Jordan Reyne releases ‘Children of a Factory Nation’ her new album, very shortly, so to with guitars relief, Nina Wagner saved the day and discovers more about the album that is one part folk, another, the sound of ‘steam, steel and iron’.
When I first heard Jordan’s music, a chill went down my spine. There’s something powerful and mystical in her sound as her voice carries a certain beautiful sadness. It had been years since I felt so compelled by music to the point it made me repeat a track over and over again. And sure enough, Jordan’s sound became addictive.
So, when the opportunity arose for me to have a one to one interview with Jordan, I seized it and even now, as I write this story, part of my soul feels content.
With long, red curly hair, big blue eyes and milky skin, Jordan looks like a siren fresh from the ocean. Sitting down opposite her, I am instantly hypnotized by her genuity and feel instantly like I’ve made a new best friend. A real one though, not one just for coffee.
Settling in, I ask her how she’s finding London compared to Germany, although New Zealand born, she journeyed over to Europe a few years back, being told that Europe would be the place where she’d fit in instantly.
“London has a real energy, like you know things are really happening here. I have heard people say London is unfriendly, but after being in Hamburg for 5 years, I must say I don’t notice it. I really enjoy it here.”
I ask Jordan to explain her albums, or the songs on them, as I’ve noticed they seem set to stories told about a boy called Johnny.
“I like stories,” she tells me, “Generally, my songs and albums are sort of a Grimm’s-fairy-tale based on actual people from around the time of the Industrial Revolution. These come off like folk tales, but somewhat more bloodthirsty, and although I use folk instruments, I also use the sounds of steam, steel and iron as percussion and a sort of ‘setting’ for the characters involved.”
“Now, more than ever, I believe pop will eventually eat itself…”
And how long have you been writing music?
“Since I was a kid. I loved folk stories as a child. I liked their sense of darkness, hidden meaning, and the way they delved into the sometimes horrible sides of the human condition as well as the happy ones. They were often gripping, and terrible, at the same time, and always seemed set in a world I had no access to – an old world, far away. Growing up in New Zealand, I think, makes everything seem far away, but it was temporal too. I try and recreate that in my music. I gravitate to the industrial revolution I think because people’s lives were so altered and torn by the change in how things were done – by the invention of new machines – that it made their adventures and struggles that much more dramatic.”
And what inspires you?
“People. Everyday people actually – the ones who quietly fight battles no one even acknowledges them having fought. A lot of people in love with history will gravitate to talking about heroes and people who are causative in some massive way, but really, most of us will be overlooked by history. It is far more relatable to hear how people you know find meaning in the world; how they deal with the joys and the difficulties we all deal with, because it is more like your own experience. History tends to deal with people we will never be like, and whose situations are unlikely to be ones we find ourselves in. I think folklore often does the opposite, even when it essentialisms – which is why I was drawn to it.”
You have an album coming out which is part of a story about a character, a very interesting concept. What’s the story about?
“ ‘Children of a Factory Nation’ follows a Welsh family from the late 1800s to the workhouses of London. It starts with a guy whose name was Johnathan, who follows the call of the sea – a life of adventure – instead of conforming to societal expectation. He gets tired though, like we all do, when following difficult paths, and tries to convince himself he wants a normal life. It doesn’t work though, cos he isn’t built like that. The sea keeps calling and eventually, he answers – but the price is high.”
Feeling like I could talk to Jordan about anything, I decide to ask about her thoughts on the music industry and her feelings towards the cold war between pop culture and independent artists.
“Now, more than ever, I believe pop will eventually eat itself. Though in the end it’s really a battle of infrastructure, and music is unfortunately by-the-by. Entertainment cartels only really deal in products with a known existing market – one where they are the gate keeps to the distribution mechanisms for it. They will always play to the middle (mainstream) because a proven audience is better than the risk of putting out a product where there is no existing market info – for example if a band had a new sound, they’d feel less likely to take the risk. In the end it’s all about business, sadly, but that’s the way it is everywhere.
In the end the important thing to remember is, indie label, or major label, if you play to the middle you are doing creativity a disservice, because you are slicing off the extremities of the bell shaped curve every time you make the choice to fund sure wins. This reduces what is available out there to listeners – and even what is deemed possible. Of course, the reason behind people making that sort of choice is capitalism. For as long as money is the highest concern, we will chose to hear things we have already heard over things that might be new, interesting, or innovative. We will be down to only 3 kinds of song, 2 kinds of artist, and no kind of choice.”
And finally, how do you see your work evolving in the next two/three years?
“Well I am not as good at looking forward as at looking backwards – though maybe that works when we’re talking about evolution cos I won’t know until I get there, and when I do it will probably seem inevitable. Right now though I don’t know. I will have a much newer version of Cubase though, which I look forward to! As for the music, I’d like to just see where it lets me take it, or where it takes me. It’s a relationship, I think, so I try not to kill it with expectations. Hopefully I can just trust it and follow.”
Jordan is touring the UK from now until the end of February and her album is out October 24th. Go out and get yourself a copy now!