We wrote the band Stolen Jars up when we first heard their intricate, beautifully layered single, “Folded Out”, back last July. The young band’s working on their second full-length now, with a smattering of live dates in the NYC area, and we thought now was as good a time as any to talk with the band before they get all massively popular.
raven + crow: Alright, first thing’s first—where’s the name come from? Why would one steal jars—they’re so cheap!
Cody: When I was first making this music, I wasn’t quite sure where to begin. I found myself going back to all the different artists I had listened to over the years—Elvis Costello, Against Me!, Arcade Fire, Dirty Projectors—and trying to collect the different sounds that had made me love those songs. The first songs I wrote felt like these collections of sounds were manifesting themselves in new ways, as if they were held in small jars opening one at a time, each letting out a new riff. And that’s where the name came from!
Molly: Also, you don’t steal jars for the money-saving opportunities. You do it for the thrill and the street cred.
Good point, Molly. So how did you all form? I get the impression that it started as a solo bedroom pop kind of project for you, Cody, but since has built out both in the studio and with live shows.
Cody: You’re right.
Cody: I originally started writing the music in my bedroom with a crappy USB mic. My friends Magda and John sang with me on the songs for the first album.
Molly: Yeah, Cody contacted me through a friend about singing for live shows in my junior year of high school, along with our friends Elena, Sam and Jonah. We started doing a lot of shows and somewhere along the way Cody asked me to sing on the recordings and it kind of spiraled from there.
Cool, cool. How is it, then, taking something that’s manageable on the small scale, recording songs on your own, and then translating that to a live performance with multiple performers?
Cody: Not easy. But luckily everyone who’s been in the band has been an amazing musician and has really helped to transform the sound of the music for the better. I used to loop a million different guitar parts for every song, which was impossible, but now there is less loop pedal involved. We re-orchestrated the songs in order to combine the huge number of parts into something four instrumentalists can actually play. I was lucky to find three really great musicians to be a part of Stolen Jars when I came to Brown; there’s Tristan Rodman on keys, Will Radin on drums and Greg Nissan on guitar.
Molly: Something that’s definitely been hard to figure out is how to represent the vocals live because, for some reason, we like doing a zillion harmonies all the time. Elena Juliano, who joined at the same time as me, can’t make all the shows but when she’s there it’s a beautiful thing. And Cody more recently has been doing a lot more of the live vocals which has been really exciting and has added a new dimension to how we’re performing I think.
Cody: Haha that’s a lot of pressure.
Tell us about “Folded Out”—it’s such a layered, unique song. How did you all go about writing it?
Cody: We started writing Folded Out in the middle of the night. Molly and I had stayed up making Joseph Cornell-esque boxes. As the night went on, the boxes got better, the music got better. The song came out of that moment. I wrote the music first, short riffs and bits that came to me in 45-second increments over the next few months. Even before adding vocals with Molly, I had to record over a hundred tracks before I felt like the song was whole.
Molly: I remember we couldn’t figure out the harmonies for a really long time, it was so frustrating. Then I was driving in my car and it came on my iPod on shuffle and they just came to me! It was cool. They’re still my favorite harmonies on this album! I think. Actually I can’t decide. But I like them a lot.
Yeah, no, they’re great. And the lyrics of the song seem to follow the theme of the boxes you all were building but then venture out into larger themes. What’s behind the end thoughts on the song “I will not go; let’s be young again; keep your hands close”?
Cody: The whole album came out of leaving home, leaving things behind and remembering. This entire album feels like remembering to me, holding on to whatever or whomever you’ve left behind.
Well, it’s a great track. When can we expect more new material from you all?
Molly: That’s a really good question. I ask it all the time.
Cody: Soon. We haven’t nailed down a release date yet but the album is coming.
Is “Folded Out” indicative of what’s to come sonically?
Cody and Molly: Yeah!
Molly: I feel like the new album has a bit more emotional depth than the first one.
Cody: The songs are all related, but they vary a lot in intensity. I really paid attention to production on this album, trying to make it feel like a whole, and Eli Crews and Jeff Lipton, who mixed and mastered the album, pushed that feeling even further.
Molly: I think there are many songs on this upcoming album that try to create the same shifts in emotion that I feel when I listen to Folded Out, but in different ways.
And what’s that on the cover of the single? A piece of pumice? Some sort of subterranean animal shell?
Cody: It’s a section of this crazy crab shell. Real crazy. Real real crazy.
And the dog + cat drawing on your Facebook page? Where’d that come from?
Cody: Magda drew that one! They were a dog and cat from a dream she had. I think in the dream they were tied together by one leash. It always felt like it fit with the music for some reason. Though the one leash thing is definitely a little creepy.
It’s a cool drawing. Honestly, the dog looks a little upset with the cat, but such Technically speaking, what do you use to record your music in terms of software, et cetera?
Cody: As I said the first album was recorded on a crappy USB mic with Garageband (I hate that program), but the new album was recorded on Logic with an SM57 and some cheap condensers, mostly in my bedroom (I like it there). Also, I worked a bit with Will Radin, who drums in Stolen Jars, in Providence to record some drums and bass guitar.
Yeah, Garageband is so unintuitive, right? I share your sentiment on that software. Ya’ll are based in the NJ-NYC area, yeah? I assume you’re originally from thereabouts?
Cody: Yeah we are both from Montclair. Right now I go to Brown with the rest of the band (except Will who goes to RISD), so we are based out of Providence until I graduate in the Summer, when I go to NYC.
Molly: Well, I actually go to Wesleyan. Cody do you know where I go to school? And Elena goes to NYU which is why she can’t play with us all the time.
You guys have met before, right? Do you see yourself staying put in the NYC area long term? I saw your description of the band’s music as being about finding a new home. I assume that’s more about spirituality and/or growing up than, say, actually moving.
Cody: Well I graduate soon, but I think I will be in NYC after school. Many of the other members will be nearby as well and we will keep playing shows.
Molly: I feel like the idea of finding home just comes out of this time in our lives. We leave home, go to college, figure out what we want to do… everything is really transitory. Nothing feels that permanent (at least to me). So I think the idea of finding home is more about that feeling than about actual geographical location.
Well-put, Molly. Having just transitioned from New York to LA ourselves, that rings really true, personally. Who are some bands that you all feel like influence the sound of Stolen Jars?
Cody: Definitely a lot of names to name here, but I guess a few would be Dan Deacon, Dirty Projectors, Steve Reich, Elvis Costello and five hundred other artists.
Molly: Amber Coffman is my God.
Nice. I know you all have been playing sporadic shows in the NYC area—any plans to do a larger tour? Maybe hit the west coast and in-between states?
Molly: Touring has been hard to figure out since we are all in school and in so many different ones at that. But hopefully we will be able to get a bigger tour together soon. That’s something I think we all want to do.
Cool. Thanks so much for talking with us. Can’t wait to hear more from you all.
Molly: It’s been a real pleasure Troy!
Cody: Yes, a real one.
You can purchase Stolen Jars’ first full-length and their single, “Folded Out”, on their band camp page, where you can name your price for either. Brooklyn—they’ll be playing Baby’s All Right this Sunday night with Lazyeyes. Stay tuned for the band’s new LP and some more tour dates.