From page 30 of Classic Rock Magazine October 2003
Farm animals are prowling outside a studio named Slaughterhouse. Inside, some ‘weird stuff’ is going down.
TALKING DOWN THE PHONE, JEFF KLEIN SIGHS: “I’m missing England already. I had a lot of fun playing there. The people who came to the shows really seemed to get into it.” England has had a head start on America with Jeff Klein. His second album has been generating a buzz here through the summer, but it’s only just coming out over there. ‘Everyone Loves A Winner’ is more than just an impressive range of influences – Neil Young, The Clash, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., The Replacements, Pavement – because Klein’s disarming, blunt candour adds its own intrigue.
He first toured Britain with Jesse Malin before heading out on his own. And just as Ryan Adams brought out the essence of Jesse Malin on record, so another alt.country Ryan, Matthew, has done the same for Klein, producing a set of hauntingly dark, beautifully frayed songs.
“I want my music to be honest,” he explains, “and unfortunately if you look around you most people aren’t that happy, myself included, so that tone is always going to be there. I don’t set out to be miserable. But I guess I tend to feel short-changed by most of what I see or do. And the music reflects that.”
Klein grew up in New York, in the shadow of high- achieving older brothers. Rock‘n’roll was an obvious escape route, but the Berklee School of Music in Boston was a false trail. “I didn’t want to be a session musician,” he says.
He landed up in Austin, Texas, after visiting friends: “I didn’t actually move down for the music scene. I mean, I knew it had a lot of bars and clubs and stuff, but I didn’t know it was such a revered music town.
“I’d got bored with New York. It was a great place to grow up but I didn’t want to live there any more. There was too much access to excess. Austin has its moments but they’re more discreet.”
Klein stayed on the fringes of the Austin scene, making musical rather than business contacts, and signing to British indie label, One Little Indian. He even recorded his album on the outskirts of Austin at a studio called Slaughterhouse.
“It’s on a little hill and you can see the city lights, but there’s nothing around you at all, just farm animals,” he says.
“But it was a great environment to work in. I had the songs but I didn’t know what form they’d take. My regular drummer got called away, and his replacement came in with a fresh set of ears so I ended up putting the drum and guitar parts down together. Then we’d start adding stuff – weird stuff sometimes, like recording the wind, or using a $15 dollar keyboard on the opening track.”
But most of the tracks were first takes: “I’m a firm believer that if it takes you more than two weeks to make a record it’s not going to be any good,” he says. “It was a pretty magical experience as far as the chemistry between us went.” Hugh Fielder
WHAT’S THE STORY? Who is he? 25-year-old singer-songwriter,
raised in New York, now based in Austin, Texas.
What is he like? Heart-on-my-sleeve indie rocker with alt.country leanings and a dark flavouring.
Why should I care?
At the moment he’s carving a niche in what is currently one of the most fertile areas of American rock. And we’re getting a crack at him before the Americans do.
How can I check him out?
Listen to his second album, ‘Everyone Loves A Winner’. And he’s an Anglophile, so he’ll be over here again shortly.