Winter has come. It’s dark at 4:45 and my cut off jean shorts have been archived. Sporting a more translucent shade of my already pale skin tone, Netflix and chill has replaced my sunset happy hours on the patio. Point is, we all know this time of year can be a big fat bummer, a bit too reflective for those of us who choose to live above the sea foam. So, when an album comes out in the twilight month of the year that makes us feel like we are knees deep on a surf trip with sun kissed skin and salted hair, we are infinitely grateful.
‘Out of Touch’ by Brothertiger (aka John Jagos) is such an album. Rich in its seasonal time travel ability, these 10 songs are the perfect antidote to your zicam and ricola laden bedside tables. I sat down with John before the last show of his tour to discuss the album, yes, but more importantly to say a big thank you from all of us who are wallowing in the winter blues.
There are very few artists that can give us a stop-in-your-tracks full bodied butter buzz and at the same moment, drive us. Brothertiger consistently puts out this sativa high. My best friend always refers to the greatest music being as such: a foot on the gas pedal with eyes on the rear view mirror. Simply meaning, a feeling of wanting to move forward but not forgetting where you came from. Seeing how “Out Of Touch” is his favorite album of the year, I think it’s safe to say it nails this sentiment.
Upon hearing the first few notes of “Beyond the Infinite,” you are gently pulled outside your body and reminded of your past, present and future simultaneously. To me, the first two lines of the album pretty much sum up the entire listening experience. He sings “Sinking to the floor, I found another life” and I believe that is his subtle invitation to have us along on an hour long guided musical meditation.
A midwesterner like myself, John has a focused head on his shoulders. He knows exactly what he’s doing, which is creating delectable summer electro pop tracks. His move from Toledo, OH to Bushwick, NY has influenced him greatly, but it hasn’t been without struggles.
To John, the sense of time feels sped up, as if he’s moving at a pace that seems forced. That said, he created this delicious album there and when I listen to it, it feels anything but hectic. My favorite song on the album “Grenada” feels like it was written next door to me in Venice, California, after a perfect beach day, not within the walls of a concrete jungle.
Speaking of jungles, we delved into one of his big influences, Disney’s The Jungle Book and I discovered that not only is the name ‘Brothertiger’ derived from this classic, but it’s his driving theme for this album. Being out of touch is something that Mowgli, the main character in The Jungle Book, can relate to (in Mowgli’s case, he’s raised by animals in the jungle) and so it goes for John. We can all relate to this. Knowing at a soul level we all ‘belong’ somewhere, but just not exactly sure how that will pan out in real life.
It was a treat to see him play live at The Lost Room as I’d only seen him at SXSW years back when he’d just released “Golden Years.” I was beyond impressed with how he tackled all of these layered songs solo. When I asked if he would ever consider having a band behind him, he explained that he’d actually tried earlier this year but it hadn’t really panned out the way he wanted. If and when he hires a band next time, he’ll have more of a precise idea as to what their role would be, but for now he’s just fine doing shows solo.
I concur. He played each song so incredibly full, with rich vocals and it sounded even more dance friendly than his albums. One of the many highlights of the night was “This Must Be The Place,” his fantastic Talking Heads cover that coincidentally made our editor’s list of top songs from last year.
Overall, I was so impressed with how he managed to make all of the songs come to life. At one point he was playing one of his keyboards so hard it fell over onto the stage and yet he continued the song to the end without pause. With only a “what the fuck happened” and a “that was pretty cool” accompanied by a sly grin and a quick hair adjustment under his hat, he was onto the next song.
The truth is, I’ve listened to this album a ton since it came out December 4th along with all of his incredible remixes he’s put out this year (check out his remix of StaG “It Worked For Him” and On and On “Drifting”) and I’m just so incredibly impressed. He’s creating really beautiful music and I feel so lucky to have caught on early thanks to fellow Witness, Luke. With this album in particular, I hope he makes some best of the year lists but the late release date may be the reason you don’t see it listed, certainly not because of its merit.
I actually felt the same sort of ‘this is someone special’ sentiment when I interviewed Gotye years ago, way before “Somebody I Used to Know” hit your ears. And similar to the way I felt upon hearing Leon Bridges (congrats on Grammy nomination!) last year. I just hope that he gets that same kind of love and attention he deserves. There are a lot of people making music in their bedrooms these days, but not everyone is getting it right. Brothertiger is not just getting it right, he’s helping the ice thaw off our wintered hearts and hands. For this, I am grateful.
*Since we spoke, he revealed on Facebook: “Excited and incredibly nervous to announce I’ll be covering the entirety of Tears for Fears‘ Songs from the Big Chair, my favorite record of all time. Just started working on it today. Hoping to have it for you soon via Reimagine Music.”
For more info:
words by – Lindsay Colip
press photo – Andrew Piccone
live photos – Douglas Heine