On the night of Wednesday, November 15, Oldhand, a bustling coffee shop in the middle of downtown Abbotsford, was packed with energetic patrons there to enjoy a DJ set by Abbotsford’s Teen Daze. Candles were lit, the lights were dimmed, and guests enjoyed a specialized menu of starters, local beer and wine, and handcrafted cocktails, while Teen Daze played a cover set behind the bar.
Before the show, we sat down with Jamison Isaak, the man behind Teen Daze’s ambient, soothing sound, to talk inspiration, influences, and weird tour experiences.
Why did you start making music?
I grew up with a lot of music and instruments around the house. My dad was a musician, my mom always sang in choirs, and they were both big music fans in general, so it felt very natural. I was always intrigued by music, and was a nerd about discovering new music. From a young age, I grew up watching Much Music. I went through the alternative music era, it was always around me, and I was always fascinated by it. It felt like a very natural progression to then get into a place where I started making it myself. Like I said, it was a very natural thing.
Who inspires you, and why?
These days, I’ve been listening to a lot of ambient and new age music. I’ve always liked instrumental music in general, something that doesn’t necessarily rely on lyrics or vocals in order to dictate where a song is going to go, or how it feels. I always really liked music that could create a really specific vibe, but not say “this is what this is.” Like, Brian Eno, or Ashra, a German, new-age art-rock band from the ‘70s that I’ve been listening to a lot. Any music that can create a real vibe, specifically, or the melodies. Those are more recent influences, but when I first started, I was writing more acoustic folk music, so I was really influenced by early-2000s emo music, where everyone gets their start. And before that, growing up watching Much Music, I would see Daft Punk music videos all the time. I was obsessed with Daft Punk, I thought they were the weirdest, most intriguing people in the world. Even to this day, when I set out to make dance music, they’re always the touchstone.
When did you first go on tour?
My first proper tour, where I crossed provincial lines, was 2008. A friend of mine is a singer/songwriter, and he needed someone to come play in his band, so I was hired to do that. The first Teen Daze tour I did was in 2010. I graduated in April, and then went on tour that summer.
Were you nervous at all?
Oh yeah, definitely. Especially because so much of the project was about experimenting and recording, and studio work, so the idea of “How do I present this to people, how do I put together a captivating show?” Especially at the time, I hadn’t seen anyone be a solo electronic artist doing a live show. I had a couple examples, but they were just from watching YouTube videos. I didn’t know how to use the different devices [that they were using], how do I get my hands on something like that? I was nervous to not screw up, to do things that people would like. It’s taken time to come into my own, to do something I’m really happy with. The first show, the hype of it, was so much fun. Even though there was some nervousness, it usually fueled having more fun on stage. There was a greater release.
What’s been your weirdest tour experience?
There’s lots. Touring is a weird thing. The weirdest was definitely in 2011, I went to New York to play a festival, and a lot of shows get booked really late in the night because I think they assumed that because this festival is happening, everyone is more inspired to stay out until three or four in the morning. I was playing a showcase that had me on stage at 1 a.m., and I remember thinking “Okay that’s late, but it’s not too bad,” and due to whatever circumstances, earlier bands were late to get to their set, and mine just got pushed back further and further. I ended up going on stage at 3 a.m., and no one was there. Everyone had gone home. The only people left were wasted. A guy jumped on stage while I was playing, and started rapping into a mic that was on stage. I was so pissed, and I kept looking at him, like “just get him out of here,” I was just trying to do my thing. But there’s tons, every tour, there’s something that you just shake your head at, like, “This is so weird.”
Is there anything else you want to add?
Listen to the new record. I release everything myself, so, when you stream my music on Spotify or Apple Music, there’s real financial purpose to that. Don’t think it’s just a drop in the bucket, I’m truly a very independent artist. Every time I get an email from Bandcamp, I’m excited, that’s going straight to my PayPal. I appreciate it.
You can find Teen Daze on Soundcloud, Bandcamp, Spotify, Apple Music, and on their website, www.teen-daze.com. Teen Daze’s music is also showcased in a recent independent film, Themes for a Dying Earth, directed by Casey Kowalchuk, for which Teen Daze was nominated for the award for best score. The film can be viewed on YouTube.