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An Interview with Clay Jordan of PacificUV

13 October 2012

PacificUV came to my attention through one of my music pals, but with everything I listen to, it wasn’t until recently that they really rose to the top of my personal playlist. They overlay shoegaze, psychedelia, and minimalist electronic beats, and make it their own. One can hear hints of the Mary Chain warring with My Bloody Valentine, but to assume that one of those influences is more important than the other is overly simplistic.

Clay Jordan (guitar/vocals) was kind enough to carve out time from his busy recording schedule to answer some questions on what makes his band tick, and what we might expect on his upcoming release.

What was the main creative inspiration for Weekends (if there is one you can pinpoint)? How long did it take to record?

Clay Jordan (CJ): In some ways it is a bit embarrassing to admit that Weekends was inspired by the end of a relationship on which I had placed high expectations. It is blush-inducing because of the sheer number of works of art – literature, film, but particularly music- that use heartbreak/the dissolution of a relationship as both the inspiration and subject matter of the work. What more can be done with such a played out subject? I understand now why Michael Stipe of R.E.M was so reluctant to write love songs and avoided it for so long.

Hopefully, Weekends tackled it from a slightly different perspective in that it deals with the absence of one’s lover on the weekends, which is generally a time when most couples would most likely hang out. What do you do to fill the days and nights you formally passed in one another’s company? It loosely details the emotions/feelings/experiences one might have over the course of a post-breakup weekend. We explicitly reference this concept with both the album cover and the three instrumental tracks “Friday Night Dream”, “Saturday Night Dream”, and “Sunday Night Dream”.

funny girl by pacificuv

“Be My Only Shallow Love” starts with a rather MBV-styled guitar before ascending to a higher level of pop heaven. How do you accomplish these arrangements and seamless shifts in mood?

CJ: “Be My Only Shallow Love” is one of my favorite songs from the record, maybe because I did not write it! Our singer/producer, Suny Lyons had written an album of odes to various bands and people, and this song was in fact dedicated to My Bloody Valentine and inspired by them. There are several samples in the song taken from their catalog, and of course the title references a song of theirs. Hopefully we channeled their aura/vibe without ripping them off!

We borrowed a page from the Postmodernist playbook, which argues that there is no need to create anything new; one can just use all the pre-existing songs/paintings/photographs/etc. and combine them to create new works. While I find that idea a bit cynical, I do like the idea of refashioning existing sounds and using them in a new context. Some artists (Danger Mouse, Andy Warhol, D.J. Shadow) have done so quite brilliantly.

be my only shallow love by pacificuv

What have been your biggest influences, both musical and otherwise (literary, cinematic, etc)?

CJ: Musically at times we have perhaps been too indebted to bands we love, and it is probably fairly evident to anyone with even a cursory knowledge of rock music which bands have influenced us. However, once we filter our influences through our own sensibilities, it usually becomes something far different from what initially inspired it. I think this is true for us.

I love film, music, and literature so I am constantly falling in love with something new. “Dogtooth”, a Greek film released last year, is one of the last things I was floored by. I am also really into the new xx record at the moment, not so much the songs as the super minimal production style; it has influenced how we are recording our new record. “New God Flow” off the new Kanye WestGOOD” music album is also pretty rad, and Andre 3000’s track on the new Rick Ross record, Sixteen, is insane.

Songs such as “Going Home” and “High” are sad but extraordinary pieces. Did you bring on guest musicians for the string arrangements, or create these yourself?

CJ: Strings are tough, because they can get mawkish quite quickly. I wanted parts that were emotive but not bombastic, though at the end of “High” they get fairly symphonic. The entire process was trial and error; I just tried a bunch of different chords and melodies until it felt right. I don’t read or write music, so I recorded demos with a computer.

Unless you are going for a kind of cheesy 80’s sound, real strings always sound better, but are much more expensive to obtain. I have a very talented friend, Heather McIntosh, who has played with everyone from Jeff Mangum to Gnarls Barkley to Lil Wayne. She came in and played cello for some of the songs and, almost always, her improvised parts were better than what I had initially written.

going home by pacificuv

You were based in the South, but are now located in Portland. Is this correct, and does the Pacific Northwest suit your music better? It certainly seems like a better match.

CJ: I am actually back in Athens, Georgia again after having spent 5 years in Portland, Oregon. It’s interesting how many times we have been asked about the landscape and how this may affect our music. The answer is, “I don’t know”.

Maybe I could try recording the same song, once in Jamaica and once in Antarctica, and we could compare the results? I always feel like me regardless of my surroundings, but who knows? How much does Sigur Ros owe their sound to the Icelandic geography? Do sunnier climates produce more bands who use brighter tones, and who record at faster tempos while colder climates produce bands who prefer fewer BPM’s? All interesting questions to consider.

Listening to Weekends is like floating inside a rain cloud with rays of sun poking through. Rather than categorize you and put your music in a box, I like to think of your creations as residing on a sonic spectrum. Is that a fair way to describe it?

CJ: Music and words: a pairing that seems to often end in disappointment. Describing music often does a disservice to it, but I understand why it is necessary. In this day and age, everything needs to be sold with a catch phrase; if it takes more than 15 seconds or a sentence to explain, people are on to the next thing. At this point, I hope our oeuvre is diverse enough that it is difficult to summarize in a word or sentence. I will leave it those more eloquent than I to try.

Some writers have stated Weekends is about the end of a relationship. Is it really that simple?

CJ: As stated earlier, it was inspired by a relationship’s collapse, but in a more general sense, it could apply to anyone alone or lonely on the weekends who does not know quite what to do. Work for many is their life, and is a welcome distraction, but it is often on the weekends when one is alone and has to face his or her self. Most people look forward to the weekend, but I imagine a fair number of people also dread it.

Looking forward, what do you think comes next in your musical journey?

CJ: Our next record is almost done. It is a bit more electronic and upbeat than Weekends, and less atmospheric with fewer tracks. This time we wrote the vocal melodies and lyrics before the music, so that the voice would be the central focus of the songs. It is definitely our most vocally based album and also our best.
Download the band’s newest single, Faded Love.

The band also just released a compilation that combines two EPs, 2006’s E.P. and 2011’s Chrysalis, and are offering a free download.

The band also covered “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” by The Smiths:

Please Please Please (Smiths Cover) by pacificuv
Photo by Clay Jordan


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