i’ve been a fan of the honorary title since anything else but the truth came out in ’04, so having the opportunity to sit down (literally, on the ground in a parking lot) with core member jarrod gorbel was a really cool thing for me. we discussed his (possibly permanent) solo change, the music industry, and hip hop, before a friendly/religious homeless gentleman began watching the last few minutes of the interview, followed by (non-sexual) monetary propositions and religious lectures. hit the cut for the interview, as well as a stream of “how long?”, from his tour exclusive EP ten years older.
Jerome Mendoza, weworemasks: So you’re still pretty early into the tour with Good Old War, how has it been so far and how does it feel to be doing a “return to form” solo tour?
Jarrod Gorbel, The Honorary Title: It’s been really good. I’ve toured with so many bands that I really respect, like Good Old War and Cory Branan. He’s on the tour too. He’s not on yet, but he’s playing before Good Old War. He’s awesome too; if you haven’t heard him you should definitely check him out. I met Cory on tour through Lucero. We both opened for Lucero and he’s from Memphis also. Good Old War are just really good. They’ve been backing me up on a couple of songs, so some songs are full band, so it’s been really good.
WWM: The songs on the tour EP that you have with you, are they from the recent solo sessions you’ve been doing or from Honorary Title sessions?
JG: Well, the solo and Honorary Title sessions are getting confusing, because a lot of The Honorary Title stuff I did by myself and then added people later or had people play on the record, and different people have toured. The Honorary Title has just been constantly changing, so I just started recording all new stuff and I wasn’t sure whether to call it Jarrod Gorbel or The Honorary Title. It’s considered a solo session, but…The Honorary Title might be over.
I’m touring right now with Dustin [from the Honorary Title]. It’s really confusing, because Dustin was in the latest incarnation of The Honorary Title, but he didn’t play on the record. But the EP is a solo thing. It is.
WWM: So the solo LP you’ve been working on, has that been an idea that you’ve had for a while or was it more recent?
JG: Yeah definitely, forever. For a long time. The Honorary Title started as just me, then it just kind of turned into a group. All of the original members started doing their own thing or stopped playing music entirely. So once that happened, and even though I rebuilt The Honorary Title with different members, it just felt like “This isn’t the same.” That felt like the real reason to try something solo, but have everybody play on the recordings anyway for fun [laughs], and get the benefit of both worlds.
WWM: So since The Honorary Title has always been you at the core, where did the need to distinguish between the two finally come from?
JG: It came with the association that a lot of the bands that I was being grouped with for the wrong reasons. It didn’t make sense. The whole – how do I explain this without being a douche bag?
There are certain bands within the emo/punk-ish scene that I respect, but it’s never been something that I’m from. It was just bands I toured with or am friendly with, but musically never really had common influences with. Maybe, I don’t know. I just want separation from it. I think The Honorary Title; to a lot of people that don’t know the music, instantly think it’s that kind of music, which it’s obviously not. I thought maybe if I just go by my name, it will help expose me to people that won’t just write it off as part of the “scene.”
WWM: How has the response been to the new material so far?
JG: Really good, I’ll be playing some of it tonight. It’s been really good. It’s not a far stretch from The Honorary Title. If people like The Honorary Title, they’re gonna like this since I wrote those songs.
WWM: I was reading that you got to collaborate with Blake Sennet (Rilo Kiley/The Elected) on the new album. How did that relationship come about?
JG: I loved the Elected’s last record [Sun, Sun, Sun]. I used to listen that album and I always thought, “I want to make an album that sounds like that, aesthetically.” I had a friend that knew him and had his email address and was like “Can he call you?” And that was it, I sent him demos that I had been working on and asked if he wanted to produce my album, and he said “These are great songs, let’s do it.”
WWM: Do you feel like working with him and the new musicians you’ve been working with will expose you to, like you touched on, a fan base that you may not have been exposed to before?
JG: I hope so. Sometimes that’s what it takes, somebody else’s approval. Fans of The Elected, Rilo and Conor and stuff. There already is a little crossover, I think. But [sings] from a distance…yeah, maybe if they see those names, they’ll be like “Who is this guy, what’s he doing?”
WWM: Does it feel different to be releasing something under your name versus The Honorary Title?
JG: Yeah it does, and it’s risky, and it’s scary. That name is established and people know it. People only know Jarrod if they’re devoted, but there are those people that see that name and go “Yeah, I like that song,” and go to the show. So it is kinda taking a risk, but sometimes you have to go backwards to go forward.
WWM: You released the first Honorary Title full length in ’04. The industry has obviously changed a lot in 5 years. As a touring/full time musician, what are some of your thoughts on the industry as you’ve seen it change?
JG: Yeah, it’s totally changed since I got involved. It’s kind of ‘every man for himself’ is what it looks like. Artists have to be really independent. If you have a touring base and you’ve spent years touring and you have an established base, you’re ahead of half of the industry already. No matter how much money you put into a band, you can’t just make things happen anymore.
There’s such a dividing line now that there wasn’t before. Where it’s like, pop music on one side, 10 bands, Nickelback, Kelly Clarkson, Creed – what’s on the radio? [Laughs] And then there’s indie music. And it’s so stretched out except for the occasional crossovers (Death Cab, Modest Mouse), but it’s not like it used to be. There are so many bands and they all have their own little worlds and they’re self-sufficient. That’s what I’ve noticed, if you can do everything on your own now, you’re good. You can’t depend on a label, they’re not gonna provide a miracle.
WWM: It definitely seems like a lot of the younger bands that are doing it the traditional way are your flash-in-the-pan acts that sign for huge bonuses and then aren’t heard of in a year.
JG: It’s true, it’s just like they’re extinct in a year.
WWM: Since weworemasks is a music blog, what are your thoughts on the blog “explosion” and the use of blogging/twittering/social networking as a promotion tool in the music industry?
JG: As a promotional tool, I think it’s great. I take part in it. I admit, you know on Facebook, on the social level when people do it, I find it aggravating and I think we all do. But then we take part in it anyway. You read your friend’s thing and it’s like, “I’m playing video games and I’m eating french fries!” And you’re like “Shut the fuck up, I don’t give a shit.” [Laughs]. But here we are reading it anyway, because we have nothing to do and they’re really excited about doing miniscule things and we sit there and get mad about it.
On a promotional level, it is cool to know what your favorite actor is doing or a comedian, someone that is witty and clever. You get little blips of their brain, and I’m always curious for that. And the blog is almost becoming less relevant because now it’s tweeting. Everything is getting more instant and smaller. People don’t want an album – they just want a song. They don’t want a blog – they just want a tweet. It’s the future. I’m into it, though, I indulge.
WWM: So I was looking at your myspace, and I noticed GZA and Doom in your top friends. Are you a big fan of hip hop?
JG: I am. I’m not super hardcore, I know more about indie rock, but more and more I listen to it. I mean in the ’90s, I went through that wave with Biggie and 2pac and Wu-Tang. I listened to a bunch of stuff in the ’90s but lately there was a resurgence cause I got so bitter and sick of rock music. But I love MF Doom. He’s awesome. Actually, Why? – he’s kind of rap and indie,
WWM: Yeah, the whole Anticon movement.
JG: Yeah, it actually started with Why? and then I went and dug into Anticon. And then I love Common, Black Star.
WWM: That’s a big part of what we do, a big part of the base is hip hop. You’ll see a post about Common or Kid Cudi, then a post about you or indie stuff like Rilo and you’ll see it post after post. But hip-hop feels like it’s going through such a resurgence and it feels like ’88 again. Have you been listening to many of the up and comers that are out there?
JG: Like Cudi, or is he already too blown up? [Laughs]. I do like that though, and if you know of anybody good. I don’t have many friends that listen to hip hop so I’m always searching online for shit. But I love hip hop and it’s so refreshing. I mean, you know when you get sick of something or burned out and you just need..
WWM: Especially when markets become saturated. It becomes “Oh I like that and I like that. Then it becomes “I liked that better when they blah blah and I like that better when they did blah blah.” Have you gotten into Wale at all or heard any of his stuff?
JG: What’s his name?
WWM: Wale. He’s actually working with RocNation (Jay-Z’s label). It’s really good stuff.
JG: I haven’t yet, I’ll definitely check it out.
WWM: I actually heard the new Cudi album last night.
JG: How is it?
WWM: Really good, and it’s really cool because he’s doing something that isn’t based purely in hip-hop. There’s a lot of experimentation on there, and it feels like a lot of that comes from working with Kanye.
JG: Yeah, I love Kanye. Especially the older stuff. College Dropout and Late Registration.
WWM: What else have you been listening to or reading/watching on tour?
JG: Well it’s an acoustic tour, I’ve been driving a lot, so I haven’t been reading or watching much. But I still listen to a lot of female singer/songwriters. Regina Spektor, always listen to Feist, Bat for Lashes. I listen to boring old singer/songwriters like Ron Sexsmith, Josh Rouse and Ryan Adams. I always listen to soul. Old ’60s/early ’70s soul. Aretha, Wilson Pickett, Otis, Etta James.
WWM: Jackie Wilson is a huge for me. That and Otis, Al Green and Curtis Mayfield. Those were staples in my house growing up.
JG: Oh, and Stevie Wonder. Honestly, it took me a minute. I know he’s been around forever, but I go through phases. I had to get to the ’70s first, you know? But yeah, Stevie Wonder’s been big on this tour.
WWM: Right, right. So what are your plans for the rest of ’09 and going into ’10?
JG: Well, I recorded that full album with Blake. I gotta do some final mixing and tweak it and master it. I hope to put that out early next year. That’s about it, and tour on that. The usual.
WWM: Any last words for the readers of weworemasks?
JG: Come see The Honorary Title on tour and check out our new…or Jarrod Gorbel, for that matter. Whichever. Both. That’s it.
stream “how long” from jarrod’s tour exclusive solo EP, ten years older:
and be sure to check out jarrod on tour with good old war and cory branan. visit the honorary title on myspace for dates.