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The Magazine

June 25, 2011

Jeremy Greenspan of the Junior Boys on Orson Welles, Howard Hughes & the Making of “It’s All True”

Jeremy Greenspan of The Junior Boys talks about Orson Welles, Banana Ripple Ice Cream and other influences that color their new album

by Paul Kitti

Most of the bands I encounter slide comfortably into a one or two word category. Folk rock, electro-pop, grunge, punk, what have you. But when presented with a band that lists Shanghai, disco, soul, Orson Welles, dubstep, Banana Ripple ice cream and electronica as some of their influences, categorizing becomes a totally useless endeavor. The Junior Boys have been at this for over a decade – making their incredibly imaginative breed of sort-of-dance-music – but their latest album finds them in an interesting place. A product of isolation and frustration, inspiration and intense motivation, “It’s All True” is an album that connects the greatest elements of their musical talent with their most bizarre and intriguing interests. The anticipation for tonight’s show has been rising steadily as I’ve had “It’s All True” running through my headphones since its mid-June release, but after speaking with founding member Jeremy Greenspan and learning more about the stories behind the songs, I feel even more connected to the music and more excited to see it performed live.

The Junior Boys: Matt Didemus & Jeremy Greenspan

iSPY: I understand that the new album is heavily influenced by the time you spent in China. How exactly did that environment affect your creative process? Greenspan: Most of our albums have been made exclusively in Hamilton, Ontario, where we are from, so being in any kind of foreign place was different, for one, and being in a place that was so totally foreign like China where I didn’t know the language or the culture that well and didn’t understand the things that were happening around me was overwhelming. [It] puts you in a really different headspace where you are quite introspective, thinking a lot about your own insignificance and those kinds of things. It’s also good to give you some perspective on cultural issues. When you’re thinking about music all the time, it’s easy to become caught up in micro-genres and the musical exchange between very specific genres and people who are doing things that ultimately don’t really matter to that many people. So, when you go to China, it’s pretty good in the sense that it makes you realize how insignificant a lot of that is.

iSPY: You’ve mentioned that you drew inspiration for the new album from the Orson Welles’ film “F for Fake”. What was it about Welles and that film that resonated with you?

Greenspan: I was feeling like I was getting older and becoming sort of suspicious of a lot of things to do with music and pop culture and art, and it’s hard to talk about that stuff because it makes you feel – well, you’re not really supposed to talk about your career much in music, or what you think about music or art or those types of things. So I didn’t really know how to talk about it. Then I saw that movie “F for Fake” where Welles is talking about authenticity and art and forgery and fakery in art. He was a guy who, I think more than any other twentieth century artist, dealt with aging really head-on. He was dealing with those issues when he was quite young. His earliest movies, “The Magnificent Ambersons” and “Citizen Kane,” are both sort of about aging. And he made them when he was in his twenties. A major theme in many of his films is people with a lot of promise in their youth who either squander it or become cynical along the way or go crazy or are isolated. I thought that was an interesting theme, and I think it’s appropriate for people who go out and do music–because you’re constantly dealing with trying to feel relevant. As a musician, you’re not supposed to talk about that stuff, and I didn’t know how to talk about it. [But] when I saw “F for Fake,” I was like, “well he’s talking about it, so I can too.”

iSPY: I read that the single “Banana Ripple” can be tied to Howard Hughes. What is the story behind this?

Greenspan: Well, in “F for Fake,” there’s a whole big section about Howard Hughes and how he was sort of the embodiment of Orson Welles’ major themes, and there’s a bit where Joseph Cotten is talking about how Howard Hughes was supposed to be the subject in Citizen Kane but they ended up using Hearst instead. I became interested in that. I read biographies of Welles, and he was interested in Hughes because of his connection to the movies and also because he was so clearly Welles’ type of anti-hero. So, the “Banana Ripple” thing is based off a story about Howard Hughes when he used to live in Las Vegas, and basically owned Las Vegas, and he surrounded himself with Mormons because they were the only people he trusted. So, he asked them to get him Banana Ripple ice cream from Baskin Robbins, and they found out that they didn’t make that ice cream anymore, so they ended up getting Baskin Robbins to remake tons of Banana Ripple ice cream and cart it over to Las Vegas. When it arrived, Hughes decided that he no longer liked it, so they had to give away this ice cream for free for two or three years. It’s an interesting story, and the song is kind of about losing your mind a little bit–or losing your sense of the plot of your own life.

iSPY: Can you explain the meaning of the title “It’s All True”?

Greenspan: Truth is a theme that comes up in the record a lot. The title also comes from a failed Orson Welles movie project from the 1940s. During the war, he was sent by the State Department to Brazil to act as a spokesman for American culture – pretty hilarious – he ended up just basically running around getting super drunk and super fat, impregnating half the population of Brazil, and, while they were there, he tried to make this film called “It’s All True.” It was supposed to be a four-part series, but it never got made and there are hundreds of hours of it that never got released. He had to kill himself to try and get the money to make these films, and I’ve kind of always felt that pressure to do the things that I really didn’t want to do in order to have the chance to make more music. So, I felt somewhat of a kinship with him.

iSPY: Do you have any suggestions as to how listeners should approach the album? In other words, what is the best way to experience your music?

Greenspan: I listen to a lot of music through headphones. I like listening to music a lot in isolation–that’s probably why I don’t really go out to see live music very often. I’m not really into the shared music experience. I think listening to music in the car is really good. I’m weird in the sense that, in terms of people who engineer or produce music, I almost always do a very final mix using earphones, which is kind of a no-no among most producers. But I like to be extremely detailed, and I can only get into that with headphones on.

iSPY: Having spent the past few years touring and creating music, what would you say is the most rewarding part of what you do?

Greenspan: The best part, for me, is that I don’t have to have another job. My career hasn’t tanked so much that I have to do something else to pay the bills. You get those moments when you realize that you make music for a living, and that’s pretty special. It’s not like everyone gets to do that. So that’s the rewarding part – that there’s enough people who like it enough that I can just keep doing it.

iSPY: What can fans expect from your live show?

Greenspan: It’s been pretty energetic over the last couple of weeks. The shows have been more energetic than they ever have before. The audiences have been much more energetic, and I think we’re sounding the best that we’ve ever sounded. It’s not as moody as some of our other live [shows] might be. This time we’re just going out there and doing the most danceable stuff that we can do because people respond to that the best.

The Junior Boys are playing tonight at 8 p.m. at the Pike Room in downtown Pontiac. Tickets are $12 in advance and $14 at the door. Their new album, entitled “It’s All True,” was released on June 14, 2011.

About the Author

Amanda Slater
Amanda Slater
Amanda is the Editor in Chief at iSPY. Not only does she over see content and production, but she's also a fan of some great music and movies. If you want to know what's the next BIG thing, ask Amanda.


by Tim Adkins

by Tim Adkins

by Tim Adkins


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