Peninsular Place

The Magazine

November 25, 2012

The Secret Music of Absofacto


When you first meet Jonathan Visger, he seems like just the kind of guy you would expect to meet in the Ypsilanti / Ann Arbor area for many reasons – he’s smart and cultured with an understated way about him, a dry sense of humor and an appreciation for local microbrews. He’s the kind of guy you could mistake for either a computer geek in the best sense of the term or a doctoral candidate working on his dissertation in literature or creative writing. However, Visger is actually the mastermind behind Absofacto, which is simply his experimental-pop creating alias.

“I chose the name because I wanted something a little bit open ended and intangible but that also felt familiar – that way the music could fully become the meaning over time,” he says. “I ran across ‘absofacto’ in some argument on the internet, where this person was trying to act really smart and said ‘absofacto’ at the end of their statement. They used it as if it just meant ‘absolutely factual.’ Something about them trying to sound really intelligent while not only getting the meaning of the word(s) wrong but also misspelling ‘ipso facto’ and combining them into one word …the sheer wrongness of it stuck with me.”

It’s this kind of thoughtful creativity that is characteristic of everything about Absofacto from the music to the lyrics. As Absofacto, Visger creates what he refers to as “secret music” along with Brian Konicek (“We create just with the two of us. Nobody hears it – not even our friends,” Visger says) that has very quietly taken the underground music world by storm – especially after being named as one of Paste magazine’s 12 Michigan Acts You Should Listen to Now last February.

When I catch up with Visger at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti, he says he isn’t completely sure how Paste discovered his music and how he made it on the list but that the honor was both “really cool and unexpected” (especially for someone who makes secret music). To date, Absofacto has released many albums and singles but has only played two live shows – one at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor and one at TEDx Detroit, both of which were short sets. However, the reason that Absofacto hasn’t ventured out on stage more is not due to stage fright. In fact, both Visger and Konicek have had plenty of experience on stage as Visger was formerly the frontman and Konicek was the guitarist for the Alpena turned Ypsilanti, Michigan-based rock band Mason Proper. However, this time around, they’re a little more leery of live shows simply because Visger takes the music that he makes as Absofacto very seriously and is reluctant to toy with any entity that might tamper with the creativity behind the music – whether that’s a live show or a record label.

“The need for Absofacto was a personal need,” he says. “When you are in a traditional band in the music industry, it places a lot of constraints on you.”

According to Visger, one of those constraints is creating material that is very focused on a certain style or genre, which, he says, is the very reason he started Absofacto to begin with – to give him an outlet for material that wouldn’t fit with Mason Proper’s overall style.

We are purposefully sort of unpredictable. We’re a little outside of the mainstream. The independence of it is inherent to what is good about it.

“I just like to make whatever I feel like I should be making right then,” he says. “For me, Absofacto is about throwing off those constraints and doing song by song exactly what I think I should be – working on it until I’m happy with all the elements that went into it.”

Visger puts so much work into each song (he says that on average a song takes him about 15 days of work to complete, although his longest song, “Lies,” took him two months) that once he finishes a song, he likes his next one to be something completely different. “It keeps it fresh for me and keeps me excited about it,” he says.

Before Visger began seriously pursuing music, he went to Michigan Technological University for a semester where he planned to study computer science. A semester later he dropped out so that he could move back home and start Mason Proper along with Konicek. However, his techy side has served him well when it comes to Absofacto. Visger says that he has recorded his own music for a long time, which eventually morphed into adding electronic elements into his songs.

“I’m interested in a lot of different types of electronic production. I’m just kind of getting into dance music production a little bit,” he says – clarifying that he’s thinking along the lines of artists like Caribou as opposed to house music.

“There’s something about electronic music. The shows appeal to me because they’re more about the audience having a good time than about worshipping some band,” he says. “It’s about the audience, not about some icon – and I know I will never be that. It’s a more pure show, and it’s an event for people to enjoy.”

But for every part of Visger that enjoys the electronic side of music and the enjoyment that audiences get out of it, there is a part of him that also enjoys thoughtful lyricism – and, with the help of his dry sense of humor, that comes with its own added enjoyment. In fact, aside from his catchy hooks and diverse style, it’s Visger’s lyrics that make Absofacto’s music stand out in the crowd of indie electronic music engineers that have started to flood the underground music scene – after all, anyone can make a catchy beat, but making a catchy tune accompanied by complex lyrics that actually mean something and stick with you is another thing entirely – and it gives his music the humanity that seems missing from so much electronic music.

“I care a lot about lyrics,” he says. “I hate when a song that could have been good has some kind of cliché line – I especially hate when I feel like it’s pandering, which so many lyrics do – either pandering to your emotions or the writer dumbed it down on purpose. But, on the flip side, I don’t like when people show off through lyrics, either. There’s that element of trying to be too sophisticated or too weird. There’s a middle ground you can hit where it still feels honest, but it feels creative and interesting.”

“I really like individual lines that turn back on themselves really quickly and sort of nip themselves in the bud before they get going,” he says. “There’s a Mason Proper song called ‘Fog’ that was kind of when I figured that out. That song is just full of these things. One example is the line that goes, ‘I found a crystal ball, but I lost it.’ It nips the whole story of finding the crystal ball in the bud. It’s not, ‘I found a crystal ball and looked into it, and it showed me your beautiful face and I fell in love with you and it told me we were meant to be together.’”

I ask Visger if there is any particular song that he’s made that sticks out to him or really speaks to him. He mentions the song “Lies.”

“I felt very strongly about the basic lyric of it,” he says and quotes, “‘I used to lie all the time. I know you know that, but I’ve drawn that line. I’m not making up any new ones. I’m just maintaining the old ones.’”

“Something about that really stuck with me,” he says. “I hadn’t heard that before in a lyric – that I know I shouldn’t be lying. I’m telling lies, but once you’ve told them, sometimes they have a life of their own and it’s easier to keep it going than to come clean.”

“The first line is, ‘There’s a funny thing that happens every time it rains outside,” he says, quoting another line from the song. “Then you go through the whole song without getting told what that is. I went through a few different versions of where that was going to end up – if it was going to be that I never told what it was or that the statement itself was a lie. But over the course of the song, I end up getting to this point where the actual personified lies themselves come out of the rain – kind of a weird Field of Dreams thing.” It’s here that he mentions how he likes magical realism and employs this approach in his own writing – which perhaps validates the whole doctoral literature student vibe (because, after all, who else would know what that means?).

As far as what lies ahead for Absofacto, it remains a mystery as usual.

“I don’t plan stuff very far in advance,” Visger says. “We are purposefully sort of unpredictable. We’re trying to make something different and interesting. We’re a little outside of the mainstream. The independence of it is inherent to what is good about it.”

However, we do know that Absofacto will be playing a rare live show on December 20 during the Blind Pig’s End of the World Party.

“It will be a whole experiment in its own right,” Visger says regarding the upcoming show. “We are trying a completely new performance style that we’ve never done before. It’s incorporating elements of live looping, kind of the repetitiveness of dance music with a vocal element with guitar, instrumental, hip hop… It’s going to be a whole set of material that is going to be brand new and written around the performance style. It’s a total experiment for us. But we want it to be enjoyable for people – because we’ve all seen some pretty self-indulgent, not very enjoyable experimental performances. This isn’t that. It’s still the good foundational building blocks of good music and a good show.”

Come see Absofacto perform live at 9:30 p.m. on December 20 at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor along with Celsius Electronics, Flashclash, Wild at Heart and DJ Ell. Tickets are $5. 18 and up welcome. For more information on Absofacto, visit You can check out Visger and Konicek’s other secret project, Hollow & Akimbo, at

Photo by Bruno Postigo


About the Author

Amanda Slater
Amanda Slater
Amanda is the Editor in Chief of iSPY Magazine.

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