On their debut LP Tiny Circles, Minneapolis-based quintet Jeweler mine the iconic sonic palettes of lush U.K. shoegaze, melodic noise-pop, and expansive, psych-tinged art rock to build a melodic vocabulary both uniquely their own and eminently engaging.
Chief architect of the band Michael Voller grew up immersed in music, playing and writing from an early age. Yet he was also drawn to the sciences, and in college he studied Aerospace Engineering (Voller is, in fact, a rocket scientist). Upon graduation however, Voller realized he had little interest in the primary source of employment for those with his degree – designing weapons – and turned to his other love of making music.
Lyrically, their debut album Tiny Circles is a meditation upon the recurrent patterns that permeate one individual reality. Voller and his Jeweler cohorts have crafted a record of bold intent, embracing the vulnerability that comes with raw honesty, and the album will resonate with anyone who has dared to strive for their own little spark of perfection, and perhaps act as inspiration for those who have yet to close their eyes, take a breath, and jump…
We sit down (digitally, you understand 😉) with the band for a little chat about it all…
Your Press release says: “Tiny Circles is a meditation upon the recurrent patterns that permeate one individual reality – sometimes for the good, more often for the not-so-great” – would you like to expand on that?
Throughout the time of writing this album I was doing a lot of journaling. Just sitting down and writing out my thoughts, wherever they might take me. Oftentimes I would journal when I wasn’t in the best mood, to write about what was going wrong and how I might make myself feel better. They weren’t always the most positive writings (but they weren’t always completely bleak either).
After doing this for a while I started to notice that my journal entries would circle around the same few themes – distinct patterns that I had noticed within my own life that I wanted to break from. One day I wrote down the phrase ‘my world turns in tiny circles’ and everything clicked into place for me. The album I had been writing matched up perfectly with the journaling I had been doing – each song, in its own cryptic metaphorical way, tied directly into one of the themes I had been arriving at in my journal, a tiny circle that I needed to break. It was one of those classic scenarios where my subconscious mind had been one step ahead of my conscious mind the whole time.
You also say that these are songs that you’ve lived with for so long that they’ve become a part of you – albeit one that you want to exorcise. Why do you want to exorcise this part of yourself…can you give us some insight?
The songs are deeply personal and they represent parts of me and my life. However, I’ve held onto these songs so closely and for such a long time that sometimes it feels like they go beyond just a representation and that they have literally become a part of me! They aren’t necessarily a part of me that I like and it’s become time for me to release myself from them and give them to the wider world.
Through these songs I want to build a monument to the circles I’ve been turning within my life and then I want to destroy them so that I don’t have to keep repeating these same painful patterns over and over again. In that way I suppose the whole album is a bit of a magic spell… we’ll see if it works! laughs. Even though the music is so personal I hope that it will connect with anyone who sees things in themselves that they want to change and are starting to or hoping to make that change happen. The songs on this album are the sounds of patterns being recognized and shattered.
So apparently you’ve studied aerospace engineering before you swerved off to make music…do you get a lot of “well it’S not rocket science” jokes? 😊
Yes. I think It’s a good thing that music isn’t rocket science. Music is a lot harder than rocket science.
Do you think that the kind of thinking that aerospace engineering requires, or promotes, has played into your approach to, your feeling for, your understanding of music?
In a way, yes. At the genesis of a song idea there isn’t any conscious thought from me – it is all feeling and instinct and this part of the process isn’t scientific at all. However, once the idea of the song reveals itself, my mind shifts into full analytics mode and the ‘engineering’ aspect begins. At this point, all efforts are directed towards an optimization process of making the song the best possible version of what it could be.
The structure, the arrangement, the sounds, the lyrics, all of these are subject to an extensive experimental process of seeing what works and what doesn’t and they could completely change from how they started out. Sometimes inspiration strikes and the optimal elements of a song are arrived upon immediately, other times, the song is labored over for hours, months, years.
I truly believe that there isn’t such a thing as a bad song, just a suboptimal one. That is, a song that hasn’t been run through the optimization process long enough to turn out how it was meant to. I still have songs I’ve started years ago that I fully intend to return to and finish someday when I have more experience and different ideas about how to bring them to their final form.
You recorded these songs with a band; but didn’t like how they sounded, so went back and took them apart and put them together again, experimented with sounds, studied music synthesisers…do they sound like you want them to now? Or…something different but equally as good…?
Unfortunately I think I’m far too much of a perfectionist to ever create something that actually sounds how I want it to. laughs. I will say that this is the closest I’ve gotten to accomplishing that feat and I feel good about how the album turned out. So much time and thought and effort went into putting this album together and eventually you just have to give up and feel good about where you’ve left it. I’m not losing any sleep over it! laughs
Some influences are listed as UK shoegaze, melodic noise-pop and o#psych-tinged art rock…do you have particular bands that have been – or continue to be – an especial influence on you?
The biggest influences on this particular album’s material have been Slowdive, Radiohead, and The Cure. I will always absolutely love those bands but I think as we continue to develop our sound we will keep widening the scope to bring in more influences.
What’s the Minneapolis music scene like? Do you feel that it benefits or suffers from not being East or West Coast…or neither? Or both?
Currently, the ‘scene’ is relatively non-existent or at least it is very private and home-based. As the summer approaches and more people are getting vaccinated, smaller capacity outdoor events are starting to crop up and there have been a number of livestream web based performances. In the ‘Beforetimes’ there were multiple shows going on every night of the week. It was very easy to see live music with bands performing original songs. It felt like 1 in 3 people were in a band!
For good and for bad, I think that due to its relatively isolated location, the Minneapolis music scene is capable of tapping into a very insular, distinctive style all its own. There have been a lot of highly regarded music acts to come from Minneapolis throughout the years and, in a way, I am happy to be a part of that lineage. At the same time, with the internet and all, I think the specific geography of where a band is from matters less and less each day.
Where did the name Jeweler come from?
When we started out we were called Michael. Eventually it didn’t seem appropriate to be named that because, one, it wasn’t very Google-able at all and, two, it unintentionally obscured the contributions of the other people in the group. Our band member Dillon came up with Jeweler. We agonized over a band name for weeks because I think all band names are inherently a little cringey but I think Jeweler functions nicely in our current information age as it’s relatively distinct and memorable.
Tell us a secret about yourself.
I am a vampire. Not the emotional kind. Though I am emotional.
Where do you get your inspiration from?
From the whispers of the universal consciousness that connects all things… or something like that… laughs I don’t know! That’s a big question and I don’t think I can answer it properly.
What do you think/hope that the world has learned from Covid/the lockdown?
This is a big question! I will do my best to answer adequately. I hope that businesses have learned to reassess their model of having employees commute to work everyday and will instead move towards allowing employees to work from home as a long term option. I think we’re already starting to see this and I am all for it. I hope that we (America, mostly) have learned to see the benefits of enhanced social programs for the unemployed, the unhoused, and access to medicine. Simply put, I hope that people have learned to have more compassion for their fellow human/the world.
How do you think it will change the music industry? How do you hope it might?
I think that there will be a lot more outdoor, distanced concerts. Indoor concerts will be lower capacity with masks strongly encouraged and they might potentially require vaccination before attending. A lot of bands will do livestream web based performances or film concert videos of themselves performing in their practice spaces. I hope that in the long term, when it is as safe as possible, things will essentially go back to how they used to be. Though I’m not sure how reasonable of an expectation that is and I don’t think anyone can say with complete certainty what things will look like in the future.
Thanks for your time!