[Q&A] Jupiter Styles Discuss Debut Record “Be Good”, Chicago Music Scene

By: Lindsy Carrasquillo

Jupiter Styles is Chicago based singer-songwriter Sean Neumann’s solo project. He’s a member of the Chicago band Ratboys and colloaborated with a handful of artists on Jupiter Styles record, “Be Good”. I was able to talk to him about the album, influences and more.


 

As everyone on the record is involved in different projects, can you talk about how the record came together and found its sound?

Jupiter Styles is just me, but I have a lot of friends that help me out when it comes to recording or playing live. On this record, Dave Sagan and Julia Steiner from Ratboys helped, while my friend Marcus Nuccio from Pet Symmetry and Wrong Numbers played drums and Seth Engel from Options and Lifted Bells played guitar on one song. Nick Levine, who plays music as Jodi, also played pedal steel guitar on the last song “Baby Steps.” I met all of them through music. I grew up with Dave and met Julia through him when I was in high school. I also met Seth through the music scene we all grew up in. I met Marcus later on but through the Chicago music scene as well, and I met Nick the day we recorded “Baby Steps,” actually. Seth, who recorded the album, and I were talking about how I wanted pedal steel on the last song and he was like, “I know just the person!” and called Nick over.

 

Did you have a particular goal in mind when working on the record?

Personally, I just really wanted to be more open – through lyrics and through the way we I arranged the music. I’ve pulled a lot of punches on past records because I thought things wouldn’t turn out well and I was afraid. This record, thematically in every sense, is about not being afraid and diving into things head first and trusting everything will work out. I did that on a lot of songs, specifically “Life Like.” I wasn’t going to record it because I didn’t think it would turn out well, but now it’s my favorite thing we did on the record. I’m really excited about it and I don’t think I would’ve recorded it if this album was made a few years ago.

Can you describe your writing process?

It can get kind of whacky. I usually just sing melodies to myself – often over stupid shit, like narrating my actions to a melody – and when I come up with something I think would work for a song I sing into my phone or go figure it out on guitar and write the song before recording a quick demo on my phone so I don’t forget. Then I’ll sit down and figure out the other parts, either by myself or with someone else. A lot of stuff on this record came from me singing a guitar part I wanted or a drum part I wanted to whoever was helping me play the songs and then them, somehow, understanding what I was saying and making it come to life.

Overall, the record has a really laid back sound. Is that what you were going for?

Thanks! I think I’m starting to go for that, yeah. I started really recording my own music when I was surrounded by hardcore punk scenes, so I think a lot of that has always bled through, especially on my older records when I was making music under the band name “Single Player.” A lot of those songs were more punk or pop punk-ish. All that being said while I’m over here talking about my favorite artist being Feist, who’s definitely punk but not punk in the way of fast, crunchy guitars. I’m starting to make the music I genuinely spend my time listening to and I think that’s more honest and comfortable and I think I’m starting to hear that with these new songs.

Can you talk about how you first got into music on your own?

I moved to a new school before the third grade and all the new friends I made at that new school were just getting into music. I wanted to fit in, so I started learning how to play guitar so I could be in bands with them and keep hanging out. We had a handful of bands throughout grade school and high school and they’re all still my best friends today, so I’m glad all of that worked out in every possible way.

Who are some of your current influences?

I’m influenced by a lot of my friends. I’ve been blessed to grow up with or become friends with so many amazing musicians – everyone that played on “Be Good,” Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, Kyle Lang who plays music under the band name Special Death, my friends in Nectar, my friend John Menchaca who plays in a number of hardcore punk bands and black metal bands and runs his own label Crippled Sound – I’m inspired by all of them, by the music they play, by the things they do for music, by the people that they are, everything. In terms of music I’ve been listening to lately, I’ve been really into this new record by The Go! Team, I got really into the B52s this week, and I’ve been really into this British pop band Kero Kero Bonito this year. The new Wild Pink record is also amazing too and will definitely be an “album of the year” contender for a lot of people (it comes out next week). Feist is also my all-time favorite, so I’m always listening to her, reading about her and inspired by her work as well.

You’ll be playing a show in Chicago this Saturday as well as a few shows on the east coast in August. What should people expect from your live show?

I want people to have fun! I always know I saw a really, really good show when I leave and all I can think about is how I want to get home as fast as possible so I can write some more songs because I was so inspired and excited by what I just saw. I remember feeling that way when I saw Lomelda last. I want people to see me play or listen to my music and get excited about music or art or things in general and then have them turn that into something productive for themselves.

As the site focuses a lot on our local scene here in Gainesville, could you talk about Chicago’s scene and DIY? 

Hopefully you don’t regret asking this… haha. I could talk about it forever, but I’ll try to keep it short. I grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago and met so, so many crazy talented musicians there. I already mentioned Nnamdi – we used to go to his house in Lansing for shows, he called it “Nnamdi’s Pancake House” and had punk shows and cooked literally hundreds and hundreds of pancakes and just gave them to people. It was truly bizarre, in the best way. Then people would crunch together into this skinny room he had and watch these blaringly loud bands just go nuts and everyone would go nuts. I broke the ceiling fan with my head once, my friend Jake dislocated his knee, people would get super sweaty and gross and it was all so lovely and amazing. Our friend Mikey Giannoni would host an all-day show at this run=down park district and he called it “The Big Show” and that’s where all of these different scenes surrounding Chicago met and collided. That’s where I met Marcus and Seth and so many other people. That’s around the time when Dave and Julia met and then Julia (who’s from Kentucky) sort of got deeply integrated into the suburban Chicago scene. Then I went to college at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana (I mostly went there because my friend Kyle Lang from the suburban music scene went there and he told me there was a great music scene there). Through Kyle I met a bunch of people in CU and started to get integrated into that scene as well. That’s an amazing place – American Football, REO Speedwagon, Braid, Polyvinyl Records – all this amazing stuff has come from there. At the time, around 2012, the hardcore punk scene was really big in Champaign and the surrounding scenes (St. Louis, Springfield, etc.) so I got really into going to those shows and was enthralled by how it was like a flash in a pan. Bands would set up, go 1,000% for about 10-15 minutes and then tear down really fast and it would be over before you knew it. Bands like Lumpy and the Dumpers, Need, Angry Gods – they all blew me away. It was all stuff I never really experienced before. The south suburban Chicago scene was built on great songwriters. The Champaign-Urbana scene and the connecting scenes were built on a lot of energy and DIY lifers, and I started to roll two separate inspirations into myself and I started to blend them together, making what I thought was well-constructed pop rock songs with a hardcore time limit. I think somewhere in the middle of all that is where I excel as a songwriter and really where I’ve found a comfortable place.

What are some of your favorite local bands that people may not know about?

My friend Josh Karlson makes music under the name Millwork . There’s this band Another Michael that’s releasing new music this year and they’re going to blow a lot of people away. I can’t say enough about Julia and Dave in Ratboys. I’m lucky enough to play with them live and see first-hand the work and genius they put into music. Nectar, from Champaign-Urbana, is a perfect band. Options, Seth Engel’s solo project, always floors me. My friend Dan Durley is an amazing singer-songwriter and has a lot of great stuff he’s working on for later this year. Horrible Things is one of my favorite bands of all-time. They’re from Champaign and are now in Chicago. I could do this all night, but I’ll leave it there for now!

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