As a songwriter, Brooklyn musician Jeremy Bass doesn’t see the borders between genres, only the connective tissue that exists between strains of music. And with his background as a classical guitarist (he trained in Italy and Spain), his ability to use this instrument to highlight both the disparity and commonality of various shades of music is a testament to his awareness of their primal foundations. Forging an indie-folk aesthetic with touches of Paul Simon-esque pop arrangements and Tom Waits-like melancholy, he discovers that it’s quite possible to say painful things in an upbeat fashion.
Bass recently released a new record, “The Greatest Fire,” which finds him channeling the emotive temperaments of artists like Thom Yorke and Jeff Buckley while still catering to his acoustic singer-songwriter instincts. Most of the album was recorded with Nick Luca, who has spent time touring and recording with Calexico and Iron & Wine, at New Monkey Studios in Los Angeles. The record also features appearances from Neko Case collaborator Jon Rauhouse, Tom Hagerman of DeVotchKa, Calexico’s Jacob Valenzuela and Joel Graves of Everest. With its cavernous lyrical narratives and expansive musical palette, “The Greatest Fire” is a wonder of unguarded emotion and lacerating truth.
On recent single “We Will Be You,” Bass explores a dusty and windswept musical landscape, one where the sighs of long-forgotten memories and the silence of empty highways feel at times both oppressive and liberating—not dissimilar from the sunbaked country calamities of Calexico. Featuring a collection of plucked banjo rhythms, shivering guitar tones and a subtle percussive shuffle, the song rises to meet the croon and shake of Bass’ voice, an ephemeral and affecting thing that completely immerses itself in these languid melodies and poignant internal conversations.
Bass explains the origins of “We Will Be You”:
I spent a lot of time in a cabin upstate in Woodstock, an old place built around the turn of the 19th century. I was surrounded by the forest and by a world of made things: The friends who owned the place were artists and writers, living in a place built of made things, for makers and by makers. I started thinking a lot about where the things in our lives come from, the made existence of so many objects we take for granted—like the floors we walk on, how those were once living, breathing organisms. And that prompted me to think about our own made existence, what we make, where we go when we are no longer here, how we got to be the beings we are in the first place. The song came from a deep sense of interconnectedness with the world around me and with the universe. We’re inseparable from it, in the end, and this song was really a reminder to myself about that essential fact.
For the video to the song, Bass finds himself exploring a beautiful and carefree geography. Images of forests, ghost towns and open fields are juxtaposed against one another, creating a travelogue of sorts, a catalog of movement. As a literal visual representation of the themes present within the song, it’s quite mesmerizing to see all this natural beauty and wonder where it’s all going to end up. The video seems to suggest that these places—including Brooklyn, Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Yellowstone—and physical things will all continue with second lives (some even more than that) in different forms and structures. It’s a sobering thought that equally highlights the grand pattern of all living things and the ways we often have devastating effects on our surroundings.
Joshua Pickard covers local and national music, film and other aspects of pop culture. You can contact him on Facebook, Twitter or by email. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.