I don’t really know what I’m feeling until I make music: an interview with, Jacquelyn Roy
Her project, Seamaisíona Reamonn, is hard to pronounce
Running Insufficient Fare is a pretty insular activity. I speak to someone; I spend hours transcribing, writing, editing; I publish. Then, I do it all over again. It’s rare that I get any feedback. It can all feel a bit like —pardon The Office reference— Creed’s blog, which is to say, it can feel like I’m preaching about Armageddon on an empty street corner the day after the world has ended.
At the end of May, I got an email. I get lots of emails. We all do. They’re mostly crap. But this one, which came via Jacquelyn Roy, said, “I really enjoy your style of writing, I'd love to be [sic] apart of it.”
Seamaisíona Reamonn is atmospheric electronic music that showcases Jacquelyn’s airy vocals. She sounds like Julee Cruise, but more percussive, staccato. As her dithyrambic creations circle around her, like a falcon’s gyre, things fall together. On single “Wild Wings in the Rafters,” a synth line flutters up and down as Jacquelyn sings surrealistic words. Over and over, she repeats in self-harmony, “falling angels singing inside of cocoons.” It’s a fluid song that shifts from one thing to another, like movements in a longer piece from the classical canon. The breeziness of Jacquelyn’s voice gives way to howling wind and scary Moog-sounding shit reminiscent of what Wendy Carlos did for The Shining soundtrack.
On video chat, Jacquelyn Roy has an easy conviviality. She laughs after most things she says. It comes off as a bit abashed, a nervous tic, but it’s endearing. When we speak, sometime in June after the EP has come out, my window is open and the birds are chirping. It’s 77 degrees in Brooklyn; Jacquelyn reports that Portland, Maine is 60 degrees and foggy. I ask her when we’re finished what she hoped to get out of speaking with me. She says she just wanted to hear how someone else perceives her work. I get that. I hope she doesn’t regret it now.
Read on to hear about Jacquelyn’s experience making the album in Taos, New Mexico; her interest in shamanism; and how music is a lot bigger than the individual.
Me: How do you pronounce your project?
Jacquelyn: Honestly, I’m not even sure but I’m pretty sure it’s say-may-see-ohna ray-mon. It’s old Irish. It was hard for me to find the pronunciation of that, but I’m just guessing from being Irish. It’s my name in Irish, pretty much.
Me: Why did you choose that name?
Jacquelyn: The past year I’ve been getting more into my ancestry, specifically Celtic shamanistic stuff. The spelling is cool. I don’t have a deep answer for that.
Me: That's OK. A lot of bands don’t have deep answers for why they named themselves one thing or another.
Jacquelyn: Idk if Soccer Mommy has depth.
Me: Tell me about this album you put out. You were in Taos?
Jacquelyn: When the pandemic started, I moved to Taos, New Mexico with my boyfriend. I can’t really say why. I just did. I was finishing my last album out there. I had a couple of friends in Santa Fe. One of them is a filmmaker and then the other one is a film photographer and she’s helping me make tapes for my first album, doing the tape design. I guess that was the motive for going out there. Then I just started learning more about electronic set-ups while that was all happening and I started writing Tending to the Mirage. I don’t know if that answers your question.
Me: It’s an open-ended question. What do you mean by learning electronic stuff? Someone taught that to you or you taught yourself?
Jacquelyn: My boyfriend and I, we have our own band called Thalwick, which is electronic folk music. When we were organizing those songs together, we released our first album last summer, too. He was helping me learn electronics set-ups, like how to attach your keyboard to other patterns and pedals into amps and how to change the sounds.
Me: And you’re self-taught, correct?
Jacquelyn: Well, he taught me how to do all that stuff but I'm self-taught on all my other instruments.
Me: What was your drive to pick up guitar? Was it later in life? Is that why you didn’t take lessons?
Jacquelyn: I’ve been playing music since I was little. I started with piano. I was playing piano in high school and I was in choir and stuff like that. Then I went to college and I was distracted and didn’t have a lot of time to focus on music. I have always loved music but it’s never been the trajectory. In the middle-end of college I started writing songs on guitar, trying to learn it a little, and then it slowly went from there for. I’ve only been playing for four years.
Me: How old are you?
Jacquelyn: I’m 26
Me: I’m 28. Let the record show. The quote on your page by Hayvim Vital. Where did that come from?
Jacquelyn: When I was writing Tending to the Mirage, I was reading The Caterpillar Anthology which is this journal from Beat poet times / Black Mountain College and there’s a poem in there called “Rights of Participation” by Robert Duncan and he quotes Hayvim Vital. He’s talking about how poetry and music are these ways to reach higher realms and become omniversal and how your imagination and how your concept of reality can bring you to those places through music and poetry. Where’s the line between reality and imagination? Idk. Where can it take you? Up to god’s center, whatever that is.
Me: What do you think the line between reality and imagination is?
Jacquelyn: I’m not really sure there’s a line for myself at least. I hate saying that because I feel like people are like, “What are you saying?” I feel like everything is a bit unreal for me so I’m always questioning whether my thoughts are real or whether everything I look at is real. Is imagination really different from reality in any way or is everything made up? Idk.
Me: We have the stock market and money. Is that not just imagination?
Jacquelyn: It’s made-up concepts. They’re everywhere. It’s overwhelming.
Me: This album is really spiritual. What was your headspace when you were making it?
Jacquelyn: I was definitely in a pretty spiritual headspace. I’ve been getting into shamanism for the past year. It’s very much guided by those concepts: again, whether reality or imagination are real. I read Tibetan shamanistic stuff and they talk about how shamans are those who can see in the dark and I feel like that’s what the album is about now that I’m saying it out loud.
Me: Did you come to that through the Black Mountain poets or the Beats? I know they were interested in Tibetan monks and mysticism and things like that.
Jacquelyn: It’s something I’ve been interested in, I guess. I like a poet named Gary Snyder a lot. He’s very into Zen stuff. But that’s not similar to Tibetan stuff at all.
Me: Does reading play a part into your practice as a musician?
Jacquelyn: I really don’t read that much, honestly. What I read is mostly poetry and spiritual books. I don’t read literature very much or anything like that. I think music and poetry are really similar in a lot of ways. I think one deals with sound and one deals with language and literacy. But they both have rhythms to them. The word is so important in both of them. Not always in music, but I guess in my music. Writing words and language are really important to me and I always want the songs to be well thought out and written out and have some kind of poetic nature to them. Two of the songs on Tending to the Mirage were just poems I already had laying around and I put a melody to them and made sounds over them.
Me: So are you a poet?
Jacquelyn: I hate calling myself that
Jacquelyn: Idk. My best friend is a real poet and a lot of my friends are…
Me: I think it’s hard to call yourself a poet
Jacquelyn: Yeah. I feel like there’s this weird “I am an intellectual” energy behind it and I’m not really trying to be that, y’know? Not that all poets are like that.
Me: I want to debunk that myth that poetry is this highfalutin art form. There’s a lot of poetry that you can hear or read and it’s really beautiful. I was watching this documentary last night about the poet, Donald Hall and his wife Jane Kenyon who was also a poet. They lived in this small town [Wilmot, New Hampshire] and would go to church and read people the poetry. You could see all these ordinary people enjoying the poetry. I think the reason people think poetry is highfalutin is at some point, in 10th grade, they make you read some highfalutin poem, maybe it’s T.S. Eliot and they’re like, “You gotta learn all the reference points, you need to break this down, deconstruct it, close analyze it.” It’s just like fuck that. I think that has its place but not as a masochistic exercise for 16-year-olds to then think, for the rest of their lives, that one of the most beautiful and direct art forms is out of reach for them.
Jacquelyn: I agree with that. They place a lot of systems behind writing poetry. It has to flow a certain way. It is sad that people find it unapproachable to write.
Me: I think music is the closest a lot of people get to poetry
Jacquelyn: It doesn’t always have to be really fancy and stuff, too. It can be more personal. It can be whatever you want it to be pretty much.
Me: You said that the album was a product of you serving your own experience with the mirage and your personal experience with depersonalization. I wondered what on Earth that means. Or maybe it’s not on Earth.
Jacquelyn: What on Earth does that mean? That quote really grammatically bothered me. I was living in New Mexico for the past year and I feel like it’s one of those places where you’re just like, “What is going on?” All the time. It’s very still and quiet. There’s something about the dessert that just makes you like have to really face a lot of weird things inside yourself and what it means to be a person, too. Everything feels a little bit unreal out there. It was kind of that in a more literal sense. Depersonalization is just a mental disorder I have. It’s kind of about that, too. It’s a dissociative disorder and it’s just when you don’t feel real. Like you’re outside of your body the whole time watching yourself in a weird story or play. It can be anxiety-inducing.
Me: Do you find that making music allows you to be more present?
Jacquelyn: It can help me really understand my own brain cause I think a really big part of depersonalization, and other dissociative disorders, is you feel like your feelings and thoughts aren’t real and you feel disconnected from things you’re experiencing so music is a weird way to center all of it. I don’t really know what I’m feeling until I make music. Maybe even way after I finish something, like six months after I’m like, “Ooh, that’s what was going on.” So it’s really weird even now to talk about this.
I think sometimes music can bring out emotions you’re not even aware you’re experiencing. You can play with that. It’s therapeutic or something.
Me: I was talking to a friend the other day and he was asking me what music I had been listening to recently and then he said that the last time he had asked me, I said, “I’m not really into music these days.” And he was like, “I didn’t even think that that was an option was to stop listening to music.”
Jacquelyn: Music is a lot bigger than the individual. When you’re making music you can create outside of yourself and I guess that’s what world-building is, too. It’s involved in yourself but it’s not as well. You’re just the machinery making it happen, but it’s larger than you, too.