Despite being born amidst the bustle of Brooklyn, Josh Mease seems to possess an innate ability to transcend his environment, offering us expansive musical soundscapes in which genres and ideas flow and swirl seamlessly into one another. There are the dreamlike qualities of Beach House, the experimental tendencies of Magic Arm and the compelling folk song-writing of Ásgeir – with some 70s lounge jazz thrown in for good measure. Prepare to sail way on a ship of woozy pleasure…
How would you describe your music?
I’ve given up trying to be clever about this question. I’d rather just hand someone the record. I’ll just use adjectives other people have used…dreamy/electro-folk/melodic/catchy.
When did you first realise this music malarkey was for you?
For me, it happened in a couple of different phases. I think I realized I wanted to be a guitar player when I was 13 or 14. I had a natural aptitude and any hope of playing some kind of sport faded when everyone hit puberty. I figured out I wanted to be a songwriter when I was around 20, after years in school playing jazz and other stuff. The idea of being the person responsible for creating a song rather than just being another skilled musician appealed to me.
What does music mean to you?
It’s all wrapped up in my being and sense of self-worth. Everything?
What’s the worst thing about being a musician?
I’ll try and avoid a tirade here…I think there’s a general lack of respect for musicians and music these days. I’m sure it has to do with the fact that music doesn’t have much monetary value anymore. Also, the fact that being a good musician or a songwriter with a unique perspective isn’t really enough. You also have to be your own cheerleader, promoter, webmaster, etc. I don’t know how anyone can do all those things and still be the best musician they can be.
What do you write about and what inspires you?
What I write about changes from song to song. I’ve never been a confessional kind of songwriter so I don’t really use my songs as a chance to get stuff off my chest. My songs are usually a little more veiled, and end up being about a mix of things. I’m inspired by movies, other music, books, things I overhear, walking around my city etc.
If you could invite three music artists round for dinner, alive or dead, who would they be and why?
I’d probably rather deal with them one-on-one, just to avoid any fights. I’d take either Ravel or Debussy – so I could pick their brains about how they write. Harry Nilsson – I’d love to ask him about singing and he’d be fun to drink with. Beck – I’d have to have someone there who’s current and successful today to learn from.
What are you most proud of in your musical career, to date?
I think I’m proudest of my songwriting. It’s one of the few areas of my life (both musical and non-musical) where I’m thoroughly confident of my abilities and proud of the work I’ve done.
If you could have written one song, which would it be and why?
The answer changes from day to day. Today I would say one of the Skeeter Davis hits like ‘I’m Saving My Love’ or ‘I Forgot More Than You’ll Ever Know’. I love how simple and direct these songs are. Great melodies, clever words, and they stick in your head.
What are your ambitions for your music?
To keep getting better at writing, recording, and playing. Those are internal ambitions – if we’re talking external ambitions, WORLD DOMINATION.
Finally, we’re always looking to expand our musical horizons. Do you have any recommendations of bands or artists we should be looking out for?
Hmmm. I don’t know what you’ve been listening to, but for older artists I’d say – Tom Ze, Skeeter Davis, Shuggie Otis, Raymond Scott, Mort Garson, Les Paul. For new artists – Father John Misty, Broadcast, Luke Temple…drawing a blank. You probably know more new music than I do.
Lapland is out now on The Lights Label