Q: I love the soundscapes and ideas in “On the Line.” Could you tell us what inspired you to write the song in the first place?
JEFF ROY: “On the Line” explores disconnection and longing through the queer experience. It wanders through chaos and uncertainty, unsettlement and isolation as a stranger to one’s own loved ones.
I started composing the piece at the onset of the pandemic when these feelings started to reemerge for me. Work on my 5-track EP Arco came soon after as part of a focus on self-care. Danny Pravder, my music producer at Homegrown Recording, and artist Dorian Wood embraced the project enthusiastically. For many years, I have been enamored by Dorian’s voice and visual art, and that’s why I felt compelled to contact them about being part of the project as a guest vocalist. Instead of centering the voice, like in a traditional ballad, the voice becomes part of the sonic texture of the composition to impart a sensation of separation, distance, and longing.
Q: What is the creative process like?
ROY: I keep a pretty consistent practice regimen on my violin. I tend to start with exercises and improvisatory fiddling, using a drone to center my body and intonation. If it all feels good, a looper gets introduced into the mix. From there, I begin to add layers and other textures, sometimes recording as I go. If things get real good, I create a quick demo and let it sit for a little little while. After some time, I return to the demo. If the sound feels sincere, I begin production using my equipment at home. Once I get to a good place with it, I bring it to my producer. From there, we prune the piece, add more layers and textures. We tend to it until the point where we feel it can live on its own.
Q: What are some influences in “On the Line”?
ROY: The track’s soundscape is influenced by French and Spanish music culture and instruments. It folds in local bistro/café atmospheres, phone conversations, and other sounds from my time living in Europe. But, the track––and my EP as a whole––is also rooted by a sense of place in Los Angeles, where I currently live and work. I suppose “On the Line” serves as a bridge between these places and times in my memories.
My compositions tend to project strong visuals. I’ve composed for films––my own and others––but never released anything on music platforms until now. Arco feels like a convergence of my musical influences, from film music and classical postminimalism to acoustic folk. In the EP, I feel close to Anohni, Agnes Obel, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Sudan Archives, Max Richter, and of course Dorian Wood.
Q: What are some early influences?
ROY: I grew up listening to psychedelic rock, blues, acoustic folk, and R&B from the 90s. Some of my earliest memories as a child take me to Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia Band concerts, which my mom used to follow pretty religiously. Being a student of violin and a lover of movies, I also had orchestral film music wiggling around in my ear. But, there have been many influences over the years that have shaped my approach to music composition.
Q: Has your pursuit of music been smooth? What are some challenges you faced?
ROY: My pursuit of music has taken many twists and turns, starting in early childhood with studies in classical violin––being in orchestras, music competitions, and eventually auditioning for music conservatories. I got into some, but my interests were broader than conservatory life would allow. I wanted to pursue the arts more generally to explore connections between form, genre, and the senses. In college, I began studying North Indian violin with Ustad Imrat Khan, a master of surbahar and sitar, in which I got a firm grounding in Hindustani music theory and training. From there, I decided to pursue an advanced degree in ethnomusicology and ended up at UCLA, where I studied with A.J. Racy, a master of nay, violin, and other traditional Arab instruments. That’s where I began taking music composition more seriously.
Q: Are you currently working on anything?
ROY: I’m working on releasing music visuals with the talented Patrick McPheron of Interiorstate. I’m also composing a full-length album.
Interviewed by Katrina Yang
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