Warbly Jets Craft an Innovative New Sound in ‘Propaganda’
By Chloe Robinson
Daring to be different, Warbly Jets have just released their latest EP Propaganda. A definite departure from their previous classic guitar driven rock, it features a more electro centric sound shattering all expectations and pushing boundaries. Creating profound music that is honest and thought provoking, the EP cuts through the static of social interaction while challenging big brother’s ‘Propaganda’.
Multi-instrumentalist Julien O’Neill puts it best when he states, “From social media, push notifications, targeted ads—we’ve openly elected to carry around miniature billboards, playing our part under the promising guise of a sense of ‘connection.’ We feel empty without it.” The band continually finds themselves faced with disturbing questions, the kind that lead us to ask questions further. We interviewed Warbly Jets to discuss everything from their inspirations on this latest endeavor to their shifting sound.
What made you want to tackle these ideas of advertising, technology, and consumerism?
Julien: Advertising has changed so rapidly from the traditional photo or television commercial, most of the time people can’t even tell when they’re being marketed to these days. It’s infiltrated every aspect of how we use technology. People on the internet are scared, angry, and divided on a constant daily basis. The digital revolution is such an exciting and powerful era of human history to be living in, but we seem to be fucking it up royally right at the beginning. It’s all ripe for parody and discussion.
Samuel: These ideas are regularly avoided because people are afraid to shine a light on the ill fate of our culture. We would rather wake up in ignorance and live one day to the next than try to make a plan and take some sort of stand. It’s worth talking about, so we did.
After a year on the road, Propaganda marked your real return to the studio. The EP was originally supposed to come out November 16 and got pushed to January. What were the roadblocks you hit? Were they creative?
Julien: There were a lot of roadblocks with this EP. Some of it was lyrical or melodic, other times it was musical direction. There was a lot of collaboration that took place and sometimes it ended up causing hiccups we didn’t anticipate. We learned a lot about ourselves throughout the whole process.
Samuel: There we’re many blockades along the way. This band has always been a collaborative project. That comes with it’s fair share of disagreements and doubts. It can be hard to find a path in the music that everyone is excited about. In the end we’re all happy with how these songs turned out.
Musically the EP is a shift from your debut album –a move away from a fully guitar-driven sound. Was navigating this new approach part of the holdup? How did you wind up pushing through it all?
Julien: Finding totally different stylings from what we had gotten used to, that meshed together in an impactful way, was a bit challenging and time consuming for a while. We hadn’t focused on making something different to us since we tackled the first record so there was an interesting learning curve we had to adjust to. We knew we wanted to try to approach it almost the way hip-hop producers do, crafting everything mostly from chopped samples, programmed drums, analog synths, using little to no guitars, etc, but translating it into more of a rock format. We got pretty comfortable with all that, but then trying to put words and melodies over top of it all caused a bit of panic at points.
Samuel: Absolutely, we intentionally have been writing songs in a much different format than the past. Making tracks is one thing, but turning those tracks into meaningful, calculated songs is another and it’s proven to take time as we are learning that new format.
As an independent band that writes, records, produces, and releases everything themselves, is it harder to push through those blocks? Without an outside ear? It seems like it would be easy to get too deep in it and lose perspective.
Julien: It’s definitely harder to a degree. We have a faulty tendency to maybe not trust a lot of people to give honest or constructive advice that lines up with our goals, so when we start to not trust ourselves and no one is around to push us out of that state, it gets a little crazy. Towards the end we started holding on to each detail so closely, maybe we were starting to lose certainty with what we were doing. Eventually we just had to let go, trust the music we were writing, and let it breathe on it’s own.
Samuel: Yes it definitely is. It can feel particularly stressful for me at times since I also live at the studio. I have a really hard time stepping away and taking breaks to get perspective. I’ve been making more and more of an effort to get out and make contact with people around town just to stay sane. Apart from that for now we’ve been trusting that we know what’s best for our recordings, and holding that weight between the 3 of us. We are starting to expand that crew though and are more open minded to working with other people on our recordings.
You’re all from other places but now live in Los Angeles. Do you find that these issues you’ve identified are heightened in what is characteristically known as a superficial place? Or do you think it’s a universal problem?
Julien: I think it’s absolutely a universal issue. It’s heavily magnified in a place like Los Angeles, but there’s an inherent psychological flaw in humans that’s being cultivated and taken advantage of. Herd mentality is running rampant around the world and it’s a major negative that people aren’t feeling a need to stop and assess before jumping to conclusions about what is right/wrong or true/false.
Samuel: This American life of excess is hardly limited to Los Angeles. However I will say self-glorification in this city is out of hand. It’s a life model that’s sent out across the airwaves to the children of the world. I hope that younger generations find a way to latch on to more important things in life. There must be more than selfies.
What’s the best thing about having a computer in your pocket, and what’s the worst thing?
Julien: The best thing about smartphone technology is having the instant ability to create, learn, and grow as a person, all at your fingertips. The worst thing is nobody uses it for that.
Samuel: Instant access to knowledge, social media.
The title track finds us at a precipice. It’s a cynical song about mass propaganda, around-the-clock news, and the soulless consumerism that infiltrates every aspect of our lives. But it becomes ultimately hopeful. You seem to be saying there’s still a chance to come back from where we now find ourselves. How do you keep that hope? What makes you think we can come back?
Julien: Awareness to understanding an issue is the first step towards a meaningful solution. If it couldn’t be sold, it wouldn’t be on sale. The biggest piece to what’s missing is people aren’t fully grasping the potential of the situation, it’s being diluted in the muck. Let’s just all make a conscious decision to know what is meaningful and necessary to a healthy world. I believe in people and in people there is always hope.
Samuel: Becoming aware of an issue at hand is always the first step towards making a change. I see many young minds making an effort for change and calling out for action in this cultural void. Who’s really to say if we can come back from how far we’ve veered off path. As artists we can’t stop trying to inspire each other to get more out of life.
“Cool Kill Machine” takes on gun violence, one of the most divisive topics in our country today. What led you to write this song? As an artist, do you think writing songs like this moves the needle? Or is it a shout into the void?
Julien: I’m not sure many songs really “move the needle” on a mass scale (or have in a long time), but songs can affect individual people in profound ways and that’s what matters most – making them feel differently than how they woke up that morning. The topic of gun violence is a blank canvas covered in blood, “Cool Kill Machine” in particular is really half sarcastic and half gravely serious. Which side of the coin lands is up to the listener, we have our own notions about it.
Samuel: I hope that none of our songs are a shout into the void. I’m not sure what it takes to move the needle as an artist. Cool kill machine is a song about gun violence written from satirical perspective. It’s a subject matter that’s hardly funny at all. If anything I hope it brings more awareness to the topic.
“No Allegiance” deals with a very relatable issue for a lot of 20-somethings, trying to get by on a system that hasn’t adjusted since their parents were their age. How do you balance your creative life with the reality of trying to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the US? How do you stay inspired when your energy is constantly drained?
Julien: Our generation is breaking it’s back for peanuts. The disproportion of equality is so staggering, it’s very possible you’ll never buy a house, be able to support a family, or retire at old age like was previously accessible to many. We’re all adjusting to a new world that didn’t exist until yesterday, the best thing way through is cutting a new path forward. The future is terrifying, don’t fall in line, don’t play the game. Take inspiration from what you believe in and good things will come.
Samuel: It’s all a hustle. Who can run the fastest the longest. I hate to say it, but it’s just the truth. Sometimes the weight of that breaks me down and makes me want to tear down the walls. Getting Over-draft account notifications in the middle of the country after playing to 15 people never feels good. Those are the moments that you really realize what your in it for.
Your song “Alive” was recently featured in the opening sequence of the new Spider-Man PS4 game, which got a massive response. Were you guys Spider-Man fans prior to this?
Julien: We were definitely fans of the franchise growing up, the Sam Raimi films were a big part of everyone’s childhood around that time, but I’m not sure we completely understood the gravity of what the new PS4 game meant to people when it was released. It’s been exciting to be a part of.
Samuel: Hell ya! Spider-Man was always my favorite super hero. In fact I played one of the earlier Spider-Man video games way too much as a kid. We didn’t exactly know how the song would be used in the game and it was a pleasant surprise to hear it open up the game.
It also exposed you to a whole new audience. What has the response from the gamer community been like? Are they different at all from the typical music fan?
Julien: The response from the gaming community towards our music has been amazing. A lot of people in that world hadn’t heard of us before, but the outpour of reactions has been overwhelmingly positive which has been really nice. It’s been interesting learning the way gamers listen to music, overall it has a purity to it, they honestly listen to the songs and connect to how it makes them feel at the core. Sometimes die hard music fans get bogged down by details that shouldn’t matter when absorbing actual music.
Samuel: The response has been fantastic. The gamer community has been extremely supportive and really latched on to the band in a way that I haven’t seen before with typical music fans. It’s nice to know that we’re connecting with real people through our songs, and that the criticisms of music lovers nowadays is hardly the most valid opinion.
What are your plans for the next album? Is there anything you can tell us about it?
Julien: There’s been a lot of new material we’ve been working on over the last 6 months, some of which we’ll be playing on the road while we finalize versions of those songs, a good bit of that should will probably end up on the second record. Then we jump straight into final writing/recording as soon as this tour is over. We’ll be releasing more music before the year is over.
Samuel: We were writing and recording the whole second half of 2018. You can expect a level of chaos that hasn’t been heard in the music before. Its a lot less straight forward than some of our releases in the past. The songs are feeling fantastic but just not there yet. We’re going to jump back into the studio in March and April. Hopefully that will be enough time to wax off the record.
Catch Warbly Jets on tour:
4.28 – Beijing @ Omni Space
4.29 – Shanghai @ Yuyintang
5.03 – Wuhan @ Vox
5.04 – Chongqing @ Nuts Live House
5.05 – Chengdu @ Little Bar
5.08 – Guangzhou @ Rutu Space
5.09 – Shenzhen @ B10
5.11 – Taipei @ Revolver