Jacob E.chord, AKA Jacob Eckhardt's music is, in his own words, "60s-space-roots-rock innocence blended with Steely Dan-inspired cheekiness and attempted production sophistication" -- an apt description for the heavily melodic songs blasting from his alternate-universe FM radio speakers. A deeper look reveals an incredibly talented songwriter and instrumentalist at work on these multi-layered productions. His newest album, Lava Lion's Reflections in Retrospect, is further evidence of this. We are fortunate to share an in-depth interview with the artist about his work and influences. Enjoy.
Please introduce yourself. Describe your music for new listeners.
I’m a 20-something midwestern psychedelic-rock-pop-playing carpenter who’s just trying to have it all! I don’t think it’s too much to ask but this thing called life has another opinion. I think I have an urge to create - a deep-rooted drive, possibly inherited from my similarly restless parents. I grew up with them and my 18 month older brother outside Springfield, MO. In the rural quiet I discovered a desire to play instruments and spent much of my teenage hours playing drums along to self-made mix CDs and learning guitar from YouTube videos. I moved to Kansas City at the age of 18 under the guise of a college education, but truly chasing love and the nebulous dream of “playing music.” I’ve been doing that ever since, with my definition of success ever-evolving. For now, making enough money to rent a house with a room big enough for all my music gear and just enough free-time and energy to record some of my songs is a good spot to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I’d love for more people to hear AND enjoy my brand of 60s-space-roots-rock innocence blended with Steely Dan-inspired cheekiness and attempted production sophistication, forever injected with 90s misanthropy and lo-fi appreciation, but for now, I’m just trying to discover myself through my art and maybe my kindred spirits will gravitate towards my work somehow.
When did you start composing music? Who were your earliest musical influences?
The earliest thing I ever wrote that is burned into my memory is probably my parody song of “I Want Candy” by (had to look this up) Bow Wow Wow. It’s such a catchy song for an 8 year old to latch on to - I must have heard it on a car ride with my mom when we tuned to the oldies pop station in between the books on tape we would listen to the other 99% of the time. Anyway, I had been recently gifted burned CDs of a couple Weird Al albums (I think Poodle Hat and Running With Scissors) by the cool after-school teacher. I didn’t know any of the songs Yankovic was tastefully mocking - I just knew it was very engaging to me. I decided to write my own parody of the aforementioned rockabeachy hit. My uncultured, unapologetic creativity devised the new title “I Want Chocolate”. Yes, I was a real prodigy, and my talent has only decreased with time, in my opinion.
To further elaborate on my prowess, the second line of my chorus is even better: “I want chocolate - hey, don’t mock it” even though the original song just says the title phrase twice. I knew no limitations! Sometimes I wish to be as free.
I found the notebook I wrote this in a while back and the memory came a-flooding. You gotta start somewhere I suppose but I wouldn’t trade Weird Al as my inspirational bedrock. I think his dissection of popular songs impressed upon my moldable mind an analytical approach to music which I can’t help but utilize often. Furthermore, his polkas (which were 6 minute marathons of interweaved sections of various hit songs of the previous couple years stitched together in rapid succession performed at breakneck speeds - a staple of every album) gave me a taste of what a song with nothing but hooks and no discernable structure might sound like.
Tell us about Lava Lion's Reflections in Retrospect, which you describe as “the final installment of a loose trilogy.” Where was it recorded? What did you learn from creating this work that you’ll take to your next project?
This last album was an obsessive labor of love -- more years in the making than I wish to reveal -- and as such, I crammed as much of myself into these final recorded versions as I could. I drew inspiration from maximalist psychedelic masterworks like Abbey Road, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, and Phil Spector's Wall of Sound concept, etc. I sometimes wonder what Phil or Brian Wilson would do with the unlimited tracks of modern recording software. That might be one of the main theses I attempted to answer with this album.
Without getting into too much detail, I recorded all the sounds on this album in one of two Midtown KC homes I lived in at the times. I’ve been recording and experimenting for half my life so this was the culmination of my capabilities thus far, though I hope to be improving, learning, and breaking new ground with every release. It’s a tall order, trying to reinvent my personal wheel with every song. That’s partly why my output is less than I’d like it to be, but it is what it is.
Everyone will experience any possibly perceived message from this trilogy of my albums Accidental Origin Explorience, Breaking Through, and Reflections in Retrospect in their own way, but for me, (without giving too much context and thus possibly impeding someone else’s interpretation) they each individually flow within themselves and could be thought of as one long long song. They each have somewhat of a beginning feeling, like the feeling you might have at the beginning of a trip or adventure or a simple mundane commute to work. The feeling morphs as time passes and the music is designed, at least subliminally, to convey different moods or atmospheres to represent the many feelings that are inherently experienced within the passing of time. Each album eventually resolves in its own way, but the general theme I attempt to convey by the conclusion is a sense of growth or revelation or peace following a confusing, mystical, emotional, troubling, exhilarating, etc. experience, what we call life.
So each album conveys this in and of itself, but if you were to play them back to back to back it would be that feeling but bigger. In other words, each album is like a microcosm of the combination of the three albums -- they individually represent/appear like the whole. Like how the shape of a leaf is remarkably similar to the shape of the tree it fell from!
Finally, the last lyrics of the last song on the last album correlate to the beginning of the first song on the first album. With this I was trying to convey the idea that every end is also a beginning, and vice versa. It appears to me that every moment, experienced by us or not, is the beginning and end of something. Maybe that means that there is no distinction between the end and the beginning, nor a distinction between much or possibly anything, considering matter as we conceive of it is mostly “empty space!” Any revelation received, any eureka moment is already within you, as time is an illusion manifested by our limited 3-dimensional perception! That being said, the revelations I claim throughout these albums were attained by me, somehow, through various means, and, though highly meaningful to me at one time, now appear so flimsy, so unsupportive in the context of what we actually experience on a day to day level. The biggest epiphany I may have at this current moment is to take any supposed revelation with a grain of salt, and always ask WHY. So, yeah. They kinda fit together like that and stuff.
Describe your creative process. Are you a heavy editor of your work or are you more of a first-thought-best-thought kind of writer?
Easy answer there! Definitely a heavy editor, as much as I might like to be otherwise. The idea of recording a song is really momentous for me, as I feel the weight of memorializing every note, every lyric. I’ve become less this way over the years, as I add more songs to my catalogue and I’m grateful for that. I still get mild anxiety or frustration from working on a song (which can take months or even years till its final form) but the high of finding that perfect word or harmonic counterpoint is the dragon I convince myself is worth chasing, even when I’m down in the dumps during the in-between times.
These days, in my ever busy and spastically fragmented world, I often begin with a melody that occurs to me while doing something mindless, like cleaning the litter box, trying to fall asleep, or taking a shower. If I think it’s good enough, I might immediately find some chords for it on guitar and simply record that all as a voice memo on my phone. Over the following hours, days, or months, I might “randomly” have another idea that seems fitting for the previous, OR I’ll stitch the ideas together [just because] and might get some happily unexpected results. I might do this a few times until I feel like there’s enough there to record a really rough demo. By this time, I usually have an idea for the vibe of the song and might have other instrumental parts arranged in my mind. Lyrics emerge throughout this process and coevolve along with the song. Eventually, when the structure seems pretty strong, I’ll record a scratch track of guitar and voice, then layer Layer LAYER to my heart’s content and usually then some. At this point, the overlaid parts - drums, bass, synth and guitar overdubs - are usually done with relative haste (maybe I play along with the song 5-10 times, then lock down a part for each instrument), which helps me feel refreshed towards the song. I usually record more dubs than I end up using, then trim to the desired result. This is most apparent on my last album, Reflections in Retrospect. I recorded well over 100 tracks each on the 3 main songs. I’m not bragging. In fact, it’s kind of a chaotic and roundabout way to manifest a song.
That being said, I have lots of ideas but can only devote myself to a small fraction, mostly due to limited time but also to limited mental abilities and excess attention deviation. You might say I put a lot of eggs in one basket with a particular song. So far this works for me and the songs I do get to finish seem meaningful.
What’s ahead for you in 2021?`
Going forward, a goal of mine is to exploit less layers. I love creating seemingly limitless soundcapes, but I also want to be efficient and if one synth can accomplish a similar effect as 5 guitars but just in a different way, maybe let's try to go for that. "How's that workin' out for ya?" one might ask. Well, I've broken ground on the next recording project - a collection of singles I hope to release uniformly over the next several months and later combine into a full length album. Keeping to these restraints I've outlined for my next project -- somewhere between minimal and maximal -- has been .... difficult. My natural inclination/desire is to make the densest, most produced texture I can in an attempt to create something wholly brand new or otherworldly. Intentional self imposed limitations are important to me for the sake of focusing my finite attention and energy. I have a weird cognitive dissonance where I acknowledge most of my favorite pieces of recorded music are relatively simple and instrumentally straightforward, but I just can’t resist adding something, then something more, then…The curse of abundance I suppose.
I’m also in the process of assembling a small group to help bring some of my songs to a live setting. I think this will aid in my pursuit toward succinctity.
Oh! And I have a music video in the works for the song "Meta 4/4" off this last album! Should be out in May and should NOT disappoint fans of the song, if they were hoping for an equally frantic and emotional visual interpretation of that song.
Favorite books, music and movies...
I have a lot of favorite albums but can’t say a lot of favorite bands. As a teen, as soon as I would love an album for a month or two I would want a new artist entirely. I would go buy another couple albums on my list, then repeat. Anyway, some of those include Grizzly Bear's Veckatimest (intense beauty for the lonely), Soundgarden's Superunknown (bleakness overcome by nostalgia), Tame Impala's Lonerism, which coincided with my second Beatles obsession (amazing how Kevin Parker turned his influences into a whole new, super groundbreaking thing. same thing for MGMT's Congratulations actually. Gorillaz’ Demon Days (thank you NOW 19!). Led Zeppelin I (my dumb 11 year old self bought it thinking it had “Stairway to Heaven” on it. So glad I did!). Another awesome accidental ignorant purchase was [George Martin’s son, Giles]’s re-mix-imagining of every era of the Beatles catalogue for the Cirque du Soleil LOVE soundtrack. Finally, one of my desert-island albums, Hiatus Kayiote's Choose Your Weapon (come to think of it, this album might be the best desert island album in every conceivable aspect and could even save a life in that circumstance! Really!!)
Aside from these albums, I would recommend the documentary Jodorowsky’s Dune to anyone with a slight interest in the highly eccentric titular director, the Dune book series, or any creatively aspiring person. It details the cautionary tale of “the best science fiction movie never made” - a warning to the dreamer.
This documentary is also awesome because it references a lot of artists of many mediums that I’d never heard of. One of them is the now acclaimed Moebius. His main style is somewhat realistic, highly stylized science fiction graphic novels. I sometimes like to read when I listen to music, and his art is a great accompaniment to any epic musical selection. I recommend “The World of Edena.”