Survival Float - Jess Hal / by E

Catch an interview with Survival Float's Jess Hal and look for new music to come soon. 

What got you interested in music?

Jess: I was forced into piano lessons when I was seven or eight years old and after a few years I kind of dropped out of that and became interested in guitar; my dad actually taught me and got me started on guitar. Then, I remember the time that I started to really get excited was maybe when I was about twelve and I played with one of my cousins who was playing drums and it was the first time I'd really played with someone that wasn't my dad on the guitar and that's when I really started to get excited. Later on down the road I got re-interested in piano in my late teens and, obviously, along the way I had some inspiration from music that I liked in general, but that's kind of my story with how I got started playing.

Which artists inspired you?

When I was a kid, I think one of the earliest that I got inspired by with guitar, I was into a lot of blues for awhile so I really loved Stevie Ray Vaughun, and then I got into classic rock - I loved Creedence Clearwater Revival, they were really inspiring to me. Went through a whole Brit Pop era in my teens, was very much into Blur and Oasis and, onto more modern that I'm really sticking with for years now, like Rufus Wainwright, Warren Zevon and I still like all the old stuff, but that's kind of what I've been stuck on for the past ten or twelve years.

Why begin this solo project?

I've been in many bands over the years and, I don't know, I guess I'm kind of over the idea of being in a band. I still love making music, but I don't like the whole 'in or out' status that comes along with bands and having band members; I prefer to have complete creative control, for the most part, and then work with people that inspire me and that I like to work with and, obviously, I hope to have frequent collaborators. My last band put out an album in 2011, I believe, and that long hiatus from not doing anything live or putting out any recordings, I feel like doing this as a solo artist makes sense right now.

Why choose the name 'Survival Float'?

In short, that's a name that I got from swimming lessons as a child. I failed my swimming lessons because I couldn't do the survival float and I hated it when I was a kid and it turns out, down the road, that they were teaching me something that was completely counterintuitive - I had a friend later on who was an actual swim coach who was appalled when I told him what the survival float was. So, a lot of the lyrical content of the upcoming album sort of has to do with your notion that you grow up with things that you're taught and how those sometimes are simply not true, sometimes they're maybe even harmful, but they could be taught to you by someone who thinks that they're helping you, somebody that cares for you, so I thought the name Survival Float was appropriate in that context.

How would you describe your sound?

I think it's pop music but, then again, working with right now a guy who's playing saxophone, he asked me if I should throw some pop songs in there, which was funny because I think they're all pop songs; I think they're simple in structure for the most part, but I feel that there's a lot of complexity in the actual texture of the music. But, I mean, I call it pop rock, I guess, it's hard to put anything in a genre really. The style is, there's a lot of piano and it's organic, some of the previous project that I was in was a little bit more in the electronic side and I'm still finding a lot of those production techniques as I'm recording this album but, I think a lot of the tones and the samples are a lot more organic sounding. 

Is "Claw and Bite" indicative of what we can expect to hear on the forthcoming album?

I think it is. I think "Claw and Bite" that's out right now, yeah, I think it's definitely indicative of what the album is going to sound like. That one has maybe a little bit more variety in instrumentation. A few of the songs are a little bit more varied in instrumentation like that one but, there are several songs that are as simple as acoustic guitars, piano, drums, vocals in there, but I think that that's one of the more aggressive, tapping songs on the album. 

Do you have a writing process?

I don't know, I just try to stay immersed, I keep my piano and guitars and all my recording gear readily at hand for when inspiration strikes me and the only thing that really seems to come out of nowhere is maybe a riff or a lyric or a melody here or there, and then the song's usually just an elaboration upon that. Sometimes I work on songs for years, if I'm not totally inspired to complete the song at that time, if I'm not feeling that the idea has matured in my own mind yet, I'll kind of put it in my back pocket and wait a while but, obviously, things are a little bit more expedited once I get into production. I don't have a tough one, I guess is what I'm saying, I just try to stay in it really and let the ideas mature until I feel like they're ready. 

Was there anything you were trying to express with this album?

Oh sure, yeah, there's no agenda particularly, a lot of the lyrical content is just, I guess, rather dark, especially for the sound of the music, so the lyrical content is darker than a lot of the music itself sounds. A whole lot of it is really dealing with sort of growing up in a religious environment and sort of my exit from that, from my culture, and everything positive and negative that goes along with that is the loose concept of almost every song on this collection. So, there's nothing I'm trying to convey, there's not necessarily an agenda, it's mostly a personal story and, hopefully, people infer something positive from it.

What do you want to say about your music?

Hopefully it speaks for itself when people hear it. I'm definitely passionate about it, I'm inspired, and I'm not just doing it for the fashion of being in a band or the industry, like I touched on before, but it's truly something I love and, again, hopefully others might infer something positive from it.

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