There are all types of one-man bands. There’s the street performer, with his homemade contraption full of wires and pulleys going every which way. There’s the YouTuber, who sits amid three, four (or more) instruments and jumps from one to another (or more), cobbling together a tune. Then there is the looper, a person who uses electronic looping pedals to create real-time backing tracks for his or her performance. tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus is a master at this, as is guitarist Keller Williams. (Check his version of “Rapper’s Delight.”)
It is in this vein that local looper/songwriter Jameyal (pronounced Juh-meal) does his “thing.” Using a variety of looping pedals, the usually barefooted singer leaps from instrument to instrument, laying down percussion and melody lines over which he performs his songs – and various oddball covers. We recently spoke with the band-less Jameyal about doing it all by himself.
Folio Weekly Magazine: In your bio, you mention you’ve tried to keep bands together without much luck. What was the stumbling block and is that what drove you to go solo?
Jameyal: First of all, I have a bad case of musical ADHD. I get bored when I play the same instrument for more than 45 minutes. Typically, being a member of a band equates to committing to only one instrument. That’s just not my bag. The second problem is that I am not a rhythm guitarist. I’m a lead guitar player, [in other words] I want to solo and noodle the whole time. With very few exceptions, most guitar players I know want to be the lead guitarist in the band. In the last “band” that I was in, I had to play bass because nobody else in the group wanted to. I love playing bass, but I don’t want to commit to being the bassist for any band. My third and most severe problem is that I’m a space cadet. I like really weird sounds and … very strange music. Many musicians I’ve played with weren’t so fond of my weird noises.
How did you get into looping?
I’d be a liar if I said anything other than going to a Keller Williams show at The Florida Theatre in 2005 and having my mind blown. However, from a very young age, I always envisioned myself using something like a looping machine.
Your set-up is fairly elaborate. How long did it take to put it together?
Short answer: 10 years of stockpiling equipment. Long answer: There is an evolutionary aspect to my set-up. In 2007, I bought my first loop pedal, the Digitech Jamman, my freshman year of college at Western Kentucky University. I basically failed all my classes because of this purchase. Back then, I only had a classical Fender nylon string guitar. I’d beat the crap out of that guitar to loop the “drum” beat. It was a single play/stop pedal, meaning you could only overlap over the first loop that you made. I’d play the same loops for hours, driving all of my roommates insane. For time’s sake, let’s fast-forward to 2016. I now have two mega loopers midi synced together, each of which is equipped with three loopers. In plain English, this means I can do a lot of live looping. I loop bass, guitar, shakers, drum samples, keyboards, kazoos, gizmos, gadgets, and most of the bells and whistles that I could ever hope for.
You cover “Push th’ Little Daisies,” by Ween, one of my favorite bands. Their influence on your approach is obvious. But without strong songs, the novelty of looping and processing is useless. How do you keep your head in the song when trying to map out the looping process?
So glad to meet another Weener. That sounds wrong, but you know what I mean. Ween is the most underrated band in the history of bands. What other band can you think of that has a catalogue of original music where not one song sounds like any of their other songs? Only Ween can pull that off. I’m an avid fan of improvisational live jamming. With that said, I also understand most people are not. I spent a lot of time learning songs everybody knows so I could play more around town. I practice a lot and have mapped out most of what I’m going to play in my head. But truthfully, any song I play is really just a jam vehicle. In other words, playing structured, sing-along songs gives me a good excuse to sneak in a spacey jam here and there. In the jam realm, nothing is mapped out, and I really have no idea what’s going on or where it will go.
Any plans on releasing an album of your originals? I mean, the visual of you jumping around like a maniac trying to manipulate all those pedals would be gone, but hey … maybe a CD/DVD set?
People ask me all the time if I have a CD or anything. If I were smart, I would already. But here’s the problem: I am a control freak. I want to make an album exactly how I want it to be. I don’t want anybody else telling me how to make the weird music I want to make. I’m not going to pay big bucks to a guy who has a studio just because he has a studio. I make live loops on the fly. I don’t need to go to a studio and watch some dude make a click-clack track with terrible latency for 20 minutes. I need to find someone who truly understands how to record real instruments properly and also someone who isn’t going to ask for exorbitant rates. I’m pretty much looking for a unicorn. But honestly, I’m not in a rush to do anything. I’ve learned that in this modern-day music business, you have to be self-sufficient. I’ve been ripped off too many times by too many people, and I’m not having it anymore. I recently started classes this semester. I am pursuing a bachelor’s in computer science with a minor in electrical engineering. This will take probably four years to finish. I have all these pedals and all this gear, and I have no clue how any of it works. During this time period, I hope to learn how to use a good music software program so I can record my own music the way I want it. In addition, though it may not happen for a while, I would really like to learn how to build my own custom live loop pedal. Most importantly, I am going to start reading up on the business aspects of the music industry. In the meantime, I’ll keep playing around Florida and start uploading more stuff to my Soundcloud.