Print Edition: March 27, 2013
Jean Paul De Roover’s genre is, in his own words, “Post-pop.” The one-man band from Ontario released Complexity in Simplicity on March 26, and he’s currently touring Canada. His unique style—an infusion of complex ideas and uncomplicated expression, of heartbreaking lyrics and upbeat instrumentals—brings a strong, fresh meaning to his fourth album as the juxtaposition and seeming oxymoron of style and sound in Complexity in Simplicity works itself out into a straightforward and easy listen of an album.
First of all, your development as an artist: what’s your background? How did music draw you in as a way to express yourself?
I’ve been musical my whole life, but I started my first “real” band when I moved back to Canada in 2001. Since then I’ve played in rock bands, bluegrass groups, concert bands, barbershop choruses and much more. Music started off as a way of expressing things I’d rather not say to people, whether it was love or frustration, and then I started to harness that more creatively over the years.
Who are the musicians that inspire you? How about poets, writers, visual artists or artists in another medium?
Comedians inspire me. Musical comedians of course, but any kind of stand up works! But musically, it’s the full gamut. I’ll listen to something really upbeat on the radio, followed by experimental projects, then a folk album, metal record, and soundtracks. Just depends on what I can get my hands on. They all inspire me in different ways, too.
What’s your creative process like for writing music? Anything in particular you seek out for inspiration?
I typically start with the music rather than the lyrics. I do a lot of composing for film and TV, so I’m often creating instrumentals before I decide if there is a story that suits it. I typically draw on things that happen close to me, just because that’s what I know, and I’ve always been grounded in my writing – no epic metal ballads about battling dragons here.
Complexity in Simplicity was written in four years – can you describe the shaping, development and struggles with this album?
I remember playing the first song on the album, “Silhouettes Pass” at the CD release show for Windows and Doors in 2009. Most of the songs were written just for this album, but some, like “Break My Soul,” were actually from much earlier. Rewritten almost completely, but the original idea came from earlier. I learned from my earlier works, and Complexity in Simplicity became much more focused stylistically. Some songs came together quickly, while others (like “Man With No Hands”) I spent months workinand/re-working lyrics. When all the writing was done, I had close to 20 songs. I sat down with the producer Ben Leggett, and narrowed it down to 12. From there we hit the studio, but only 10 remained. The remaining two were still recorded, but after much deliberation we left them off the album because they didn’t quite fit the flow. Great songs, but that hard decision had to be made. The entire album was recorded in two weeks flat in Thunder Bay, Ontario, at Dining Room Studios, and mixed/mastered a month or so later.
How is Complexity in Simplicity different from your other work? Where do you think your personal style is going to go from here, as a young artist?
As I mentioned, this album is much more focused. It’s also a lot more lyrically driven than earlier works. Windows and Doors had a lot of instrumentals, while this one is quite word-heavy. I think it’s a bit of the folk/songwriting influence kicking in, mixed with a newfound appreciation for upbeat, poand/rock sounds. It’s hard to say where it’ll go – but I know I love it, otherwise I wouldn’t have written it. My music has always been about honesty. If I don’t feel something while playing it, then how could anyone else?
You’re playing at Falconetti’s on April 1 – what’s the ideal venue for you, and the ideal crowd?
I love smaller, intimate spaces. My sound is quite loud for those types of rooms, but I love them because I can play with dynamics quite easily – quiet enough to hear a pin drop, yet a moment later you can hear the room all singing along. I’m a big fan of all ages spaces, since you shouldn’t have to be of drinking age to enjoy music. That being said, Falconetti’s has always been a great home for me when I’m in Vancouver.
The song that really caught my attention was “Man with No Hands.” Can you talk a bit about that song?
It was one of my first attempts at writing in the third person, and I spent a really long time working on that song. It started with the title, and then I created a narrative and a full story about the man in the song. Married at a young age, he started working in a factory to help provide for his wife and child, but many years later, the same company that took him on cast him off after an accident leaves him unable to work. It’s about the struggles he goes through at that point.
Finally, because I have to ask this question to all artists: if you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be, and why?
Inner-nerd alert: I’d be one of the trees on the planet of Lusitania from the Orson Scott Card’s book Speaker for the Dead. When the local life-forms, referred to as “piggies,” would pass on, a tree would grow from their bodies. Each tree on the planet was in the second stage of life. The piggies also had a way of avoiding pain, which involved meditation and “thinking like a tree,” and that idea has resonated with me since I first read it in the ‘90s sometime.
Jean Paul De Roover plays in Vancouver at Falconetis on April first – and that’s no joke. Check the show out, or look up his new album Complexity in Simplicity.