John Kallen (Loft Session Records) - Sound In The Signals Interview

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You released a new track “Sunlight” on your label Loft Session Records can you tell me how the track came to be and what your inspiration was for the song?

The three of us went to school together last year and had been wanting to write and record together for a long time. It only came about as a result of the creation of the label. I started the label with the hopes of giving a variety of student musicians the opportunity for their music to be heard. I needed a strong first release and so naturally the three of us decided to record. We spent an Saturday afternoon in the meetinghouse writing and recording what would later be named “Sunlight”, out of a simple guitar lick that Hayes had been playing over for the past week or so. The meetinghouse is an inspiring place to write and record. Its been around for over two hundred years and has a lot of history to its name. A lot of very influential people have spoken from the benches of that space. Naturally, we wanted to record there.

What instrument or part of the recording process were you responsible for during the session?

I play drums on the track but am also responsible for engineering and mixing the song. The space was especially difficult to work with as the acoustics breed an incredible amount of reverb. This was one of our greatest challenges in trying to make the instruments sound blended in the mixing process.

Overall how did you feel about doing something spontaneous like this and do you plan to record more tracks like this in the future?

The three of us have played jazz together throughout the past year in which on-the-spot writing has been a commonplace. Although we took time to arrange the song and organize each part, improvisation was a large part of the writing process. The loft session records, however, does not exclusively operate as a writing session. The studio is primarily for artists with unreleased material that has already been written. Hayes, Nick and I had no such material at the time, so writing became a key part of the session. The Loft Sessions plans to release another recording sometime in mid November of an up and coming female singer/songwriter named Cleo Gordon.

You talk about the history of where the studio is that you recorded the track can you let our readers know about it?

The Religious Society of Friends built the Meetinghouse in 1786. The building was designed to be a place of meditation and silence and throughout the last couple hundred years it has served the community well. However, after going to school there for two and a half years with constant meetings and rehearsals, it’s easy to take it for granted. It’s only when you take a step back to write there that you can appreciate its greatness. Once you realize all that has taken place historically in that room, the writing and recording process becomes all the more inspirational. As a producer, one of my main responsibilities is to provide an artist with an environment conducive to creativity. The Meetinghouse does just that.

Your solo EP, The Exodus and Arrival, was released this year. When I listen to it I hear a lot of atmospheric qualities, in many ways it reminds of Sufjan Stevens. Where was you head at when you were recording the EP and how does this EP represent your future material?

I wrote the title track, The Arrival on a snowy Sunday afternoon while walking across central park. All around me, young children were playing in the snow; what looked to me like pure liberation. All this swirled in my head mixing with musical remnants of one of my favorite writers, Sufjan, as well as struggles that I have had to overcome since leaving my small hometown to move to New York City about two and half years ago. While I did adapt much of what Sufjan Stevens brings to the indie music scene, this EP represents an entirely new style for me, one that challenges me musically yet remains one of the purest forms of my expression. Each song is entirely genuine and is a lot of what I hear in my head as I walk the streets of NYC.

The EP showcases quiet a bit of talent. Did you play everything on the EP? How does your songwriting process usually go (what do you start first with)?

I typically start each song with a piano chord pattern or melody as the foundation. The rest is simply build on top of that much of which I begin to hear as the song develops. However, in the case of the Arrival, I heard the intro cello and vibes part first. I try to incorporate as many live instruments as I can while keeping the production all within my basement. On the EP I play all the instruments using layer track recording but in my upcoming releases I have friends play more obscure instruments such as trumpet, flute, accordion, and trombone. I try to keep the writing process as personal as possible and therefore seek to play as many of the instruments myself as I can.

What are your future plans as far as solo material goes?

I did quite a bit of writing and recording this summer in hopes of a full-length release sometime late this year. The new material sounds fairly similar to the EP although deviates from many of the Sufjan similarities and seeks to find its niche in the music world. The album was recorded using all real instruments in various states such as Michigan and North Carolina and most of its content revolves around my past visit to my old hometown. I’m taking new risks with this album both with style and scale. I’ve never self-produced or self-released a full length before but am excited to do so. The album should be released sometime before the year’s end; however, a release date early next year is more likely.

You also have a project called English Breakfast. Can you tell me a little about that project and kind of what is different about that compared to your solo stuff? What are your future plans for English Breakfast?

English Breakfast has actually been around a lot longer than my solo work, only under a different name. While this is my first formal release, I’ve been writing using this style since I was twelve years old. I feel English Breakfast effectively exhibits both my love for jazz and my abilities as a producer. Many of my beats are purely riffs I hear in my head throughout the day, others are influenced by works of musicians such as Steven Ellison and Ramble John Krohn. As I sit down to produce, I always start with the drums. While many DJ’s and producers choose to sample drumbeats, I believe in the purity of a real kit. Once the beat’s laid, the rest is at the mercy of how I’m feeling, what I’ve been listening to, even my ride on the subway that day. EB is the type of music you’d hear at you’re neighbor’s house party, pumping loud in your headphones, or the background of a club deep in Brooklyn.

New York is known for being a having a really big scene and breeding ground for music, newer artists like The Strokes and Vampire Weekend have really been some of the most successful musical acts of the last decade or so. What do you think about the New York music scene? What are some artists you think are up and coming?

I’m not looking for success in the New York City music scene. I have enjoyed the benefit of a plethora of amazing musicians to write and perform with here in the city; however, a lot of what musical hype is built upon has less to do with the quality of music. While most of the venues in which young musicians “get noticed” are deep into Brooklyn, most of whom attends such concerts care more about appearance and vibe then what is actually going into their ears. All to say, New York is the reason each of my projects exist. The city is musically inspiring and liberating. People like Hayes find this to be even truer. There are plenty of people to meet here who are interested in what you’re doing and excited to help you out.

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