In March of this year, I decamped Brooklyn and moved upstate to Lake Champlain, where my great aunt and uncle’s old house rests on a bluff above the water. Situated in a tiny hamlet surrounded by farm country, the house is filled with remnants of Uncle Joe and Aunt Peggy’s lives – their library of novels, philosophy and religious texts, classical LPs and paintings, an old upright piano. Here, I feel the weight of city claustrophobia lifted.
In NYC, I had been scraping together a living by teaching after-school music classes to public school children and by playing saxophone every Sunday in a Nigerian evangelical church.
On Champlain, I can play music at any hour, without fear of disturbing the neighbors. I walk down the middle of Main Street at 10 p.m. without passing a soul. My girlfriend Dolly and I have become a part of the small town life, making friends with the proprietors of the several local businesses, coming to know the gossip - who has a grudge against whom, who’s slept with whom, and why a certain house has remained empty for years. With fewer people around, every life in sight becomes magnified.
Now, I’m happy to finally be releasing my second full-length album - I Was Electrocuted Seven Times and Now I Can See the Future. This music was finished more than two years ago, but I held out on releasing it for reasons that now seem irrelevant – my fear that its release would go unnoticed; my hope that in waiting I would find the means to guarantee it an audience. More time passed than I expected. With the world on quarantine pause, I realized it was time to release this album and move on.
I began the project with my friend Nick Hakim in the summer of 2015. Working out of his bedroom studio in Bed-Stuy, we experimented with sounds and layers - embracing the amateur aspects of our instrumental palettes so as to create something that was personal and off-kilter. Nick is a DIY auteur, and from him I learned a lot about recording alchemy and the creativity that can go into production. Even after a song is written, the arrangement and production style can take it into a variety of sonic worlds — we searched for the right ones.
The process stretched over several years as we tracked different versions of each song, and scratched some tunes entirely. While this was happening, Nick and I each moved in and out of various apartments and neighborhoods. Then Nick got busy, and he recommended I finish the project with Michael J Thomas III. Michael is a brilliant producer and multi-instrumentalist, who we both knew from music school in Boston. He worked out of the Velvet Nipple, a cave of a studio with walls lined with red velvet fabric. The studio was set back from a grimy street in Bushwick, below a noisy subway track. With Michael, the chaotically layered productions I had made with Nick were pared down and polished.
Some of the songs date to before 2015. They were composed in a variety of places - Lake Champlain, a balcony overlooking a valley in Minas Gerais, Brazil, the New Mexico desert, a windowless dungeon in Crown Heights.
I lived in that basement for a year. The wiring was faulty and I would frequently get shocked by little jolts of electricity…
The album is a time capsule of inspired moments from my twenties. It’s about lovers and places and changes. It represents my interest in bringing together disparate passions: a variety of genres of music, everything from Milton Nascimento to Debussy and the Beach Boys; Gabriel García Márquez novels and Bill Murray movies…
So much has changed for all of us. Sometimes I listen back to this record, and it feels like a lifetime ago. But I’m proud of it, because the songs are true and so is the effort we put into recording them. I hope you enjoy.
-- Jesse Scheinin, Essex, N.Y.
Produced by Jesse Scheinin, Nick Hakim & Michael J Thomas III
All songs by Jesse Scheinin, except "SSYNSS" & "Starts 2 Show" by Jesse & Nick
Jesse, vox, sax, clarinet, flute, piano, keyboards, percussion
Nick, guitar, vox, keyboards, bass, drums
Michael, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums, sampling, vox
Meritxell Nedderman, piano, vox
Jake Sherman, piano
Kyle Miles, bass
Vishal Nayak, drums
Alex Hargreaves, violin
Phoebe Hunt, violin
Ethan Philbrick, cello
Aaron Bahr, trumpet
Adrianne Lenker, vox
Andrew Sarlo, bass, additional production
Mixed and mastered by Michael J Thomas III
Engineered by Michael J Thomas III & Nick Hakim
Cover painting by Sacha Jane Brüyn
Photos by Luna de Buretel