Years before “Outlandish Poetica,” his Solitaire Recordings debut (release date: Aug. 6), multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Something (aka Jon Searles) taught himself how to write and record music in his Brooklyn, — Connecticut, not New York — basement.
That experience — working alone, through trial and error, grabbing whatever instrument best suits the song and stacking layers of vocals, relying only on your ears and tastes to guide you — does funny things to a musician. You learn to trust your instincts, and you become less willing to compromise. Authority becomes the enemy.
“Outlandish Poetica,” pieced together from Searles’ first two solo albums, nods to mid-1960s folk-rock artists he grew up hearing: the Hollies, Bob Dylan, a few others. It bows to Springsteen and Mellencamp. (When we met, Searles was wearing a John Mellencamp shirt.)
The title track, a nightmarish story about getting mugged by Boston Celtics basketball player Larry Bird and the 1986 NBA All-Star team, pairs Searles’ gift for comedic storytelling with a rowdy, kitchen-sink groove.
“I don’t want to write another love song, so I might as well write about Larry Bird taking my money,” Searles says.
In our Culture Desk podcast above, Searles spoke to music writer Mike Hamad about his new album, his journey from Brooklyn to Berklee College of Music in Boston (where he studied music production), the role of humor in his songs, and other subjects.
Studio tracks on the podcast include “Happy Day” (00:00); “Tell Me” (04:16); “All That I Ask” (09:19); “Sunday, July 26” (13:43); “Outlandish Poetica” (18:48); and “A Fan” (23:25).
Press Play is a column by music writer Michael Hamad exploring the underground musicians of Connecticut. If you have new music to share, send it to him at email@example.com.