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Jessica Bailiff

guitar noise research, inner look

 | pall youhideme
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If You ask me if i can suggest You an Artist lost into guitar noise research, concerned as a mean for an inner research, my answer would probably be Jessica Bailiff, from Toledo, OH - usa. Her solo project, as well as the several collaborations still in act (Northern Song Dynasty, Clear Horizon, Eau Claire), are mere opus of psychic soundscapes, free (slow) fall into esperimental multilayered sounds of bliss-out realm enchanted with gentle vocals, until to reach Her latest turn into some more pastoral surreal plan where the shoegaze fuzz lays under the surface of acoustic instruments (read past komareview for Her latest release Feels Like Home). So, She's going to tour europe, and then italy, and then Rome, right this month.. an interview is a must..

komakino: Let me say something original (i'm ironic): when i listen to Your Music i fall like hypnotized. - ok, just an excuse to say how Your songs, - often more merely 'Your sounds'  (with reference to songs like How Our Perception of Distance Is Changed With Each Passing Hour), - have these pure day-dreaming style spirals, sometimes concentric or multilayered through a slow tempo, strongly evocative and melancolically holy (Disappear, Mary), - it's like floating into it.. never felt the need to write a kind of rousing song? something pop and fast? Are You always in this magic bath of sounds?

Jessica: Magic bath of sounds...I like it!  It's as though I cast spells with music.  I've been trying to write pop songs all along.  Feels Like Home (the new album) is probably the closest I've come to doing it.  One thing that probably pushes me into the direction I've been going in is that I don't usually use drums.  I love drums, but I don't have my own and I live in an apartment, where I currently record my music.  The neighbors would certainly not appreciate the drums! The singing is probably bad enough.

komakino: To someone who never heard any of Your records, what song would You like he/she started with, and why?

Jessica: Maybe Lakeside Blues because it represents a little of where I've been and a little of where I'm going.

lakeside blues (video@youtube)

komakino: You're always been very prolific in song-writing, both as soloist than with side-projects (Clear Horizon, Northern Song Dinasty, Eau Claire..), can You define Your idea of 'inspiration'? do You have any guide line, like the continuous sound research, or the reach of the emotional touch through the Music.. i mean, what does still drive You into the Music?

Jessica: Quite honestly, a good night's sleep and not having to work the next morning is completely inspiring (both are rare events in my life).  Knowing I have no obligations to anyone, a morning where I can just get out of bed, make some tea, and wander into the studio - this is what makes me want to create.  The best research is listening to music, really.  What really drives me to keep making music is that feeling of being lost in it while making something, or the challenge of putting all the pieces together to get a satisfying recording.  Also, friends keep me going, especially those also in music.  Sometimes it takes working on someone else's project to get me back into doing my own.  It might seem that I'm prolific, but the things I've done (the discography) spans about 8 years.  There has been a lot of down time in there, several months where nothing has happened.

komakino: Your new album is one more time released through Kranky rec, re-confirmed as a kind of alternative house for You, - anyway i guess that 'feels like home' has other references, - any hint?

Jessica: Feels Like Home is a part of the lyrics from the song, "We Were Once".  It's actually about feeling lost in life, going from complete happiness to complete emptiness and not knowing where to go from there, wanting to find "home."

Jessica Bailiff - by Laurent Orseau

komakino: In this new album acoustic guitar and piano stolen the first place to the buzzing or ethereal distortions of early albums, and even the vocals have more space than before: has it just happened, a casuality (a snapshot of private moments), or You needed to prove You can stand out on your own? The Jessica Bailiff in Even In Silence (1998) was already the same of Persuasion, Cinq, Spiral Dream **?

**ps. is it russian what i heard in Spiral Dream?

Jessica: Yes, it's Russian you hear in Spiral Dream - a bit of a song performed spontaneously one summer evening by two lovely young women from Moldova; I blended it into my song, it felt like the right thing to do.
The reason I began playing guitar with all the effects is because I couldn't really play the instrument.  The effects were kind of a shield, and the vocals were buried under all of it in the first recordings because they weren't very strong.  But I began to really like playing guitar this way, using distortion and delay, which is why I delved so deeply into it for a while. I grew up listening to pop songs (then new wave, then punk & goth, then noise, etc), so that was always my ideal - to be able to write songs, with lyrics and all.  With each album, the balance of acoustic guitar and electric-noisy-textured guitar has changed, little by little.  There is an acoustic part on Even In Silence, at the end of One Red Year, that was actually played by Alan Sparhawk.  The next album had two songs, I think, where I played acoustic.  The third one had several - at least four, maybe five. And I think four (maybe three) out of eleven tracks on Feels Like Home do not have acoustic guitar on them. I feel it's all been a very natural progression, especially taking into consideration the things that have happened in between (northern song dynasty, clearhorizon, eau claire).  The effects are still in there, they are just much more subtle.  I'm not claiming that I can really play guitar now, but I'm more comfortable with it.  And it's the same with my voice, I'm comfortable with it, I've accepted my flaws and try to work with them rather than letting them cripple me.  The whole thing has been one big experiment for me, from the time I became a guitarist for a band without even owning a guitar (let alone knowing how to play one!), up until right now.

komakino: Feels Like Home (with an assassin doll)the doll on the cover art is a little bit scary.. like a killer doll with no eyes..

Jessica: She's coming to get you, you'd better not fall asleep tonight!

komakino: ^_^ - Do You listen often to Your Music? Is it a kind of private act or do You open the windows and put up the volume? (do You have neighbours, do they ever complain?)

Jessica: Generally I'll listen to my music for reference only. I'm too critical to be able to enjoy it for its own sake.  It's definitely a private act, I'd feel embarrassed if someone caught me listening to my own songs.  When preparing to play shows, inevitably I have to pull out one album or another to figure out how to play something.  Or when I'm in the middle of a new recording, or when I'm writing some new material, sometimes I'll listen to see where I've been before - I forget sometimes.  I'm lucky to have a musician - a jazz singer - below me, she's never complained about any music.  She's young and I think she's a bit more understanding about the need to listen to music (or create it) sometimes.  We seem to respect each other; I don't mind when she's listening to something, either, and it's lovely, actually, to hear her singing through the floor.

komakino: Once i read You have a sort of day job you work for just a few days a week, so You can better focus on Music, - an hard choice, i know it can't be easy to feed on music, - can i be a little bit intrusive  and ask You what kind of job? i often do this question, it's like to try to know more of Clark Kent than Superman..

Jessica: Back then, from the interview you read, it was working in a darkroom.  I printed color photographs by hand all day.  In 2003, I had to go back to 40-ish hours, five days, same job.  But I've found that it's very difficult for me to be on one place for that many hours.  I left that job in 2004 to work with a friend who has some rental properties.  It's a very unglamourous job.  I'm not going to mention details. I've since had to lessen the hours there, as it's usually hard physical labor and lots of toxic chemicals (paint, polyeurethane, various cleaners). My body can't handle it anymore.  So I'm at the photo lab again in addition, temporarily - only they closed their darkrooms after I left.  What I do now is stand in front of a computer screen and print pictures from people's digital files, mostly.  You're right, it's definitely not easy - in fact, it's not an option for me to feed myself through doing music.  The two jobs I have now allow me to take time to tour, or to have a more spontaneous schedule, but it's necessary that I find more gainful employment when I return from tour in December.

komakino: if You were shamelessly rich, do You think You would play these same songs, or You do  some kind of sh*t as paris hilton, filmed on a beach with a bronzed man singing on a reggae tempo?

Jessica: If I was shamelessly rich, I'd be doing more of the same sh*t I do now, as I'd have the time to do it (I wouldn't have to hold a "day job").

komakino: Have You ever thought to make a soundtrack for a movie? did You ever have any proposal?

Jessica: This is every songwriter/musican's dream.  I'd love to do something like that, but I don't think it's as easy as it might seem.  It'd be a nice challenge.  There was a seven-minute film that I did music for, it's called "For Jonathan" - several bands did a soundtrack for the same film, it was a double-cd released by The Great Vitamin Mystery label.

komakino: during the promotional tour will You perform alone, or You have any guest player?

Jessica: Jesse Edwards from northern song dynasty and red morning chorus will be my right-hand man, and Annelies Monseré (with whom we are touring [read komareview here, ndk]) will join us for some of the songs.  Also, I'll be joining her for a few songs during her set.

Northern Song Dynasty

komakino: uh, i like these kind of things, that You'll join Her and viceversa! And i'm also curious to hear Jesse perfroming live.. how did You meet with Annelies?

Jessica: Annelies was kind enough to help book some shows for the tour I did in Europe in 2002 with Rivulets and dREKKA, I didn't know her previously.  She and her significant other, Wim, helped us with many things, from driving directions to housing to meals, not to mention the concerts and radio programmes that were scheduled.  She was very shy about her music at this time, but she eventually sent something later on for me to hear.  She and Wim came here last July and we played a few shows together.  We came to know each other even better during this little tour, and she has become one of my dearest friends.  She's very inspiring to me in many ways. Her music is incredibly beautiful, some of the most honest you'll ever hear. And she's one of those people who really pulls a person into her live performances - she has a delicate strength, I don't really know how else to put it.  Her songs might be soft, but they are very strong in melody and words.

komakino: have You ever been in italy previously? please, tell me i haven't missed any of Your shows downhere..

Jessica: Yes, I've been to Italy, but on holiday - you didn't miss any shows :-)

komakino: what's the next chapter in Your life in Music? Can You see anything at the horizon? or is it too weak to distinguish anything?

Jessica: It's hard to say, really.  There's a few things I'm working on.  One day there should be an eau claire full-length release, as well as a second clearhorizon album.  Beyond that, who knows.  There's always something being written inside myself.  But as the need to eat and to keep a roof over my head becomes more apparent, there might be a lot of time before the next solo release.

interview done in september 2006.

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