Interview: Matt Bivins of Jump, Little Children 10/19/02
Since the early 90s, Jump, Little Children has been bringing their eclectic sound to audiences all across the country. This Charleston based band began by playing traditional Irish music and blues and slowly morphed their acoustic based sound into an interesting electric one, utilizing upright bass, cello, and an assortment of other instruments in addition to the basic guitar and drums. After releasing two independent records, the band signed with Breaking Records (a division of Atlantic run by fellow South Carolinians Hootie & the Blowfish) and released Magazine in 1998. In early 2001, Atlantic dissolved Breaking, effectively placing the bands follow-up Vertigo into limbo. After months of struggling and record-industry wrangling, the band was finally able to buy back and release the album in September of 2001. Since then, the band has toured the country, and even played a show in Italy in July for the troops that were stationed there. Last month, the band released a live DVD and is planning on playing in China early next year. I had the chance to sit down with vocalist (and player of novelty instruments") Matthew Bivins shortly before the band was set to take the stage at Ziggys in Winston-Salem NC.
Special thanks to Shelley Adams, Anne Martinez, and Matt Sherman for help with questions.
LOTD: Whats the last year and a half or so been like for you guys? You go from the point where youre seriously contemplating breaking up to having a really successful year. Youve toured the country and sold out shows in places youve never been.
Matt: Those have been the highs, for sure. Being able to go out west and realizing we had fans there, which we really didnt even know about when you get an e-mail from someone in California, or many dozens of e-mails saying hey, were LA fans you dont really believe it. Not to be mean, or rude, but it is strange to have gone out there and people were already there. That was really great. The spring tour was great. In general, though, on the whole, we still havent recovered. It was justsuch a tragic year, on so many levelsweve tried to recover, and its just a very slow process. Were still kind ofwe must have done something really evil, karmatically, to have had last year, I think. So, I think the Ying is going to come back around soon. And LA is a good, sort of, proof that it will be fine once everything settles down.
LOTD: It seems like you guys are having more fun playing right now than you have in the past.
Matt: YeahI think were definitely in a position where were like Hey! What can we lose? I think were still hopefulwere definitely still hopeful. Thats probably what youre seeing. And it certainly helps that were developing a broader sense of humor.
LOTD: What are the upcoming plans are you recording in the fall?
Matt: Were still working on the demo process. We are going to be recording; it will probably not be in the fall at this point. We kind of ran out of time and needed to do some shows that have kind of cut into that. Were not as prolific this year as we would have liked to have been, which is probably another reaction to last year. But thats okay, I think well spend another bit of the fall writing and then I dont know exactly when probably after China well go into the studio and maybe have an album next summer-ish. Maybe. But we are going to China in the winter. The songs on the new album I think people are really going to like. I really like them. A lot of the songs are more up-tempo and positive than anything on Vertigo. Which I like, I personally like a lot. I dont mind of course, after an album like Vertigo, that would mean that the album would beuh, pop songs, butI like pop songs, I really do. Pop songs are easier to play. Vertigo songsare dark. Im sorry, but its a dark album. Its dark in so many ways. It didnt reallythe cool thing is that Jay tends to write an album before things happen. So the songs on Vertigo are sort of tragic songs, and then we had lots of tragedy.
LOTD: Hes precognitive!
Matt: (laughs) I wont go that far! But if thats the case, then Im really excited about the upcoming year.
LOTD: Obviously, when talking about the sound of the band, your songs tend to be more unique with the spoken word/poetry type stuff, and Ive always wondered if you put together everything or if you bring the lyrics to the band and have everyone else flesh out the song?
Matt: I dont, reallyIve been criticized for saying this, butI dont really, a lot of times, consider myself a musician. I dont really create things musically very easily. Im much more comfortable with other things, like lyricsand only sometimes that (laughs). But I will come up with lyrics, and sometimes I will write them to a beat, but I really prefer what Jay and Ive done recently, with The Singer, and Darkest Love, and theres another one that weve done together, where he has kind of written the background and a beat and I fill in blanks. Thats probably my favorite way to do it. Songs like Body Parts and Habit were written by the band, which I really like, because everybody wrote Johnny definitely wrote the bass line to Habit and thats really neat to me. It kind of means that my songs are the only Jump, Little Children written songs in a lot of ways. I really like that a lot. I dont write music very much. Im much more comfortable performing or coming up with a line or bolstering.
LOTD: After the last year and a half, after dealing with all that the record industry has thrown at the band, is a record deal still something that Jump, Little Children is interested in? Is it still a viable goal for the band?
Matt: Well, Im interested in it. I think were all interested in it. Its going to be a very different record deal, if it ever happens. Just because, number one, no matter how savvy you are, if youre a band and youre starting out, you just have to get signed. And you think about it a lot. I dont care who you are even Ani DiFranco I guarantee has thought about it a lot. You just think about it, because it is still the only way to become famous in this industry. Its just designed to be that way. I wish it wasnt. Since weve been a band, even, theres been a general squeezing, a homogenization that is really uninteresting. From the record labels themselves, to the radio stations, there's so muchtheres a lot of cool music out there that is really well done and doesnt get heard. Andwell, believe me, Im not going to jump on the indie rock wagon because there is so much music that is lauded by critics that I just think is shitty. I appreciate that theyre doing it on their own, but its still bad. My point isthere are pros and cons to both ways. We were indie before and we did things a certain way and it worked well. We were signed and a lot of things changed a lot of things were better, a lot of things werent better. And then going back againa lot of things are better, and a lot of things are so much harder. I would really much rather put the next album out on a label. Just becauseits probably going to be the kind of album that would get played on the radio. I really think it would. It does help you. For Cathedrals to have been played all over the country, it helps. It really makes our lives easier. Becausewe have nevereven in signing the record dealmade money. We are not a band that has ever made money. We survive. Barely. But its not like getting on a record deal means you make money, necessarily. Some people do, Howie Day, for example, if hes invested well, before his album comes out, will probably never have to work again. But thats not the record deal that we signed. And it was our decision, in some ways, to do it that way. It was definitely a decision not to take a lot of money and have to worry about paying it back. It does make it easier, if you can go to a place and theyve heard you on the radio. Theyll come out, and that makes life easier. And if a song does well, then you do get attention and people will give you a little tour support, sometimes. Its just six of one, half of a dozen of the other, really. I think we could easily put out another album on our own and it would do well, and we would incrementally spread it a little bit. But the difference between people that bought Magazine and the people that bought Vertigo is enormous. And thats because you never heard one song from Vertigo on the radio. Again, Im not disappointed in that, thats just the way things are. Theres no way to get around it at this point. If the Internet was a bigger force in lifeInternet radio loves us, plays us all the time. But people dont listen to Internet radio, really. The bottom line is business is business, and I dont like any of it. I dont like the term indie rock any more than I do signed band. It has nothing to do with writing songs, and sometimes it really hinders it. If theres anything Im punk rock about, its that I wish the industry would support itself in a more holistic way. Its really funny how little people outside this industry know what its like. Were still trying to get back on our feet. It really, really was damaging its still damaging. Its like this major bomb, and the repercussions are continuingwaves keep hitting us. Its really weird. Were still not done with the Hootie thing completely. Its ridiculous. And thats what Im talking about has nothing to do with music. Because band to band, the owners of Breaking Records should have just said, here you go, Im sorry. I wish that all of it hadnt happened. It really would have made last year easier on every single one of us. Let me just say this, before I sound like an angry I have never thought about going to China, and I never would have thought that Id be playing music in Italy and France. I get to see the country. Twice this year Ive been to California. I would never have money to be able to travel like that. I cant pay my rent most of the time, butI get to do these things. In the end, I cant complain too much. Ill learn how to make websites; Evan will play with other bands, if we have to, to make ends meet. Because we believe in this and it does have its perks.
LOTD: Whats something that you admire about the rest of the band either personally or musically?
Matt: I definitely admire Jays fearlessness. Hes the fearless person in the band. Hes very stubborn, which is a part of it, but theres notheres insecurities, of course, but he has that ability break through. I think everybody can be a genius like Jay. He really is. But you have to be completely unafraid, which he is. I love that. My brother, I love his focus and determination. Hes the cheerleader of the band; he has been for years. When everybody else is down, hes like dont give up. Ward, I love his organizational ability. We make fun of it in the DVD, but hes the one who never loses the keys and always haswhen theres important money to take care of, and get around, hes the one that steps in and has a credit card that can float the band. Hes on top of it, and Ive always admired that. And Johnny, I love how Johnny doesnt get depressed. He gets grumpy, but hes so even-keel. And he doesnt let us be down. Those are all personal things, because thats what it is for me. I admire musical things about these guys, but Im in this band because of those people.
LOTD: The last questions the geeky one: what are 5 records right now that you love?
Matt: Of all time, or that I listen to now? R.E.M., Automatic For The People, is my favorite R.E.MU2s Achtung BabyPulpsuhthe one before This Is HardcoreI dont know the name of the album. Digable Planets, the first album, anduhFalco III.
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