Deep beneath Jonathan Something’s vintage-inspired rock lies the complexity and beauty of the human psyche.
The Brooklyn, Conn., singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer explores the dichotomy between a person’s emotionally turbulent interior and their serene façade on his latest release, “Outlandish Poetica,” which dropped last week via Solitaire Recordings.
Throughout “Outlandish Poetica’s” honest, eclectic and thought-provoking nine tracks, Something, aka Jon Searles, purposefully mixes upbeat, electrified ‘60s-fueled music with ironic, contemplative lyrics. It’s a clever and humorous way to musically and lyrically characterize the growing conflict most people experience when they mask their true self.
“I think I’m sort of a self-deprecating human being as a whole, and I think it’s an interesting vibe. I think a lot of people take themselves a little too seriously when it comes to music,” Searles said. “I like stuff that I can get a good laugh out of, especially stuff with dry humor, and on the surface level, wouldn’t necessarily be funny, but when you take it into the context of how they’re saying and what they’re saying, it packs a little punch.”
Searles throws listeners an unexpected musical punch on the album’s first three singles – “Outlandish Poetica,” “Fine” and “Happy Day” – and encourages them to deeply and constructively examine the disparity of their actual self and persona.
Interestingly, the album’s title track is a cheery depiction of a surreal nightmare in which Boston Celtics legend Larry Bird and the ’86 all-star basketball team inexplicably ambush Searles, brutally beat him and rob him of his money.
“It was just an idea, a lot of times some weird phrase will pop into my head. I was just trying to follow that sort of nonsensical approach,” Searles said. “I’ve never been a diehard Larry Bird fan, he just came into my mind. I’m going to have people hearing this song and trying to shoot the sh*t about basketball.”
As a single, “Outlandish Poetica,” creates almost an anti-blues/anti-rock style that masters classic sounds while mocking the perceived seriousness of established music scenes. On the surface, it feels very satirical, but underneath the music, it features an emotive, heartwarming quality that resonates with listeners.
The album’s shortest and second single, “Fine,” which clocks in under two minutes, contrasts the shiny and memorable surface of the music against the sincerity and seriousness of Searles’ songwriting. While on the verge of panic, he contemplates his purpose and meaning after finishing high school – he doesn’t want to become another “extraordinary a**hole with a bachelor’s degree.”
For Searles, the ultimate disparity is chronicled throughout his latest single, “Happy Day,” a track featuring bright, shiny music mixed with anxious, restless lyrics. Don’t let the self-assured bravado of the guitar, the unwavering conviction of the drums and a hammering piano distract from the hidden message of depression, anxiety and mental health.
“I think it’s something for people to get lost in, something to take away reality for a little while. Maybe let someone else take the burden, maybe that’s why they’re listening to the music,” Searles said. “A lot of people feel that, and a lot of people have to push through life putting on a façade and not necessarily feeling the way they look.”
Searles admits the evolution of “Outlandish Poetica” dates back a few years when he recorded an earlier album called “American Character” under a different moniker and reworked some previous songs for the latest release along with some B-sides. After teaming up with Solitaire Recordings six months ago, Searles decided to change his artist name and rethink his musical approach.
“I had this change of heart as to where I was going to put my focus musically, it was more of a shift from the music to the lyrics, not in such a huge sense, but I felt internally like something was changing,” said Searles, who played all the instruments on “Outlandish Poetica.” “It’s like a rebirth … we’ve retooled it into a much more compact listening experience.”
Musical Influences and What’s Next
Searles sought inspiration for “Outlandish Poetica” after listening to Bob Dylan and Fleetwood Mac. He also holds a deep appreciation for all-around indie artists like Ariel Pink, who write, record and produce their own music.
While growing up in Connecticut as an only child, Searles discovered music through Guitar Hero video games and his dad’s affinity for ‘60s rock, including The Hollies and The Grassroots. He picked up the guitar in fifth grade and learned how to play songs by ear.
“That’s sort of what I was listening to at the time,” he said. “This stuff was recorded two years ago, so whatever I’m recording now isn’t necessarily going to be a similar sound. I’m sure I will eventually come back to making stuff in a similar vein.”
As for his next project, Searles is bringing a spooky vibe to his music – think Bladerunner scores mixed with David Bowie “Diamond Dogs” post-apocalyptic world tunes. He’s also writing, recording and producing all the tracks for his follow-up album to “Outlandish Poetica.”
“I call it goth folk, I had this Word document where I was writing all these different themes and motifs down for it, I mean it’s definitely a similar vein,” Searles said. “I still use all the self-deprecating humor, but I think my sound will be changing with every album, but that essential core has the same sense of humor, the same dryness to it.”