Whether playing with Famous Laughs, working through sonic investigations with ADT or developing new solo works, Jake Acosta continues to demonstrate an adept nature on par with his diverse understanding of the intersection of experimentation and music. This week, The COMP Magazine visited Acosta in Logan Square to discuss his 2016 LP release First Corridor, the array of bands and musicians he works with, why Chicago is an ideal place to make new music, and the plan for the remainder of 2017.
From our conversation, you sound like you’ve had some curious experiences. You moved to Chicago from Kansas, have toured across the country, and play in a number of bands. Lets begin with a little background. Perhaps you could share with us any specific items that set you on the path to become a musician.
The people around me. I am very inspired and enabled by them. Music is the medium, but people’s personalities and the fact that I could have a personal relationship with them are what really got and get me going. I love when people down their own thing. Celebrities and rock stars always seemed so far away even when I was young. My first concerts were at youth group type basements, with friends writing their own music, to their own beat, playing their own shows with their own friends, etc., no matter how shitty or unsure the music was, it still resonated with me and the circle of friends. I didn’t grow up in a very musical or creative household so it was such a revelation in my world when I found out that anyone could write music, and friends would support it. But, I’ve also been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who challenged me to sculpt my tastes to my own liking and not just settle on what is given to you.
What do you value most in your sonic explorations?
I’ve noticed that I tend to be really sensitive about pacing. Sometimes when a part or sound comes in too soon or late it throws me off so much I might end up scrapping the entire thing, so I usually really take my time. I value letting the music find me, and that means constantly being open and ready for it to expose itself. I rarely have ideas that are whole, I don’t find that very practical, or fun, no surprises, little learning. Although being perpetually ready can be exhausting and somewhat neurotic. There are things I do though to enable this, like leaving guitars in every room, just in case it hits while I’m passing through, or keeping a notebook on hand, being in environments where I can be loud, voice notes, pictures- I take a lot of pictures with my phone, still life really open up this weird part of me that I somehow connect with music via lyrics/narrative, I’m very inspired by the mechanisms of narrative.
Can you walk us through the development of First Corridor? What prompted this album? What were you hoping to convey to the listener? Tell us about the process.
First Corridor came together as I was exploring some of the devices you can build and play in Ableton live. I hadn’t really dived into MIDI and CV before, so this is me using my slow approach to composition with computers, although ultimately I ended up using a lot of exterior synths and instruments as well. I was listening to a lot of Manuel Gottsching, Klaus Schulz, et., these 70’s German composers, I tend to notice their pacing a lot, feels akin, it builds in just the right way for me. One thing I think I was really focusing on at the time with First Corridor was this idea of being very dynamic by being very static. Even the guitar piece ‘Maze Bar and Grill’ on the B side of the tape is just this nice linear vibe that doesn’t really go too many places, dynamically speaking, but the movement is there and you trance out and before you know it you’re at the end. I relate it to maybe watching a sunset as I float away down a lazy river, I never really catch the exact moment the sun disappears behind the horizon but the I love the space inside the times you get so lost in the music you don’t even realize you are at the end.
As noted, you play in a number of bands. Why so many bands? Are there specific differences in the focus of the content and sound? How you juggle the diverse sonic approaches?
I find it pretty normal now that musicians around me are in a lot of different bands/projects. But maybe its like this post-modern/deconstructionalist reaction, not wanting to be tied down to one thing, not wanting to be typified, etc, but I really think it has a lot to do with how variety informs and colors the other things you work on. Of course there are somethings that I focus more on, like guitar, but when I need a break from playing the guitar I’ll work on some electronics or play the drums.
Can you tell us about your experience with recording with Pretty All Right Records? And, your label, Lake Paradise records? When did you establish the label? What is the label’s focus? What projects are you currently working upon?
Pretty All Right is my friend Tom Owens record label, he was one of my first musical friends in Chicago that really listened and promoted friends around. We were in this band called Distractions, Tom wrote one of my favorite records of all time, check it out, Dark Green Sea, one of the most Chicago sounding records I can think of. I think Pretty All Right and my label Lake Paradise Records really thrive in the same way in that we really feel like our best releases come from friends who you would least expect. I established Lake Paradise in 2013 after I my friend Bill Satek showed me this incredible album he was just sitting on that he made with his band Mines, he called the album “Just Another Thing That Got Ruined”, in part I think because he thought it would never see the light of day. I couldn’t let that happen, it was just too good, so I decided to dive into the label biz. It is still called “Just Another Thing That Got Ruined”, it is perfect, another essential Chicago record in my book. Running a label has been really rewarding, especially being able to see friends influences inevitably pop up in each other’s work, but ultimately it’s something I can only do when the time is right. Ive never really felt the need to go for a really specific aesthetic or focus for the label, other than it be focused on the people that surround me, it truly is the key to keeping me going, in 2017 I feel there are too many angles you can take and Id hate to be stuck as a vaporware or punk or jazz label, not that any of those are bad necessarily but the cool thing about Lake Paradise I think is that it is patient in it’s endeavors and the binding glue to the whole thing is amazing music. Next release is going to be ’Sunshine Numbers’ from local enigma Aaron Zarzutski’s project Double Morris- a real tragedy/comedy country narrative told by someone fucked up on a six pack of beer and muscle relaxers. Some of the best experimental jazz players in Chicago are all over it, it really is something to be reckoned with.
We’re more than midway through 2017. What’s on the calendar for the remainder of the year? Do you have any upcoming shows? Recording projects in the works? What’s the plan…
Doing some traveling this summer, playing a festival in West Virginia called Voice Of The Valley at the end of July, I’m hoping to go to Idaho in August to see the Total Eclipse and do some writing under the big skies. Really excited about this ADT record which Hausu Mountain is putting out for us, ADT is a 5 person improvisational ensemble I play guitar/trumpet in, but I know every player in the group is so amazingly talented in their own way, self taught or whatever, and that is just something I always feel connected with. And we don’t take it too seriously, it is really fun, and that is important to me, to keep things fresh and surprising. Im also planning a 3 week tour for Oct/Nov with my band Famous Laughs, we are doing some east coast dates with Health&Beauty, really honing in a batch of new songs. Excited to travel and play everyday! I assume recordings will come after they are tour tight.
For additional information on the music and sonic projects of Jake Acosta, please visit the following:
Lake Paradise Records – www.lakeparadiserecords.com
Lake Paradise Records Bandcamp – www.lakeparadiserecords.bandcamp.com
First Corridor – https://prettyallright.bandcamp.com/album/first-corridor
Famous Laughs, Distance Goes Away – https://famouslaughs.bandcamp.com/
Artist interview and photographs by Chester Alamo-Costello