J Fernandez, Justin if you prefer, is a solo artist in the most proper sense of the world. Recording from his bedroom with an array of eclectic instruments, often found unloved on Craigslist, Justin plays and produces every aspect of his records. He impressed many with his 2015 debut, Many Levels Of Laughter, and is set to return this Friday with his second offering, Occasional Din.
Described as, “a sunny shoebox diorama for the eternal pessimist”, Occasional Din is a record that pushes Justin’s music in new directions; from the unnerving twinkle of Common Sense, to the stomping Beatles-like pop of Rewards and the ethereal majesty of Volcanic Winter. Discussing the lyrical inspiration, J is quick to admit they’re somewhat bleak, anthems for climate change, isolation, and modern surveillance culture, as he explains, “I was aiming to write a feel-good soundtrack but with somewhat grim lyrics”. It’s a winning blend, playful musical musings on a challenging time to be alive: J Fernandez might just be the perfect musical icon for our times.
FTR: For those who don’t know who is J Fernandez?
J Fernandez is just me, Justin Fernandez. I live in Chicago. The project started in 2012 mainly as a home recording project. But now I have a rotating group of Chicago musicians that help to translate the songs live.
FTR: What can you remember about your first show?
I was asked to play a show opening for Advance Base and Julie Byrne. I didn’t know what to expect because I’d recorded the songs thinking I’d never have to play them live. But the show went pretty well. The crowd was mostly friends so it was a nice opportunity to try out the live versions.
FTR: Why do you make music? Why not another art form?
I started playing music when I was six years old. At this point, it’s sort of difficult to picture my life without making music. I imagine some people feel the same way about other forms of art. Maybe someday I’ll get tired of it and become a farmer or an electrician or something.
FTR: What can people expect from the J Fernandez live show?
The band usually plays the songs a bit more upbeat. The goal isn’t to replicate the recordings exactly. It can be a challenge to find a good balance between covering the main parts but also creating something that’s fun to perform.
FTR: What’s next for J Fernandez?
I have a new record coming out November 9th with a release show in Chicago at The Hungry Brain on November 10th. After that I’ll probably go on tour for a bit, and then start developing a few more songs for the next record.
They Listen To…
The Electric Prunes – General Confessional
I’m always drawn to organ sounds. Could be from the years of listening to church organ during Catholic mass in elementary and high school. Not sure. But the organ on this one is amazing. The overall production of this song and rest of the record is perfect.
Bruno Nicolai – Geminus
This was the opening theme for a TV mystery series about a reporter who catches thieves stealing an archaeologic piece. I haven’t seen it but I’m sure it’s great. I love the first few notes of the super buzzy sounding guitar. This along with the hard hitting drums and harpsichord set a dramatic mood. Good music for shows about stealing ancient artifacts.
These Trails – Of Broken Links
I don’t understand how people write music like this. It feels supernatural. The organic mix of guitar and dulcimer somehow fits so well with the synthesizer which adds an eerie quality. Apparently this group was from Hawaii and never played any shows or made any other recordings.
DRINKS – Corner Shops
DRINKS’ album Hippo Lite was one of my favorite records from this year. Their unique melodic ideas and distinct tones are refreshing and a bit spontaneous. I’m never really sure what’s coming next but it seems to work out every time.
Marker Starling – The Smiling Hour
Marker Starling is Chris A Cummings from Toronto. He’s a master at writing smooth, laid-back pop with melancholic lyrics. His songs include so many interesting musical and lyrical bits but the arrangements never seem overly complicated.
Occasional Din is out November 9th via Joyful Noise Recordings. Click HERE for more information on J Fernandez.