Today Yves Jarvis releases his new album The Same But By Different Means, a collection of beautifully offbeat alternative R&B songs featuring uniquely experimental electronic instrumental backing. Just before the album dropped today, mxdwn had the chance to catch up with Yves Jarvis over Skype. Because of time constraints, the conversation was supposed to be brief, but after discovering out we had quite a few intriguing things in common an hour passed before we’d properly gotten through the thick of it. During the conversation Jarvis talked about everything from the importance of his records’ color palate, to changing his name from Un Blonde, to his opinions on collaborating in the studio.
Yves is half-Trinidadian, the country in which I was born and raised. His mother – the Trini half – was on the way to New York.
mxdwn: Did you let her (Jarvis’ mother) get an early listen for the flight?
Yves Jarvis: I actually just got a text from my mother today, and she was just saying how much she loved it and that it was her favorite of mine so far, you know, [that] she’s proud of me and all that. [She’s] always been super supportive, both of my parents, and I’m glad I have reached a point where they not only notice my potential and are proud of that, but they actually enjoy the music.
mxdwn: Some of your songs seem very sparse lyrically, dense in other ways, but otherwise uniquely put together. How would you describe your creative process?
YJ: It’s completely a stripping-away process. I’m throwing everything at the wall and pull it down as it starts to get away from the core sentiment. It’s very much an excavation.
mxdwn: Your last album was yellow. This album is blue. What is the significance of color to your work?
YJ: It’s sort of just always this language that I’ve spoken and something I’m most familiar with conveying through sonics; the color and the mood and the sound are all connected to me. The clothes I wear when I’m walking around or recording are important to where I’m going or what I’m going there for. A lot can go into and come from color.
But I have also been trying not to be too contrived with those types of decisions. I’m particular, but I am not a super-organized person. I’m very spontaneous. I like to, as much as possible, just let it be and come together naturally. Sometimes my deliberate color or clothing choice may limit me. I’ve found myself restricted from wearing my best shoes in the studio or best coat on stage… but then sometimes it adds to the whole shit too (laughs)…so you know, it’s a balance.
mxdwn: How do you keep and operate your studio?
YJ: I keep it clean, I try to clean the night before. I like to wake up to it clean because the morning is very pure, that morning haze is very pure. That moment I try to keep every morning. Even if I take like 10 minutes untangling a cord that whole moment can be lost. I like to wake up and record right away so the studio needs to be clean.
mxdwn: What made you decide to change your name now to Yves Jarvis from Un Blonde?
YJ: I’ve always wanted to be recognized as a solo artist and have a solo career. That’s one thing that I’ve always held close. I’ve always had stupid project and band names that I would grow out of in months. Like in junior high I would be changing and trying to reinvent myself with bands. I had a band called Faux Fur, the Gooeys?, The You Are Mines… all sorts of stupid names, but I always wanted to be solo, regardless of the name.
I was recording everything, every instrument myself and collaborated with artists live, and I always want people to know that. I felt like once I got signed and working with management, I was considering how I would want to be remembered long term. I couldn’t use my actual name, my actual name is Jean-Sebastien Audet, and that seems like too much of a mouthful so, Yves is my middle name and Jarvis is my mom’s last name. It felt natural. I couldn’t go on with the Un Blonde bullshit. Being from Quebec, with the wrong article, nobody could pronounce it, it was a whole thing…ugh.
mxdwn: What’s the biggest difference between Yves and Un Blonde?
YJ: I guess the biggest difference is that I’m considering things differently. In terms of who I am and my life, the people who I surround myself with and beyond that, the people who are listening to the music. To put all my hopes and intentions and myself out there like that, it’s coming from a different place than just a couple years ago. And that’s kinda the reference point for the album too, The Same But By Different Means. I have an unmoving and unshifting core, but it’s forever revolving and evolving.
mxdwn: What’s special to you about growing up?
YJ: I’m not too surely the role honestly. I mean I grew up in Montreal and moved to Calgary when I was nine. So, the environment that I was in, creatively was very welcoming. The scene in Calgary is just so open and supportive. Very community-center vibes, no alcohol. I didn’t even realize it was such a big deal at the time and what that means to have shows with no alcohol that adults would put their energy into. Nightlife is crazy, so for people to put their energy into all ages performances and giving me and my friends a platform to perform, and you’re performing like every week, that was very significant to my development.
We paused to talk about how his music, despite the foreign and particular sound, is warm and welcoming, inviting you to listen more deeply.
YJ: Also the access that we have of the internet and being online. We just know what people want to see online and in terms of stupid things like marketing even more keenly than people even 10 years older. You can tap into so many different listeners and that goes into the creating process too. You are playing to so many different audiences, you want to be unique but not alienate anyone. There’s lots of juggling involved for the new artist.
mxdwn: Who are some of your biggest influences?
YJ: Joni Mitchell, Prince, Miles Davis, Kanye, Stevie Wonder, Jim Carrey. That’s all I got. Actually, I have a crazy list here, hold on, because if I talked about my inspirations it could get too ridiculous so I have a list here of some people I always forget to mention. People who got me out of the tough, you know? Erykah Badu, Velvet Underground, Dilla, Arthur Russell, Beach Boys, Fela Kuti.
That’s all! I have pages and pages! So many more. I woke up the other day and I was thinking like I’m so tired of always being compared to the same few black R&B artists, and I’m trying to go everywhere and talk about the same spectrum so I need to put these seeds out there so people know. They’re never wrong! Don’t get me wrong. But they can get over-used.
mxdwn: Where does the decision to not collaborate come from?
YJ: Yeah, I’m kind of averse to collaboration. It goes back to looking at it like a journal thing to document my life. Once before, I had a project that was my own, something I worked on for years — my project Faux Fur. And I brought some people in, my great friends, and it brought with it some exposure and people knew it only for that and not my solo venture from the start. And I remember during the recording of that project I was very frustrated by my ideas being shot down and having to meet people halfway creatively.
I think we should be shooting for the moon all the time and putting everything on the table and sometimes there’s not enough room for everyone to put down everything. I was really not into hearing that my ideas would be bad for a song. You know? I do whatever I want and that’s just how I’ll make music for the rest of my life. I know I’ll collaborate again, and I’m not opposed to it. I still collaborate live and not closed to doing it in the studio, but it would have to be under certain… conditions (laughs).
Honestly, I think a lot of collaboration is great, though. It’s naturally something humans feel compelled to do. That’s a good instinct. Two heads are better than one, you know. When you think of the greatness The Beatles were able to accomplish together. I don’t want to misspeak, but creatively it’s like cheating. It’s working on it as a team, and it becomes something else. I’m really concerned with artists who do everything themselves, and of course, I listen to anything and everything but the solo artists are the ones I hold above everyone else. Multi-instrumentalists, recording, producing because I think that that’s the most interesting thing you can do and the best way to create organic material. You can really just let yourself go.
mxdwn: What’s your favorite thing about making music?
YJ: It makes me feel not crazy. I’m restless and reeling and always pacing, can’t sit down for two minutes. Recording has soothed me since I was 13 — a friend of mine gave me this cassette four track, and I taught myself to record legitimately and realized that I could get my shit off and be whoever I wanted to be and be proud of the results. Not just throw shit at the wall for nothing, but have music I could liken to the very people that inspired me. It’s the greatest gift for me. I don’t even like writing, I just like recording. The process of it is better than the product.
mxdwn: Why is the nighttime painful for you?
YJ: It goes back to just being restless. The night is difficult for that because I really just try to go to the end of my rope. I try not to even reflect. I try to reflect in the morning, and this is something I’ll have to work on because I don’t want any buildups. But for me it’s too painful to reflect at night, the mind goes at a different pace. In the morning I have clarity. I say on my record, the song “Nothing New,” “Clarity, peace of mind comes at dawn but by night it’s gone.” It goes back to cleaning the studio at night so I can be clear and at peace in the morning. I’m there in the morning.
mxdwn: What does an ideal morning look like for you?
YJ: What I would have said from like 13-21 would have been recording all day. I was just recording all the time, when I started, I stopped going to class and only hung out around recording. Which I did a lot but still… Since this record has been done, I actually got my laptop stolen. I don’t even have the stems of them shits, it’s stolen. It was a good thing, low key. I bought the laptop for the project now it’s done, it’s out of my hands for good. So since then, I have been spending more time in the woods and recording less.
I’ve gotten to the end of my rope of the creative reservoir that I have without experiencing the world first-hand. I was spending so much time recording, recording, recording I felt like I could do that forever, but we have to experience the world to have things to express. I was isolated and I’m tapped out of that. And I think this record marks me needing to experience a lot of life before I could put another project out.
mxdwn: Are you happy?
YJ: I’m happy on one side of the coin because I’m as fulfilled as I’ll ever be. I didn’t hold back and wasn’t told what to do. I have total freedom so I’m fulfilled in that sense. I’ll be happy when you all hear the music. I feel like I’m showing my face for the first time. I’ve been in the basement. I’ll be happy when everyone hears my shit frankly. I want no stones unturned.
mxdwn: What’s one thing new fans should know before the album comes out tomorrow?
YJ: I hope they know that I’m honest and that I feel tenderly and I put my whole into the record. Don’t compare it to anything else — just take it for what it is.