The first time I heard Nashville-based Jessica Maros and Tyler James, collectively knows as Escondido, it was the video for their garage-country noir song Bad Without You I was hooked. I even used the song on my podcast. I told you I was hooked.
There were shades of contemporaries Nikki Lane and Fist Aid Kit, but then again embodying a sound all their own.
Jessica and Tyler were kind enough to answer some questions a few days after their debut on the Conan O’Brien show (see below) about their chance meeting, their excellent taste in influences, and how it feels to have David Lynch as a fan.
Twang Nation: You recorded the album in a single day, What was the rush? Was there some limit on resources?
Tyler: Although it was really nice to save money on studio time… tracking the album in one day was intentional. Jess and i spent two months arranging the songs before hand so there wasn’t much confusion when tracking. I wanted to capture that initial instinct in the studio and not second guess ourselves. We started tracking around 10am and were done by 9pm… did around 3 takes of every song and i went through after and chose my favorites. I’m a huge Dylan fan and read alot about how he’d get the best players out there but throw them for a loop so they couldn’t over-think it.
Jessica: I wanted to capture a moment. Its interesting when you put a group of people in a room and see what happens.Tyler had a great knack for finding the right musicians, we really vibed off each other. We play the songs so much better now but back then….there was naivety about it. The song ‘Don’t love me too much’ was literally written on the spot. I had only a chorus and a verse and we were going to keep it as an Interlude. Once we started jamming it turned into a song and I wrote the second verse on the fly. Those are moments that I wish to relive on a daily basis. You can’t plan that.
TN: Your meeting was a happenstance occurrence. When did you realize you were kindred spirits?
Tyler: Right away… Jess starts most of the songs and they immediately get my wheels spinning on all the possibilities. We share a lot of musical influence but she keeps it simple and i lean towards the complex, so it balances out well.
Jessica: I agree with Tyler… The moment he started creating a drum beat for ‘Rodeo Queen’ we were instantly on the same page. I’ve worked with a lot of musicians throughout the years and nobody could understand the simplicity of my writing. Tyler took it to another level. We don’t even need to talk about it. I’ll start an idea send it to him and he makes it better. We have the same vision.
TN: Who did you listen to growing up?
Tyler: Mostly 60s/70s stuff… Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Beatles, Tom Petty, The Band, Beach Boys, Randy Newman, Rolling Stones, Bill Withers, Tom Waits, Shuggie Otis, Bread, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Judee Sill, Al Green, John Denver, Fleetwood Mac, Stephen Bishop
Jessica: I grew up with Slovakian immigrants so my musical taste never got cool until I had a boyfriend in eighth grade that introduced me to Smashing Pumpkins, Fiona Apple, Rufus Wainwright. Than I met a guy in a bar I worked at who taught me guitar and introduced me to Jimi Hendrix, Neil Young, Phoebe Snow, Little Feet, Steely Dan and I was hooked. He changed my life.
TN: Were you given formal music lessons?
Tyler: I took 10 years of piano lessons and 5 years of trumpet lessons.. made it a lot easier to pick up stringed and rhythm instruments down the road
Jessica: I had piano lessons for 5 yrs and never got good at it. I always wanted to play violin but my dad never took me seriously. Than I was given a guitar by a friend and taught myself. I watched youtube videos to learn guitar chords. I don’t consider myself a guitar player though. I just use it to write.
TN: The album has a Ennio Morricone vibe about it. Was he an influence?
Tyler: Yes definitely. My dad is a huge Clint Eastwood fan so the interest started there… but we’d start every day of pre-production listening to all of Morricone’s stuff as well as his counter parts. Burt Bacharach has a lot of killer compositions in the vein as well.
Jessica: Yes he was. We wanted to create a soundtrack to our life using his influence with a pop sensibility to it.
TN: What other band(s) influence you?
Tyler: I was on a huge Tom Petty, Rolling Stones kick while making the record.. i love the short/hooky songs where the rhythm and groove is a big part of it sound. Having the drums prominent in the mix isn’t limited to the club music happening right now.
Jessica: I’m a huge Chris Isaak fan. If I could write a songs like Neil Young, I’d retire. Sometimes you can’t change what comes from your heart so you just go with it. When I sit down and write a song I really want to make sure its coming from a truthful place.
TN: David Lynch tweeted that he really loved your song “Black Roses.” How did you feel about that?
Tyler: I’m a huge Twin Peaks fan so it obviously meant a lot… although the word ‘tweet’ in general is problematic
Jessica: I woke up Monday morning with my phone going crazy. I should have video taped it. The strangest thing is that he was mentioned as an influence for our ‘Black Roses’ video. Interesting what happens when you put those thoughts into the world and it comes back to you in the strangest ways.
TN:Jessica’s other profession is in clothing and jewelry design. How did it feel to be featured artist in Vogue.com?
Jessica: It was surreal. I’m grateful I was mentioned through music rather than fashion. Fashion is another outlet for me but music is my life. The fact that Vogue featured me in my dream profession was an indication that I’m on the right path.
TN: “Black Roses” has been featured on CMT and NPR. Those demographics that aren’t typically bridged. Why do you think you appeal to a broader audience?
Tyler: Perhaps because it’s the world we come from. We’re heavily influenced by our Nashville home but we listen to as much new music as we can. We all should be students of our own profession… start with the classics but not be limited by them.
Jessica: Not sure to be honest. We’re just going with the flow of things, I don’t think you can control who your audience is. Some bands cater to a specific sub culture but we’re just having fun creating our own little world and hoping people will join us!
TN: If you could perform on stage with any artist living or dead who would it be?
Tyler: That’s a tough question… probably Neil Young or The Band. Having a some wine and an axe up at Big Pink would have been my jam.
Jessica: I’d love to perform with Tom Petty and if I could be on stage with Bob Marley in my next life….that would make for a happy ending.
Escondido will perform with The Staves on an East Coast tour this May. check their site for more upcoming dates.