Jason Roy thoroughly mines for Michigan music gold.
The Soods frontman uncovers rich collaborations and treasured tracks with a growing collective of scintillating local artists, songwriters and musicians on his latest indie folk-psych rock musical gem, Ornaments of Affection.
“I pared it down from a list of 36 songs; those were the ones to get vocals on, and from there I followed through with 22 of those. Some of those are the newer singles that I’ve been putting out. It was a fun thing like, ‘Well, I haven’t put any music out in a while,’” said Roy, who released the album in October via GTG Records.
“For ‘Morning Harold!’ and ‘Nomadic Marine Biologist,’ I’ve had those two instrumentals for eight months. I just hadn’t gotten vocals on them yet, and then when it came time to make that list of 36, I was like, ‘Ooh, I like that title,’ and I remember liking this track. It was like, ‘Two check marks, you’re in,’ and then figuring out from there who fits best.”
Throughout Ornaments of Affection, Roy beautifully melds 13 priceless Soods folky, trippy tracks with a talented array of Grand Rapids collaborators, including Steven Meltzer, Matt Ten Clay, Shane Tripp, Patrick Wieland, Drinking Mercury’s Timmy Rodriguez and others.
“These guys have their own ways with words, and weirdly somehow it all does sound like a band if I keep the thematic elements constant. Like having Matt Ten Clay sing the backing vocals on a track strengthens the foundation of that illusion of like, ‘These guys got together in the studio for a week and pounded these songs out.’ If you only saw all our emails and Google drives, it’s very different,” said Roy with a laugh.
“It’s a great compliment when people are like, ‘Oh yeah, I like that band.’ That’s what I want; I don’t necessarily need it to be a Jason Roy brainchild thing. I enjoy collaborating with these guys.”
Mersey Days to Interloper Overdrive
Roy’s exquisite Ornaments of Affections collaborations invite listeners to unearth introspective, relatable sonic vignettes (featuring quirky titles) about overcoming loneliness, living in the moment, healing wounded souls, finding inner strength, searching for a lost love and revealing a holistic sense of self.
The album’s dreamy, poppy ‘60s-tinged opener, “Oh, Mersey Days,” weaves atmospheric, vibrant electric guitars, upbeat acoustic strums, jubilant bass and bouncy drums throughout a magical in-the-moment anthem. For the track, Tripp (vocals) joins Roy (guitar, bass), Clay (backing and harmony vocals) and Garth Mason (drums) on a three-minute voyage likely inspired by the River Mersey near Liverpool.
In tandem, Tripp hopefully sings, “Hold on tight to your friendships and love/Like the planets above/They’re beautifully aligned/You don’t know what the future may bring/But the songs that we sing/Will be all that’s left behind.”
After celebrating “Oh, Mersey Days,” The Soods’ Ornaments of Affection journey calmly drifts along to “Morning Harold!” as vivid electric guitars, steady acoustic strums, calm bass and delicate drums briefly preserve sanity in an uncertain, divisive world. With Meltzer at the helm, Roy (guitar) seamlessly blends with Clay (backing/harmony vocals and guitar) and Haleigh Potter (drums) throughout the Real-Estate-meets-Conor-Oberst track.
Meltzer thoughtfully reflects through lo-fi vocals, “It’s everybody, it’s problematic/But it won’t stop me from going so mad/It’s a sole solution masquerading/All the problems that I still haven’t had/Hardly worth it/Any motivation feels like I’m sinking in a narrow escape.”
“Some of the impetus behind the ridiculous song titles was like, ‘Well, maybe that does work,’ to make somebody take a second look in this day and age. I’ve been asked by two collaborators, ‘Do you want me to use that phrase or that wording in the song? Should it be thematic?’ It’s like, ‘No, absolutely not, do what you want.’ I never give anybody any lyrical direction,” said Roy, who co-produced the album with Meltzer and Clay.
That Soods lyrical freedom allows for vivid imagery and thematic versatility, especially on a breathtaking track like “Early Morning Winter Song,” which fuses blaring, mystical synth, tranquil electric guitar, whimsical acoustic strums and soft drums. Together, Roy (guitar, glockenspiel, keys and drums), Jordan Stricklen (synth strings) and Clay (vocals, guitars and keys) straddle the hypnotic, dreamy Beach House realm that lies between sleep and wakefulness.
Clay quietly sings, “Sleepless, I wonder where you are/Shuffling through photographs of lost maternal scars/Ink adorns your limbs, ornaments of affection/Worn, like permanent stains of undying connection.”
“The album title comes from a line in ‘Early Morning Winter Song’ that I wrote about wearing tattoos like ‘ornaments of affection’ as an ‘undying connection.’ It’s somebody ornamenting their body,” Roy said.
The Soods’ reflective Ornaments of Affection journey continues to soar as “Interloper Overdrive” wraps bright, swirling electric guitars, thumping drums, crashing cymbals, rhythmic bass and light handclaps into a graceful sonic road trip. Once again, Clay (vocals, synth, guitar, tambourine and handclaps), Roy (guitar, bass and handclaps) and Mason bring a soothing lo-fi sound against a lush, cinematic backdrop.
Clay reveals through echoey, lo-fi vocals, “Raindrops on golden roofs/Chilly on the flowerpots/Smoke rings scattering overhead/This place is driving knots/Summer drifts and shifting sails/Slip slowly through these shaking hands.”
“I love Guided by Voices and Robert Pollard; getting into them made me get into other lo-fi stuff,” Roy said.
Champagne Supernova to Drinking Mercury
Roy developed an eclectic taste for music after relocating from northern Maine to Grand Rapids as a child. By age 14, he started playing electric guitar and jamming with a baseball teammate during the summer. Together, they learned how to write and structure songs while recording new material and listening to The Beatles, Oasis, Jimi Hendrix and Credence Clearwater Revival.
“He was one of the older kids in our grade, and it was like having an older brother in your same grade, but who’s going through all the same things as you at the same time. He taught me a ton about music, and I remember that summer really fondly still of learning how to record songs. That’s more what I was interested in; it wasn’t learning covers. It was like, ‘OK, I know four or five chords now, let’s write some shit and make some stuff up,” Roy said.
After graduating high school, Roy formed a band with his younger brother called Relapse and toured across the country from 2001 to 2008 with several acts, including Missouri’s Greenwheel. They played 100 shows with Greenwheel over 18 months and honed their stage chops while playing alongside their musical mentors.
“It’s impossible not to get better playing every night with a really good band. They were really tight live, and they were only a few years older than us. Again, it was like having an older brother, and I hung out with those guys all the time and soaked up as much musical knowledge and tour stories as I could. It was also a great lesson in that I could book this stuff; it wasn’t that hard,” he said.
By 2017, Roy decided to form his own recording project called The Soods and invited local artists, songwriters and musicians to collaborate with him. He met folk singer-songwriter Shane Tripp at a house show and invited him to sing on “Dunn’s River, CT 1981,” Roy’s first single release under The Soods moniker.
“A month later, I hit him up again, and we repeated the process. In the interim, I had reached out to Patrick Wieland from Lazy Genius, and he’s got a phenomenal band,” said Roy, who named the project after a John Lennon reference to “pseuds,” or “Soods,” about fans who heavily read into The Beatles’ lyrics.
Two years later, Roy released The Soods’ 11-track majestic debut album, Extemporary, and a splendid self-titled split album with Drinking Mercury via GTG Records. With three albums now available for indie folk-psych rock fans, Roy continues to write and record with a revolving list of musical collaborators.
“I’ve got another three songs recorded with Sleeping Timmy, which is Timmy Rodriguez from Drinking Mercury, and I’ve got a couple with Chris McClurken, who was in a band for a while called Book of Symbols. Chris Coble and I are supposed to collaborate on another one, and that will be for a single. I’ve also got one with Steven Meltzer that’s an acoustic, Guided By Voices-like 90-second ditty, but I like writing stuff like that,” Roy said.