Catching up with Jessie Frye
Retroheads, please allow me to introduce you to NRW Records’ latest family member. Unveiled to the Synthwave community through her brilliant collaboration with Timecop1983 on her single ‘Faded Memory’, Jessie Frye has been making waves in the scene, heightening expectations with every subsequent single release
Retroheads, please allow me to introduce you to NRW Records’ latest family member. Unveiled to the Synthwave community through her brilliant collaboration with Timecop1983 on her single ‘Faded Memory’, Jessie Frye has been making waves in the scene, heightening expectations with every subsequent single release for a full-length release that will crown her as a Synthwave princess. At long last, the wait shall soon come to an end, as July will mark the release of Jessie’s NRW debut album Kiss Me in The Rain. We hit the singer-songwriter up for an informal introduction and to check up on how she’s been doing amidst these turbulent times.
Hi Jessie! How are you holding up?
I’m good. The situation is really surreal, of course, but I’m kind of a homebody anyway (laughs). I’m totally good with the social distancing that needs to be done right now. I’m a piano teacher and a vocal coach, so I’m teaching all of my students on Zoom. It’s definitely been an adjustment and I’m really grateful to keep working.
How have you been keeping busy? Your new album is dropping soon, so I’m guessing you must be busy with that.
Yes, we’ve decided to release the album on July 10th. Luckily, we finished the record before the coronavirus hit. Just barely, honestly. We finished tracking in February. I go through phases where I will write a whole lot or where I’ll be purely focused on the studio. Getting this record done was a huge achievement for me and for my producer. It consumed my life, emotionally and musically for the better part of the year, if not more. What’s really fun is that – now that the record is done – I’ve been able to get the artwork done and handle the stuff that I’m able to do safely. The photo for the album cover has been released, but we haven’t released the graphic art yet. We haven’t released the design of the record, but we did post the cover ‘shot’ already. Designing everything for vinyl has been super magical. I’ve never had vinyl before!
I’m also writing a little bit, but I’m kind of giving myself a little bit of a breather.
Can you tell us a little more about the album title Kiss Me in the Rain?
That phrase had been in my mind for the better part of a year. I journal daily, so I write my lyrics and daily thoughts in my journal. That phrase kept coming up in different poems and writings. The same thing happened with my song ‘Fantasy’, actually. I started having personal experiences where the song started to tell a story that I was going through. Oddly enough, rain kept popping up, during writing, during the studio sessions and during every photo shoot. It rained during very personal moments that inspired the songs.
The meaning of Kiss Me in the Rain is supposed to convey that moment when you let your guard down and you believe in love, even if it’s just for a moment. It’s complete abandon. It is a very dramatic record and I’m a very romantic and dramatic person. The title was so fitting, so true and honest for what was happening in my life and I wanted to convey a feeling of passion and vulnerability. It really symbolizes something beautiful happening amidst chaos and pain.
Is the album a concept record?
Well, it’s not your typical concept record in the sense that I’m playing a caricature or anything like that. It’s more of an emotional concept record where there’s a true story that happens in chronological order. The tracklisting is done purposefully. ‘Fantasy’ will be the first track on the record and is where our story begins. It starts with a shedding of personal poisons, growing and finally experiencing this crazy life-experience of romance coupled with hardships and self-discovery. If you pay attention to it and listen to the record in order, there are lyrical easter eggs. The crazy thing is that I didn’t even realize that until we were done! I didn’t mean to tell this story from start to finish, yet there it was! It was meant to be.
How have you approached writing for this full-length release? Was it any different from working on individual singles?
It was a huge challenge and I was really uncomfortable with it, to be honest. I don’t think a lot of my newer fans know this, but I’ve been releasing music and performing live since 2008. I used to do EPs. Because I was touring all the time, pounding the pavement and busting my ass, I just started to learn to work smarter, not harder. For a while, singles really helped me work smarter, not harder. I could put a single out, tell a story, see how it did and learn from it before moving on to the next thing. The turnaround was faster. It was very difficult to commit to doing an album, but when I had the discussion with Ten (NewRetrowave/NRW Records) it was a deciding factor. I really respect and look up to NewRetroWave and I felt like it would be a perfect partnership to release a record through this label. I’m so glad I did it, and it’s going to pay off because this community of listeners really do cherish records.
Did it end up affecting your approach to writing?
Sort of. It’s one of those things where you don’t want to overthink anything. You want to create from the heart. When you try to prove something or force something, it’s going to sound contrived. When I decided to commit to the record, we were already six songs in. ‘Angel’, ‘Faded Memory’ and ‘Fantasy’ are going to be on the record, so it was already in a good position to commit to an album. To be honest, ‘Faded Memory’ changed everything for me. It changed my life in so many ways. I feel like it’s a blessing (laugh).
It was a turning point in that it was one of the first full-on ‘Synthwave’ tracks you released. How did it happen?
To be totally honest, I was a huge fan of Timecop1983. I had no idea about anything else. I didn’t even know what ‘Synthwave’ was. I was a just a Timecop fan. I just emailed him one day. I told him I was a fan and I asked him if he’d be interested in having me sing on a track. I showed him my song ‘Honey’, he really loved it and we ended up collaborating. Long story short, ‘Faded Memory’ was supposed to be on his record Night Drive, but we agreed that it would be better if I released it as my single. To be completely honest, during the time that I was releasing it, I didn’t think it was going to be this big thing. I just thought it was going to be this really fun summer song about a boy that broke my heart. In my ten or eleven years of being in the music industry, I had never seen such a response from fans before. I’ve been slaving away for a long time, carving my own path as every independent artist does, and it was very surreal to have this massive response. All of a sudden, I was getting messages from people saying “You’re perfect for Synthwave, please do more Synthwave! Do an album!”. I had no idea what was going on and what they were talking about. What’s special about the situation is that it wasn’t a gimmick, it was just this honest song. It was the right time and place for the right artists. It changed my trajectory and I’m so, so grateful for that experience. It helped me grow al lot.
Do you remember how you first came across Timecop1983?
I do! I remember the exact moment. We were on tour, going to Houston. It had to have been Summer of 2017. Our guitar player, with whom I’ve been playing for 15 years, said “Hey, have you heard of this guy called Timecop? He’s this incredibly talented artist who uses retro sounds”. He then played his songs on Spotify in the car. It was ‘Let’s talk’ with Josh Dally, who’s now a good friend of mine as well! (Laugh) If he had told me, “Within a year, you’re going to end up being great friends with the guys behind this song and you’re going to tour and make music with them”, I would have never believed it. The big takeaway was that I need to keep going, because you never know what opportunities are going to lay ahead.
I’ve heard you mention that you were a Goth girl at heart. From your perspective, what does it mean to identify as a Goth and how do you approach bringing this side of you into a pop and Synthwave aesthetic?
(Laugh) I say that very lightheartedly. I don’t really consider myself to necessarily be goth. I try to stay away from labels. It’s rare that you’ll even hear me call my own music ‘Synthwave’. I let the fans call it what they want. But everyone has roots. My mum was a big fan of Type O Negative, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson and Front 242. I grew up listening to that type of music. I think it’s just part of me. There are two sides of me: there’s the sweet, romantic ‘pop’ persona, and there’s this heavy metal, ‘dark’ persona (laugh). It might be strange to hear, because I mostly show the brighter ‘pop’ persona. It’s funny that you ask, because I’ve been working on a side-project under a different name so that I can do some heavy metal music outside of Jessie Frye. We’re going to call it Witch Harbor. It’s just another part of me, and it doesn’t necessarily fit into the realm of the Synthwave thing, but I guess that’s why you do different creative endeavours. I need to let this part of me out.
Are there any glimpses of this darker side in this upcoming record?
There are definitely a couple of darkwave tracks on the record with some Wes Craven horror sounds to them. I feel like every song on the album could be a single, so it’s really exciting. I’m a songwriter at heart. I don’t call myself a ‘Synthwave artist’ and I try not to call myself ‘pop’ or ‘rock’, though I do understand that labels are important. I just want my fans to know that I’m mainly a songwriter who writes songs on her guitar and piano. The stories are real and they come from my heart. I think that’s why more people are connecting to my music. Yes, we’re going into the studio and having a lot of fun with production and following Synthwave sounds, I’m not going to deny that. At the same time, it’s important for me to fall in love with who Jessie Frye is as a songwriter, not simply for one genre.
To finish off: can you name one of your favorite albums, movies and books?
Album: Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos. This record really changed my life and people should really check it out if they don’t know it. It was released in 1992 and it was on the cusp of a really interesting time for music. Tori Amos is my idol, she’s the reason why I started taking piano lessons.
My favorite movie is The Crow with Brandon Lee. It’s been my favorite movie since I was a kid. I have a lot of intimate ties to that movie. I’ve got all the original trading cards, the original ring and everything. I’m kind of a superfan, it’s pretty weird and obsessive, but I’m totally fine with that (Laugh).
Book: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.
Kiss Me In the Rain will be released on July 10th via NRW Records.
Be sure to check Jessie Frye out on her social media pages.