"It's a dark album, about learning to be human again, and failing..." - Max Jury talks new album Modern World
When he announced him in 2016, Iowa native Max Jury was billed as a new folk sensation, someone to follow in the footsteps of Bon Iver.
His first campaign was a hit, the record sold well, he supported both Lana Del Rey and Rufus Wainwright and helped Kendrick Lamar write 'B***h Don't Kill My Vibe'. Now he needs to follow things up.
For Modern World, his second full-length effort, which arrives in-store today, he wanted something more, to create an album
To help him grow and expand his sound, Jury has turned to producer Robin Hannibal, whose credits include Lamar, The Internet and Jessie Ware, together they have delivered an album which incorporates funk, R&B and soul skillfully into Jury's sound.
With the album now on shelves, we spoke to Jury about how he made it, his array of new influences and why this is an album inspired by Los Angeles...
When did you start work on Modern World?
"I started writing for Modern World immediately after my first album came out and spent the next year or so in various cities continuing that writing process. The majority was written in my apartment in Los Angeles. I started recording the thing around 2 years ago. I spent a considerable amount of time on vocal performances and production, certainly more so than I have in the past."
"Actual tracking of the band only took several weeks. But for me, the selling point of the album is the vocal arrangements, so it made sense that it was the most time-consuming part of the process."
Were there new influences you wanted to incorporate on this album?
"Absolutely. I wanted to make a contemporary soul album. An album that referenced the past, but wasn’t pastiche/vintage sounding...and an album that very much embraced current production values. I love and am influenced by so much of the music the world has to offer, and I don’t want to have a one-dimensional career. Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde is a masterpiece, the stuff of legends, iconic - but so is Kanye’s Yeezus - and not for different reasons."
"They are both the sound of the American zeitgeist - albeit at different times in history. They both have profoundly influenced me. I also got quite deep in Brandy’s Full Moon while making this record. I didn’t want to bury those influences. I’m aware Modern World is significantly different from my first record, but that was the point!"
You did the album with Robin Hannibal, what did he bring to the process?
"So, so much. But most importantly, he taught me the value of work ethic. Perseverance is just as important as talent. He pushed me and made me a far better singer and writer."
You’ve said that you wrote 100 songs for the album, how did you end up with so many?
"To reference the last question, I’m a harder worker than I am talented. Some people can sit down and write ten songs and they are all solid gold, but not me. Making a record is very much about the journey for me. This might sound a bit self helpy, but sometimes it’s not even about the finished product. It’s about the process."
"I’m growing towards something, maybe this album it is, maybe it isn’t, but as long as I continue to hone the craft I’m a happy camper."
How did you find it slimming down 100 songs to the 10 that made the record?
"Not too bad! The 10 songs that fit best together revealed themselves rather quickly after I had made the deliberate decision to stop writing. A few of my favourites didn’t make the cut, but it’s always smart to leave something good up your sleeve."
What kind of album is this lyrically? Is there a theme to it?
"This, again, is a departure from my last album. There was a melancholy to my first album. Loneliness as a key theme and a key feeling. I’m easily influenced by where I’m at geographically and that first album sounded like Iowa. Modern World, to me, sounds like Los Angeles."
"It’s not lonely, but it’s still not satisfied. Its music is intentionally shimmering, pulsing, sensual, borderline superficial, but its lyrics touch on themes of apathy, indifference, using people, and being used. It’s sort of a dark album, about learning to be human again, and failing. Juxtaposing that with lite-funk-AOR grooves I thought was an interesting concept and very Los Angeles!"
Which song on the album took the longest to get right?
"I'd say 'Gone', definitely. We had the way we wanted the vocal arrangement to sound firmly in our heads, but convincing the sounds to come out of my mouth was a different story. Probably spent a solid seven days in the vocal booth on that one."
And which came together most quickly?
"'Primrose Hill' only took me a half hour to write, probably. An exception to the rule. It’s highly autobiographical and it just kinda poured out of me."
When did you settle on Modern World for the album’s title? Were any other titles in contention?
"Modern World always felt right. Because it’s much more contemporary sounding than my previous work, I thought that would be a nice little title to clue people in."
When will we see you back in the UK?
"Hopefully as soon as possible!"
Max Jury's new album Modern World is out now in hmv stores.