Guitarist Jesse Jenkins of noted Austin reverb-rockers Pure X opens up about the band's new album Angel and how their shift in style and attitude reinvigorated them as a band.
For a young band, the first album can be a bit of a curse.
While it's great for a band to be praised right from the start, a great first album can be a bit of an albatross for a band; they can become hamstrung into sticking to one specific sound and style. It takes bravery to cast off that albatross and try something different, no matter what happens.
Pure X are such sorts of brave souls. The Austin-based indie rock band came out with their first album, Pleasure, in 2011, along with a sound and an aesthetic style that they could have easily been pigeonholed into for years. However, the band have taken steps with each album and tour to move farther away from their established sound, following their own muse instead of the outside perception of their music. With their third album, Angel, they've sought to shake things up a bit with clear, crisp, classic style that peels their layers of reverb and distortion away to let the songs take center stage.
As the band head out on a tour across the United States with fellow indie rockers Real Estate, we spoke to guitarist Jesse Jenkins about the band's new sound, their shift in personnel, and the rigors of writing and performing on the road.
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his new album is quite different from what the band has done before. What prompted or influenced the shift in direction?
I think it's more of an attitude shift than anything else now. We're just different people making different records. It's hard to pin down any influences because it's just so broad. But I do think that we're in a more comfortable, relaxed mental state.
You just added a new member to the band. How has that affected the dynamic of working in the band and the sound on the album?
Well, Matty Tommy [Davidson] toured with us for the last album, so he's been in the band for a while in some way. He wrote two of the songs on Angel, as well. Getting him involved in the creative process was definitely a fresh thing for us. I think it helped us out a lot. Having him in the band also helped us go in this new direction, as well.
How did your decision to record the album live change your approach?
There were some overdubs, even though we did most of the songs live. I think the reason we [recorded] the album live was because we've toured with these songs for a couple of months. We've been playing most of the songs on the new record on tour for a year, and that was kind of by design. We wanted to get really good at playing them before we went to record. Once we did go in to record, playing the songs live was just really easy.
You mentioned that attitude shift before. Did a lack of confidence have anything to do with the reverb-heavy sound of the first two albums?
Those records sound that way because that's what we wanted at the time. I do think we've been getting more confident by the day just by playing and writing. We've been at this for a pretty good while. I think that touring with the songs for Angel did help us in that way. We went into recording this album with a lot of confidence, and it ended up being really easy and really fun. We had been touring for so long, so we all decided, "Let's go and make this album in the most relaxed way possible."
One of the striking things about Angel is how direct everything on the album is, especially in comparison to Pleasure and Crawling Up The Stairs. Did you feel that you had something to say directly on this album, rather than taking an abstract route?
Oh yeah, definitely. That was part of the design of the album, too. We didn't want any kind of mystery or anything like that. We wanted people to hear all of our personalities as individuals. I think we found a way to do that by more or less letting the songs do the talking. It was definitely our intention to strip away the invention and the confusion of the last two albums.
Yeah, it's definitely a brighter and more grounded album.
Yeah, that's cool. I'm glad you picked up on that.
The previous two albums had a positive critical reception, but do you think more people are going to catch on to the band with Angel?
I don't know. That's hard to say. I think it might be a little more accessible to people. I don't know, really. When we go in to make records, we don't really think about what other people are going to think about it. I really don't have a concept of what other people like, anyway. We like it, I know that much.
Could you see yourself making another album on the road the way you did with Angel?
It's hard to say. We're definitely going to make another album. We've already started thinking about it. It's probably going to get funkier, if anything.