Jarvix. The man. The musician. The mystery. Cynics call his music
twee. The less jaded and more generous call it sensitive and bittersweet. Underneath all the lyrics flows a melancholy current blended with self-deprecating humor. Evan Jarvicks came by the studio for a short interview. Read on to learn Jarvix’ secret identity in a Mercury Photo Bureau exclusive.
Mercury Photo BureauRight before you got here, you were in the studio laying down some brass?
Evan JarvicksYeah, so Larry Chin has a compilation called Nostalgia and the BrainSick Fever out on . Larry Chin [Sidenote: a.k.a. Larry Chin Is Dead, a.k.a. Larry Chin Sleeps No More.] is one of Kyle Mayfield’s projects. He hit up a bunch of people [Sidenote: The 23-track album features 29 musicians, including Morgan Hartman, Kyle Reid, Jarvix, Oklahoma Cloud Factory, Sophia Macias and many former members of Mayfield’s Ugly Suit.] who he wanted to work with.
MPBThis is not part of the Fright Night Club series?
JarvixNo, but it is part of the Larry Chin project. Kyle wrote many, but not all, of the songs on the album. It’s a collaboration. [Sidenote: The Fright Night Club series is also a collaboration among various musicians, mostly from Oklahoma.] I play French Horn on one track and I have an electronic track I wrote and play on too. It features some woozy Theremin in the background. Kyle took what I laid down and added over it.
MPBIs it a real Theremin?
JarvixIt’s a Moog Theremini. You play it like a regular Theremin, and it sounds like the real thing, but electronically, it’s a different instrument.
MPBTell us about your names. Let’s start with the name on your birth certificate.
JarvixMy legal name is Steven, which sounds like Evan, but isn’t quite. Steven Hardin. It’s spelled the same way as a musician in Seattle, so if people try to track me down on the internet, they get that guy instead of me.
MPBYou perform as Jarvix and you go by Evan Jarvicks. The latter is a play on words?
JarvixRight. That’s how people know me. A lot of people do not know that that’s not my name. If you reverse Evan Jarvicks, you get Jarvicks Evan, which sounds like Jarvik 7, the first successfully transplanted artificial heart.
MPBDescribe your music.
JarvixI call it
Ukelele QuirkPop, but that doesn’t encompass everything I write. I picked up my first “uke” about and learned how to play from the internet. I learned it well enough that I could write songs, and I’ve written poetry all my life. Then, I had been messing around with some audio software, and it all kind of came together.
MPBFor those who haven’t seen you perform, you use a particular technique and technology?
JarvixWhen I’m live, and that’s a specific thing that I do, I use a looping pedal to make live, on-the-fly, layered arrangements. I primarily play the ukelele, but I also play the bass when I need a bassline, and I make percussion with objects I borrow from the audience — car keys, credit cards, whatever’s in peoples’ pockets or purses.
MPB, there was quite a bit of improvising.
JarvixYes, that’s something I’ve been working on diligently. I host an open-mic comedy night, so I get to try all kinds of weird stuff whenever I go up, and I’ve been improvising with the audience, crowd-sourcing everything from chord structure to time signature to tempo. Last week I solicited a song title and wound up pulling up Britney Spears’ Toxic on my phone and sampling it for a loop — that’s the kind of thing I wind up doing.
MPBTell me about what you’re listening to now. What’s on your iPod?
JarvixI run the blog at Cellar Door Music Group, so I listen to a lot of local indie music. I try to spotlight bands and musicians who I think are being overlooked. [Sidenote: Cellar Door Music Group closed its doors in . Currently, Jarvix can be found at Make Oklahoma Weirder.] Annie Ellicott is doing some terrific stuff — it’s experimental chamber-pop, but she has a jazz background. She performs a lot of jazz standards, but her debut is something totally different to that. I believe it comes out in . Her music videos are really strange and atmospheric.
MPBTime for Redeem-a-Song™. What’s a song you think has gotten a bum rap, and convince my why I should appreciate it?
JarvixVH1’s 50 Most Awesomely Bad Songs Ever was topped by [Jefferson Starship’s] We Built This City (on Rock and Roll). I don’t necessarily defend the song — it’s pretty attrocious — but there’s enough there that I’m actually recording a cover of it. It’s a collaboration with a lot of other musicians. We’re recording it as a charity single for music education in Oklahoma, in light of budget cuts [to arts education under the present state leadership]. There’s a certain relevance to the lyrics when applied to the budget situaton; arts funding has always been the hardest.
The single actually started life as part of something else. There’s a fellow in Guthrie, Jeremy Hall, [Sidenote: Hall is one-half of the duo Welcome Little Stranger and guitarist at Get Fired.] who issued an internet challenge to make good covers of randomly assigned bad songs. But then nobody did it but me.
I’ve taken some liberties with it. I slowed down the tempo and cut off the last half of the song — it only has 2 verses. But I think it still retains its integrity while hopefully excising the things that have made it so critically, uh, lambasted. I hope to have the single recorded and released soon.
MPBThank you so much for dropping by.
JarvixOh, absolutely. It’s been wonderful.