JIA play with diverse influences and nontraditional arrangements in “Drift”
Instrumental trio JIA are exploring ways to arrange progressive-metal sounds for a brand-new musical experience. Bassist Jacob Umansky, guitarist Ivan Chopik and keyboardist Alan Hankers teamed up with vocalist Casey Sabol (ex-Periphery) and drummer Matt Garstka (Animals As Leaders) to create “Drift,” which is being exclusively premiered with AltPress.
AltPress had the opportunity to chat with all three members of JIA and hear about how this amazing collaboration came together. Check out the whole interview and the experimental metal track below.
Tell us the story behind “Drift.” What life experiences or other artists influenced your writing process?
JACOB UMANSKY: “Drift” was actually the second song we composed together as a group. Ivan, Alan and myself had been writing music together for a number of years prior to this track being released. When Alan submitted the initial skeleton for “Drift,” it was a clear departure from the material that we had been working on in the past. We were very excited and inspired by this new direction. The electronic element is pretty prominent in this track. Alan was listening to a lot of ODESZA and Flying Lotus at the time.
When it comes to the bass and guitar, Ivan and myself were really inspired by what was already there melodically and rhythmically. What excited us about the song was all the space and being able to latch on to the complex rhythms and expand the harmony with our parts. I was inspired by a lot of groove-driven players like Henrik Linder, Marcus Miller and Gary Willis. As a producer, the electronic vibe of “Drift” gave Ivan an opportunity to explore our sound beyond the traditional band arrangement. Juxtaposing wet and dry sections, stutters, loops and chops, this track gave [us the] room to stretch out our sound. This song is a perfect example of our diverse musical influences, ranging from metal to popular music.
How did you arrange such an influential collaboration with Casey Sabol and Matt Garstka? How did their djent backgrounds shape the sound of your song?
IVAN CHOPIK: I first met Matt and Casey in Boston while we were studying at Berklee College of Music. These guys became longtime friends of mine, and years later, we all ended up in L.A., living minutes away from each other.
Besides being truly ridiculous performers, their writing and musical instinct is shaped by a breadth of influences, which really resonated with us as we worked on these tracks.
In my opinion, Casey’s early solo material and tracks with Periphery laid the blueprint for the vocal style of the genre that followed. His sound always feels very inspired and modern to me—the note choices, the angular lines, the production… His parts didn’t complete our songs; they elevated them.
Matt’s playing features so much nuance, complexity and deep groove. At a time when so many bands are programming drums or striving to play live drums as if they’ve been programmed, Matt stands out as the real deal. Producing the drum sessions for these songs, I had a few takes of each song to work with and could have simply picked any of them as the final. These guys are some of the best in the business. It feels surreal to have their touch on our music.
What was the biggest challenge you ran into when you were recording? What was your favorite part of the process?
ALAN HANKERS: The most challenging part of recording is the geographical distance between band members. Our core members are based out of New York and LA, so the final recording usually happens in different cities. We've definitely mastered this long-distance relationship. Our favorite part is seeing a track that we had been demoing for weeks or months come to life. Our music tends to absorb whatever we are going through, individually and collectively, which is not totally apparent to us in the moment. So it's always a moment of self-realization when a track is finally finished, and we can process it for what it truly is.
How are you staying active and well during this period of self-isolation? Are there any routines you’ve maintained for staying creative at home?
HANKERS: Like most people, our daily lives have been significantly impacted by what's going on. These are trying times, but we [were] inspired by the selflessness and creativity of others. The quarantine has been incredibly focusing for us. We are demoing several tracks that we plan to release later this year.
What do you hope to accomplish within the year? What can listeners expect in 2020?
HANKERS: We've been working quietly for over a year now on an album's worth of material that we plan to release gradually this year. We’re shooting to release a new single every one to two months, some of which will involve music videos and collaborations with choreographers and musical/visual artists. In short, listeners can expect to hear a lot from JIA.