Todd Prodanovich talks at length with Oakland’s James & Evander


James & Evander are an electronic music production duo that create some incredibly lush synthesized landscapes for your listening pleasure. The group consists of Oakland’s very own Adam Myatt and Glenn Jackson, who met in college and decided to flex their synthesizing muscles and make some recordings while gaining momentum for a string of live shows. Their latest offering is the album Sunlight and Circuitry, which I realized is an amazingly descriptive title for the six sunny synth-laden tracks. I got a chance to talk to the men behind the music last week, and picked their brains about the new album, taking their music on the road, and why they chose such “normal” stage names.

TP: So why did you pick those names? James sounds like a pretty normal human name to me.

James: Yea, it just sort of happened I think. I don’t really know why I picked that name, it was just kind of random.


TP: Word. So tell me how long have you two been making this kind of music together?

Evander: Since like 2005? We met when we went to this audio school together in the bay, and then we started making music. It feels like a long time ago.

James: Now we’re finally starting to do shows, we just played a show on Monday, and we’ve got a few more shows planned for this month and next month, and then we have a little tour planned for the end of September or early October. So we are actually trying to be a band now instead of guys who just sit at home and play music.

TP: You’re over the life of the basement rock star?

Evander: Exactly.


TP: What gigs do you have coming up that you are excited about?

Evander: We are doing Pirate Cat Radio.

James: They’re like a bay area pirate radio station and they run a café in the mission, and I think they have bacon lattes, which is really weird. It seems like it will be pretty neat. Then I think we’re doing an in-store thing at Amoeba, which should be pretty awesome.


TP: Are you planning on making your way down to so cal at some point?

James: Yea, at the beginning of October, we’re planning on coming down. We are going up to Seattle and Portland at the end of September, and then we will come down in October. We want to book some more shows for that.

Evander: We definitely have the northern part of the tour more figured out. I think that we are going to do the tour in two stages. We’re playing Sacramento, Sonoma County, Portland, and then Seattle.

James: I think our plans are still in the baby stages for southern California.


TP: Alright, lets switch gears to the album. What did you guys want to do with Sunlight and Circuitry?

Evander: We try to make songs where one of us will make some loops or come up with a skeleton and then play it for the other one, and then we will kind of both collaborate and finish the song. I think Sunlight and Circuitry was kind of more like traditional electronic music, kind of like techno, and just sort of looped together the songs that were more electronic in nature than indie-rock. We were just trying to group those sort of songs together.

James: We have a library of songs that we’ve been working on over the past year, and these are just a batch of them that we liked and felt good about when we put them together.


TP: Is this the way that you plan to continue recording, or would you ever consider adding vocals or incorporating more live instruments?

James: Yea, we’ve been working on the vocal thing. It has taken both of us a little while to really get into writing lyrics, and I don’t know, I personally have issues writing lyrics. I don’t understand how it works, but we started covering a few songs and playing those live. So we are working on the vocal thing, and the next album will definitely have vocals on it.


TP: What songs have you been covering in your live shows?

James: It’s our friend Ryan’s song, this guy here in Oakland, that he wrote when he was in high school I think. I heard it, really liked it, and decided to do a different version of it. It’s quite different.


TP: What is his band’s name? Do you want to give him a shout out?

James: Oh yea, he goes by B. Hamilton.

TP: Word.

James: Word.

My girlfriend in the background: Word, Word, Word! Word Nerd!

James & Evander: (Laughing)


TP: (Laughs). Lets get back on track. What is different between playing your songs live and the way that you record them in your basement?

Evander: Usually when we record stuff we just kind of jam and then cut it up into loops. Its been a little bit of a learning experience to play those things from beginning to end, when its something we only had to play like once (laughs). It definitely makes us learn our own songs better, you know?

James: Yea, normally we are just sort of sampling ourselves and making loops out of that. We sit in the basement and hang out, play it once and then cut it up.

Evander: It’s been kind of cool to really learn our songs and its definitely given us some perspective about what we do and how it all works, which only comes from having an actual person play it from beginning to end.

James: It’s a lot of fun. We put some skeletons in our Ableton set and sort of jammed out the final parts, and now we know how to play those parts from start to finish, so we can go record that instead of just using loops. It’s making us be slightly better musicians instead of just guys who hit buttons.


TP: After playing a few live shows, do you think that the experience will change the way that you record significantly?

Evander: Yea, definitely. It’s a lot more fun. It just feels a lot more exciting and spontaneous as well, because I started with making sample music and it was all I really knew how to do, and now it’s actually really fun to write music as well. It’s a really cool experience. Its also like, for a person who makes computer based music its like an unknown world to actually play an instrument (laughs), so its been really fun.


TP: So what is the Turtle Shell?

James: That’s our studio. It’s a little studio set up with all of our keyboards and stuff, with basically everything hooked up and ready to play or record whenever, which is pretty awesome.


TP: Is it actually in a basement?

James: Yea, it’s in my house here in Oakland.

TP: That’s awesome.

James: (Laughs). Yea, we are recording our friends Silian Rail and Tall Grass. They are doing like a split album, or EP or something. I’m not quite sure what it is yet, but its an acoustic thing. Silian Rail is usually a drummer and a guitar player, and when they both play acoustic guitar it sounds really beautiful. So that should be pretty fun. I think there is going to be a Tupac cover on there as well, so we’ll see how that goes.


TP: What do you guys listen to that you think has an influence on your music?

Evander: I think we are both really into Dntel and The Postal Service, and that kind of stuff. We also really liked a lot of the indie stuff that came out around that era, like that broken social scene record You Forgot it in People. Some of that kind of stuff, we were really into it. Its kind of weird to think about, that that was what we were into at that point. I think I’ve always come from a more electronic standpoint and Adam (James) had more of an indie rock standpoint.

James: Yea, he showed me some electronic music and I showed him some indie rock stuff and we both sort of collaborated from those interests.

TP: So you’re trying to meet in the middle?

Evander: Yea, I think that’s kind of what we’ve been going for.


TP: What are your immediate plans as far as music output goes?

Evander: Well, Sunlight and Circuitry is officially released in the next month or two. We put it up on Bandcamp so that people could listen to it, but we printed these [albums] and we got this awesome cover on it.

James: Yea, what we printed was from these people here in Oakland called Volta Press. It’s a really cool letterpress company. They printed up 300 copies of this record and they did a few runs of the last record. Its really cool heavy cardboard stock that’s pressed, or paper, maybe its paper… I don’t know, its just cool artwork (laughs). We are working on the vocal thing, and I would really like to do a 7” at some point, but we’ll see how that goes. Those are kind of expensive.


TP: What would you want someone to be thinking about when they sit down and listen to your music for the first time?

James: If you’re going to listen to it, you should definitely listen to it while your driving. That would probably be a pretty good first experience.

Evander: It’s a really good record to like, clean your room to, or cook or something. You know? With just like a really simple task, I think it accompanies nicely.

TP: I was actually thinking the same thing when I listened to it. I thought that I should be doing something to this music.

Evander: We try to get it dancey at parts..

James: … and if you really pay attention to it there are things to pick up on while you’re listening, which is fun, but its not always like demanding your attention. We’re not like, “Listen to us this is what we have to say!!!” We are more like, “Hey, we are making cool noises in our basement, do you want to check it out?” (laughs)

TP: Like, “You can listen to us and be productive at the same time!”

James: Yea, exactly.

Evander: That’s one comment that my friends always give me. They are always like, “Man, when I’m doing my homework I love listening to your shit!” I’m like, “OK, that’s weird.”

TP: Well, that’s probably a good thing. People spend a lot of time studying.

Evander: Yea, its definitely a compliment, just something a little unexpected.


For info on James & Evander’s approaching tour dates, check out their MySpace, or listen to their new album Sunlight and Circuitry streaming free on Bandcamp.


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