Vancouver-based singer-songwriter Jordan Klassen keeps it ethereal on Repentance album
In many ways Repentance is a major-label debut that’s been in the works for more than half of Jordan Klassen’s life.
Much has already been achieved in the 28-year-old Vancouverite’s life — in fact within the last year-and-a-half Klassen has released his third record (the brief yet captivating Kindness EP) finished second (with a $75000 cheque) in B.C.’s Peak Performance Project and signed with Nevado Records (joining the likes of Yukon Blonde Royal Canoe and Bahamas). It’s been a solid spell.
But it’s really all been pointing towards the release of the excellent whimsical Repentance . His skills on the string instruments are the result of over a decade of playing. One of the verses from “Go To Me” — a song that’d be annoying in its catchiness if it wasn’t so terrifically earnest — was written when he was 16. There’s also that bit about how the record was tracked by Klassen in 2011 but various things came up (the Peak contest for one) to delay it.
“It feels great” says Klassen who returned two days ago to his hometown after a few performances in Los Angeles. “As much as it was kind of painful sometimes to wait I also feel like we’ve done the best job that we could do to make sure that the record does all that it can do and the most people can hear it. I’m really proud of the songs and the record and wouldn’t want to see it go to the wind. It’s a sense of relief and a sense of pride.”
The wait has indeed paid off. The well-executed hodgepodge of influences on Repentance is vast — Klassen describes it to older people (“people my parents’ age” he says) as a weirder Simon and Garfunkel while Sufjan Stevens and The Shins are the go-to comparisons for people on the younger side. But it’s more expansive than that. Klassen calls his fanciful sound “fairy folk” a genre tag that Patrick Watson and Joanna Newsom could also be slotted into as well.
“As far as Joanna Newsom goes it’s her use of imagery that’s astounding to me — she can weave a story with such crazy vocabulary but it’s still natural” he says. “Setting a scene is what I really like doing; creating a soundscape or transporting someone somewhere through the music. Every song that she plays creates a fantasy world in my head for it and I really love that in music. With Sufjan I like his simplistic approach: how it’s quirky and weird but also really accessible and moving.”
Moving west from Calgary where he lived for four years has also helped Repentance come to be; he notes that he wanted to pursue music full-time and that he “knew that it was a bit easier in Vancouver.” Connections with other artists emerged too — he’s now tight with Victoria’s Aidan Knight and Kelowna’s We Are the City and often plays shows with them. Most recently Klassen and his band paired up with Seattle’s Pickwick opening for them in a string of April shows through B.C. Alberta and Saskatchewan.
“The shows were a little bit oddly matched” Klassen admits. “We’re very ethereal and folky and they’re pretty rocky and upbeat…. I actually really like seeing concerts where two bands are not similar at all. We definitely altered our set list. Our first show was in a club — it was actually the loudest show and we were only playing as a three-piece. We sat down and were like ‘how can we make this louder?’ So we chose all of our loudest songs; we tried to make sure that it was interesting enough that people would maybe put down their drinks for a second and listen.”
Such planning likely won’t be required on Klassen’s upcoming continent-wide tour. The enormous diversity found in Repentance ’s “fairy folk” — ranging from the stripped-down “May is Blood Month” to the monstrous “Ranchero” to the driving “Piano Brother” — will be on full display. But Klassen’s writing process certainly hasn’t slowed down with the long-awaited release. Beyond the tour eyes are fixed on another round of recording.
“It’s pretty cool to have a real budget” says Klassen referencing the Peak Performance Project winnings. “I think the record will probably take a while to record because that’s just how I process — with a lot of patience and time. I’m hoping that we’ll start the recording process in November or December.”