photo credit ; Sharalee Prang
Jamison Isaak, who goes by the alias of Teen Daze, is an Abbotsford-born delight, who's acclaim thus far has landed him continuous praise in Pitchfork, overseas tours, and even having his music used in a stunning Drake Doremus film. The atmospheric ambient pop is your perfect vibey music to have an absolute out-of-body experience to, and completely immerse yourself in.
His fifth LP, Themes For Dying Earth, will be released February 10th but until then, we're all graced with a short, but absolutely stunning documentary, which chronicles the making of the album. It's a total dream to watch, and is narrated by Jamison, who talks about the high stress of touring, growing up in the Fraser Valley, and the looming dangers of global warming.
Jamison and I had a chance to chat about the documentary, local hidden gems in Abbotsford, his upbringing, and of course, his lovely lil' cat, Ellie.
I think a healthy combination of scheduling, comfort, and trying to live holistically keeps me feeling balanced. There's a lot to unpack with those three words, but it pretty much comes down to trying to have a project that I'm working on, making sure that I take care of myself when I need to, and trying to live as healthy of a life as possible. The 'healthy' life is probably the most important aspect; when I'm not getting enough physical exercise, or filling my body with bad food/too much alcohol, then everything tends to get out of whack.
You say you appreciate balance in your life. When you come home from touring, how do you offset all that chaos?
Usually the biggest thing for me is being able to have the comforts that I miss when I'm on tour, for example, sleeping in my own bed every night, having my clothes organized in a closet, being able to keep my toothbrush out in the bathroom. Essentially not having to live out of a suitcase. I realize more and more that I'm a total creature of habit, and that I like repetition and pattern, so the chaos and randomness of tour is what really wears me down. When I come home, I like for things to be the way I know and like them to be.
You did a 7 month trip with your wife. How was that? Where did you go? Do you find that trip influenced your music at all?
It was a truly amazing experience: we started with a week in Iceland, followed by about three weeks on mainland Europe (this section was a part of a tour). Then we headed to Australia for three months, a month in New Zealand, and then back into Australia for another few weeks. We left Western Australia towards Bali, where we spent 10 days, and then to Japan from there. Saw some really beautiful places in the world, made some great friends, ate and drank amazing food/drink, surfed, sat on the beach, took lots of pictures. It was the trip of a lifetime for sure. The trip definitely influenced the music; I took a lot of field recordings as we travelled, and I actually got to incorporate a few of them into the new record. I didn't have much time to write/record as we travelled, but lots of time to come up with new ideas and concepts.
I also noticed you have an adorable cat! How does she feel about you going on tour. Does she miss you when you come back? I know cats can be emotional little critters.
HA! Oh man, thank you for asking this question. That's Ellie, and I'm her biggest fan. She's a really affectionate cat, so we have a strong bond (not as strong as she has with my wife, but that's a different issue). She's also quite the creature of habit, so when I'm not around, my wife says that she definitely acts a little weird. Of course, when I get home, I've lost her scent from my clothes/shoes, so it takes her a day or two to get acquainted with me.
And your wife? What's role does she play in your music. Be it inspirational, anything.
She's the best, just all around. She keeps me grounded, but is also my biggest fan. She's supportive in every aspect of what I do, and is an amazing teammate in all of it. Our relationship has been about open communication in everything, right from the start, so I never feel embarrassed to show her new music, or to ask her opinion on creative ideas. I think she feels that she can be honest with me about how things are sounding/feeling as well. When she really likes something, it's usually a good sign.
photo credit ; Sharalee Prang
Lots and lots of shows! So far nothing's quite set in stone, but if you live somewhere in North America, then hopefully I'll be playing a show within a short drive of you. Hopefully some time to just spend doing nothing by the lake too.
You also talk about school in the short film. I understand you got your degree. What was that in?
It's in Theology, with wide variety of classes touching on art philosophy, literature, history and music. It's like a general Humanities degree, without really being labeled as such. Let's just say I left with a deep respect for people like Madeline L'engle, Annie Dillard and Sufjan Stevens.
Let's talk about Abbotsford, where you grew up. What are things to do there? Any local gems or hidden spots? I understand it's becoming quite the thriving place to be.
It's weird that Abbotsford has gotten to the point of being a "place to be", but alas. I have a love/hate relationship with it; like I said earlier, I'm a person of habit, and I since I'm so familiar with Abbotsford, I feel a comfort in being here. It has been an amazing year to see it start to develop a great local business scene. My friends' have an amazing cafe called Oldhand, and there's a handful of cool shops that have opened in the last year, that are all run by great younger people trying to invest in the culture. On the flip side, it's a bit of an urban planner's nightmare in terms of it's functionality of a city. It's ridiculously spread out, and yet always feels like it's too small to serve the amount of people that live there. Not a lot in the way of bike-friendliness, or efficient public transport, so you're usually required to spend at least 20 mins. in your car, no matter where you're trying to get. Anyways, all that being said, it's been home for long enough that I can let a lot of my problems with the city slide, and focus on the good.
Your LP was written, recorded, and mixed all in BC. Do you ever associate specific spots with it? Sort of, memories I guess.
Certainly! There's a lot of natural beauty in the area, and I've been trying to be more intentional about getting out and enjoying some of the things that make living here so great. This record will always be associated with this house that my wife and I have been in for the last year. It's about 20 mins from Abbotsford, on the side of a mountain, close to the lake and in the woods. There's a few hiking trails and lakes nearby that I'll always be inspired by.
How would you say you've grown as an artist. Since 2010 to now, 2017.
In many, many ways. When I first started, I had very little aspirations to be a legitimate, professional musician. That had always been a dream, but with the first Teen Daze EP, I was really just having fun and not considering much. There's mistakes in the production of those first few releases that I hear, and that I would never let pass now. It all makes sense really: I was 23 when I made that first record, I didn't have much responsibility in life, and really no audience to be held accountable to. I think I take the fact that I do have an audience and a fanbase much more seriously now. I want to create good music, not just for my own sake, but for their sake too. I think I've also dealt with things over the last six years that have made me more an older, probably more cynical, person. This makes its way into my music pretty naturally; Four More Years had a lot of inside jokes within it, whereas the new record is called Themes For Dying Earth. That's a pretty significant shift in name alone.
How do you feel about all these brilliant successes that have come about with you working as Teen Daze. Be it having Pitchfork recognize you, having your music in a major film like Equals, what's the biggest sort of milestone to you?
I still get stoked whenever those types of things happen. I'm incredibly thankful that I get to do this as a career, and these are the types of things that propel me to try and sustain it. And to be honest, if those successes didn't happen, I'd still be making music. I feel like I win either way. I've been able to meet some of my musical heroes thanks to this project, and even become friends with some of them, and to me that's been the greatest joy that comes along with the success.
Speaking of Equals, how did that opportunity come about? The movie has a very calm and fitting aesthetic that resonates beautifully with your music.
Drake Doremus, the director, has been a fan for a little while, and he used a song of mine in the trailer for one of his earlier films. I was really honoured to have that song in Equals, especially just to see the way it was used, and to have that scene be such a beautiful moment in the film. It felt incredible.
When you first got involved in music, what was the first instrument you gravitated towards? What were some inspirational artists to you growing up? How about artists nobody would guess you're into?
Believe it or not, but the saxophone was my number one. I had a toy sax as a toddler that my parents' have said was my favourite. I started playing the piano early, and the drums when I got to middle school. My dad always had a guitar around the house, and there were always lots of record and music around, so I grew up admiring anything that was music-related. I listened to a lot of classic rock at a young age; in Grade 4 I can remember getting the Beatles Anthology CDs and obsessing over them. We also got MuchMusic around that same time, and I watched...so...much. So I was really into anything "alternative", or, anything that was on a Big Shiny Tunes CD. In same breath, I also loved dance music (or anything on the Much Dance CDs), and when Daft Punk's Homework came out, I was completely obsessed. Maybe a band people wouldn't assume I'm into would be Smashing Pumpkins? I have an unwavering love for anything they released from 1991-2000.
Your analogy for cherry blossoms was lovely. You're clearly someone who takes care to notice the beauty in little things, and translate it into your music. You call them, "a symbol of things coming and going". They're passing things that are only around for 2 weeks. You put this in a positive light. Was there ever a time you would view life passing by you so quickly as a negative?
The trip my wife and I took felt like it was moving so quickly, and we tried to savour as much of it as possible, but that's a time I wish we could have done in slow-motion. Also, any trip to Hawaii has passed by me far too quickly.
Climate change. Let's talk about that for a moment. It's an important issue and I'm glad artists like yourself are out there trying to send a message. If there was one thing you wanted to say and communicate to your fans about the environment; what would that be?
Don't take the natural world for granted, and your actions do, and can, make a difference.
As much as this blog is about music, film also plays a huge role. Are there any films that you've loved in the last little while?
I have a long list of films that I haven't seen that I need to, which include Moonlight, Loving, Arrival, to name a few. The last movie I watched was Don't Think Twice, which was made by Mike Birbiglia and is about improv culture. It's kind of an existential crisis film for people in their 30s, which, needless to say, is right up my alley.
Last, but not least, tea or coffee?
I like them both, but I definitely drink more coffee. My dentist would probably wish I stuck to tea.
Themes For Dying Earth is released February 10th. Pre-order it here
Otherwise, looking to hear more? Check out Teen Daze's Spotify below: