Speaking with JANUS
By Dave Schwartz

Hailing from Chicago, the band JANUS has been lighting up the indie airwaves with their Warner Music Group - Independent Label Group release, "Red Right Return." The album's first single, "Eyesore," has received national attention with spins on Q101/Chicago, WRIF/Detroit, WJJO/Madison, KXFX/Santa Rosa, and KISW/Seattle. A video for the track - directed by Noah Shulman - made its world premiere on AOLís "Noisecreep."

The album is a seamless collection of songs, interwoven to create a musical landscape that is fresh and honest. The use of a dynamic range of instrumentation (violins, cellos, timpani drums, a full choir, air raid sirens and a glockenspiel) adds peace to a backdrop of aggressive rhythms.

I recently got a chance to talk with JANUS' vocalist, David Scotney, and ask all the usual questions and maybe a few more. The interview opened with Scotney calling in from the road, somewhere in Utah.

DB: First of all, congratulations on the new record. I received it in the mail about 10 days ago and it hasn't left my car CD player. Let's start from the beginning. What can you tell me about the record?

DS: The title of the record, "Red Right Return," comes from an old nautical saying. When captains were returning to port they would always keep the red buoy on the right-hand side of the ship to ensure safe passage home. The name is appropriate because it's a metaphor for our whole approach to making this record. We really wanted to take our time and make a full record and really try to make a record for ourselves.

DB: Obviously you've been successful with that, the record sounds great. As I did the research for this interview I found myself reading between the lines for some of the details. Please, don't be shy about telling me I'm crazy with this next question. It appears to me that you initially released this record independently and then re-released it through Warner Music Group, is that true?

DS: We did exactly that. We made the record independently, but only for a few months really. Kind of because we really didn't want a record deal. We wanted to make our own record, do our own thing. And sure enough we got approached by several labels and we ended up signing a deal with WMG, Independent Label Group. It all happened really quickly.

DB: OK, since you recorded the album independently it makes complete sense that you also handled the production duties as well. Is this your first experience doing a full album? I ask the question because the production on the record is spotless-- it seems like you've been doing this for a while.

DS: Well thank you. I've been recording demos for years and we did do a full length with an earlier incarnation of the band, almost all different members. I consider this to be our first real record. We took a year to do it, so to hear that it sound good is really nice. It was a long process and we set the bar pretty high and it took a long time and we're really happy with the results.

DB: It's nice to have that time to sit down and work things out. As you said, a full year in production allows for plenty of time to sort out the imperfections. It must also be nice to have that independence to please yourselves, to not have someone constantly looking over your shoulder second guessing your vision.

DS: Exactly. We really just followed our instincts. We did a lot of our mixing in the car, believe it or not! It was a part of our refinement process. We would take mixes out to the car to hear what they sounded like. We used a couple of different cars. That's where you pick up on things, all the little problems.

DB: Well, I'm sure you read through some of the reviews and the comments as to how consistent the album is, not only in production but also in songwriting. To me the album is almost seamless. Is this a concept album for you? We're you trying to tell a story?

DS: Not particularly. We really tried to write songs that belonged together. One of the interesting things about the writing process was that we were very democratic about it, everybody's parts were on the table;  everybody had a say in how each part sounded. We found ourselves trying many different things, writing sometimes 10 or 15 different choruses until we found something that worked.

DB: Yes, and I'm sure you found that when something worked it jumped at you. You're from Chicago. That city has had a great scene over the years, a lot of great bands came out of Chicago. What's the scene like right now?

DS: The local scene in Chicago is great. There are a lot of great bands and they all stick together, but it definitely isn't what it used to be. Still, Chicago is a big city and there are a lot of cool clubs to play. So I think it's pretty solid.

DB: Chicago was always a cool place to go and see shows. I really enjoyed it when we lived in the area and, as you know, it's great to have a supportive community. Let's talk about the video for "Eyesore," that's an amazing video, it keeps your attention because there are just so many thing happening and it all starts with that bomb falling on the city. How did you come across director Noah Shulman (Sleepless City Productions) and who had the original idea for the video?

DS: Noah is a director out of New York that we have worked with in the past. We did a video many moons ago. We had a great experience, so we knew who we wanted to direct this video. We approached him and told him about our ideas. We knew that it was going to be a performance video. We really wanted to see if we could bring to life this whole 1920s Russian feel.

I had done all of the artwork for the record so he came to me and said that he wanted me to do a lot of the background graphics for the video too. Noah really took things to a whole new level. He added all of the amazing effects and I think it came out great.

DB: The video is amazing. The first time I watched it I played it again three times! While researching this interview I noted that journalists were having a hard time characterizing your music-- some said metal, some were still suggesting an alternative feel. How do you characterize your music?

DS: That's a tough question. I've always just answered "rock" because I think our music has all sorts of elements to it. I think that sort of generic term is close enough. To be honest, we love having the freedom of so many different descriptions.

DB: I think what tends to confuse the person who attempts to easily define your music is your use of a variety of instrumentation that doesn't always fit into simple terms. For instance, on this record you used violins, cellos, timpani drums, a full choir, air raid sirens and a glockenspiel. Where did you come up with concept of creating such a diverse arrangement?

DS: It's really just a result of technology. These days a band has access to any instrument that you can think of.

DB: You don't have any concerns about recreating the instruments live?

DS: We have a laptop that we use because we can't afford to bring an actual cello player with us on tour. So we have a laptop and we sync up a lot of the more exotic sounds.

DB: And my last question for you. Have you decided on what your second single will be?

DS: I'm not sure. The label hasn't really decided yet, but I think they are leaning toward "If I Were You."

I want to thank David Scotney for calling in from the road and sharing a little of his valuable time with us. JANUS is an interesting new band that I'm sure you'll get a chance to see. Until then, check out the band online on their MySpace page (www.myspace.com/janus) and on their official Web site (www.janusmusic.com).

Return to DaBelly

© 2009   DaBelly Magazine.  All Rights Reserved.