Interview: Jay Arner gets glam, continues to look ahead on sophomore album

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Jay Arner is on his way back from the Fujiya on Clark Drive. He’s just picked up a load of groceries from the Japanese food store and is pretty damn excited to indulge in his haul. Beyond his lunch, though, Arner has plenty to be happy about. The Vancouver-based multi-instrumentalist is on the verge of releasing his sophomore solo album, Jay II, and the first two recently-shared singles off it, “Crystal Ball” and “Like A Dracula,” are both tasty little slices of glam-rock heaven.

Arner has been a busy man in the local music scene for years, being a bit player for bands like Bleating Hearts and Fine Mist, and serving as sought-after producer for artists including Fake Tears and Supermoon. His 2013 self-titled debut saw him finally step out on his own, in a waft of hook-laden, synthesized, power-pop jams.

“It was a relief,” he admits. “I think I always wanted to be a solo artist, but I would always sort of pretend that I was in a band…It was always me playing most of the instruments and telling everyone what to do, but I didn’t want to take credit for it or I didn’t have the guts to put my name to it. I’m not saying it was an act of bravery, I’m just saying I decided to shed the façade and just own up to it.”

After he released his debut, Arner went on an extensive tour, slowing penning music in between sound checks and concerts, and somehow finding the time to release a 7-inch of “goof-off songs” (New Dimensional) with bandmate Jessica Delisle under the moniker Energy Slime. When Arner returned home, he decided to take some well-deserved time off and focus on finishing up what would ultimately be Jay II.

“I’ve always lived in Vancouver, so it’s very eye opening to go to London, England — these big, big cities where you’re nobody,” he says. As such, that widening of perspective affected the subject matter of the songs he was writing. “I guess a lot of it is going around the world and trying to understand the vastness of space and time and feeling very small. We went to the Grand Canyon a couple times and if you ever wanted to feel insignificant, go to the Grand Canyon. It’s amazing. It’s literally awesome.”

Musically, Jay II has Arner dipping his sonic brush into a bit more glitter and finding inspiration in the artfulness of Sparks and Electric Light Orchestra. First listens of “Crystal Ball” and “Like A Dracula” exhibit Arner’s use of slinky rhythm and futuristic arrangements in a more airtight package than Jay II‘s predecessor. “I guess it does reflect playing 100 or 150 shows,” Arner says. “I’d never played that many shows in my life before. I think I’m a better musician on this one, just from playing so many shows.”

Arner’s experiences over the last three years have allowed him to grow, audibly as a musician and personally in probably overcoming some of his shyness — even though he says he still feels the same inside. “But everyone feels the same, right? You don’t notice if you change. You’re in your head day-to-day and you don’t really notice; the change would be too subtle. Like, maybe, if you look back at yourself a fews year ago and you’re like ’ugh, who was I?’ I don’t think I’ve looked back yet.”

Indeed, Arner has a lot to took forward to — Jay II is set to drop on June 17 through Mint Records and he is eager to get back on the road again to tour.

But first? Lunch.

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Yasmine Shemesh is a freelance writer who was born in Vancouver and raised on The Rolling Stones.
@yasmineshemesh

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