you resource for all things shoegaze & dream pop.

08 June 2012

Interview: Jimmy Rossi Jr. of the December Sound and Avoxblue.

When The Sun Hits Interviews
Jimmy Rossi Jr. of
The December Sound and Avoxblue.

I first learned of Jimmy Rossi Jr. when I became a fan of The December Sound around 5 years ago. The December Sound's music is best described as dark and extreme - melting guitars, dangerous songwriting, evil drones, hypnotic bass lines, maniacally distorted beats, heavily effected/detached vocals, otherworldly get the picture. It's rad. Jimmy Rossi Jr. recreates the DS's vicious soundscapes, dreamy keyboards and melodic guitar that so drew me to the band in the first place. After learning that he had begun a solo project, I understandably got pretty excited. And when I heard Avoxblue for the first time, I got seriously excited.

Avoxblue's dreamy soundscapes are rooted in a synth-heavy new wave foundation, and the songs unfold themselves with experimental beats, otherworldly echoes, and dark textures. Plenty of reverb and distortion make up Avoxblue's electronic wall of sound. This solo project is nothing short of stunning; A Place Without Time is hands down one of the best things I've heard this year (and I've heard a whole hell of a lot). When The Sun Hits is proud to feature the following interview with Jimmy Rossi Jr., and we highly recommend you check out Avoxblue's Bandcamp page to make many purchases because, if I may speak frankly, Jimmy Rossi Jr. is fucking awesome and you need to be all over this. RIGHT NOW.

How and when was The December Sound formed, and at what point did your project Avoxblue emerge?

The December Sound was founded around 2001 - I joined the group in January 2004. Having just moved to Boston from Orlando, I was in the process of starting my own band. Upon perusing Craigslist for musicians, I happened to stumble onto an ad posted by The DS. They were looking for a multi-instrumentalist with sampling capabilities and expertise in electronics. In fact the ad completely described me, so I was compelled to write them back. Turns out I was their only respondent! We got on famously from the start & the rest is history. They are family to me.

To be clear, Avoxblue is neither an offshoot or side project of the December Sound. I am always making music on my own, and always have. The EP I just released is includes a couple of songs that were demoed as far back as 2005. It wasn't until May of 2010 when a friend convinced me to learn Ableton Live and begin performing these songs solo. It was a bit strange at first, however I grew to love the idea of being a solo artist, and have no immediate plans to expand my lineup.

Can you tell us what you've been working on and what you've got forthcoming in the near future (new releases, tour, etc)?

At the moment I am focused on promoting the debut EP, and booking some short-run tours in the fall. I'll be releasing an EP this summer which will be comprised of remixes by André Obin, Hypefactor, and myself. There will be an alternate version of "Timewaves" on it, as well as a B-side from these recent sessions.

In the Fall, I'm releasing a new single featuring Andrea Estella of Twin Sister sharing vocal duties with me. Very excited to work with her, as she is one of my favorite singers. I'm also working on a video for "Dreaming Thru Your Eyes", which will be a piss-take on the 1980 musical, Xanadu. Luckily, I know several girls in Boston who love to roller-skate!

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? Defining one's sound by genre can be tiresome, but do you feel that the band identifies closely with any genre? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?

While there certainly are elements of shoegaze in Avoxblue, I don't promote it as such. Dream pop is an appropriate tag at times, but some people may think otherwise. When people ask what the music sounds like, my go-to layman's description is "Imagine if Depeche Mode were a one-man band." But I am always glad to be identified within sub-genres such as shoegaze, as it helps get my music to the right ears. As long as I don't get lumped in with shite goth / industrial acts, call me whatever you like.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop/psychedelia artists, any favorites?

I love that there is a renewed interest for this type of music, and love that the fans of these genres are absolutely rabid over it. Current favorites are Bear in Heaven, Love Culture, Small Black, Screen Vinyl Image, Violens, & Twin Sister...

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?

That would probably have to be my Korg EMX-1, which is a standalone drum machine / synthesizer. It's perfect for getting ideas out on the fly. Can't live without it. The same goes for Ableton Live. I can demo ideas quickly within it, and it is also crucial to my live show.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?

I produce / mix everything in Logic. It's intuitive and easy to learn. The fact that you can have MIDI information alongside audio is huge. It's non-destrucive editing, so if I decide I need to change a snare sound, say - I can make those changes with ease.

How do you feel about the state of the music industry today? There is no doubt a massive change underway; how do you see it and do you feel it’s positive at all?

God Save the Internet! It's amazing what we, as independent artists, have at our fingertips. Take down the corporate giants, send Clear Channel into a bloody inferno, and let's all handle the music industry ourselves.

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?

I'm into DIY / self-releases, and am a fan of independent labels. Again, I am thankful to live in an era where the resources to have your music distributed globally, are literally at your fingertips.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings toward any of them?

Like most people in this day and age, I listen to everything off my iPod. When I'm mixing, I keep in mind the fact that 99% of people will be hearing my music in either earbuds or on their car stereo, and I'm fine with that. I am, however, glad to know that audiophiles exist and are clamoring for me to release A Place Without Time on vinyl - which will be happening very soon. I don't own a turntable, although I probably should. Cassettes are cute, and I miss them. My ideal format would be to release a single on an Edison cylinder and not offer a digital download of it. There's a plant in London who manufactures them. I'm looking into it!

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?

For this current batch of tunes, my biggest influence was probably Ulrich Schnauss. His music continues to blow my mind. I grew up listening to Depeche Mode, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, Lush, Curve, Information Society, New Order & Cocteau Twins, to name a few. The sounds of all those groups will always make their way into my work, as it's embedded in my soul.

Can you tell us a little about what you are currently into (books, films, art, bands, etc)?

I'm notorious for listening to the same music over and over, and the same for books and films. Kubrick's 2001 & The Shining are in constant rotation. In fact, the 2001 DVD rarely leaves my drive on the laptop. I like to have it on in the background, muted, when I'm working on new material.

If you had to choose one of your tracks that ultimately defined of your sound, which would it be and why?

This is a tough one - I'd probably have to go with "Dreaming Thru Your Eyes", since it's the most current recording on this EP. Melodically, vocally, and production-wise, I feel it sums up what I'm trying to accomplish, musically, as a whole.

Can you tell us a little about the your song writing process?

Every song is a happy accident. For example, "Dreaming" was written on a friend's bass she had left at my apartment. I was picking it up on the way out the door to return it, and strummed some notes. Next thing I know, I'm in my van frantically humming / singing melody lines into my phone's voice recorder. "Footfall" happened the same way. I was walking home from a pub after work, and out of nowhere the song popped into my head. Luckily I was close to home, and hammered out a demo on my EMX. It's a scary way to write, because you never know when it will happen, but if I try to sit down with the intention of writing, I usually churn out garbage.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?

Take advantage and live in the moment, there is no time to be wasted.
Smile more often, and keep good company at all times.
Be kind to animals, and make florescent lighting extinct as soon as fucking possible.