Jake & The Venom has released their new EP titled ‘A Bell Unrung’, as part of a trilogy including ‘A Stone Unturned’ and ‘A Tape Unraveled’.
An overall sense of unbridled soul emanating from the heart and the mind is that initial feeling I get on the first listen. But there is more. There is musical and stylistic diversity. If you separate these albums you can almost get a sense that each song is by a different artist. Different parts of the same artist maybe? While ‘Vacation’ has a grand orchestral scope, ‘Hold On’ has a soulful glide to it. ‘Different Way’ is almost a song of protest with that classic pop and soul flavor in places where it counts.
‘A Bell Unrung’ is a collection of tracks that will mean different things to different people, because it’s more about enhancing your life and loves with a yearning that is in each one of us.
If soul is the goal, then ‘A Bell Unrung’ is a hat trick + 1.
The names of the EPs in this trilogy, ‘A Bell Unrung’, ‘A Stone Unturned’, ‘A Tape Unraveled’ all suggest missed potential. What do the titles of these projects mean to you?
I’m a big fan of double entendres. Each one of those titles, while being open to interpretation, for me they each represent the three story arcs of the album, first in a literal sense. ‘A Stone Unturned’ introduces us to the narrator waking up in a very different world than the one he/she knew before, and the challenge of processing the forced change.
‘A Tape Unraveled’ delves into chaos, delirium, depression, and facing mortality while our narrator is kind of losing their wits and patience. ‘A Bell Unrung’ sees our narrator rising up and pushing forward, accepting the new world, and lends a hand out to others who are struggling, understanding that the only way to move is forward.
But to your question about missed potential, indeed all the titles reflect missed potential purposely, as we as human beings live lives full of missed potential when we let things we cannot control dictate our outcomes. As much as this album is a journey through the pandemic, it’s an even broader story of how human beings deal with life’s challenges.
What led you to release these songs in three distinct parts?
The entertainment landscape as a whole across film, television, music, literature… there’s just so much content. And with that, there are constant innovations of how to deliver content. As soon as someone figures out a solid way to present content to viewers/spectators/readers, someone else comes along and shuffles the deck.
I wanted to give my listeners the chance to take in each release as a story arc, and really process the songs, and therefore have a payoff if they decide to stay tuned, much like their favorite tv shows. I wanted to give them something to look forward to rather than a binge-worthy album released all at once that they might love for a weekend, then move on to the next one.
These songs were composed over the course of many years. Some during the pandemic. What was your process like during times of quarantine and lockdown and did that time have a large influence on the project as a whole? Some of the ideas for the songs had been brewing for a while, but the pandemic kind of made them all start speaking to each other more cohesively. An artist often uses their medium and their work as an outlet for emotional release. It’s always been there for me, so I figured perhaps as it was helping me get through the pandemic, perhaps I could indulge and hopefully put some perspective into the songs to help listeners get through these struggles as well.
I started to really embrace ideas as they came to me more than ever. If I had a random idea for a song, instead of just jotting down notes, I ran to my studio and started laying down the track, whether it was a bass line, a chorus, a riff… whatever. I knew if I felt really good about it that I needed to stop what I was doing and get it down to some extent. After that, I’d let it marinade and think of how to grow that initial impulsive idea.
While your recorded music has a wide variety of instrumental backing such as drums, flutes, and vocal harmonies, many of your live performances are solo or as a duo. Do you prefer the flexibility of a small group?
What would your ideal band look like if the only consideration was the music? I get a lot out of each and every performance, be it solo, duo, or with a full band. The intimate conversation of sound and instrumentation that is had between two people playing together can be quite extraordinary considering the stakes at hand. One person is playing rhythm while the other takes a lead, be it voice or instrument, so there’s a lot of trust there. But nothing can truly replace the experience of a full band coming together to create one vision from many visions and sounds.
If money was no object and I could play these songs in a theater like Fox or Fillmore, I’d happily put together an entire orchestra to back a 7 piece band. I have no problem writing/composing each part for the sake of balance… and what a beautiful thing it is to create balance with so many moving parts. I guess it comes down to respecting the songs, respecting the room, understanding balance. If you can do that, then a solo, duo, or full band works well. If you can’t do any of those things, you’re in the wrong industry.
You’re Jake. That much we know. But who or what is The Venom?
Circling back to my love of double entendres, the name Jake & The Venom is a reference to several ideas. First and foremost, it’s a nod to my lifelong love of professional wrestling. So a little nod to Jake The Snake Roberts was an easy choice for me. It’s also a reference to the Marvel character Venom, who has a symbiotic relationship with Eddie Brock.
For me, that’s what music is like. Here’s Jake the person, but then here comes the music, this side of Jake that almost feels, at times, like a separate entity while being completely relying on Jake as its host. It’s also a nod to music being an outlet for all of the poison, or maybe even the Freudian id of an artist… the music is the catchall for an artist’s emotions. Venom, the word itself, is part of evolution in animals, as a tool for survival and protection.
I think music, or art of any kind, is very much a survival mechanism for our species. As far as ‘who’ is Venom? It can be a guest artist brought in to play a certain part; it can be the muse of the work; it can be whatever it needs to be for the music to survive.
Jake & The Venom’s ‘A Bell Unrung’ is the final installment of the 3-part release, and rightfully so very much feels like a conclusion to not only an album, but the story that has played out in traditional arcs. While each release feels like standalone EPs, they create a thoughtful narrative when played beginning to end.
Where part 1 ‘A Stone Unturned’ crafted a setting and an overall somber tone, part 2 ‘A Tape Unraveled’ put the foot on the gas by seeing the narrator deal with confusion, delirium, and questions about mortality.
And fittingly, part 3 ‘A Bell Unrung’ has a bit of clarity and hope for the narrator and the future of the world, though through the lenses of a skeptical realist. From the opening track, the tone drastically changes to empathetic and hopeful after coming off of the epic fall into darkness of part 2’s ending. Whether or not listeners take the time to piece all three parts together or not, ‘A Bell Unrung’ certainly plays well as a standalone EP, as do all of the releases. However, just like a tv show, it often feels war rewarding when you start from the pilot episode before watching the finale.
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