20 Questions: Brothertiger

He may be one of the crown princes of chillwave, but Brotheriger's John Jagos keeps it casual, saying "I like wearing a baseball hat when I travel; I'm not sure why, but it just feels right."
Future Splendors

We’re kind of done with calling things “chillwave” at this point, right?

After all, the first wave of the bedroom-borne genre of synth-heavy midtempo dance-pop has already crested, even if some of its most notable acts, like Washed Out and especially Neon Indian, are still releasing large-scale albums to this day. Sure, you could argue that Toledo’s John Jagos, who records under the name Brothertiger, is of the same ilk, but even that wouldn’t be totally fair in the long run, as his soundscaping has been a kind that focuses less on tone and more on songcraft outright, nailing the hooks time and time again, which is part of the reason why he already has a sizable audience even after releasing his debut set, the excellent Golden Years, a mere three years ago.

Since then, he dropped sophomore disc Future Splendors in late 2014, and will follow that one up almost to the day with a third album slated for the end of 2015. Yet between recording and touring, Jagos keeps a level head to himself, focusing on making the best damn music possible, honing in on a sound that would work on both dancefloors and private pajama parties all the same. In answering PopMatters’ 20 Questions, Jagos reveals a lot about his influences, ranging from his love of Brian Eno to his obsession with Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair, to say nothing of the fact that he likes to wear “a baseball hat when I travel; I’m not sure why, but it just feels right.”

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1. The latest book or movie that made you cry?

I think Me, Earl, and the Dying Girl was the last film I saw in a theater, and it definitely hit me right in the feels at certain moments, especially somber points that were soundtracked by Brian Eno. “Always Returning” is my favorite song of his, and the point in the film when it played definitely hit me. I’m a sucker for an emotional soundtrack.

2. The fictional character most like you?

That’s a tough one. I never saw myself as the hero type who saves the day or anything. I’m pretty quiet and introverted, and I love exploring and discovering new things, ideas, places. Maybe I’m like Mowgli from The Jungle Book. My new album is about my own personal connection to the rest of the world, how I sometimes feel out of touch with what’s normal, and that I shouldn’t let that bother me. I feel a connection to him in that way. He was raised by wolves, lives apart from society, and is friends with a bear. That’s pretty much me, right? I’m also obsessed with the jungle aesthetic, as illustrated by my album art.

3. The greatest album, ever?

Tears for Fears’ Songs from the Big Chair. The production quality from that album is what I’ve been striving for in my music. I think I’m getting closer. I like the album not just for how well the songs were written, but for the synth sounds they used. A lot of people don’t know that Roland and Curt had a ton of production help from their keyboardist, Ian Stanley. There isn’t too much information out there about the recording process for the album, and I’ve been trying to find out what Stanley has been up to since he left the band in the late ’80s. Apparently he runs a studio in Ireland somewhere. Would love to work on something out there.

4. Star Trek or Star Wars?

Star Wars, hands down. I never really got into the Star Trek series or films. Star Wars just speaks nostalgia to me. I have always loved the soundtrack, since I was a kid.

5. Your ideal brain food?

Books. I get a lot of inspiration from novels I read, mostly science fiction books about space and the future of the human species. I really enjoy books by Arthur C. Clarke because he makes his stories seem so real by injecting actual scientific know-how into them. I find that really cool, and I try to emulate that characteristic in my music.

6. You’re proud of this accomplishment, but why?

I’m just proud that music I created made it onto vinyl. As a kid, I always thought my dads vinyl collection was the coolest thing. I would read all the liner notes and listen to stuff I had never heard of, and that’s how I discovered a lot of music at that age. I always knew I wanted to be in a band or create music for people. To know that it’s out there on someone else’s turntable is really amazing to me.

7. You want to be remembered for …?

Obviously, I’d like to be remembered for my music. I like to think I’m pretty humble about it so far, and I like to keep myself grounded like that, in terms of how I feel about my own career in music. I don’t think that what I’m doing is groundbreaking in the music scene, but from what I’ve gathered, it’s had a positive effect on a good amount of people, so that’s what makes me happy.

8. Of those who’ve come before, the most inspirational are?

To me, Sufjan Stevens has been an enormous influence on the way I do things in music. No, we don’t exactly have the same type of sound, but his way of releasing music, his production, and the way he conveys his music to an audience live has influenced me like no other. Brian Eno has also affected the way I do things, specifically his methods in electronic music.