Oh, those New Englanders… They’re quite the characters, aren’t they? They’re best known for their football, their clam chowder (chowda?), and most of all, their colourful, distinctive seasons. Singer-songwriter JJ Slater can’t help but wear his locality on his sleeve, with his ability to evoke sounds and emotions that conjure up feelings for each and every New England season.
On his latest single “Rupi,” it’s not hard to detect a certain laid back, summer groove that helps to remind you that springtime is only a few weeks away. Written alongside Slater’s close collaborator and upright bass player Dan Bisson, the two really excel at writing very seasonal music, from light vibes to tracks that evoke atmospheres of winter and white, fluffy snow falling from the sky. “Rupi” is the follow-up single to Slater’s November-released “All My Ashes.”
To establish the setting in which the song was written, and to offer some insight about it, Slater commented, “‘Rupi’ was written earlier than most of the songs me and Dan had recorded in 2020. I wrote it in an abandoned chicken coop in the basement of a house I was living in, after cleaning decades (centuries?) of dust and soot to find a place I could feel by myself. There was a party upstairs, and some of the people there were stressing me out. I wrote the music to have a zen-like drone, but also a funky playfulness. It’s about letting go of the things, people, and ideas that weigh you down, specifically, that crucial step in the process where you wave them off in their attempt to return, changed as they seem.”
Even as a songwriter, Slater has no issues in indulging in his New Englander roots, often taking the opportunity to write songs out amongst the peace and tranquillity of nature. A defining moment for him in his career took place in 2018 when deep in the woods of the tiny town of Goshen, Massachusetts, he began practicing his instruments for hours at a time, seated by the river. There’s no denying that “zen” factor that’s sewn through his songwriting, from the birdsong guitar shimmers to the trickling pianos. Taking some of the ideas that he began to develop in Goshen, Slater began recording at Sleeper Cave Records in early 2020, which resulted in marathon studio sessions and two EPs worth of songs.
With 2021 now in full swing, you can expect some more spirited sonic (both electric and acoustic) explorations from Slater and Bisson as their songwriting chemistry hits another level.