It is easy to listen when the music is speaking. Jonah Yano’s second album release ‘Portrait Of A Dog’ is a freeing ode to the vulnerable and the tender. Each song is an emotional excavation of his heart and ancestry, seeped perfectly amidst jazzy interludes. The Hiroshima-born singer’s evolving relationship with BADBADNOTGOOD reaches a profound exalting level in this compilation of tracks. Their meditative dreamscapes add a sonic dimensionality that softens the heartbreaking quest to hold and know and free our past.
In tracks like ‘Haven’t Haven’t’, we are immersed in both memory and place through intimate recordings of family members. In both lyrics and his precise vocals that lay as both sanctuary and profession, this album gives us all space to feel those hidden questions and longings.
Can you speak about your inspiration for this album?
I was/am inspired greatly by all the great jazz records through the ages. The devotion the players have to their instruments and to the music is unparalleled in other genres which is part of what makes the music so beautiful. Separately, I am very into different folk/singer-songwriters like Feist, Elizabeth Cotten, Adrienne Lenker, clairo, etc. because of their ability to translate the lived experience into song so gracefully. I think this record is, in a way, the joining of these two ends of my inspirations, two ends of myself!
What separates this sound from other releases?
Well, I think that compared to my previous work, the music is a lot more consistent. When given the opportunity, my music seems to get a little bit experimental at times, edging on polarising. But with this record, I was collaborating with BADBADNOTGOOD throughout the entire recording process so the sound came out a lot more linear and cohesive (which is not necessarily better, just something new for me).
What are you hoping listeners will feel / come away with from this body of work?
I’m hoping that people will walk away with whatever they need to walk away with. I don’t think my music is very directive or singularly focused enough for there to be one message or feeling to leave with. I guess if I had to say something I would say that I hope people feel light after hearing my stories. After all it’s all very ordinary!
What were the highlights from making this album?
The main highlight was spending the two weeks I spent with my grandparents to catalog their lives. The voice memos you hear are from conversations I recorded while visiting them in Port Coquitlam, BC right after I learned my grandfather’s memory was starting to fade. I loved being with them and I am glad I did because I don’t know how many more times I will get to spend time with them like that again.
How is your experience co-creating with BADBADNOTGOOD?
Collaboration is not effortless, but with the hardships comes the real digging for the truth and what feelings everyone is going to bat for. Their priority is making good music and mine is telling a good story. I think we struck the perfect balance between our ideas and sounds and ended up with something we are all proud of.
What is your process like?
My process is like everyone else’s in the sense that songwriting is a complete alchemy and there is no way to tell when the good songs are going to come to you. All I can do is practice writing and playing music so that I’m prepared for when the thin air has something to say, through me.
What’s your ideal day of living / creating ?
I am living it! just waking up and paying attention to whatever thing needs my attention. Some days it’s chores, some days it’s music, some days it’s nothing at all. I’ve finally figured out that the less schedule I have, the happier and more inspired I am. Everyday is a mystery and I’m finding my way to the end of the maze.
What’s your overarching intention for this record?
Representing my experience and archiving what is important to me.
If you could only have one show for this record where would it be and why?
It would be in Toronto because that’s the place that I wrote and recorded this album and it’s the community that I owe so much to.
‘Portrait Of A Dog’ is out now.
Words: Rae Niwa