Jax Anderson (Flint Eastwood) is one of those creative types that stays so busy you’ll genuinely wonder where they find time to record their own music, let alone sleep. Running a collaborative music collective in Detroit (Assemble Sound) at any given moment, she’s made her own creative process an open door jam session. We caught up with Anderson ahead of her January 25 show in Toronto at the Horseshoe Tavern to talk about her creative church, writing and what Detroit means to her.
Northern Transmissions: How has your creative dynamic with your brother evolved sense your Flint Eastwood project started?
Jax Anderson: I’ve always created with my brother, he goes by the producer name SYBLYNG. It’s always been a simple dynamic for us, we’re similar in age and we’re really good friends. So it’s very easy to create quickly and on the fly. It cuts through all the bullshit to be able to work with a sibling and not have to worry about all the politics of song writing. We started writing together when I was in or just after high school. I was writing folk music and he was making hip hop beats, and one day I thought a melody would sound good over his beat and we’ve been writing music together ever since.
NT: How have you found balancing your music with your studio/creative hub Assemble Sound?
JA: I think with any art-form, collaboration definitely helps. For me as an artist, working together and working with people I trust is really beneficial. With Assemble Sound, it was a church that me and some artist friends went in and bought, and we turned it into a creative hub in Detroit. Its sole purpose is to give artists in Detroit, and touring artists, a space to meet other artists and create. No strings attached, we don’t want anything from people, we just want to help foster the Detroit community. Assemble has played a huge role in my music, because all the people who play on my record and the writers are mostly from Assemble. They’re friends I’ve made from creating in the space because I have this open-door policy where people can come in and give ideas. If anyone has an idea that benefits the song we lay it down, and if not, hopefully it benefits someone else’s record.
NT: Was the church’s acoustics the reason you chose it for Assemble Sound?
JA: The church’s acoustics were more of a second-hand benefit, we knew when we purchased it that would be awesome. When we were looking though, we were looking for places that had a kitchen and a bunch of extra rooms. At a studio you need to be able to live there without making it comfortable enough that people actually live there. We were looking at old fire halls, police stations and churches. This church is painted this dark green, so when you drive by it looks like this black, Gothic church. I always wanted to go inside and see what was in there because it looked so mysterious. It was on top of our dream list, and the only church to get back to us was this church, because the pastor believed in what we were doing.
NT: Given all the creative people bouncing around Assemble Sound, is it ever difficult to narrow down who you work with on a song?
JA: Oh yeah. A big chunk of time at Assemble is sifting through other people’s ideas. Most of these people are my friends just cruising through a session. A lot of it is stream of consciousness where we turn on a beat and a microphone, and let someone fly. I’ve been writing a lot for the next record and most of it has been this turning on a microphone and letting our minds run free. We’ll take loops from different parts of a session and stick them together and feel like scientists for a little bit. It’s a really interesting way of creating.
NT: How did your collaboration with Tunde Olaniran come about on your new record and what was the creative chemistry between you two?
JA: Tunde is amazing, such a good artist, his vocal range is stupid good, and his subject matter is so honest and raw. He’s one of residents working at the space with 24-hour access to the space to create at any time. It was a situation where we were writing “Push” and we’d had the bones of the song, and Tunde came in and was humming something, and we got him on the microphone. He recorded it on the spot and it made it on the final cut. It was one of those things where he was there in the studio and cruised through our session. It’s the ideal example of what happens at Assemble, a lot of its unplanned and spontaneous, and that’s where magic happens in creativity.
NT: Considering the wide range of influences throughout all your work, is there a typical starting point for you and if not how did some of the songs on Broke Royalty start off?
JA: I usually start with a beat that Seth makes, or a chord progression. Other times I’ll come to him with lyrics but nothing else, not a melody, just I want to make a song with this theme or feeling. We’ll base it around something like that, let our emotions take over and see what happens.
NT: I understand you considered moving to somewhere like Nashville to kick-start your career so what made you decide to stay in Detroit?
JA: I think I’ve always stayed in Detroit because there’s a certain amount of grit and authenticity here, that I feel like I can’t get anywhere else. For me specifically, Detroit is a birthplace of so many unique genres like techno, Motown, garage rock, and these didn’t exist before the musicians made theme here. Detroit is so far from any major city that no one cares about trends, they care about passion. That hard-working sensibility was very attractive to me, and it’s an ideal situation for making art because there’s no ulterior motive. It’s great to create in a city where it feels like everyone has my back.
NT: With all your projects keeping you busy, how do your next few months look?
JA: I’m heading to Australia on December 26, and we’re going to be there for a few weeks. Then we go home for a few weeks before a tour of the East Coast and Mid-West, then across the country with PVRIS. It’s a lot of touring and then I’m 85% done with my next record, it’s a full-length. It’s been a really cool vibe because it’s been created entirely at Assemble, it became an unintentional factory there. I’m really excited about this artist Sam Austins that I’ve been helping with creative stuff.
Words by Owen Maxwell