Capturing My Jerusalem
Written by: The Artistree
Imagine running around the Lower East Side for nearly two hours—looking for Polaroid film in twenty-something bodegas/pharmacies—only to discover 10 freaking minutes before our interview with My Jerusalem that it was discontinued in 2008! Out of breath, frantic, and still sweaty—we encountered frontman, Jeff Klein. “Uh, didn’t they stop making that a while ago?” We, clearly, didn’t get the memo. What an awesome first impression on our part—SMOOTH! We pulled the band away from music festival madness in ’09 to calm down in a sunless Googie’s Lounge.
Jeff Klein and Dave Rosser (of Twilight Singers/Gutter Twins), Ashley Dzerigian (Great Northern), Rick Nelson (The Polyphonic Spree/St.Vincent), Jacob Evans, and Matt Bricker were in attendance. Cully Symington (Bishop Allen), on tour with Cursive, was the only member M.I.A. The wheels of this indie super group had been in motion for a while as they had separately played together. “Kind of like Internet dating—” they frequently texted one another, knowing it would naturally work out. And now—after congregating between Austin and New Orleans (and god knows where else?)—they were in NYC, with us!
South by Southwest  was quoted to be your band’s “opening night.” What were the feelings pre & post performance?
Ashley: I was just excited about it!
Jeff: It was a lot of talk before and then a lot of sleep afterwards.
Dave: It was a blur because you don’t have time to sit, think, or do anything—or even think about the music. It’s more, [hectic] “Oh, we gotta be there in 15 minutes! Shit!—There’s a traffic jam!—Set up, set up! Oh, okay.—Play!—Wait, who’s got the t-shirts?”
I think that first and foremost, every person in this band is a huge music fan. I’m pretty sure that we all have soundtracks and that’s what it should be.
- Jeff Klein
How do crowds perceive you?
Dave: I think we’re good. If somebody is not into it, then it’s maybe not the right venue for what we’re doing. There’s a time and place for everything. It’s about timing.
Jeff: It’s a band of nerds. When the nerds form one huge mega nerd, then that’s not a problem. It’s just an excuse for all of us to hang out together and not make any money.
It seems very organic and we really respect that.
Dave: If that’s apparent, awesome! Then we’re getting out of it what we wanted.
(Chad) When I heard the song “Turtledove,” one of the bands that ran through my head was The National. I later read an article that made an unfit comparison to Les Savy Fav. Do any other comparisons come to mind that have surprised you?
Jeff: I’ve heard that since there are horns and strings, everybody says Arcade Fire.
Ashley: It always reminds me a little of Pink Floyd.
Dave: The sound was based around the collection of musical crap we have. Whatever the sound is, is whatever is around.
Jeff: I think that it just goes back to the organics. It’s a little all over the place sometimes—in a good way.
Dave: We’ve only got a certain collection of things, so the production probably would give it a commonality that would tie it together. We do have a couple of super hardcore songs that we haven’t done anything with yet—that are sort of bone-crushing. There will be a time, a place, and a venue for that at some point.
Jeff: With our other side project that’s called, Transgender Rodeo. [laughs] It’s more of like GG Allin meets Patsy Cline. [all laugh]
Major publications such as Apple, Filter Magazine and Spinner gave the band positive feedback. Has the band been surprised by any press opinions?
Jeff: I’m surprised that they have as good of a taste as they do. I think we’re excited that anybody likes it. We love it. If anybody else does, then that’s even better.
Dave: It’s a giddy feeling. We started writing and recording the songs in an apartment. You’re not thinking about feedback or anything, you’re just doing. If one person (in writing) writes something nice, you feel like a teenage girl!
Jeff: It wasn’t, “Let’s start a band!” And then we did. It was more like we actually wrote and recorded the music [then decided], “We might as well be a band ’cause we just did all of this together.”
Dave Rosser on the “right then and there” recording of Without Feathers
Jeff, did it feel any different for you to transition from being a solo artist and part of a well known band to now being a part of an indie super group?
Jeff: It’s fun to be a in a band and not be by myself anymore. It wasn’t a hard transition, it was a cool transition. It’s more fun to be up on stage with a bunch of people and play rock & roll. I’ve always wanted to be in a band, it’s just that it never worked out that way. It started out as just an idea for fun—to do stuff together.
Dave: A lot of this stuff was recorded whenever Twilight [Singers] was in New Orleans. We convened in Mardi Gras of ’07.
Jeff: That’s when we first started.
Dave: Everybody was in one place. We were in one city at the same time for two weeks—
Jeff: With nothing to do.
Considering the moving around and varied geographical backgrounds of the band, would you coin that a key factor for what shaped your musical sound?
Rick: The only thing that geography would play into this is the fact that we all played together in different bands before. It didn’t really matter what city other people were located. We found players that we really liked—we liked their style. It worked out just because we knew it’d work out. We all had chemistry—Matt and I had been playing together for years—so we knew it was just all going to come together really well. The difference [with us] is the fact that we don’t all necessarily live in the same place.
Jeff: When we get together, we pick up where we left off really well. It’s not like we need months of rehearsal.
We watched some in studio/recording footage of the band, which prompted our curiosity—what inspired the ambiance and content of Without Feathers?
Jeff: We have about 30 songs recorded. We didn’t actually sit down and specifically record an EP. [. . .] “Let’s put five of these songs out into the world and it will be this EP.” It was just five songs that we felt were good first representations. It had a little bit of everything—some of it upbeat, some of it a little screamy, some of it a little depressing, and—
Dave: A little National-y. [laughs]
Rick Nelson shares a memorable quote
[Kat] I was listening to the EP on an early Sunday morning while walking through a rainy SoHo. It was very windy—the umbrella and trash, flying everywhere—and I remember feeling like it was the perfect soundtrack for the sights around me.
Dave: That’s what albums outta be! ‘Cause that’s what they end up being—if you’re aware of it when it’s happening. I wasn’t aware that all of that stuff I was listening to when I was 15, 17, —wrecking cars and camping—was gonna be soundtrack. The later on you hear it, you have these memories. But now, ever since Tarantino started scoring movies with those songs brought from your life—if somebody’s listening to an album, feeling at that moment that it’s a soundtrack—that is awesome!
Jeff: I think that first and foremost, every person in this band is a huge music fan. I’m pretty sure that we all have soundtracks and that’s what it should be.
Dave: To be aware of it while it’s happening—is a big compliment.
Rick: There was a piano player that actually said something very similar to that. He said, “You’ve never truly heard [John] Coltrane ’til you’ve stared out the window of a NY apartment, and it’s raining outside.” That’s always been stuck in my head, for years, since I was a kid—I just remember that quote. I think that’s wonderful when you can have something that becomes more than just notes—on either paper or through speakers. But something that becomes a reality in your own mind. You interpret it however you want to and I think that’s the beauty of it. [Hear Audio]
Did anyone have imagery in mind to help set the mood for recording?Dave: I kind of did. To get the sounds not to sound super slick but sound like people in a room. It doesn’t sound vast or like Journey.
Jeff: We wanted everything to have a charity shop feel to it—like a thift-store kind of vibe.
Dave: It was recorded in a thrift-store kind of vibe. We wanted it to be a record of that time.
Jeff: We recorded it in his [Dave's] apartment with stuff that is all, pretty much, half broken. That’s part of the awesomeness to it. On one of the songs, the bassist played on a cardboard box with strings on it—in all honesty. The trumpet is bent. Everything is kind of fucked up—[again] in a good way. It all has a charm to it—the same kind of charm we want the music to have.
You’re rumored to release an LP [in 2010], how much can you tell us?
Jeff: We have to mix it and we’re still figuring out who’s putting it out. It’s recorded. It just needs some fine tuning.
Dave: It’s 90% done.
Rick: There’s 30 [songs] to choose from right now, so who knows what’s even gonna go on the full length?
Jeff: We’re all pretty anal retentive and very consistently high-output, creative people. It could be ten completely different songs [on the LP] than we’re doing right now.
Dave Rosser explains the band’s evolution
Is there a different direction? [As in, “Bury It Low,”] maybe a harder direction?
Jeff: A more upbeat direction.
What bands would you recommend for us to check out?
Rick: A Living Soundtrack
Ashley: The Pity Party