Will Morris, WUOG: For our listeners this is WUOG 90.5fm. We are here with Jake Ewald from Slaughter Beach, Dog. How are you, how’s it going?
Jake Ewald, Slaughter Beach, Dog: Hey! I’m well. I’m coming to you live from my living room in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and everything is chill.
Will: Awesome. You just got off tour with Shannen Moser, right?
Will: How did that go? Do you have any neat tour stories you want to share or anything?
Jake: It was a lot of fun. It feels weird to say it was a small tour in the sense that the number of people on the tour was small, but it was kind of small because it was only me and the other three guys part of Slaughter Beach, Dog and Shannen and the two people that play in her band. So that was kind of cool because we all got to hang out together a lot and just do stuff. We didn’t do anything crazy, none of us are really like crazy people, but Ian bought a really nice bass in Chicago and I don’t know, oh, our van broke down at one point, so that was fun. Yeah, you know, regular tour stuff.
Will: Cool. So you just came out with this new record Birdie. Is there anything that you wanted to talk about that? Where did the title Birdie come from, just out of curiosity?
Jake: It just kind of came into my head one day and I liked the way it sounded so I just went with it. It’s not a very interesting story, but I’m really happy that the record is out and that people are listening to it. It felt really good to go on tour and play like 90% new songs. That was a lot of fun because we’ve been playing the same songs for a little while now, but we did Birdie and we also cut out an EP over the summer that we got to play new songs from. It feels really good to be playing new songs and to have people like them and come to the shows for the new stuff. It’s been a really good feeling.
Will: Yeah! Actually, I caught your guys’ Atlanta show and I thought it was really great. The crowd was into it; it was a good time.
Jake: That’s awesome
Will: I’ll ask you more about the record I guess. What were you listening to when you were making Birdie? What really influenced the record? Were you listening to anything, reading anything, etcetera?
Jake: Generally, I was just listening to stuff that was a little sparser than what I was into before. I don’t like to name too many specific things because I think it kind of gives away the front of it but I was listing to a lot of stuff where the main goal of the arrangement is to suit the song as opposed to making an arrangement that’s like really lush and complicated. That was kind of the route that we ended up going with when we made the record, me and Ian, so that was from kind of listening to more stripped-down stuff where the song is really at the front. But also, I read a few memoirs. I usually like reading novels, but I was reading memoirs and kind of getting more into the idea of like how it’s kind of crazy that people just read memoirs. Memoirs are just like someone recounting their life experiences and basically putting their life out there and saying “Hey, these things that I did everyday are actually important and interesting,” and announcing that someone else would want to read it so it’s like a weird thought but at the same time it ends up being a really interesting read just because any person’s life has so many intricacies and ins and outs everyday for so many years that of course it’s going to be interesting. I guess that also bled into the songwriting because a lot of the stuff that I ended up writing about is very, sometimes mundane but like, you know, day to day things because I find that stuff kind of interesting.
Will: That’s really interesting because I noticed the new record is kind of like very minute detail-oriented, almost like a John k Sampson thing going on.
Jake: Nice, thank you, that’s a high compliment for me.
Will: For our listeners who aren’t familiar with Jake’s work, it is more emo/pop-punk ruling and this new record is more in the terms of folk or almost an alt-country kind of sound. Was that a conscious decision going in with slide and steel guitar and stuff like that?
Jake: It wasn’t super conscious, the big part of it was the type of music I was listening to. Like I said I ended up leaning to that style of arrangements. Also specifically with slide guitar, when we were making the last Modern Baseball record, Holy Ghost, we were working with our friend Joe who produced it and there was one part in the song where he had an idea for a really short slide guitar part and that was the first time I’d ever tried slide guitar. He was just like “Try this, it will be cool,” and we did it and forgot about it. Then like a year later when I started writing some new Slaughter Beach Dog songs I got a slide, or actually I didn’t even get a slide. I think I had like a long glass candle that worked like a slide and I started playing around with it on my guitar and I just thought this is really fun, this sounds really cool. I kind of started venturing to that as my new thing to learn how to do so that was the main inspiration for the actual slide guitar and the rest was kind of just based on what I was listening to.
Will: That’s really cool. So I guess that whole indie/emo scene, what have you, is going into a more folky, alt-country direction like the new Field Medic album that came out on Run For Cover. Do you have any thoughts on that or the direction of the scene?
Jake: I think it’s cool. I think it’s really interesting whenever a scene of bands or a group of bands start moving in one direction because in some ways it’s kind of corny because it feels like a lot of people are copying off of each other, but at the same time it becomes neat because it becomes obvious that there’s this big group of people who are enabled by each other to start trying new things and not just making the same sounding music over and over again. That’s the neat part to me. I’m sure a few months down the line someone will find something else really cool to stick in a song and then everyone else will start doing that thing, but I think it’s cool.
Will: For the process of making this recent Slaughter Beach, Dog record, how did it differ from the first album or anything you worked on of Modern Baseball?
Jake: It was different from the first Slaughter Beach, Dog record because I brought in Ian from Modern Baseball to be the producer and engineer so he did all the recording side type stuff and I did all the music and songwriting type stuff. We’d also never done, well I guess the first Modern Baseball record was kind of like that, but I never had an experience where I went in the studio with just one other person and that person does the recording while I do all the music and that was a really unique experience just because I was able to totally focus on just playing and thinking about the songs. Having Ian collaborate on the songs was nice because I got the outside perspective of another person who didn’t write the song but the same time it wasn’t overwhelming like writing with a band can be when you have four, five, or six different opinions going on. So it was cool I was able to get outside myself a little bit, but it also wasn’t super overwhelming. Ian and I have been friends and studio partners and playing in bands together for many years together so I’m really glad I got to do it with him.
Will: Awesome. That first Modern Baseball record, isn’t that all you playing that?
Jake: I think I played mostly everything. Brenden may have played a couple things, but I think Brenden sang most of the songs and he wrote most of the songs. I think I only had like two or three [where I sang] on the first record.
Will: That’s cool. So that DIY process, do you want to talk about that?
Jake: Like DIY recording or touring, or just in general?
Will: I guess both, recording and touring.
Jake: Cool. I guess I’m very lucky to have ended up in Philadelphia because that was the real inspiration for getting into DIY like five or six years ago. I remember when I was in high school in Maryland we had a little bit of a DIY scene going on, but I think everyone else was older than me so I was a bit afraid of it, but we had our own shows. It wasn’t until I got to Philly where there’s so many house shows and DIY spaces and people recording in their basements that I really got super involved. Everyone is so open to sharing ideas that it was really empowering for me and my friends when we started making music here. It’s cool because at this point in my career, and it’s really weird to call it a career, I’ve been making music and touring for the past five or six years and it feels really special to have started in DIY and try to keep as much as that in the picture as I can. You look back and you have such a firm grasp on everything that happened and you had your hands in the pot for so long that, it feels weird trying to describe it, but you feel more in control of what’s going on and you can feel more cognoscente of the decisions that you make as an artist and a band as opposed to trying to get on a big label right away and letting everything go wild and running yourself into to the ground. It feels cool to look back on the past five or six years and know that we’ve been doing for the most part exactly what we wanted to do and it ended up going okay. It’s really neat.
Will: That is really cool. For touring for the early Modern Baseball tours and I guess for Slaughter Beach, Dog shows too, did you do all that yourself or was the label involved at all? How did that go?
Jake: In the beginning, the first couple Modern Baseball tours were DIY. We would always go on tour during thanksgiving break and winter break in college. Then we did one full US tour that was mostly DIY, but after that we got a booking agent. But that’s kind of special also because the same guy booked us for the past four or five years for Modern Baseball and now he is now my booking agent for Slaughter Beach, Dog. It’s neat now because we have this relationship since we’ve worked with him for the last five or six years. He is a quote on quote booking agent, but the same time, he’s someone I can just text and say “Hey can we get one of these shows?” or “Hey I don’t really want to do this thing because I’m tired and I just want to stay home and go to sleep,” and he’ll be like “Okay sounds good,” so it’s a really good relationship which is cool.
Will: That’s cool. It seems like in DIY a lot of business and friendship relationships overlap.
Jake: Yeah, it can be really great and also really challenging. It’s kind of funny because in some ways it’s harder when things go well because you’re faced with more opportunities and there are more business dealings to deal with. You have to start treating your friends like everyone is doing a job even though you’re not doing a job, you’re just having fun. It’s a really strange world to venture into especially when all that was happening, and even now we aren’t that old, but when all that was happening we were like 21 and we were just figuring it out as we were going. Communication is really important but at the end of the day it feels really good that we figured it out for the most part.
Will: Where did you get the name for Slaughter Beach, Dog?
Jake: It’s not the interesting but there’s this town called Slaughter Beach in Delaware between my house in Philly and my parent’s house in Delaware that I’d always passed, it was called Slaughter Beach, and I thought it would be a cool band name. I made the Bandcamp and made the email and everything and then like a year later I started writing the songs. I googled the band name Slaughter Beach and there was some band from like Denmark that was named Slaughter Beach so I just put the “dog” on the end in the hope that they would break up kind of soon and I could just drop the “dog,” but I don’t know if they’re still a band or not. I think we’re more active as a band than they are at this point but also now I’m kind of attached to the “dog,” so I don’t know, who knows what the future hold.
Will: One last question just because we are a music station and what not, what have been your favorite releases been in 2017?
Jake: Wow, you know, I have a list on my phone I’m going to look at it real quick, but I think I haven’t updated it in a couple months. Well, dang I guess I don’t have it. Big Thief’s new record, incredible. New War on Drugs record, incredible. Craig Finn’s new solo record, incredible. What else, those were definitely my really big ones. Conor from Foxing’s solo record, Smidley; I thought that was super cool. And then just this morning, super late on this, literally this morning before we did this interview, I listened to the Jay Som record for the first time and I thought that was really cool. I think those are the big ones for me.
Will: That’s cool. Yeah, I really like the Craig Finn and Smidley albums. Those were great. Alright, well that’s all I’ve got, so if you have anything you want to say to our listeners.
Jake: Well, thanks for listening and thanks for asking me questions.
Edited for clarity and conciseness
Take a listen to Jake’s most recent album as Slaughter Beach, Dog below