Fresh off a touring stint with D.C.’s Wings Denied, Jeff Klemm returned to Akron with a head full of steam and a yen for a new band. Just like The Devil Strip and Musica’s new bar, Jeff Klemm and the Letters will debut on Tuesday, March 17 during the St. Patty’s party. So it just makes sense then to launch our soon-to-be reoccurring feature, “8 Questions,” with him to preview all of that goodness. Enjoy. – Chris Horne
1.) You’ve made a lot of local music under a lot of banners—JCK, Maid Myriad, Via Lotus, Mints, etc.—what’s different about Jeff Klemm & the Letters?
For a perfectionist who spends a lot of time on my albums, Jeff Klemm & the Letters are really an experiment in minimalism. Each of these songs were given a strict one-hour time limit to complete and after the time is up, that’s it. Song is done! I spent a lot of time locked in my studio this winter. I spent three days writing songs, then about two weeks tracking the record. I played all the instruments and tried to play everything in five takes or less. All the while, the songs just kept coming! The last Maid Myriad record took years to complete and was extraordinarily time consuming, so banging out a batch of songs and making a record in a few weeks is quite liberating! I’m not going to say it’s a concept album, but the songs do follow a storyline of sorts. Actually, the word “heart” intentionally appears in every single song on this record making it the theme. I’d say the songs are generally poppy but I can’t make a record without a few slow burning sad songs anymore.
2.) How does the new band fit into the scope of your career? Are you branching out to something, trying something new or bringing together the pieces of work you’ve already explored?
Honestly, I didn’t expect these songs, this record or this band at all so I’m not quite sure yet! It all happened so fast and really was born out of the winter isolation. Right now, I’m having a blast finishing the album and really enjoying fleshing out the songs with the live band. The Letters are all Akron cats from various bands and hot damn we have a good time playing together! I have Jake Porter (The Brothers Band) on guitar. Tiernan King (The Hobs, Hell & High Water, O’Beast) on bass and Colin Stevens (The Brothers Band, Hell & High Water) on drums. Maid Myriad only plays northeast Ohio a few times a year and playing with The Letters seems like something fun to do in-between tours when I’m home.
3.) A couple months ago, you hit the road with Wings Denied out of D.C., and kicked off the tour at Annabell’s. What was that experience like–did you learn any tricks you’re bringing back with you?–and how did you get hooked up with them?
As a singer and guitarist, it’s not very often you get to climb on the rafters like a monkey! It had been 10 years since I played a show without a guitar, so this slew of pent up energy sincerely exploded onstage every night. I had to find something to do with my hands! We had a ton of good shows ranging from 1200-cap venues to smaller venues and even a backyard punk bonfire show! The Wings Denied crew are super professional and we had an amazing time on the road. Maid Myriad and Wings Denied have played together in Ohio and in DC and the independently touring musician circuit is a tight knit community so that’s how we know each other. Not having any personal attachment to the lyrics, I had to find other ways to sing the songs passionately.
4.) Do you remember the first time you took the stage? What stands out when you think about it now?
First time I took the stage was in 4th grade. I was casted as a “Surfer Dude” in the school play. I still wear backwards hats and say “rad” and “dude” a lot.
5.) If you could hit rewind and give the younger you some advice–music, business, life, whatever–what would it be?
If I could do it over again, I probably wouldn’t have put Maid Myriad on the back burner while I built a band for my girlfriend. (Sorry Via Lotus fans.)
6.) What would the younger you say if he showed up on your doorstep today?
He’d probably be really hyper and wonder why I’m still single.
7.) As someone who grew up “in the Akron, OH punk scene” and having those “DIY ethics and attitude,” was it weird setting up a LinkedIn page? Is this just something the business side of you–the label co-founder, sound engineer, producer, etc.–had to do?
As much as I don’t like the politics of managing bands or owning my studio, you have to play the game. Social media as a whole has played a huge part in how I run things.
8.) Taking a step back, where do you think the Akron music scene is right now and where do you hope it is heading?
Honestly, I think the Akron Music Scene is stronger than its been in years. All of the (smart) bands know that we are stronger if we stick together and support everyone’s shows and endeavors. There are a ton of different open mics, the venues are giving back to bands, the musicians work hard and people are fucking noticing Akron. Maid Myriad gets gigs all over the country purely because we are an Akron Band. Akron Music is a force to be reckoned with and if it’s being noticed nationally, then we’re certainly doing something right.