By Kasandra Garza
This year’s 2015 Fun Fun Fun Fest included comedian Eric Andre, the band CHVRCHES and skateboarding. However, some of the best performances were saved for Nites at small venues in Austin. One of the must-see artists performing at Fun Fun Fun Fest was Texas native Sarah Jaffe.
Sarah Jaffe is an experimental singer who has platinum blonde hair, has to watch Shawshank Redemption every time it comes on television, worked with Dr. Dre and fan-girls over Fleetwood Mac.
Jaffe performed for only one night at Empire Control Room to a crowded room, filling it with her 80s synth-pop tunes and voice that sounds like a starry night (Catch my drift? She sounds like heaven on Earth.) She performed songs off her most recent album, Don’t Disconnect, including her remastered single and new favorite song to perform, “Clementine.”
“I always like to see the crowd’s reaction to that one,” Jaffe said. “It wouldn’t have been my favorite until recently but we reworked it a bit and gave the song new life.”
Jaffe said “Clementine” was written as a filler and she resented it as a result for the past eight years. Though the lyrics are the same, musically, the arrangement is completely different.
Jaffe is described as a “folk-turned-experimental” artist. However, Jaffe said she’s always been a lyricist and a fan of writing what’s important and meaningful to her. She said she is constantly changing her sound as she works with others, such as producer Dr. Dre, and wrote a hook for Eminem’s song “Bad Guy.” Jaffe said working with other artists is important for everyone, such as sculptors and painters, not necessarily musicians.
“As I’ve grown up and played with different musicians and producers, my sound evolved and I think it’s important to push yourself in different directions,” Jaffe said. “I wouldn’t want to make the same record over and over again.”
Though Jaffe is a Texas native, she did not grow up on country music. She was raised on folk music, like James Taylor and Joni Mitchell.
Jaffe said she tends to regurgitate her own artistic endeavors with what she hears. For example, one of her biggest hits, “Some People Will Tell You,” was written during a time when she was listening to a lot of Depeche Mode, which explains the 80s vibe of the tune.
“When you physically ingest something, it’s impossible to not get inspired,” Jaffe said.
What’s the album that Jaffe just can’t put down right now? Ryan Adams’s cover record of Taylor Swift’s 1989.
“I thought that was really, really well done,” Jaffe said. “I listen to everything like top radio, Bjork, Fleetwood mac and a lot of Blondie.”
In fact, Jaffe doesn’t just listen to Fleetwood Mac, she loves Fleetwood Mac.
“I recently went and saw Fleetwood Mac and had really good seats, like first row seats and I was really floored by being so close to Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham,” Jaffe said. “It was really intense, absolutely fabulous show, miraculous experience.”
Jaffe is currently on tour with Wild Ones and Pure Bathing Culture. She said though she enjoys being on tour, there’s quite an illusion to being on the road. There have been times when she and her band have played at hole-in-the-wall venues to people who aren’t very nice.
Jaffe described her and her band as a “middle-class working band” because they don’t tour luxuriously. They’ve played at “gross” places with bad sound systems. However, her favorite place to perform in all of Texas is a place in Dallas, “The Bomb Factory.”
“It’s just been revamped that was a venue in the nineties,” Jaffe said. “It’s just a game changer for Dallas. Great sound, big stage, great people run it for staff.”
Jaffe has recently started writing for her next album. Jaffe said as she writes music, lyrics will float in her head for a week, sometimes just a title. Sometimes a song can be written within a few days, other times the title won’t become a full song for years. Sometimes words and phrases are turned into songs. Other times those songs are scrapped and used as pieces to other almost-completed songs. And sometimes, all of what Jaffe takes to the studio is reworked and completely changed into something new.
“My brain doesn’t kick into full gear until I’m in the studio,” Jaffe said.
Until she releases a new album, her most recent one is titled Don’t Disconnect and is totally worth the listen. Here are five songs Sarah Jaffe would take to her deathbed.
Nina Simone – “Wild is the Wind”
Fleetwood Mac – “Sara”
Harry Nilsson – “Me and My Arrow”
RADIOHEAD – “The Bends”
Edith Piaf – “La Vie En Rose”
You can also hear Sarah Jaffe hear on KTSW-FM 89.9.