Jay Gavan Takes a "Breather"

Nov 28, 2014

The cover for Jay Gavan's new album, "Breather," featuring a tintype by Robert Shimmin.
Credit Jay Gavan/Robert Shimmin

If you follow music in Kalamazoo, you might recognize Jay Gavan’s name from any one of several prominent local bands.

Gavan has long played bass in the folk-fusion bands the Red Sea Pedestrians and the Corn Fed Girls. His own groups include the Brothers Kalamazov and surf band Guitar Up.

Now Gavan is preparing to celebrate the release of his second studio album, "Breather," with a show at Bell’s on November 28.

Gavan says those who listen from start to finish will likely notice that it has a few "through lines."

“There’s some motif things going on, like little parts that repeat here and there. And that’s one thing I like about classic rock albums, you know. "Dark Side of the Moon" has little things that come back...any great works, you know, have something like that.

“And you know as I was recording songs, I’d hear this part and hey – hey, that fits in this other song, too! And kind of we can reintroduce it down the way. And then the same thing lyrically,” he says.

A variety of instruments appear on "Breather," including electric guitars, electric bass, drums and organ. Gavan says a "little bit of technical wizardry" went into the sound as well. As for styles, Gavan says they're "eclectic."

"Categories really confuse me. I just like playing a lot of different stuff," he says.

On some tracks he draws on gypsy jazz.

“There’s a way of playing chords on the guitar that I’ve really gotten into that, you know, you hear on Django Reinhardt records," he says.

Jay Gavan.
Credit Cheryl VanEngen

Gavan acknowledges that anxiety – personal and collective – is one of the album’s themes.

“Probably like a lot of people there have been rough times the last few years. And I’m in my 40-somethings and things haven’t all gone exactly as planned. And then you start to get anxious about that.

“But then you know, there’s also the album title, "Breather" - is sort of like take a breather, you know - I need to step back and realize that my life is really great, you know. Lovely family, I couldn’t be happier and you just lose track of that sometimes and I think if there’s a theme on the record it’s that," he says.

Some tracks also deal in “obscurities” such as in-jokes and historical references. One song, "Dreyfus," is devoted to an historical event that roiled France at the turn of the 20th century. Gavan sings about French army official Alfred Dreyfus, wrongly convicted of treason after being the target of an anti-Semitic smear campaign.

“If anything, that song started when I was playing with the Red Sea Pedestrians, which - we basically started out playing sort of Jewish wedding music…so that figure I think, in thinking about writing songs for that band over the years, you know – Dreyfus – he’d come up," Gavan says.

Gavan says the album release party is something of a “bucket list show” for him. He’s planned multiple sets with about 16 guest musicians.

And for those who stay through the end, Gavan says he's planned a surprise for the last set. It involves the debut of a group called the Long Players.