It’s rare to find such an experienced artist with such a fleshed-out album seemingly pop out of nowhere, but that’s exactly what Andy Jenkins has done. Although, he hasn’t exactly popped out of nowhere. He’s been working with musicians and collaborators from his home of Virginia, but now he’s teamed up with Spacebomb to release his debut album Sweet Bunch on Friday. Jenkins was born out of the same scene as artists like Justin Frye, Natalie Prass, and Matthew E. White,who he spent his teenage years with in Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Virginia. Whilst Andy has yet to make his way across the pond for this record, our love for Americana will certainly make his bluesy album warmly welcomed by British fans. Ahead of his tour of North America, Cub caught up with Andy Jenkins to see what he’s all about.
- For those who aren’t familiar with your music, how would you describe it in a few words?
Like the kind of singer-songwriter that developed in the ‘70s as people pulled away from reinterpreting the folk tradition, using that as a base but drawing from contemporary genres and making less of an effort at acting out folk modes of performance, etc. But also, you could just call it country-rock and you wouldn’t be wrong.
- I love the album’s name, ‘Sweet Bunch’. What’s the story behind it?
Thanks so much. The title of the record is borrowed from a Greek movie: Γλυκιά Συμμορία (Sweet Bunch) 1983, directed by Nikos Nikolaidis. I thought it would apply well to a collection of songs. It also can refer to many things: fruit, flowers, people, the shape of clothing, and so on. I was aiming for a good feeling.
- How did your backdrop, Virginia, influence you when you were writing your music?
The specific sounds and landscape and even the weather, the absurd humidity of Virginia are all things I feel are part of my mindset. I go for runs by the James River, and that river scene is one of the best and loveliest things about the city.
- Your music really creates the sensation of being in the countryside, what made you want to incorporate this into your songs?
I like art that references the natural world.
- What was the recording process like for you?
I called in a bunch of favors from my friends who also happen to be great musicians. I’ve co-written with Matthew E. White for years and been part of the Spacebomb family orbit, so the opportunity was there. Everybody was based in Richmond except for Phil Cook (a great solo artist and member of Hiss Golden Messenger’s band) who drove up from Durham, North Carolina. We holed up for a week in the studio in December, but the band actually tracked the bulk of the record live in about 3 days, which is crazy. The final pieces happened over the next few months, vocals here and there, the choir was added in the summer. Matthew produced it all, it was a good time.
- Your music has been described as ‘sitting at the crossroads of modernism and timelessness’. In what kind of way would you say your music achieves modernity?
I guess it’s modern because it was written and recorded in the present and that can’t help but be reflected in the sound and the songs. A lot of the instrumentation is “classic” but the intent was to make something contemporary. At the end of lead track, “Hazel Woods” there’s a little digital glitch sound from a field recording I made on my iPhone, that’s a bit obvious, but I wanted to leave that in there as a kind of signal.
- And in a similar vein, what older music and genres have influenced your own work?
Too many to list. I got into the John Prine record Common Sense (1975) and the Kevin Ayers record Bananamour (1973) at about the same time, and they were inspirational as a kind of blueprint for the type of record I wanted to make. But lots of songwriters and singers I hold dear: Judee Sill, George Harrison, Townes Van Zandt, Shirley Collins to name a few others.
- Soon you’ll be heading off for your first headline tour across North America. After that, what have you got planned for your music?
The plan is to tour as much as possible for as long as it makes sense. And I’m rather keen to record again sooner rather than later. I’m fairly certain that I’ll be writing songs as long as I am physically able, but they’re not all so good you know. But I’ve got some good ones I’d like to record.
- Can we expect any tours over here, in the UK?
I hope so, though nothing is on the books. I opened some shows for a little U.K. run with Matthew E. White in fall of last year after a Spacebomb Revue at the Barbican Centre. Got to play in some key spots: Kendal, Leamington Spa, Hebden Bridge, had a great time. I’d love to come back.