Christian message – for instance there was “Revelation Man” in the place of “Secret Agent Man” by Johnny Rivers, Christian musicals like Child of the Promise, hymns, Christian Radio shows like “Adventures in Odyssey,” a fictional show that taught lessons of faith alongside entertaining stories, and obviously Christian contemporary pop. I am not religious anymore, but these things were foundational for me, as were Bible stories. Religion – whether I like it or not – is deep in my bones. I can’t shake it. The honest truth is that it’s where I learned to love words, written and sung.
JR: I was also super into movie and anime soundtracks as a child. The Braveheart soundtrack was on constant rotation, as was Pirates of the Caribbean, and the songs from Inuyasha, FLCL, Cowboy Bebop, Wolf’s Rain – the list goes on. Looking back, this is probably where I started enjoying instrumental music.
JR: In High School, I listened to pretty much only Latin Music and Hip Hop. I was in the dance club and often in musicals, but I loved breakdancing. My friend Shaun and I were constantly listening to new material and discovering old classics – we loved beats, but were more into incisive lyrics – Talib Kweli, Gang Starr, Redman, Mos Def, Big L. These were our gods. Not to mention I loved Reggaeton like Rakim y Ken-Y, Wisin y Yandel, Ivy Queen or bachata like Monchy y Alexandra. You know – anything that got my head nodding or my body moving.
JR: I got into rock my senior year of High School after reading a copy of Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums at my uncle’s house. I wanted to know what was up. Nirvana’s Nevermind completely floored me. Still my favorite band ever. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that record. Just perfect. When I was at college, I was hitting up this record store Bull City Records at least once a week. Chaz who still runs the place would let me hang there for hours on end, playing me new cuts and hipping me to old classics. Sold me my first Pixies CD, my first Nine Inch Nails, Big Black, Einsturzende Neubaten.
In what way does your sound differ from the rest genre-related artists/bands and why should we listen to your music? In other words, how would you describe your sound?
JR: For my material as Jordan Reyes, I tried to inject a sense of wonder and exploration – music on a synthesizer, in my experience, can be particularly healing. Playing a synth is a restorative process for me, and I think that my music carries elements of that. A lot of the material in my other projects like Reverent or Spring Break is rather dark, focusing on an exorcistic catharsis, but my synthesizer music is meditative, reflective. It’s particularly interesting me to try and impart something in music without using words. As far as how it differs from other musicians using synthesizers, I would say that while it may be hard to pinpoint specific sonic attributes that make it singular, there is a constant focus on melody working as a means of pacification, and in terms of intent, I am trying to achieve intense immersion. For me, this is kind of like a waking unconsciousness.
Please name your 3 desert islands albums, movies & books…
JR: For albums got to go with Nevermind by Nirvana, Illmatic by Nas, and probably this 170 track comp Goodbye Babylon of gospel and blues.
JR: Movies – 2001: A Space Odyssey is the all-time favorite. Pair that with The Saddest Music In The World and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
JR: Books – Dhalgren by Sam Delany. Favorite book ever. Easily. Stoner by John Williams. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.
Do you prefer studio or performing live and why?
JR: Probably performing live because of the community experience. I love meeting people. It always seems like I’m meeting other artists at shows, and I just love that relatability – instant friendship. I tour a decent amount, and you’re kind of trying to replace the deep relationships you have at home, making meaningful connects to kind of stand-in for what you’re missing, and when you’re with other artists or heads, it’s much easier.
Is there any funny-unique story you would like to share with us, always in relation to your music ‘career’?
JR: Um, well, I started all this shit because I liked this band OBN III’s a lot when I was still in college – their “No Way To Rock n’ Roll” 7” that Tic Tac Totally put out. I wanted more! I hit them up to see when their next release was going to be, but I thought they wouldn’t respond to me unless there was good reason. I was still under the idea that people who played in rock bands didn’t have time for collegiate peons like myself – I thought these guys were the clergy! So I made up this blog Delayed Gratification, and said I wanted to interview them for it. It was my first interview, and one of the questions was “When’s your next release coming out?” 7 years later I’m writing for a whole heap of websites, and have dedicated my life to the underground.
Which track of your own would you point out as the most unique and why?
JR: Probably “Avalanche” on the upcoming LP considering that’s the one that has no rhythmic element to it, just a straight drone piece that works as an entryway to the rest of the material.
Would you like to share with our readers your future plans?
JR: Well, I’ve got this LP Close coming out on American Dreams on June 14 – that’s what I’m most excited about. Touring the Southeastern United States from 4.25-5.6, and playing a bunch of cities I’ve never hit before – Tampa, Tallahasse, Denton. Should be real cool. My power electronics project Spring Break has a whole bunch of tapes coming out between March and June. ONO’s got an LP in the can that should be out relatively soon.
In terms of things I’m releasing by others, I’ve got tapes galore on American Damage by Client Request, Terran Wretch, Yarrow, Interior One, and much more. Then a couple LPs by some artists I can’t talk about yet for American Dreams.
Free question!!! (Ask yourself a question) you wish to answer and haven’t been given the opportunity…
JR: Cool – question is who would you like to say thank you to/who would you like to shout out?
JR: First and foremost, much love to my girlfriend Ambre who has opened up possibilities to me, and believed in me since day one. This wouldn’t be possible without her. Got to thank my family who are super supportive. Got to shout out the ONO crew – P Michael and travis for constantly blowing my mind, teaching me so much about life and sound. Love to Ben Billington, supporting the Chicago crew. Connor Tomaka, eternally curious and adventurous. Dawei, Ben Karas, Rebecca, for being constant creative partners. John Daniel AKA Forest Management, relaying his surreal world of sound. CGW, my constant source of science fiction recommendations. Emile Milgrim and the Sweat Records crew. Theo at Heavy Days, my little brother. Andrew McLees, bringing so much to Miami, regional treasure. Jim Haras who puts the industrial underground on his back. Alex Ford for his insane work ethic and turnaround. Rusty Kelley for being tirelessly dedicated. Joe Satkowski for his immediacy and trust. Sam Stoxen for letting me get away with crazy shit! Tina Dahl, Mallory Linehan, Patrick Shiroishi, Robert Traxler, Carolina Decunzo, Jack Thompson, Kobe Dupree, Autumn Casey, Heretic Grail, and Skyler Rowe for getting this American Damage thing off the ground. And much love and thanks to you, Christos, as well as everyone who’s read this, bought a tape from me, or gave me a listen.
Photo credits: Ottolab
Curated by: Christos Doukakis
Connect with Jordan Reyes:
American Damage & Dreams Website