599 Johnson Ave.
Brooklyn, NY, 11237
Doors 7:00 PM
This event is 16 and over
What's our purpose, and how do we define ourselves according to the
people we surround ourselves with? Is self-expression a form of
selflessness, selfishness, or simply the essence of self? These lofty,
essential questions are the framework of Thirteen, Jake McMullen's
expressive, intimate debut album as Louis Prince. Equally drawing from
the lush, ornate world of jazz and recalling the smooth, intricate work of
like-minded auteurs like Sandro Perri, Nicholas Krgovich, and
Destroyer's Dan Bejar, Thirteen weaves self-explorative soul-searching
into its gorgeous sonic template, making for an album that leaves a
serious mark even as it casually brushes your cheek.
An Orange County native at birth raised on a diet of Frank Sinatra, Tom
Waits, the Beach Boys, and the Christian music that came with a
religious upbringing, McMullen was inspired to pursue music after seeing
someone play guitar in a shopping mall: "I was like, 'Wow, this is the
coolest fucking thing in the world,'" he remembers. After originally
attending college to play baseball and study music at a small town in
Illinois, he came to the realization that playing by the rules of
conservatory study didn't quite match with his ambitions. "I didn't like
being told how to make music in a small town of 3,000 people," he
explains. He got some culture through a study abroad program, moved
to L.A. for a brief spell, then relocated to Nashville where he's lived for
the last five years.
After releasing what he self-deprecatingly describes as "White guy with a
guitar, 'woe-is-me' Americana" under his own name, McMullen teamed
up with close friend and musician/producer Micah Tawlks to chart a new
sonic path more directly influenced by his interests, ranging from
Ethopian jazz, to the works of jazz masters like Bill Evans and Keith
Jarrett. "It's a lot of music without words," he explains regarding the
sounds that inspire him. "Lyrics don't get to me as much as playing the
piano does." After toying around with a few monikers for this new
direction, he landed on Louis Prince, partially drawing from his middle
name while signifying the new paths him and Tawlks were charting.
"Micah said, 'I think this music deserves a chance to live on its own,'"
Thirteen has been in gestation since McMullen began writing in earnest
in 2015, with Tawlks occasionally pitching in along with previous
collaborators Kevin Dailey and Dabney Morris. "The four of us really
incubated to show me who I am and make it okay to make this music
that I was so afraid of making before. I have an affinity for so many
different types of music—why not let those sounds in?" McMullen's
collaborations with Tawlks were instrumental in Thirteen's lovely, deeply
felt end result. "He encouraged me to do whatever I wanted to do," he
gushes. "I brought in all of these ideas, and sometimes we ended up
combining five different ideas into one song."
Besides embodying a nod to the Ethiopian tourist economy slogan "13
months of sunshine," the title of Thirteen draws from both superstition
and tradition: "It feels unlucky, and I like that," he explains. "I like going
against this strange thing that humans treat as voodoo—I want to
embrace it." McMullen explains that the album as a whole represents an
attempt to "turn the mirror and examine myself," and there are
evocations of personal pain tucked away into the fluttering woodwinds of
opening track "Ten Sprites," which addresses McMullen's parents'
divorce and the conflicting feelings about the nature of family that
emerged as a result.
"Families are such a weird thing," he opines. "We're born into it and
responsible for each other. I have a strange issue with commitment, in
which I can't let anybody into my world because it will fuck with making
music. If someone else comes in and I wind up falling in love, my music
will suffer. I know it's an irrational fear, but I can't write it off." Questions
surrounding his own religious upbringing abound, while first single "Half
Acres" returns to themes of commitment and validation over sparse
synths and twinkling ambience. "The question in the chorus is two-fold,"
McMullen explains regarding the song's central query ("Is it gonna
happen for you?"). "Am I ever going to get over this lack of commitment,
and does love mean anything to me? Am I willing to try to find it?"
"I want people to care about what I do," McMullen continues while
discussing the essence of creation and what it means to him—and he
quickly doubles down on the inquisitiveness that makes Thirteen such a
striking listen: "Is it wrong to want that? What is success, and does it
mean anything to me?" Although he might have to answer that last one
for himself, Thirteen is inarguably the work of a personal triumph—an
exciting new voice in indie, colliding fascinating stylistic tics with a
yearning to belong in this world that listeners will doubtlessly find