In our very first instalment of The Songwriter Series, we’re lucky enough to be road tripping with Jordan Beckett of Los Angeles rock outfit Bootstraps.
The band’s debut album will officially be released on 18 September this year. The first few songs (restless, hopeful and moody) are currently on heavy rotation on almost every major TV drama this season, as well as the general interwebs.
If they’re anything to go by, this album might be the perfect road trip record – dreamy, wistful and just steeped in what Joni Mitchell called “the Urge for Going”.
We asked lead singer/songwriter Jordan Beckett how that came to be.
Your songs have a kind of atmospheric quality to them – they seem to have the feeling of a specific place, and that place seems to be in a car, on a road.
Do you think songs can have the ability to transport listeners? And, does traveling need a soundtrack?
If by ‘transport’ you mean that songs take us somewhere beyond ourselves that we can’t really articulate… then yes, without a doubt. Singing is actually kind of ridiculous. I just think, “Why am I making these noises and sounds for these words?” And I guess the reason is because it transports the words into something bigger, multi-dimensional – to draw out something they can’t really accomplish on their own.
So, the songs I love only use words, notes, and sounds as a tool to isolate and clarify that weird, undefinable thing that makes music music. And for myself, when I drive with an album that feeling is heightened.
The videos play very heavily on this theme of travel. How involved have you been in the making of the videos so far?
The video for Fortyfive was put together by a friend , the other videos I don’t know about… When I was thinking about the album, Take Me Home helped inspire the road trip theme that I ran with – for Sam (the director) maybe it was vice versa.
That said, a good road trip record to me is simply a record that plays as a whole from start to finish, and sounds cohesive. These records, like a road trip, take you somewhere – they’re linear with a clear beginning and a destination.
As a side note, taking an album on a road trip is the highest compliment… cause I think that’s when we really want to listen without distraction. I really tried and hoped my album would turn out like that.
Who is the ‘we’ in Fortyfive (in the line ‘They don’t know where we come from’)?
That refrain is saying that we share something special, something that’s ours alone. Its about having an unspoken little world with someone that is wholly your own, and isn’t understood by outsiders. I wrote it out of a universal hope that something like that exists.
The film Take Me Home (which features a lot of your music really prominently) is about a cross-country road trip. Which came first – the songs or the film? Did you write specifically for the film, or was it just a happy coincidence that your songs worked well with its themes?
I wrote the songs, and Take Me Home became the catalyst to record an album. Prior to this, I just wrote songs for myself. Songwriting’s always been an escape and an outlet for me, one that I never really viewed or wanted as a career path. Sometimes I’d record a shitty Garageband version of a song and wonder if it was any good, so I’d send it to my friend Sam.
We both share and respect the craft of songwriting so much that critiquing songs became a huge part of our friendship. Through this, Sam became incredibly supportive. When Take Me Home became a reality for him to direct, he helped push me through the door of the studio… Soon, one day of recording turned into a few more, and with the help of my friends Dave and Nate, the record became a reality.
Please describe your ultimate road trip.
There’s a stretch between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara on the 101 that weaves along the coastline. At sunset, the ocean looks gold… the view becomes the fantastical, photogenic version of California everyone idealizes. The landscape makes you feel completely miniscule. It’s at this point that you realize, your destination is entirely irrelevant.
Please tell us your pick of your Top 5 Road Trip Songs of all time, and your reasons for choosing each one. Any artists, any era, for any reason.
The “Of all time” part is a little overwhelming but here are a few that I think work together…
Check out Jordan Beckett’s playlist – it’s pretty amazing.