Julian Lynch makes music to dream to. No matter what he says, (see below), for me, his music inspires deep, personal introspection. Using instruments like clarinets, tape machines and guitars, Lynch weaves blankets and more blankets of sound that wrap around you like a comfortable summer breeze. Lynch is one of the many Ridgewood, NJ/ Underwater Peoples musicians, and is currently a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin. He took some time out to answer some questions for MME.
What did it feel like when you first started writing music? Was guitar your first instrument?
When I first started writing music, I lacked confidence in what I was doing and felt like I was somehow “faking it,” or missing the point of what writing music was supposed to be about, as if such a point existed. I was pretty young. Probably around 14. Even though I had learned how to play musical instruments by that point, I assumed that there was some essence to music making to which I was not privy.
Guitar wasn’t my first instrument. I took some piano lessons beginning in second grade, maybe for about a year. Then I started playing clarinet in fourth grade. I consider clarinet to be my “real” first
instrument. Then I started learning guitar just before high school.
What inspires your thoughts and ideas?
Other thoughts and ideas, plus individual experience. Exposure to and engagement with the things that other people have done or are doing. Definitely seeing/hearing my friends playing music. Matt, Martin, Bleeker, Brody, and all the other friends from my town and from other places have had a big impact on my musical process.
What do you study in Wisconsin? How does that affect your songwriting?
I study ethnomusicology. The fact that I can spend most of my time reading and writing these days, instead of working a 9-5 office job, for example, definitely allows me to record more than I would
otherwise. Also, the stuff I’m reading and writing is often (if only peripherally) music-related, or has some possible consequences with regard to music. Maybe one result of my studying here might be that I am thinking more clearly about how I want to make music and what I want it to sound like. But it’s kind of hard to reflect on what I’m doing or assess myself in that way, and it would be even harder to imagine the music I’d be making if I was still living in DC or New Jersey. Maybe it would be the exact same?
You said your Bruar Falls gig was the first time you played with a band?
It wasn’t the first time I played with a band EVER, but it was the first time I’ve played my solo music with a band backing me up. The last time I played songs in a band before that was in 2006.
Did you enjoy it? Why? What about having a band changes the show?
Yeah, I had a really great time. The obvious difference with a band is that I’m playing my songs, and not doing semi-improvisational instrumental stuff. But the other big difference for me that was
really important, and the reason I wanted to do it, was this: when I play with other people, I am obviously not in complete control of their actions. They end up making sounds that I do not expect, and then I can respond to what they are doing accordingly. That dialogue is a really exciting part of performing that I was missing recently, so I decided to play with a full band.
What are your favorite things in life?
Not in any particular order: music, food, girlfriend, internet, friends, comic books, pets, family.
To me, your music is very psychedelic. Do those sounds just come to you?
It’s possible that someone could listen to any sound while on hallucinogenic drugs and find their experience to be both musical and “psychedelic,” right? It seems like the type of thing that is more
about a listener’s state of mind than the sounds he or she is hearing.
What’s your favorite movie, band, book?
Always changing…the last movie I saw that I really loved was “Up.” My favorite bands are probably my friends’ bands, Real Estate, Big Troubles and others. I don’t get a chance to do much pleasure
reading, mostly things for school and research. I did read some stories and poems by Rabindranath Tagore last semester that I liked a lot.
Winter or summer? How does the Wisconsin cold make your mind feel?
I think I prefer winter…but I wouldn’t really appreciate winter or summer without the other, right? That’s how it goes with a lot of things, I guess. For some people I’m sure the cold in Wisconsin is
really frustrating or disrupting on an emotional level. I don’t really feel that affected by it…I just kind of go about my business! But I do adjust my schedule in the winter, so that usually I’m outside only
during the daytime and inside by nightfall.
What do you think about New Jersey’s recent decision to legalize medical marijuana?
I actually was completely unaware of it! I don’t really know much about the situation, to be honest. But it does seem like a whole lot of money gets spent in the process of trying to enforce marijuana
laws, and many people feel very strongly that this might not be the best way to spend government money.
Do you like Sonic Youth?
Yeah, I do. I’m not a super-fan exactly or anything like that. I listened to their records a fair amount, mostly when I was in college. I don’t really find myself deliberately using them as a model for my
own music, but I think the case could very easily be made that their music has had an effect, either direct or indirect, on what I’m doing musically.
Why are experimental jams important? Does your mind get lost?
I actually try pretty hard NOT to lose my mind! Hahaha. Well, I’m not sure how I feel about applying the term “experimental” to my music. My methods for making music are generally not very “experimental” in a strict sense…if anything maybe the opposite. I try to control the sound I’m making in many ways. But complete control isn’t really possible, nor is it very fun. There are always variables, technology being the most obvious one, both in terms of production and reception. I don’t have complete control over the output of my instrument, or my tape machine. Nor do I have control over what sort of sound system with which someone chooses to listen to my music. Or the environment
in which they decide to listen. But none of that really makes my music more “experimental” than any other recorded music.
I’m not trying to play dumb here, though. I know “experimental” is supposed to mean “weird” or “innovative.” I just don’t really see myself fitting into any of those categories of experimentation,
weirdness, or innovation. When it comes down to it, I don’t think anything I do musically is that radically different from things other people have done in the past, and I don’t have a problem with that. I guess my process, like that of so many others as far as I can tell, is just about observation, mimicry, intentional recombination, and happy accident.
Julian Lynch: Dream of a Thousand Nights
This song is one of a few written for a film by Amy Ruhl, “How Mata Hari Lost Her Head and Found her Body.” She is raising money! Check the preview and give here!