Spawned from the theatrical stages of San Jose, California, the conception began after a “creative” voyage to the East Coast to simply create music.
I spoke with band founders Jason Hite, vocals and guitar; and Eryn Murman, vocals; earlier this week to discuss the new album as well as the road that took them to where they are today.
How did you two meet to form 5j Barrow?
Jason: We began back in 2011. Erin and I met during a play together back in San Jose, California, and then we moved up here after that play closed in October 2011.
October 15, 2011 was actually the day that Erin and I first tried to create something. We didn’t know what it was going to be called and we didn’t really have any expectations other than we built a bond out in California and artistically see eye-to-eye on a bunch of things. We were intrigued to see if that would translate into an artistic collaboration.
How did you make a musical connection with each other?
Eryn: Well we met acting with each other and we just started sharing our favorite musical artists. I had been doing a lot of writing and when Jason moved to New York I just said we should try to write a song together. He was really open to it and on October 15 we wrote our first song and it turned into our favorite in the band. All of the other instrumentalists have joined in on it in the new album, so it’s really cool.
Where did you meet your band mates?
Jason: That was really a process that continued over the next year and a half. Early on it was just the two of us and then fairly early on we added Eric Namaky, who plays keys, and he was a friend of Erin’s from their childhood days – dancing together in Cleveland, Ohio.
A couple months after that we started sharing our music at this thing called the Song Forum, which was this get together of singer songwriters in New York at this apartment in Brooklyn – which became the reason for writing our first tunes since we wanted something to share – we met our violinist Michael Hunter. He was a singer- songwriter in his own right, and expressed an interest in our music and it put a nugget in our head to collaborate.
The four of us with our percussionist friend of ours… started playing around in New York and around Manhattan mostly. We met Ian Hunt because Erin was doing a play with his sister and found out her brother was moving to the city and he was a fantastic drummer. At that point we were really hungry for a drummer in the band. We found that it was a little difficult to get people’s attention at a bar when you’re playing with no percussion or a drum. Then he came on and…we picked up Hayden Frank who was in a band with his brother called Nepetis – and they were great. For the last year and a half it’s been the six of us just traveling on.
How do you guys write your songs?
Eryn: For the most part, Jason and I usually initiate the song writing. There are two of the songs in a lot of our sets that our keyboardist Eric has written, but everything else either comes from Jason or myself collaborating together. Then once we bring the two to the band it’s incredibly collaborative and all the guys on their instrument of expertise build their musical line and sound to the piece.
It’s incredible to see how the songs take form from when they’re first brought to life by Jason and I.
So you’re not worried about losing the initial essence of the song that way?
Jason: No not at all. I mean, sometimes having that many cooks in the kitchen can lead you do debate, but definitely I can say with a lot of pride, our group is good about speaking up on their ideas and their opinions. When it’s all said and done, even if everyone doesn’t agree on a certain choice, usually the best music wins the debate and everyone moves on. Most of the time though we sync up and we all come from the same world. I don’t know exactly what world that is, but we understand each other.
Do you find it hard to play around NYC with a six-person band?
Jason: Not necessarily. We are able to really change up our lineup to fit any type of situation. We are able to beef up and do a small club and be just as rocking as an electric rock band would be, but we can also strip back and do cut bass shows and play on the street or in tiny back bars. The real point is to get the music out to the listener by any means necessary.
We are planning a tour this December in Ohio, Tennessee, Washington DC, North Carolina, Cincinnati, and Ithaca and up and down the east side of the US.
Where did you record the album?
Jason: That was up at Four Legs Records in upstate New York. It was awesome man. It was truly a way from a lot of distractions – it’s about a three-hour train ride out of the city. We were really able to just be together as a band.
We did two songs in May of 2013 and we went back and did four in the Fall. It was a great experience. We’re still new to the recording game and we still have a lot to learn.
Are you guys nervous about putting out your first album?
Jason: No, I would say it’s exciting. We don’t have a label or anything so this is all on our own terms and on our own time. That being the case, there’s no right or wrong. It’s just about keeping to a vision and trying to fore it to come to fruition. I truly think that we did everything we set out to do. We wanted to create a good representation of our energy, make an album that has dips and flows and make an album where you can put on track one and not have to touch it again until it’s over. But we also wanted to put out an album that you could skip from track to track where you can enjoy yourself as well.
Has the era of DIY artists made it easier or more difficult or easier to put our new music?
Jason: Well I think today there are very different type of fans, in terms of electronic music and other kinds, Ihave a hard time grasping it. I want things to be a little deeper and a little more raw and I feel like there’s a huge amount of people out there that want that same feeling. I think in the same sense, having a DIY approach, there is no wrong turn.
We can make an album, we can release an album and we can book own shows – it’s not the easiest thing in the world and it puts a lot of stress on us – but working 24/7 and 7 days a week, when those opportunities come it makes it just that much sweeter. It means that you really made it happen on your own.
The relationship with your fans is also more personal. They’re not just hearing you through Pandora, but they’re actually seeing you and having a relationship with you.
Look for 5j Barrow’s debut album From the Dim, Sweet Light on iTunes and wherever music is sold.