When I noticed that Nate Jackson was planning to release a full-length album (on vinyl even!) for his new band, Devil Season, my intrigue was incredibly high. As Music Editor of the Weekly, his years of experience in the Orange County and Los Angeles music scenes, mixed with his cool stylistic taste, were sure to yield a collection worth a listen and repeat. Once I got my vinyl copy of Going South, I let that beautiful red and clear splatter wax spin from start to finish. Sure enough, my inclinations were correct about the album, written and sung by Jackson, and produced by RX Bandits’ drummer, Christopher Tsagakis (aka C-Gak), and released on the drummer’s burgeoning Headphone Music Label.
A bit of R&B, hip-hop, hardcore, melodic electronic, rock and even some jazz elements amalgamate into a musical form that depicts Jackson’s appreciation and study of a diverse range of music. The result is represented well in tracks like “Caves” and “Warning,” in which Jackson’s lyrical content shines, and accompanying melodies effortlessly attract attention. This Friday March 3rd, Devil Season, grown to consist of band members Jackson on vocals, Paul Beville on bass, Chris Walker on drums and keys, and Ricky Atallah also on drums and keys are officially releasing Going South at The Wayfarer in Costa Mesa. Jackson spoke to me, discussing the beginning of the band, their current release, and the road ahead for Devil Season that leads to Austin.
What is your songwriting process?
I sat down and wrote a bunch of bass parts on a loop station for probably a good month or two. Everyday I would go in there and write stuff, and just come up with shit, go home, and it would just sit there on the pedal. I had the chance to work with a guy named C-Gak, Chris Tsagakis. We had studio time together and that turned into us writing the record together in a way. I had all of the lyrics and all of the loops, but then he added the drums and cool sounds.
How did that translate into a live show?
This was the point where the record was already done and recorded and mixed and mastered, so I just had to get the guys who I trusted. They sort of add their own stank on all the songs. The songs that you hear live, there’s a difference and we add stuff that’s not on the record. To me, that’s the best part of playing live—just doing stuff that feels good with the group of guys that you have. It might not always be the same from show to show, or from lineup to lineup if you change members, but it just sounds good because that’s just how you feel and what’s coming out.
What was inspiring you when you first started creating this work?
I was listening to a lot of hardcore, and I would write these hardcore bass lines, and then I would add melodies on top of them that made the song not sound hardcore anymore. It was weird. Adding just one element—I would add all these different styles that I liked, from like a Bad Brains type jam, and then add some hip-hop, kind of like minimalistic stuff. Then maybe add some Portishead type stuff, and then stuff from the jazz-hop scene, like Thundercat and Robert Glasper, even cats that are more singer-songwriter. There were so many different influences, and now you hear it all in the music. I’ve had some people react to it like, ‘I don’t know what this is, but I like it.’
How has being music journalist and editor given you the perspective that you have? Especially when it comes to artistic style?
I think from an artistic standpoint, there’s an advantage in that I’m always listening to stuff. I’m not just listening to myself, I’m actively checking out bands, seeing what bands rise, and fall, and seeing them come up with cool innovative ways to get their sound out there. So as an artist, I think I’ve benefitted because I’ve just been able to see that and I know what works for me.
How did the relationship with Headphone Music Label transition into releasing Going South?
Once I had the record done, C-Gak and I were like, we can put it out digitally, and that’s totally cool it will be the first full-length on his label. We went to Erika Records in Buena Park, and they helped us come up with a concept for how the vinyl was going to look, and we came up with the design. It was really cool because I got to see, from a technical aspect, the mixing process and how that differs from digital to vinyl. That was a learning process for me. Erika is really known, not only for the quality of their aesthetics, but also the sound quality. We really went for it when it came to that, and we went for a heavy, nice 180-gram vinyl with red and clear splatter.
Aside from vinyl, what other formats can people get the music?
So we just released the album on iTunes, and Spotify, and Apple Music. It’s on Soundcloud, so pretty much wherever you want. I mean, we don’t have CDs yet, but we have download cards, you can stream it, you can buy it online, you’ve got the vinyl. So that’s what we’re doing right now.
When you were back in the lockout just starting this by yourself, did you ever imagine it coming to this point?
It’s such a trip. A year and a half ago I was in a space just across from where we are now, alone in the studio, just messing around. Now we’re next door to the new lockout, but we’re in a bigger space. Every practice I go in and see the guys that I’m working with, and we’re all just like brothers. So we have this release show on Friday, and then the next week we leave Sunday to go to Austin, and we have a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday where we just play. Meeting bands and trying to get ideas, plant some seeds, and maybe this time next year we can do a full tour somewhere, or we could be playing a showcase somewhere. To me, the cool thing about doing it when I’m doing it, I found the things in life that are important to me, and I’ve found things that I want to have in my life regardless whether I play music for a living. But the music and all that stuff makes me better than ok, so I want to keep doing it.
Devil Season performs with Apollo Bebop and the Vespertines at The Wayfarer, Friday, March 3. 9 p.m. $5.
To buy a copy of Going South on vinyl, visit www.headphonemusiclabel.com. Also available on iTunes, Spotify and Soundcloud.