Originally published in Stylus Magazine, Volume 28, Issue 3
On a sunny May morning, warm enough to enjoy but still too cold to be called summer, I received a long awaited Skype call from Jamison Isaak, the creative mind of the alternative electronic project Teen Daze. While it was barely 8:00 AM in my living room, it was already nearing 11:00 PM for Jamison who was, at the time, enjoying a post-tour vacation with his wife in one of their favourite spots on the coast of Australia.
Prior to our conversation, Jamison had wrapped up a tour that spanned seven shows across Asia, ending in Singapore. Exciting as this tour was, it was not Jamison’s first time taking his music across the world as he had been to Asia on tour twice before visiting Japan, Thailand, China, and South Korea. The touring life is nothing new to Jamison despite the humble roots of Teen Daze.
It was in 2010, the final year of his undergrad, that he began pursuing this project by making homemade recordings and sharing it for free online. I had no expectations at all,” Jamison told me with a laugh. “I never would have expected that seven years later I would be referencing that time in my life.”
The name Teen Daze is inspired by a final day of teenage antics enjoyed on the eve of his friend’s 20th birthday. The name was originally for a song that failed to make the cut for the first EP Jamison released. The project was, in essence, to be a sort of nostalgic time capsule. “I wanted to make a document that when I listened to would remind me of that last year of school, that group of friends, and that specific time of life.”
Teen Daze began picking up traction fairly quickly. As Jamison recalls, it was around three months after he had self-released his EP that he began drawing attention from labels and venues from across the United States. What helped this along was his ability to share a few tracks with some friends of his who had been involved in more earnest projects. It was after he attracted this attention that Jamison was given the “opportunity to pursue these projects in a more serious way.”
When looking for musical inspirations, Jamison sites the talents of creators such as Daft Punk, Brian Eno, Jonny Nash, and Suzzane Kraft. When creating a new song, Jamison is a fan of open experimentation with keyboards, synthesizers, and guitar pedals. He explained to me that during the creative process he enjoys playing around until he finds a sound he enjoys. Once he has found something he can expand on it’s about “going down that rabbit hole.” From there, he likes to fill in “the gaps with vocals. Let the vibe and the feel of the instrumental lend itself to lyrics that feel they fit that kind of vibe.”
In February of this year, Jamison released his fifth LP Themes for Dying Earth through his own record label, FLORA. What charged the melancholy title of the album were the personal anxieties that Jamison had regarding the condition of the world. Among these anxieties for the British Columbia born musician was the reality of climate change. “Climate change is something that’s really relevant in our day to day lives. It’s an issue that I’m particularly concerned about.”
When making this record, Jamison wanted to channel many of these fears and anxieties and use that energy to create something positive. After explaining his motivation he assuredly added “it’s by no means a dark record.”
Looking back at Themes for Dying Earth, there is a particular track called ‘Lost’ that stands out in Jamison’s mind as being among his favourite collaborations. When making the LP, he wanted there to be a “stronger female presence than other albums” he had released. After a friend introduced hum to Nadia Hulett, the two began emailing back and forth, sharing bits of recordings and unreleased tracks while also discussing some of the profundities of life. Jamison was clear he wanted Nadia to write her own lyrics and use the emotion she felt from the instrumentals he sent her to fuel her vocals. Nadia’s vocals were received and added to the final mix of ‘Lost’ at the very last moment, thus finishing the track. “She totally knocked it out of the park” Jamison said of his working partner.
For the future of Teen Daze, Jamison envisions much more experimenting with new and different sounds. There is no set date for when his next album will be released but he assures listeners it will be unique and experimental.