Jen Razavi has put out two albums on Fat Wreck Chords with her band the Bombpops, but now her new project is a solo endeavor. As a solo artist, Ravazi recently put out two singles, “Saw in Half” and the latest one, “Can’t Go Back,” which she just dropped last week. The singles are part of a yet-to-be-titled Jen Razavi solo album due out later this year, which Razavi recorded with legendary producer Will Yip who’s worked with everyone from The Arctic Monkeys to the Bouncing Souls to Turnstile. While the new singles have all the infectious pop hooks and energy that fans have come to expect from Razavi’s work, they’re also clearly not Bombpops songs, with Razavi creating a new signature style for her solo career.
New Noise sat down with Razavi to talk a little bit about her new solo endeavor and what set her off on her new solo journey.
So the first thing I wanted to ask was the obvious question: What made you want to start working on a solo project?
Really, the pandemic. I wrote a lot during that time. And prior to the pandemic, I had started playing a lot more on acoustic (guitar). Although the album is not an acoustic album, I really fell in love with guitar through writing on the acoustic, which I did with Death in Venice Beach, whereas everything in the past, I usually wrote on an electric. So I had this new love for the guitar through writing (on) the acoustic. And then when the pandemic happened, I really dove into that and I wrote a ton. I had never used a capo before in my life on a guitar, and I experimented with my own songs, new songs, or Bombpops songs, playing them with a capo. And I just played a lot of guitar and wrote a lot (during) the pandemic. So (that’s) probably the number-one reason.
I feel like this is a question that always gets asked when someone starts a solo career, but having started this, especially a few years after Poli left the Bombpops, I have to ask: this solo career, does that mean the end of the Bombpops? Or is this just something you’re going to be doing an addition to it?
It’s just something I’m going to do in addition to (The Bombpops). I recently got back from my first overseas, solo, acoustic tour. I’ve done some acoustic tours in the past supporting people, and part of this tour was a support slot for Bad Cop/Bad Cop and Wonk Unit, and then the other half was just solo headline shows. So I like to say it’s my first headline solo tour. And it was my first time going overseas without the band. I really enjoyed it so much because, when you’re with the band and on tour—and every band can pretty much say this–there’s no time to be a tourist and sightsee.
And even if there is, you have the wants and needs and desires of three to six other people, however many people are in your touring party. So it’s just impossible to really do stuff. And I started playing music for a lot of reasons, (such as) using this as a as a catalyst to enjoy life and meet people and have experiences. So experiencing the world through music is something that I want to do more of, and it’s just more attainable to do it on your own. So I’d say that was probably another reason why (I started my solo project). The Bombpops aren’t going anywhere. But I remember when I started falling in love with playing acoustic thinking to myself, like, “Oh, this is a great way to tour and do my own thing.”
So you got into a little bit there about the difference in touring as a solo artist, but what’s the difference in terms of recording as a solo artist versus with a band?
Well, for this album, I worked with producer Will Yip, and that was the first time that I worked just one-on-one with someone. So that was a really a different experience. And I went with him because I trusted him and I liked the work that he does. And I wanted someone that could help me make the songs that I’ve written come out on the other side not sounding like something I would typically do. One thing I wanted to make sure was that it didn’t end up sounding like a Bombpops record because a lot of those songs could have probably been Bombpops songs had I done them with the band. It’s still my project so there are certain things that I have to be the final say on. We’re both agreeing that it’s great, but if there’s something I think can be done differently, it’s up to me. So you can get in your head a bit more on when you don’t have the band to bounce things off with.
You have two singles out. Can you tell us a little bit of what they’re about?
It’s a sad girl album. And there’s heartbreak, but the biggest thing for me is the realization of the situation that I was in and realizing how toxic it was and unhealthy it was but not being able to turn away. In my situation—because I do think that there are situations where people can’t get away or can’t turn away, I’m not saying that was mine—I think I chose it to stay there for almost the excitement of it and being attached to the chaos of it, which is totally unhealthy. And after this relationship, I’ve made such an effort to break that pattern because I’ve noticed that I’ve done that before. And I’m still working on it. But it’s the first time in my life—through this album and while writing new songs and even now—(that I’m) constantly working on myself so that I don’t put myself in situations just for the excitement or the chaos. I’m really trying to focus on things that are right and healthy for me. And realizing that I can be drawn to chaos is the first step. So I think that that’s a theme, heartbreak. I know that sounds cliche to say, but it really does help writing the songs and getting them out there and putting them out there in the world. I love sad songs even when I’m in a great mood. Sad songs are my thing.
So would you say both songs are different aspects of that same theme then?
Yeah. Actually, I had this realization–through doing the music videos, especially after I did the music video for the second single—(that) the first song, “Saw in Half,” was the dreamlike, romanticized version of what was happening. The more poetic lens that I was looking through allows me to have permission to put myself in that chaos because it’s like, “Oh, this is just an artist and muse type situation. It’s totally normal.” And it’s not that it’s totally normal, but that’s the dreamlike, romanticized version of what was happening. And then the second single is the real-life actuality of what happened. And I think that that’s totally visible in in the music videos, if not in the lyrics.
You talked a little bit about working with Will Yip, who’s a pretty legendary music producer. How did that collaboration come about?
I just reached out to him through Instagram, actually. I work for Liquid Death, a water company, and I work in lifestyle marketing, and part of my job is seeding product to people. And during the pandemic, I was focused on seeding product to music studios and people doing live streams and stuff like that. And I always have been a fan of Will Yip, but I really had no avenue to meet him or speak with him. So (I said), “I work for Liquid Death; can I send you some water?” And he was all about it; he loves it. He also had it in almost all of the “Live from Studio Fours” that he did. He did one with the Menzingers, Bouncing Souls. He did a group of them during the pandemic, and he always had it present in there. I never asked him to do that; he just was always cool about it. And so when it came time to really look for a producer to do this, I had a list of some people, and he was at the top. (The) worst anyone can say is no or they’re busy or nothing.
So the album comes out later this year, and, after that, what else is next for you in terms of what you’re working on?
Well, I’m already writing more. In terms of the album, I’m rolling out some singles. I’m self-releasing it, so I’m taking my time with it. And since I’m self-releasing it (and) self-financing, it has to happen this way, in sections. I actually recorded it in the beginning of 2022. So financing it is a thing, too, and making sure that I’m not just doing anything super quick. I want to think about it and make sure that I’m finding the right people that I trust with it, from the visuals to PR and even to just speaking with outlets like New Noise and yourself. So that’s why I don’t really have a super solid plan right now. But it’s almost there for the release. And then just playing more. I got addicted to going on train tours in Europe with my acoustic guitar after this last month. So I already have plans to go back. And it’s not an acoustic album, but I’m playing songs acoustic and I’m playing some Bombpops songs and some covers. I think I’d like to record something more acoustic sounding the next thing I do.
What made you decide to release it by yourself this time, instead of trying to go through a label?
The music industry is rapidly changing. And a lot of it lies in stuff like social media, and how hard the artist is willing to work and promote themselves. And for that reason, I’m going to be working super hard on this. I already self-funded making the album. Why, at this point, hand it over when I’m pretty sure they’re going to come back and ask me to do a lot of the stuff I’m already going to do? But then you’re giving away all this massive ownership of it. I think (after) establishing myself more as a solo artist, maybe later on down the line, there will be some leverage where I can negotiate a bit more on my own and find something that fits right. But at this moment, I don’t know that I just trust someone else to love it as much as I do and to put as much into it as I do have already at this point.
Image courtesy of Darren Vorel