Think doo-wop meets psychedelic funk. Add in classic touches reminiscent of Sinatra. Fuse electronic bursts with choir meets soul vocals—Idiot Glee is anything but one-dimensional – that’s for certain. The 23 year-old Lexington, Kentucky native (James Friley) is a one man show of freshness, combining medleys with ballads to form a bountiful selection of heart-pressed harmonies. Tracks like “Trouble at the Dancehall” bring out the aggressive power-pop side, while ‘Happy Day’ offers a slow downed Motown kind of vibe.
His debut LP Paddywhack is a serious collective with a narrative that flows and disjoints, channeling a hotbed of reflective realities. An album release party slated for June in New York, a recent tour and collaboration with WOMEN and dubbed as “one of the best voices around in 2010” by NME—Idiot Glee continues to make an honest stir in the music stratosphere.
So the name, clearly it’s something unique. Explain this for me.
I heard Brian Eno talk about it on YouTube and it hit me. Basically it’s a term to reflect that overwhelming excitement you feel when you are coming up with a new idea.
Your album is very well crafted and provides multiple types of styles, demonstrating a cohesion of randomness—was this something you were very aware of when positioning the track list?
Ya I’ve been doing radio for years now so I imagined it how I would set it up if I was doing a show. I was definitely aware of the transitions. I didn’t want it to be upbeat at the beginning.
My personal favourite transition is ‘Trouble at the Dancehall’ to ‘Deep Descent’ – these two songs are exceptionally strong and contrasting.
Ha, I’ve heard that a bit from people. It’s funny, that’s my favourite transition and coupled track too. I like how one is a little darker and one is more aggressive.
The track ‘F O E’ is playful with lyrics like “No one messes with my girl” and you reference that Sunday is not a day to bug you. What’s Sunday mean to you? What’s a typical Sunday?
Well I think it comes a little bit from growing up in the church, being that Sunday was the holy day. I don’t really follow that anymore, but it’s more of a chill out day. That song is a spontaneous stream of consciousness. The main point of it is that I’m a skinny dude and if I needed to defend my girlfriend I wouldn’t be able to. I always wish I could win a fight, I have this fantasy that I would be able to.
The varying sounds, melodies and techniques you create are quite original. What did you work with?
One of the main pieces is a Yamaha VSS-30 – it has all these different functions, you can make any sound = it’s a toy. So I use that, sample my voice, play it back. Like for “Deep Descent” I sampled my voice at a high pitch then brought it down, added some regular bass and drums, micro chord, guitar.
You used to be in a band, tell me about that. What’s it like being solo, do you miss the band mentality?
I do wish I had a full band, I miss that for sure but it’s okay now. I like sampling stuff and recreating. The band was named ‘Bedtime’, I did it for about 5 years. We were a loud in your face kind of band. I played piano and organ and sang, it was cool, we all worked well together. We had a couple of assholes in the band so we didn’t practice enough. Plus I was traveling once a week for 2 hours to play and it just wasn’t coming out like I wanted it to be. I thought to myself why am I still doing? Then I just started doing stuff by myself.
There’s not a ton to do, lot’s of great local shows though. Tolly-Ho is a great place to go to, any band has to go there. It’s the good food – 4am type deal. Stellas is a good spot too, good local grub. Side Car is a vinyl, dingy, underground bar that I like a lot.
What’s Lexington’s music scene like?
It’s pretty experimental and psychedelic. For years it’s been a noise band place, now there’s more pop and techno.
So you also have a record label you work on, Hop Hop records. What’s this all about?
Well ya, we’ve done two things, but it’s finally coming together because we have everyone now ready to work on it. It’s been a work in progress, but ya it represents local Lexington music.
Getting to tour Europe with one of my favourite bands, WOMEN. We became friends it was cool, they backed me up. It’s crazy cause when I first heard WOMEN I was at the radio station and I was so impressed with the work, thinking this is a big band. They are kinda like idols in a way, and then to get to play with them was incredible. Prefix Mag just announced the release of the Don’t Go Out Tonight 7” that features a track with WOMEN.
What kinds of music publications do you frequent?
Umm, Pitchfork. I like local blogs, like a great Lexington blog is Trevor Tremaine’s. It’s called Resonant Hole.
Who are some acts you’d like to share a bill with?
Deerhunter, Locket and Ariel Pink.
So you booked your release at Glasslands in New York. Did you choose it specifically?
Ya I am just trying to get my head around the whole booking aspect. I thought I could do it all my own, but it’s different. I’ve played there and I really like it there so ya I wanted to have the release at that spot. I’m trying to book a full tour, again it’s harder than I thought.
PADDYWHACK is out June 7th on Moshi Moshi Records.