Jim James taps into the ‘Sound of God’

Jim James plays sold out shows with Cold Specks on Friday in Boston at Royale, on Saturday in Philly at Union Transfer on Monday in NYC at Webster Hall. (PHOTO CREDIT: Nolan Gawron/Metro)
Jim James plays sold out shows with Cold Specks on Friday in Boston at Royale, on Saturday in Philly at Union Transfer on Monday in NYC at Webster Hall.
(PHOTO CREDIT: Nolan Gawron/Metro)

While My Morning Jacket take a short break from recording and touring, founder and lead singer Jim James continues to surprise his listeners with the recent release and drastic sonic departure of his solo debut, “Regions of Light and Sound of God.”

We spoke with James shortly before last month’s SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas, but we had to enlist him for another conversation after taking in his performance.

While James has been known to step out onstage for a solo set or collaborate under the moniker Yim Yames, this project marks his first official solo record. But don’t expect a return to the stripped-down, warm warble of the 4-track tapes that were characteristic of My Morning Jacket’s early years. Instead, James has produced an epic collection of songs that seem as though divine intervention and production value have led the songwriter to explore new and sacred soil.

“A couple of these songs had a few seeds that had been milling around for a few years,” says James. “Then I got this book called ‘God’s Man’ by Lynd Ward that really inspired the songs to change shape. I almost became hypnotized by it and songs just started coming out of that. The best way I can describe it was more like scoring a film and less like writing an album is. It brought the record into focus.”

Published in 1929 and credited as America’s first wordless novel, “God’s Man” is comprised of 139 woodcuts transferred to paper telling the story of an artist and his struggle to free himself from the bonds of the business world. Attempting to give lyrics and sounds to this silent novel, James is still able to disguise his intent and make the songs stand on their own. At the helm, playing almost all of the instruments on the album, James leads the listener on a voyage of sound that bounces back and forth between R&B and soul, rock ‘n’ roll, funk and electronica.

“That’s the cool thing about the book,” says James. “It’s from 1929, but it’s so fresh. There’s something about that Art Deco movement that survives with a timeless quality. It still has this power. I realized I wanted to build a sound upon that that was modern, but was still old and crackly at the same time. I wanted it to be the sound of future past — like I made it to sound like the year 4000, but I made it in the year 3990.”

Taking the record on the road, James is joined by Dave Givens, who played in Jim’s first band Month of Sundays (drums), sound engineer Kevin Ratterman (guitar/keys/samples), Dan Dorff on piano and Alana Rocklin on bass. With a far more electronic feel than the My Morning Jacket shows you are used to, the backing band gives him the freedom to be a frontman and a showman, dancing around and occasionally picking up the unlikeliest of instruments, as this reporter witnessed at SXSW last month.

“I love it,” James admits. “Even at Jacket shows, one of my favorite parts is when I get to put down the guitar and walk around. There’s something about that right now that feels super natural. I love playing guitar, but it’s so nice to be free of it. Then when you play it again, it becomes a very special reunion. It’s where my head’s been at. I’ve been more into dance and soul music and things that aren’t as guitar oriented. It made more sense for me to travel in that vein for now.”

Final question: What is the difference between Jim James and Yim Yames?

There is no difference. I just got tired of dealing with it. People just didn’t get it and didn’t see the humor in it. Humor is not appreciated today in our modern music world. People want musicians to be so f—ing serious all the time. It just turned into a snowball of people being like “WHY WHY WHY WHY WHY!?” I mean, I don’t know, I just thought it was funny. Sorry.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

California passes 'yes-means-yes' campus sexual assault bill

Californian lawmakers passed a law on Thursday requiring universities to adopt "affirmative consent" language in their definitions of consensual sex, part of a nationwide drive to curb sexual assault on…

National

Syrian refugees top 3 million, half of all…

By Stephanie NebehayGENEVA (Reuters) - Three million Syrian refugees will have registered in neighboring countries as of Friday, but many remain trapped by the advance…

International

North Korean leader's money manager defects in Russia:…

A senior North Korean banking official who managed money for leader Kim Jong Un has defected in Russia and was seeking asylum in a third country, a South Korean newspaper…

Local

MAP: New York City Street Closures August 29,…

The Department of Transportation and NYPD said there may be residual delays near all of the street closures on August 29, 31 and 31. Several streets and avenues will be…

Going Out

'Friends' coffeehouse Central Perk coming to NYC —…

"Friends" is coming back for a one-off special: "The One with the Free Coffee." Warner Bros. is bringing a pop-up replica of Central Perk, the…

Movies

Interview: 'As Above, So Below' directors: 5 ways…

The fraternal directors of the found footage horror "As Above, So Below" dish on the best ways to frighten the bejesus out of audiences.

Movies

Criterion's new Jacques Demy box mixes the light…

Jacques Demy, the most effervescent of French New Wave filmmakers, gets a Criterion box all to himself, with classics like "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg."

Entertainment

Comedian Joan Rivers, 81, rushed to New York…

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Acerbic comedian and fashion critic Joan Rivers was rushed to Mount Sinai Hospital in New York on Thursday after she reportedly…

NFL

3 things we learned in the Giants preseason…

The final score didn’t matter — a 16-13 win by the Giants — but it would’ve been nice to finally see Big Blue’s new-look offense get on track.

NFL

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots, 49ers start…

NFL Power Rankings: Seahawks, Broncos, Patriots start at top

U.S. Soccer

5 facts about new England captain Wayne Rooney

Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney was named as the new England captain by coach Roy Hodgson on Thursday.

NFL

Jets vs. Eagles: 3 things to watch

A win on Thursday night at the Eagles would give the Jets a 3-1 record and just their second winning preseason under head coach Rex Ryan.

Style

Trend: White hot on the 2014 Emmy's red…

White was one of the big trends on the Emmy's red carpet.

Food

Recipe: Samuel Adams beer-marinated grilled shrimp

Summer calls for two things: a cold beer and light food. Sam Adams' Latitude 48 IPA fairly bursts with citrus notes, making it an ideal marinade…

Wellbeing

4 healthy ingredient swaps to make your meals…

When it comes to eating well, everyone knows they could be doing better. But cooking in an apartment on a busy schedule is a recipe…

Wellbeing

Heart trumps brain when it comes to movies…

When you need a good cry, do you reach for the movie that’s “based on a true story”? Science says you’re giving your brain far…