I Dream of Vinyl

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“Music and art, for me, was always a safe haven” – an Interview with See Jazz

See Jazz, the new project of Aaron Pfannebecker (Drawing Boards, Sisters), have just released their debut album Is This Anything?. Recorded in NYC and Massachusetts before and after the pandemic (but not during), the record has a classic 80’s feel with drum machines and synths mixing with jangly guitars. Fans of New Order and Echo & The Bunnymen will love this album with tracks such as “Dance With Me”, “1982” and “Sidney Pointier Smile” standing out.

Adam Langellotti from Kurt Vile and the Violators plays bass on all songs but one. Jed Smith from My Teenage Stride and Jeanines plays bass on “Dance With Me.” Zara Bode from Sweetback Sisters, whose grandfather was Vaughn Bode (the Beastie Boys have a line about him, “I’m a Cheech Wizard like Vaughn Bode) sings on “1982” and background vocals on “Heaven Is.”

We caught up with Aaron to chat about the new record and making music for outsiders.

Hi Aaron! How’s everything going right now?
It’s a mix. It’s a hard time in the world right now. We need to prioritize community, discourse, love, empathy, and baby-step solutions so we can get to everyone’s pie in the sky. The soap-box preaching and intense conviction is freaking me out. But I love my family, friends, cheese, and my cat Watson.

What classic album cover art is your current mood?
Cool question. Classic? That makes me think like the 60s or 70s, so that’s where I’ll take this. What’s Going On? by Marvin Gaye all the way.

Your debut album, “Is This Anything?” was just released. When and where did you write and record it?
In my apartment in Ridgewood, NY, and at Sonelab Studios in Easthampton, MA, where I’m from with my buddy Justin. Is This Anything? was recorded before and after the pandemic but not during.

You’ve said that See Jazz makes music for outsiders and uncool people everywhere. Do you feel this is a neglected group in an industry that is increasingly focused on having songs go viral?
I think culture is homogenized at this point. I might be in the minority in that department or crazy, but it’s what I see. I see a lot of art, not just music, that gets a lot of play as aesthetically cool, inoffensive, or pleasant. I’m making a broad assessment here, and I don’t mean everything, just a tendency. And so you get a lot of soulless crap plus more and more of a constant cool image shoved in your face. Music and art, for me, was always a safe haven and an outlet away from popularity contests and insane social conformity and pressures. I see less and less of the odd, dorky, weirdos representing the true imperfect nature of everyday experience.

If you could only listen to one record, what would it be?
Miles Davis – In a Silent Way. I think anything else would drive me crazy.

Who were the artists that you listened to that made you want to become a musician?
Too many to list. Nirvana, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Beatles, Sly Stone, Curtis Mayfield, Cyndi Lauper, Lou Reed, Martha and the Vandellas.

You were previously in Drawing Boards and Sisters. Apart from listening to “Is This Anything”, what should we also be checking out from your back catalogue?
The first Drawing Boards record. I think people would really like it if they heard it. I’m proud of that one.

Do you have any plans to play any shows to promote the record?
Yes, in the new year! I’m finding the right people right now. It’s weird because I’m working backward from layering the recordings to finding the right people to make it and me swing.

What would go on your signature pizza and what would it be called?
I love pizza. So much. Tomatoes are some of my favorite things, but check this out. It’s a white pie. Very ricotta with enough garlic to kill a cold and sweet roasted cherry tomatoes and basil. I’d call it “Make new friends with pizza.”

What do you have planned for 2024?
I’m slowly chipping away at a not-for-profit internet magazine that’s intended to be a respite from the internet on the internet. Record a new record. The rest is a secret.

Aaron Pfannebecker has played in Drawing Boards and Sisters and been covered in Stereogum, The New Yorker, Pitchfork, NYLON Magazine, Brooklyn Vegan, and played shows with Atlas Sound, Dum Dum Girls, No Age, A Place to Bury Strangers, Jeff The Brotherhood and many more. 

You can find more about Aaron and See Jazz by following him on Instagram and visit their Bandcamp page to get a copy of the new album.

Feature Image Credit – Colin Marchon

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