“I don’t think anyone around here knows who I am.”
A statement from JD of We Never Sleep that while conducting our interview on the 20th of April at first struck me as a polite attempt at humility and then upon a bit of reflection annoyed me as a local music lover.
Article and photography by Joshua Fitzwater
WNS after all is one of the more polished musical “brands” residing in Hampton Roads. One needs only to give a listen to JD’s androgynous vocal, reminiscent of Anthony Green of Circa Survive, on WNS’s “This is How a King Dies I & II” to begin to realize that this is a singer with real chops. Musically, infections pop melodies effectively serve to reinforce JD’s longing, easily stuck in your head vocal hooks probably best demonstrated on the bands self titled single. In regards to We Never Sleep’s visual and product aesthetic, JD, achieves a polished refinement more and more at odds with what’s in vogue in much of Hampton Roads goth and indie pop music these days.
After receiving a tour of the haunted house JD manages, we sat down in the upstairs room that has been converted into his working studio. As the interview began, I was intent on learning about JD’s work process and hopefully garnering some insight into what makes him strive to create in such a genteel fashion.
Fitz: Is the environment here essential to your creative process? Do you like to have a certain vibe around you to create?
JD: I think so, before I use to think it didn’t matter but I have come to think it is important. With We Never Sleep being solo and more intimate than my previous band, Killing the Cure, […] with me dealing with myself by myself all the time […] when you are alone constantly here sometimes in fear because this place is haunted […] so much so that when your friends occasionally come visit they are afraid to walk down the hall and piss by themselves […] you really get to know yourself. Honestly in some ways it depends on what you make and use music for. I use music for my own reasons- when I don’t feel good about myself and want to feel better about life. This or another place not as typical as a bedroom, office, or enclosed studio may allow one to connect differently to their music. So when you’re left dealing with yourself and this environment at the same time it may be unique.
Fitz: Do you recall a specific supernatural event in this place that stands out to you?
JD: In a corner of this building I was sweeping before we started to open. It’s an unsettling area by the stage downstairs. I’m often here alone in the building. Well apparently during a winter many years ago a homeless man was outside during the night. Looking for heat he crawled into a vent outside the building leading to the boiler room. He for sure got nice and warm but was unable to get out upon latching down the grate once crawling in. Later the next season his body was found mummified. Well I was sweeping there, where the boiler room use to be before the place was gutted for a time when this place was made into a wax museum. While sweeping I start hearing crunching and cracking and falling noises similar to when we were knocking down walls for renovations […] the whole air burst. Well I immediately assumed while I’m sweeping the whole stage scene is collapsing. So I just took off and ran not looking back until I reached the door and slammed it shut. I got out my phone after catching my breath, attempted to call my father. He doesn’t answer so I decide to open the door to see the damage and there isn’t any at all. It was just as it was. I literally for several months didn’t go back into that area.
Fitz: I see behind where you are sitting there is a board with notes […] looks like it’s about music. What is this board?
JD: I kinda got stressed out recently […] honestly from taking on too many projects. I basically used this board recently to split up thoughts about my studio work and live show. They really are completely different. The live stuff is what I’ve been doing […] the studio stuff is something I’ve been writing for 2 winters now. It’s a totally different concept […] a totally different thing […] a lot of it’s not even meant to be played live. The live show is so energy based […] recruiting a band, rehearsals. The studio stuff is more intimate.
Fitz: You recently played NYC. How did that come about? How did that go?
JD: I’ve been trying to get into the city for a while to play […] my friend Chad from Things Outside the Skin offered me a show with a band he plays with called Qualia at Pianos . We got to roll up there and do that show at the end of January and we did much better than we expected. We sold out the small room and had a great crowd response. Probably the best crowd response I’ve gotten for We Never Sleep. After that I’ve decided to re route the majority of my shows to New York.
Fitz: From since I’ve been following WNS I’ve noticed that you release singles and not an album or EP. I’m wondering, is that a model you are following in the new music distribution climate artists are faced with?
JD: In the past I’ve gotten too excited about single songs and released them before putting together a full album. Being that We Never Sleep has been in it’s infant stages, still trying to develop and mature, I hadn’t really seen the need to release an entire album when I was still trying to capture an audience’s attention. And also I really like branding for each individual song. I like putting together artwork and concepts that represent each track
Fitz: What’s on the horizon for WNS?
JD: What I have decided to do is put my live shows during the summertime on hold and I’m focusing on finishing writing 2 and half years worth of material and then I will be sifting through that and picking out the best material from that group and releasing my first album. It’s become very important to me personally to be able to have an entire completed polished album. I am moving now towards some stuff with We Never Sleep […] being associated with a new distribution company and I’m shopping around with some management companies. I also have the opportunity to move to New York in the fall and I would like to be able to take a completed body of work with me when I go up there.
Fitz: Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us.
JD: No problem thank you.
For more on We Never Sleep visit http://weneversleepfree.com
757E Zine is a bi-monthly music, arts, and culture magazine dedicated to local musicians and artists who are not afraid to push boundaries. 757E Zine doesn't strive to be "safe" but rather in touch with what is new and unique in Hampton Roads music and art.
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