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17 July 2018

INTERVIEW: Paul Saarnak of The Beremy Jets.

Sweden-based The Beremy Jets is the solo project of Paul Saarnak. The project hit our radar in 2016 with the debut of an impressive EP entitled Alchemy Attack. An equally excellent EP followed in 2017, and TBJ officially became a buzz band for us. We’ve been looking forward to debut LP Careless all year and the release date is nearly upon us – it comes out July 27. Our very own Elizabeth Klisiewicz recently reviewed the album, which you can read here. We’ve played our promo copy nonstop and make no mistake – it’s one of the best albums of the year.

How and when was The Beremy Jets formed?
I have been writing music for many years for the bands I have been a part of. It has always been such a joy to be able to work on an idea and bring it to life with my fellow band mates. A big part of what brings me joy is when you take others’ ideas and transform the song into a final version, which might be quite different from what I envisioned from the start, almost always for the better. A couple of years ago I started toying with the idea of releasing something on my own, I wanted to see if I would be able to do it all – write the songs, record them, produce them, sing, all of that.

So in 2016 I felt I had a couple of songs that sounded really good and wanted to release them online. Now I suddenly needed a formal band name, and that is pretty difficult to figure out! But playing with words, The Beremy Jets came up as a tribute to the late great actor Jeremy Brett. A little bit corny, but it sounded cool, and I don’t want to take myself too seriously anyway. I released the EP Alchemy Attack on Bandcamp, Spotify etc., and everything has continued on from there.

Can you tell us about the new album, Careless? How long did you work on it, and how does it differ from your first 2 EPs (sonically or otherwise)?
After releasing my second EP Backup Friend in early 2017, Jason Lamoreaux from Somewherecold Records contacted me and we really hit it off. He released the two EP on a limited run cassette (which is seriously cool and I believe there are a few copies left), and then we started talking about releasing an album. I started working on it somewhere around late spring 2017, got up to speed during the autumn of 2017, and then struggling to finish it all the way up until the release of the first video “Waves of Wonder”. They always say the last 10% is 90% of a project, and for me that was very true!

The songs do not differ too much from the EPs. My writing process is the same and I feel my ideas have been pretty set for a number of years – not to say I don’t evolve or don’t want to, but I have a pretty firm grasp of what I want to do at the moment at least. But what was very different here is that I thought about the album as a whole, not just a bunch of songs thrown together. From childhood, I always loved the idea of having a side A and a side B on a record, and that was something I really thought about when putting the record together.

I learned quite a lot from recording the EPs and that has both helped me and in ways hindered me when recording the album – the more you know about something the more you realize how much you DON’T know about said subject. In many ways I felt more out of my depths recording the album, funnily enough. But that is part of the fun, to learn new things. I hope it sounds sonically better than the EPs, I think it does at least.

You’re essentially a solo project, but you create such a full sound. Is that difficult to achieve? Do you prefer working solo, or have you simply not found the right band members yet?
I don’t find it that difficult to achieve. Having played in bands for around 30 years, I have a pretty good understanding of band dynamics and how different instruments can work together. I have always been very involved in arranging songs in the bands I play in and that has really, really helped when doing things on my own.

I love playing in bands and cannot imagine a future when I don’t play in a band in some way or form! But as for The Beremy Jets, for now, I see it as a solo project where I can do everything I want my way, for better or worse. That said, I have been toying with the idea of playing live at some point, but there are things I have to figure out before that can happen. What role should I play in a live setting? My main instrument is the drums, and I am not sure I am yet comfortable enough playing something else live, not to mention singing :).

Do you consider your music to be part of the current shoegaze/dream pop scene, or any scene? How do you feel about genres in music, in a general sense?
I would say my music is absolutely part of the current shoegaze scene, but my style is probably a bit more old school than many of the newer acts – I loved shoegaze back when it was a big thing and was drawn to the noisier and more rock oriented part of shoegaze, Swervedriver being a favorite band, and somewhat preferring Isn’t Anything to Loveless.

Apart from that I am not very interested in genres or categorizing music too much – love a lot of different types of music, from Nick Drake to Ministry, Flying Saucer Attack to Seefeel. If it is good, it’s good, that is all I care about.

What do you think of modern shoegaze/dream pop artists, any favorites?
To be honest I have been a bit inattentive for the last couple of years, but not completely. There is a lot of great music around, and it feels like the shoegaze scene is growing which is fantastic. When it comes to modern artists there are so many good ones. The ones I have been listening to most is probably Flyying Colours, Cheatahs and True Widow (if they can be considered shoegaze). Even though I am a part of the Orange Crate Art live band, I think I can unashamedly say I am a big fan! But there is so much more that is great – I recently participated on the Resistance Compilation on Somewherecold Records (a great record with proceeds going to a great cause, go get it!) and every song on there is just great.

What is the most important piece of gear for your sound? Any particular guitars/pedals/amps that you prefer?
I am pretty typical in loving Jazzmaster guitars, and I own a couple of them. Just an amazing guitar, and it looks gorgeous. Recording at home limits my options since I don’t want to be kicked out of my apartment, so I use a Kemper modeling amp when recording. The options there are almost limitless, which is pretty stressful, so I basically limit myself to using a pack of AC30 profiles and a pack of Marshall profiles that I bought.

When it comes to pedals I am starting to have lots of them now but there are a few I use a lot. My favorite fuzz is the Algal Bloom from Fuzzhugger, that one I could not do without. I use a Memory Man with Hazarai from EHX quite a lot, and an Afterneath from Earthquaker devices – I much prefer delay to reverb and at times use a whole lot of it for wall of sound effects. There are many more, but those are probably my favorites.

What is your process for recording your music? What gear and/or software do you use? What would you recommend for others?
I usually write the song on guitar and record the different parts quickly. Then I can listen to it, rearrange the parts, add stuff that I feel is missing, etc. When I feel happy with the song structure, I usually start with the drums. Being a drummer, it pains me a bit because I cannot record drums properly in an easy way. So what I do is I either play my drums in my rehearsal space and record it to my phone, or just bang stuff, books etc., at home and record that. Then I trigger that to midi and use BFD3. A huge goal of mine is to be able to record proper drums in the future. I do however think my method works in that it is pretty true to life of what I do play. After that I add guitars, bass etc., and listen a lot to the result.

I always record fast, then listen to the song for a couple of days, for example on my way to and from work, and after a while it starts to become clear what annoys me, what I like and what I feel is missing. Then I correct that and do it again. So it is a pretty iterative process that can take a little while. There is of course also the danger of burning yourself out on the song that way, so I take care not listening to it too much.

Much time is spent on mixing and remixing again and again. This is where I am pretty inexperienced, and it shows. So I take my time and try to get it right. It can be frustrating, but it is also very rewarding to learn from your mistakes. I also check out a lot of tutorials and courses on YouTube etc. There are so many great teachers out there!

I struggle a lot with comparing my songs and recordings to my favorite artists, and they naturally fall short every time. So I need to stop doing that and convince myself I don’t need to sound as good as My Bloody Valentine, just do my very best.

As for the technical side of the process, I use three different Jazzmasters, a 12 string Danelectro and a Jazzbase when recording, together with a bunch of pedals. Apart from the pedals mentioned above, I use a Hall of Fame reverb from TC Electronics a lot, a Cry Baby wah-wah, A boss SD-1, A Devi Ever Shoegaze fuzz, Small Stone phaser from EHX to name a few. The Kemper modeling amp is pretty much the heart of the setup since it enables me to get a good guitar sound without waking the neighbors. The alternative to that, which I used on my EPs before I save up enough to buy the Kemper, is some kind of software modelling, Amplitube in my case.

I have a great microphone, the Aston Spirit. I only wish I was a better singer...

My DAW of choice is Reaper, and I really recommend it to everyone who wants to start recording music. It has a bit of a learning curve, but once things click there is very little you cannot do with it. A bonus is, you can try if for free to check it out before you buy it for a very reasonable price.

As for mixing and mastering I use mostly plugins from Slate Digital and Izotope. Really awesome stuff! Everything is recorded to a PC, nothing fancy, via a Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 interface. Works very good for me!

As I read the list above, I realize it is quite expensive stuff listed, but it has been accumulated over a lot of years. Someone starting out does not really need all that much. I would say, use Reaper when recording, and everything else will do – cheap guitars, amps etc. What is needed is time to learn to use what you have, not to buy expensive stuff from the get go.

Also, backup your recordings on a regular basis. You won’t regret it!

When it comes to label releases versus DIY/Bandcamp and the like, what is your stance, if any?
I think everything has its place. I am quite fond of the DIY thing and love that is enables musicians to get stuff out easily. But of course, having the support of a good label can be essential past a certain level of success. And good labels are always nice, where you know a release will always be worth checking out.

Do you prefer vinyl, CD, cassette tape or mp3 format when listening to music? Do you have any strong feelings about any of them?
I don’t have any strong feelings about formats, all of it is good to me as long as it sounds good. What I have strong feelings about is buying music, I do that all the time to support the artists. Mostly I buy CDs since it is practical for me, but of course a nice vinyl is just gorgeous.

What artists (musicians or otherwise) have most influenced your work?
There are so many artists that has influenced me through the years, but a few stand outs are the usual suspects like My Bloody Valentine, Swervedriver, Lush, Boards of Canada and Flying Saucer Attack. Also a lot of music from my childhood in the 80s like Rattlesnakes by Lloyd Cole, the earlier stuff by U2, Simple Minds, Killing Joke, The Church and so many others. Some new artists that have influenced me quite a bit are The Corrupting Sea who reminded me just how great ambient music can be, and quite a lot of psychedelic and stoner music like Weedpecker. Helms Alee is another huge favorite that influences me a lot. I am also very influenced by cinema, directors like David Lynch, John Carpenter, Dario Argento and Sergio Leone are my favorites. French extreme horror for taking an idea and running with it as far as possible.

What is your philosophy (on life), if any, that you live by?
I am a pretty simple guy who just wants everyone to be nice to each other and be happy. I try to be as friendly as possible and have a good time. Nothing more profound than that :)

I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for the interview, it means a lot! I would also like to thank Jason Lamoreaux from Somewherecold Records for an incredible amount of support and a good friendship! My sister Anne for singing so lovely on the song Proud-Button. Thanks to my band mates in LKWRM and Slowmotion Club (where Anne plays bass!). And thanks to those who made it through all my ramblings above!