All images courtesy of Jarrod Gorbel
September 2, 2010
Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Jarrod Gorbel has been through the “band thing.” His successful indie outfit The Honorary Title proved a fixture among savvy listeners with an ear for heartache served straight up, no twist. Gorbel’s vocal delivery could shatter glass, his pain and passion translating seamlessly into tracks any red-blooded guy or girl could relate to. Last November, Gorbel and crew played a final farewell show, gathered before a packed house, filled to the brim with fans. Everyone wondered why the talented team was disassembling. The explanation, for Gorbel anyway, unfolds nine months later, and, to followers’ relief, this comeback includes an album. Former lamenters can take comfort knowing that our 31-year-old boy wonder returns with a full-length, Devil’s Made a New Friend, which hit shelves Tuesday.
The artist, applauded both for his poignant lyrics as well as his eccentric sense of humor, took time out to talk with FABRIC about his independent path. The sun shined brightly in McCarren Park, Gorbel’s white tee reflecting the rays. We sat side by side on a bench, me with my mic and he with his breakfast burrito and carrot-concoction from the nearby eatery, Urban Rustic. “One, two, check, check, burrito bite,” Gorbel laughed.
Nell Alk for FABRIC magazine: How’s the juice?
Jarrod Gorbel: Carrot-apple-ginger. Delicious. Healthy option. Coffee woke me up initially. A little boost to continue the day is important. Don’t want another coffee, because then I’ll be jittery and crazy and start snapping at people. When I’m playing tonight, every song will be twice as fast as it’s supposed to be. We don’t want that. We want calm. Hence, the juice. This is good for you. You gotta drink it.
You heard it here first. Williamsburg’s Urban Rustic makes Jarrod Gorbel-endorsed drinks. Get yours. Speaking of your release show, I’m excited to see who turns up.
As per usual. At least you’re used to it, since soon you’ll be touring with Hanson.
I’m joining Hanson. I’m the fourth brother. I’m dyeing my hair a little lighter and picking up the harmonies. It’s gonna be cool. I have an older brother, but not close in age. That’s where the Hansons come in. It’s going to evolve into a Jackson Five thing. More ’70s and more soul.
Can’t wait. [Laughs.]
I’m doing a couple solo shows, then touring with Fun and Steel Train, then Hanson. In between, I’ll do headlining solo shows, in a sense. They’ll have musicians playing with me, but it’ll be booked as Jarrod Gorbel [pro: Gor-BELL].
Gor-BELL. I’ve always pronounced it “GOR-bull.”
[Laughs] Eww. Not like I haven’t heard that. Homeroom-flashback-nightmare-substitute-teacher. [Laughs] “GOR-bull. GOR-bull douche-face.”
Likely story. Onto more pertinent topics, what prompted dissolving The Honorary Title to go solo?
[The Honorary Title] was never a solid lineup. I recorded an EP and decided I didn’t want to be a singer-songwriter. “It’s so lame. I’ll just call it Honorary Title.” Look at me, I’m back to being lame. Scream and Light Up the Sky was a solid lineup. But, when we toured, the band changed. There was no identity. I wanted to start over. With a new batch of songs and people to play with. Seemed like the right thing to do.
A lot’s happened between your final performance as The Honorary Title in November and now. Devil’s Made a New Friend came out Tuesday. Congrats. It’s pretty modest; ten tracks, less than forty minutes in length. Not overly showy.
My other albums were all, like, twelve songs. Always two that weren’t as good as the others. Plus, I have no attention span. When I listen to albums, three or four songs and I’m done. On to the next. Even if the album’s great. Why bother making a lengthy album? Nobody’s going to take it all in.
Major A.D.D. So, how long have you been songwriting? Felt like you wanted to do this?
Forever. I was originally just a guitar guy. Then it naturally evolved into singing and playing at the same time.
What else do you play, apart from guitar?
I fake piano. I’m not fluent but can write songs on it and make it seem like I know what I’m doing, even though I don’t.
The album title is a line from “I’ll Do Better.” Can you expand?
It’s a loose statement. Like that Grateful Dead song, “Friend of the Devil.” Anybody doing something dark, and enjoying it, on a regular basis. It can be interpreted many ways: infidelity, drugs, alcohol.
You’re an amazing vocalist, but your delivery has seriously evolved. Despite the evident passionate sentiment of your words, my ears experience something else. You’re more mature, less emo.
That’s a good way to put it; I like that. This is the split between The Honorary Title and Jarrod Gorbel. The emotions [remain], but it’s matured. It’s not as whiney. Not as yelp-y. I wanted to make a pretty album. That’s the music I listen to. Something mellow and pretty.
You must admit, “Each Breath” is boy band-ish, catchy.
That’s a pop song for sure.
On the topic of maturity, can we expect more ridiculous YouTube videos? You’re into making hilariously inappropriate mini-films.
[Laughs] Here I am talking about maturity and I’m making videos dressed up as my mom. It’s important to have both sides. It’s my personality. I’ll always make those videos. I love making those videos. I can’t help it.
Ha! Ok, back to the album, what was it like working with Rilo Kiley’s Blake Sennett as producer?
Really good. He made it easier. He is more a musician than a producer. It was like I had him in my band. He’s a good guitarist and songwriter, so it was cool to have somebody’s opinion that I trusted. He can sing, too. He has a higher voice, so it worked for harmonies. Plus, he put together the band for the album, which included Rilo Kiley [members] and Saddle Creek [Records] people.
How long did it take to record in L.A.?
About a month. The songs were written, lyrics organized. It was just choosing the best ones. We didn’t have time to record all of them.
Many didn’t make the cut?
Some are sure to be resurrected. For the super-fans.
The B-sides, the unreleased, the shitty songs that didn’t make the album. [Laughs] Nowadays, you need a song every 30 seconds so people don’t forget about you.
Not if you have staying power! Any last words?
Come see me on tour. I’ll be on tour all fall. And buy Devil’s Made a New Friend. Legally. I know you can rip that shit off the Internet, but support the arts. So I can buy my carrot juice.