“I’ve never really settled too much,” Janssen says. “It helps that I don’t have too many things. Living in New York, you move all the time, so you don’t want to carry your shit up a four-flight walk-up. I’m pretty good with a backpack. I can just pick up and go.”
In Janssen’s voice—in person and on Summer Bodies—you can sense, however, an increasing desire to stay put and, as he puts it, “dig in and grow some roots. The Chinese believe that you don’t grow as a person until you grow roots in a place. I see [Portland] and I think, ‘Yeah, let’s do it.’”
It’s not only our agreeable climate and NBA team that have kept Janssen in Portland, but also the romantic relationship the musician entered into shortly after moving here from Brooklyn in 2009. The proof is all over his album: The tone of the music is that of a warm embrace, all lush synthesizer chords, bubbly basslines and starry-eyed vocals. It’s quite a contrast to the often itchy pulse of his work in Akron/Family.
Lyrically, things get even gooier: “Move me, make me turn into smile/ My lips, my ears are grinning wide,” Janssen sings on “Come My Side.” “Daybreak, show me that you’ve stayed a while/ And standing here right in front of me.”
“You know how it is when you meet someone,” he says, grinning shyly. “Your imagination starts running…and you have so many projections of what it could be and what it is. Half the story is a dream of what could be, you know?”
The summery, hopeful gleam of the album was also aided by the place where many of its songs were created: a bungalow on the island of Koh Rawi in Thailand. The area was so secluded Janssen and his girlfriend had to ferry in by boat, then jump in the water and wade the rest of the way to shore.
For about 10 days, Janssen was free to explore sounds on his laptop and MPC-1000 sampler and come up with lyrics while gazing at the ocean.
The process of recording Summer Bodies fell under much different circumstances than the songwriting. Janssen and engineer Abe Seiferth had to take shelter in a Brooklyn studio while Hurricane Irene battered the city. For all the chaos outside, Janssen’s vision for an endless-summer vibe didn’t dissipate. “When I get into the studio, I just hunker down and am fully submerged,” he says. “Anything could be happening outside, really. I just get some momentum and start running with it.”
While Janssen speaks of teaching himself carpentry, the goal being to make furniture symbolic of his desire to create a foundation for himself in Portland, it’s still going to be a while before he can actually settle in. Akron/Family is putting the finishing touches on a new album and setting up a tour, and he has plans for more solo shows in the coming months.
“It’s good for me,” Janssen says of his busy 2013. “I’m sure I’ll be crying about it at some point, but I’m happy to put in the work now. I’ve been doing the scraping-by thing for too long. I need to build it to the next level.”
SEE IT: Dana Buoy plays Mississippi Studios, 3939 N Mississippi Ave., with Delicate Steve, on Monday, Nov. 19. 8 pm. $12. 21+.