“I want to live somewhere where they don’t have ice cream sandwiches”, says Jeff Smith aka solo musician and songwriter, Juffage. He is explaining the logic behind his decision to move from the trendy and famously bohemian Chicago, Illinois, to the northern, grey, post industrial British cityscape of Leeds, West Yorkshire – a lack of ice cream sandwiches and, he admits, a big fat scholarship from the University. But the missing ice cream sandwich speaks volumes about Jeff, whose restless character trails a constant need to investigate stuff out of his comfort zone and that haven’t slipped an appearance on the popular culture radar, which resulted in him moving to Leeds with little knowledge of the Yorkshire city, rife with sub culture ready for excavation. It is this same attitude that marks his music, big ideas stacked into thick layers of multiple instruments, and an itch to keep stretching and twisting the corners music to find new ways to write and perform songs. His sound is electronic but laced with contrasting acoustic qualities that weave and circle round the melodies. On first inspection you might imagine 10 musicians in the band, building each song, but nay, this is a one-man show.
“People expect different things from my record in my show” says Smith, “but I can’t ever do it live. With this record, I spent a long time recording hundreds of instruments so what you get is the same song but a different way of playing it”. On stage you’ll find a junk-shop scenario with guitars, bits of drum-kits, synths, leads, pedals, occasionally a piano but always a selection of instruments that have crossed his path that week.
“When I write a song, I write what I think is the main melody – singing… chord sequences and that I can play 4 different ways and on different instruments” explains Smith “but to me it’s still the same song, same words or melody or both”.
One of the charms of Juffage live is his inventiveness in coordinating and mashing together different instruments. He insists on not relying on the loop pedal because it’s boring and “if you loop stuff, then there’s nowhere to go”. Instead he finds new techniques and uses for each instruments, meanwhile the audience mill around his musical artillery to peer in and see how he’s going to piece together a track, what possible combination of instruments he has mastered for each song.
“Maybe I should do shows with just a guitar, to pay more attention to the song writing” considers Smith “but I don’t because I like playing all the instruments and there are so many dudes with a guitar. I like the challenge and it’s more of a challenge doing all that other stuff, pushing it and doing things I haven’t done before”.
The result is an evolution of your one-man band and an album that will widen the space between your ears, due out later this year on Function Records. With live dates in the making, find out more at www.juffage.com
- Camille Ainsworth