[Warning: This article contains block quotes and fancy words. If you are unsure how to process these, please find your nearest English major friend and sob at them until they help you.]
YO WHAT UP.
I mean, uh, hello, dear readers, and welcome to another
word action-packed edition of the ChipWIN-tern Spotlight, this time about the release of Space Boyfriend‘s ‘bug spray (never give up)!’ For those of you who’ve been keeping up at home, you may recall my review/interview/other-prefix-added-onto-view last year, and in said article, Jami mentioned that they were redoing ‘Bug Spray’, one of the first Space Boyfriend albums. But first, before everything could be finished for the rerelease, there was one other important thing to take care of…
FREQUENCY! I know all of you either went to Frequency 3.0, or at the very least read Leah’s breakdown shakedown on the event. The above video is Space Boyfriend’s set therein, and though I know it won’t compare to having been there in person, you can at least pretend you were there, like I am. Many thanks to ZOOM LENS for capturing that video, and for the folks at 8BitLA and The Smell for letting people record things. I remembered that Frequency 2.0 had been a really big thing for Space Boyfriend, both as a person and as an artist, so I decided to ask about the experience. Said Jami:
[Frequency 2.0] was in fact the most important event of last year, that really set the stage for the year that followed, in that I met all of my now-best friends there and ever since. It filled us with this energy to make something out of our inspirations together and work harder than we ever have. So playing Frequency 3.0 was really monumental to me, in that I was then able to do my best to share the energy that I got from 2.0 to everyone else, to hopefully inspire some other group of friends in a similar way, and to sort of ~return that inspiration to the world~ in some way. It felt a lot like I was taking the next step, with all of my friends who played beside me.
On the official Space Boyfriend website, Jami goes into the reasons for redoing Bug Spray. In that breakdown, though, Jami mentioned that they felt as though the emotions evoked by the album had changed. And it IS quite an emotional album – you get everything from disgustingly saccharine happiness with ‘Cutie Cake’ to some extreme screams sprinkled throughout. But when I asked Jami why they felt the emotions had changed, they said:
I didn’t actively decide to change the feeling in (never give up), it’s just something that came about as I decided to do it. When I originally set out to rerelease the record last year, I was very concerned about it keeping the same message, having the same feelings. But as I rerecorded and began mastering everything, what came together was a very different piece than before, and something about that made me very proud. I mention that the original Bug Spray wasn’t exactly for me but for someone else, but that I was able to sort of reappropriate those messages for myself and hope for them to apply for everyone and inspire them, to make the record about recovery and hope instead of desperation as it originally was, felt very poignant. It’s a more strong message, I feel, and one that I think is very personal to me and my own growth from the person that released the original Bug Spray as well.
For those of you who have been following Space Boyfriend for a while, you’ll know that ‘(never give up)’ is an enhanced remake of the original album, clocking in at 19 tracks instead of the original’s 13. I recognized ‘Cutie Cake’ from an earlier release, and asked Jami what the reasoning was for blending in tracks not originally found on ‘Bug Spray.’ The response was:
There are actually plenty of tracks from previous releases, but in more complete form. Up until (never give up), there was a certain rushed sense of incompletion to everything I did. A lot of my releases were out of being a bit too antsy, and weren’t really done. But as time went on, I realized that all of those songs I wrote around that time sort of fit into the original Bug Spray “narrative” in a way that made that story way more complete too. It was about fleshing (never give up) out, not only as a collection of basically my entire body of work up until now, but also as a collection of all the feelings and experiences I’ve had who made me who I am now.
I also inquired as to why Jami went with ZOOM LENS as their outlet of choice for the album. I, being an East Coast peasant, had never heard of the ZOOM LENS crew. Thankfully, Jami was more than willing to elucidate.
“bug spray (never give up)”’s release on ZOOM LENS sort of coincides with Frequency 2.0 and meeting all of those friends for the first time. ZOOM LENS is a label that centers around the aesthetic of “looking deeper into something”, past what something might seem to be on the surface and more on what those things make you feel and why they make you feel that way. I’ve always been the kind of person to be introspective and even the original ‘Bug Spray’, I always felt, had more of a meaning to it than what it seemed on the surface. I think with that being ZOOM LENS’ specialty, it made sense when talking to MEISHI SMILE last year that ‘(never give up)’ would complement ZOOM LENS’ message wonderfully, and vice versa. It was a good fit.
It goes deeper than that as well; ZOOM LENS is a netlabel that takes inspiration from Japanese netlabel as well as idol culture. A lot of us grew up inspired by Japanese music and anime and the like, and not feeling as if we really belonged to anything because of it. ZOOM LENS explores the ideas of loneliness and disconnect in a similar way that I feel Space Boyfriend does, but in different ways that compliment each other. I feel as if Space Boyfriend contributes an optimism to those feelings, and a reassurance that even if you feel disconnected, you’re never really alone and you always belong. Growing up a fan of idols and idol music really affects Space Boyfriend; my performance but also the feelings and motivations behind my work as well, and that is something that ZOOM LENS was very receptive to. Everyone on the label has their own deeper views of these themes and I feel very proud to contribute to that in such a way.
So now, after all of that, we are FINALLY ready to get to the album! You guys ready for this? Click play above and let your brains melt.
‘(never give up)’ is more than just an enhanced remake, though it certainly is that – all of the tracks have been touched up, and I entirely believe Jami when they say that these are the true and complete versions of the songs. There is a polish here which wasn’t quite there with ‘Bug Spray’ – it could just be better audio mastering, or mastering the craft, but I tend to believe, referring to earlier, that Jami did this in their own time, instead of rushing it to get it out. It feels full, and I don’t just mean that in terms of the album’s length.
It’s more than just a goofball with a Game Boy and a kazoo making music (though, of course, that is exactly who Jami is, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise). With the added tracks, the album is much more balanced between vocal tracks and instrumental ones. The vocal tracks progress the story – the story of two lovers traipsing around the cosmos, only to have their love fall apart – but the instrumental tracks provide atmosphere, and such GOOD atmosphere. They make me feel like I really am in space – parts of a track will be so empty, just low noise with some wooshing, and then all of a sudden there’s movement, like you’re in a space ship and out of the void you blaze past a galaxy.
I compared ‘Bug Spray’ to Russian literature once – in that it’s depressing, but in a hopeful way. I think what might be a better analogy for ‘(never give up)’ is, of all things, ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’ Bear with me for a moment – both works start out high energy and hopeful, full of young love. As time progresses, the story of both shift to a darker place – somewhere where, no matter what Huey Lewis might say about it, the power of love isn’t enough to overcome the obstacles presented to the protagonists. And so the story goes, progressing deeper and deeper – things become more and more hopeless. Characters leave. And so here you are, left at the end with the final song: the final song is one of sadness, of longing, but most of all, a hope that hasn’t died despite all the horrible things that the characters have been through. After all of that – they still hold on to hope, as they move on with their lives to try to put themselves back together.
And on THAT cheery note, I conclude this edition of the Spotlight! Now go have a watermelon party or something, you dopes.