THE GREAT BEFORE by JV Team | INTERVIEW
Author: Sean Manuel
Feel free to call this romanticism; but, I hold the enduring belief artists reflect a divine originator via their most-coveted ability to, like the divine, create. No time more critical in our recent history has the artist community been swiftly reminded of their often-unspoken creative responsibility than in the throes of the COVID-19 Pandemic. This week's BlowUpRadio.com artist spotlights, Medford Lakes's Jim Caputo ("J") and Van Kapeghian ("V") of JV Team, are two of many in our inspiring New Jersey independent music community to rise to the occasion. Releasing on April 7, JV Team's debut record entitled The Great Before is a showcase of two next door neighbors collaborating on eight original exploits evoking connections to influences like David Bowie, Pavement, Big Star, and The Beach Boys. Do you consider yourself a risktaker in your musical tastes? Is song craft your guiding light? Should you answer "yes" to either of these questions, The Great Before is a guaranteed addition to your music library. Let's get a profile on JV Team...
Hi, JV Team! Like the legendary David Bowie accomplished in his releases, you embodied a "music chameleon" mindset in weaving an eclectic sonic texture mix comfortably together throughout The Great Before. I am aware this project began during the COVID-19 Pandemic. What motivated you to band together and create?
JC - The pandemic created some space and time for us to make this happen. Create is the key word - instead of just sitting around locked down, we chose to use it to experiment and make things happen. The result was an interesting give and take of ideas and songsmithing. We have common influences which made it easy to read each other and continue to construct tunes regardless of who brought the idea.
Regarding the songwriting, is the nature of your collaboration an even split? Or, is there a clear "director?" Who wrote each song?
JC - Wow tough question...There really was no set formula - each song features our collective creative ideas. For example, Van wrote the chord progression for the first track we worked on, Speed of Sound, and I added some guitars and played bass. I wrote the lyrics and worked the melody. However, in Motorrad that was reversed - I wrote the power chord guitar rhythm and Van wrote the bridge. He wrote the lyrics and came up with the melody line. I sing unison with him for texture and he sings alone in the bridge. He plays the lead and I added the Hey Ho chants...so again it was both of us contributing relatively equally. The rest of the record is pretty much the same process. We trusted each other's creative talents and just went with it, no ego or judgment.
VK - Totally agree with Jim, it was truly different hats for almost every song.
Given you are a duo, who is responsible for tracking each instrument? Is there an optimal order you track in?
JC - We both sing and we both play guitar, Van played some keys and I played bass on a few tracks.
The Great Before opens with a motor-revving song entitled "Motorrad." An urgent tune grounded in B natural minor, the opening stadium rock (and Ramones-esque) chant paired with the harmonies and nasal quality of the lower voice engender an air of familiarity as if I was listening to a long-lost Tom Petty tune. The chorus references the freeing feeling of motorcycling to the tunes of David Bowie and T. Rex's Marc Bolan while soon contradicting it with an underlying dose of mystery: "Everybody thinks they're free, but no one knows the enemy..." Then, a call to action: "Let's get lost and find out what's real." This amalgamation of musical omen and profound lyrical introspection renders "Motorrad" a fitting selection for opener in record sequencing. Is freedom but an illusion? Who/what is the enemy? In what way does the enemy affect freedom?
JC - I brought the chord progression that drives the tune - I loved the energy of it. I added the chants to give it some attitude. Van worked his mojo, writing the bridge and the lyrics/melodies. He also crafted the hammer on/pull off lead. I added an aggressive vocal - singing unison to Van's melody/lyrics. I thought that was a great way to open the record - with us both singing at the same time.
While "Motorrad" sets forth a journey to find reality, "Am I Doing It Again?" appears to represent a stop in the journey to evaluate religious faith. In the liturgical calendar, Lent is the 40-day season in which Christians traditionally give something up. They consider Jesus's desert encounter with Satan and besting his temptations ahead of a life of ministry; and, they prepare for Jesus sacrificing Himself at the crucifixion. Lent ("This year for Lent, I am giving up...") is written of alongside the sacrament of anointing the sick with oil ("A peaceful concept is oil on troubled thoughts...") to an ethereal D major tune. In a similar vein to John Lennon's raw "God" from the Plastic Ono Band album ("God is a concept by which we measure our pain..."), is "Am I Doing It Again?" describing a cyclical faith journey from a skeptical lens?
VK - Wow, that was an amazing reflection on those lyrics. I do love that you found some hints to another story, and honestly - that makes more sense than what the real meaning actually is. Am I Doing It Again is actually written about my own social anxieties. I feel like I'm a lot for anyone to put up with on certain days, for sure. I know when I'm overwhelming my wife with me blathering about my day job, or a guitar pedal, or a song I'm working on, etc... She's a saint.
The C mixolydian "Speed of Sound" heavily pulls from David Bowie as the lead vocalist delivers the melody in a deep timbre over what sounds like a jazzy Gm7-FM7/A verse chord progression. The song exists in "Major Tom territory" with psychedelic guitar production in the C-F choruses and spacy vocal reverb. A compelling lyrical shift occurs at the song's outro with the lyric, "Stuck inside a photograph, watching time stand still." The song's entirety lyrically conveys motion. Explain the purpose of this shift.
JC - I usually sing in a higher register, so with the JV Team I consciously tried to do things I wouldn't usually do. The result was a Bowie-esque low timbre that would echo in my head. I started with the image of a photograph...of a couple traveling through time and space in the face of mortality in the heart of the pandemic. Kind of an astro Romeo and Juliet.
"Interrobang" addresses the listener in first-person within the confines of E minor pentatonic. As per the definition of an interrobang (a punctuation mark possessing both the qualities of a question mark and an exclamation point), jolts the listener to question how much they really know. Please tell us what experience informed this song.
VK - Honestly, I found the word in a book, didn't know what it was, looked it up, and realized it was something everyone says every day, but the "official" punctuation is rarely used when written. The song has a bunch of interrobangs in there - "that's the hat you wear when you're dying?!" The questioning of immediacy is good stuff... I probably could have made a super meta song by making it about questioning immediacy in life, like why do I have to hurry?... or go the Alanis Morrissette route and not have any actual interrobangs, like she did in Ironic. Opportunity lost, my bad.
The title track "The Great Before" concludes the eight-song adventure in a bluesy G major Black Keys-like groove. According to the chorus, "Nothing could hurt me more, a girl like you. There was a great before, someone like you," is there now a regret for leaving the ideal "Great Before" for someone new to cause immense hurt?
VK - I wrote these lyrics about a fictitious drunk girlfriend from the perspective of an enabling boyfriend. The references about dropping to a knee is that the enabler wants to keep the relationship alive by proposing just so they can help her. At the same time, the boyfriend is guilting the girlfriend by saying she wasn't the first. This boyfriend is a jerk, basically.
Would you like to tease any future releases/shows?
VK - Jim and I are not planning on any live shows as JV Team currently, but I loosely threw the idea out there of maybe doing another EP. I'll say this, if this makes us millions - we'll probably play a live show or two.
Where can people go to connect and interact with you?
Bandcamp is great - https://jvteam.bandcamp.com, but we are also on Instagram (@jvteamband), and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/jvteamband).
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Make music with another human being, it's super good for you.
THE JV TEAM is the end result of next door neighbors, James Caputo (Somerdale) and Van Kapeghian (furiousBall, Camino Sound) crafting catchy hooks and memorable soundscape riffs during the pandemic.
With just a fence between them, the neighbors used the lockdown time to tap into their musical influences from Mick Ronson era Bowie, indie rock stalwarts Guided by Voices and Pavement, and a sprinkling of Seattle grunge melodic mayhem. Rich harmonies enhance tracks summoning sounds of Big Star, Beach Boys and The Beatles. Their debut album also features loads of sound experimentation - hypnotic stratospheric guitars, innovative mind bending slide play, and sweet symphonic strings. The risk taking and devotion to craft is evident in the construction of well balanced, memorable compositions. It builds on the talents of Kapeghian's spectacular spacey sonic sounds cemented by Caputo's power pop magnetic melody songwriting. It ain't the Varsity...but the JV team will always out work the rest - a covid collab that will last the ages!
About the Author: Sean Manuel is a Senior enrolled in New Jersey City University's Honors Program. A Music Business major, Sean specializes in the piano and bass guitar. Outside of academia, Sean performs in and manages the Bayonne indie-pop group BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Are you interested in their music? Follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj and stream their releases on all platforms.