IMAGE: Melani Brown
WHO: Nick Jaina, with help from Ali Ippolito, Nathan Langston, William Joersz, Jason Leonard, Sean Flynn, Scott Magee and John Whaley.
WHAT: Literate, moody balladry and acoustic-pop cabaret.
SOUNDS LIKE: Ben Folds on an absinthe bender, or several indie-folk bands thrown into a blender—bloody outcome included.
YEAR FORMED: Indeterminate
MOST LIKELY TO BE FOUND: Slinking from sedate solo performances to bombastic outings with his shambolic seven-piece group.
VOTER QUOTE: “I fell in love with Nick through his tour diaries. He is such an amazing writer, with the knack for turning a seemingly pedestrian experience into an utterly enchanting event. The same goes for his songwriting. His performances are captivating and his songs well-structured journeys both lyrically and musically. Yeah, Nick!” —Rob Jones, Jealous Butcher Records founder
Since blowing into town late last century, Nick Jaina’s grown from basement-studio producer to shy solo songwriter, from leader of the now-defunct math-rock trio Binary Dolls to his current role as a focal point of the local indie-folk scene, leading an all-star ragtag band. That band—boasting members of Heroes & Villains, Run On Sentence, Invisible Rockets and Laura Gibson’s group and featuring accordion, violin, trumpet, pump organ, clarinet and glockenspiel—came together somewhat by accident. As Jaina, who relocated from New Orleans after “traveling around without a home for two years or so,” relates: “One person joined, and then another, and then several joined, then a couple left, and now we’re up to a somewhat regular group of seven, although we still have different combinations all the time.”
But most of those players aren’t on Jaina’s latest album, Wool, a release he says attempts to be “lush [without] using string sections or other conventional means of making things lush.” Its songs, which he aptly describes as “in the realm of bedtime stories,” are quiet piano ballads that briefly emerge from their dream states (into oft-rollicking choruses) only to retreat back into slumber. In fact, Jaina says, “If someone tells me listening to [Wool] puts them to sleep, I take that as a compliment.”
His recent writing’s divided between these hushed songs and up-tempo guitar tunes. And Jaina, a fiery-haired, dry-witted fellow known for dapper attire, is the first to admit to his split musical personality: “It was always clear [my songs] had two distinct paths and should be on different albums,” he says. As such, a band album, recorded live in-studio, is forthcoming this fall. When asked if he prefers one style to the other, Jaina answers, “It’s nice to sit in someone’s living room and sing songs softly. But, honestly, the funnest thing to be a part of in all of music is to play songs while people are dancing, and that only happens with the band. So I’ll take that, please.”
Live on KPSU:
"Maryanne" from Wool (Hush):
MORE: Nick Jaina plays Saturday, May 17, at the BrownPort Festival at Pioneer Park Amphitheater in Brownsville; read his always excellent tour diaries on WW’s LocalCut.com. Website: myspace.com/nickjaina