The Ember Jar is among South Bend’s finest music creators. The group has been evolving since their formation in 2011 and, on February 5th, they are releasing the latest example of that development with their new single, Stardust. Founding members Kevin Scott Joiner and Abby King joined me to discuss the new sounds that they, along with drummer Vincenzo Carrasco, are creating.
According to Kevin, the band has been placing a particular focus on producing singles. Their goal is to produce a small number of songs at one time, allowing them to put their energy into perfecting those releases and continuing to evolve their sound.
“Stardust is our first foray into that,” Joiner said.
The Stardust single will bring fans a taste of the musical direction The Ember Jar is now taking, along with a reminder of where they have been. The single will include a B-Side titled No Longer, one of the first songs that Abby wrote and a song representative of the “new-wop” style from their earlier days.
Abby discussed her songwriting process and the growth that led her to the new song. She described the beginnings of most of her works, starting with a melody and seeking a phrase that would match it. Once mated, she often adjusts the phrase, experimenting with the words until she finds a match that both fits the music and holds meaning to her.
“Here’s a melody,” she said. “Now what’s a phrase that fits this melody? What does this phrase mean to me?”
She often starts a song without knowing what it will be about, allowing it to grow from the foundation of the music. This process may be slow or fast, with some songs that evolve over long periods of time. She described to me a melody and chorus “that was rolling around in my head for months” and then finishing the rest of the process in a single day.
Stardust represents for her a turning point in her songwriting process, one where she was “playing around” and intentionally trying a different direction.
“I was molding the song,” she said. “The song wasn’t molding me.”
She described herself as more focused on R&B and Soul in her earlier music days, eventually finding a connection to Americana music and “remembering how much I loved U2.” The latter was on her mind as she was writing Stardust, leading to a sound Kevin described as “desert music” with “a certain, empty spaciousness.”
“It’s like a band playing in a canyon with no one around,” he said.
Kevin described his initial influence on the song as less than usual. Once Abby had written the majority of the song, he came in and they finished it together. In past works, Kevin often handled the majority of the musical arrangement, taking her chords, structures, and lyrical ideas and framing them with bass and drums. With the new single, Abby had a specific arrangement in mind, one they worked on together.
“Stardust marked a real change where she wanted to jump in and do more,” he said. “It was the first time we both worked on those things together.”
The new sound, one representative of the direction the band is going, is one they describe as “soulful, jangle rock.” The word “big” also comes up often when describing the single. They have been enjoying the openness of Stardust when playing it live, a trait that allows them to expand and embellish. The performances have also fed into the evolution of the recorded version.
“It’s a little different each time,” Kevin said. “Stardust leaves so much openness for taking it places.”
Stardust will be released on Friday, February 5th, both digitally and in limited physical copies. It will be available through ReverbNation.com/TheEmberJar and other digital outlets, with a release on iTunes in the following weeks. You can find more information on The Ember Jar, including past releases and upcoming live shows, by visiting facebook.com/TheEmberJar.
These piece created in part for Justin’s weekly column in Off The Water.