Jose Gonzalez – Heartbeats

José González

IN OUR NATUREThe music of José González is hardly reminiscent of fireworks and confetti, but still that’s exactly how his last album was received – all over the world. His low-voiced, serious and introverted music has almost been hugged to death by everything from the indie crowd to your grandmother. José himself is more than anything surprised. Now it’s time for the album In Our Nature.It is four years since Veneer, his first album, was released. During that time a lot has happened: record breaking sales, European, North-American, Asian and South-American tours, a shower of awards and the song Heartbeats being featured in the Sony Bravia commercial. That particular song quickly made José González known outside of the indie circuit around the world, and most people that heard it wanted to know more. A couple of years earlier Sweden major morning paper DN reviewer Malena Rydell wrote: “The songs of José González have something that instantly makes you react”. And that’s just how it went; a lot of people seemed to react to the song that was being played during the commercial breaks. Following this, Heartbeats got an almost exaggerated amount of attention, especially in England, Ireland and Australia. From the outside it looked as if José González became famous overnight and that it was a song (and what’s more is that it was a cover song) that was his main asset. Fortunately that’s not the way it was.Rather, José’s music rests on a foundation that has been built from long-term work, starting many years ago. As far back as six months before the commercial Veneer was being praised by a unanimous European press. You could compare the construction of his music with the research he was doing when Veneer was released, at which time he was educating himself to become a researcher in biochemistry at the university of Gothenburg. He attacks his music almost in the same way: patiently, methodically and with great interest in finding unexpected angles. The work with In Our Nature was to a great extent about bringing out different approaches.- I didn’t want to write about love but find other, though equally universal themes for the songs. These are things I have always been thinking about. But the last six months I became a lot more interested in it after I read the book The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. He’s an evolutionary biologist. But the lyrics are far from biological, I’d like to point that out. It’s mainly the theme that interests me, José González says.In his teens he learned how to play classical guitar and some time later, when he was part of one punk band and one hardcore band, he sat at home writing low-voiced pieces on his guitar. That range of expression, or maybe that contradiction in expression, says a lot about José as a person – and about the new album In Our Nature.It is an album that on the one hand is very accessible and speaks easily, and on the other has a darkness and a seriousness that more than often borders on what should be considered healthy.- I like playing with symbolism. On this album I’ve wanted to bring out the primitive aspects of human beings, José González says.In Our Nature is sonically similar to the debut album, though it’s more open and more focused on melodies. Everything is recorded on tape in Gothenburg, but not before José had practiced everything very thoroughly. When the songs sounded good on the voice recorder he dared to record them for real. After that it happened quickly: it didn’t take more than two weeks to record the ten songs.Factoid:Age: 29Lives: Haga in GothenburgFamily: His mother and two siblings live in Sweden. His father has returned to Argentina.Playing on the album are:José González, guitar and vocals, Erik Bodin, percussion, Yukimi Nagamo, backing vocals. The album art for In Our Nature is done by Elias Araya.Has played in Against the Wall, Renascence, Only if You Call Me Jonathan, and is playing in Junip.Sources of inspiration:Chet Baker, Geoff Farina, Low, Fela Kuti, Elliott Smith, Broadcast, MF Doom, J Dilla, Konono no 1, Nina Simone.Veneer, the debut album, has sold over 700.000 copies in total.Awards:European Border Breaker Award 2006.The Swedish government music export award 2007 (for sales in 2006).Swedish Grammy in the category Best New Artist 2004.Award for best Swedish songwriter of the year from SMFF (Swedish Music Publishers Association).Award for Singer/songwriter of the year at Manifestgalan.Sales awards:Platinum in Sweden and Great Britain.Double Platinum in Ireland.Gold in Australia and New Zealand.Has toured practically all over the world during the last 4 years.In Our Nature will be released simultaneously in 35 countries;Europe, the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Central and South America and South Africa among others.The Story:José González’s story is rare in modern pop – a heartening case of the artist resisting the vicissitudes of musical fashion to carve out a unique, intimate style that is all his own, then defiantly following his muse all the way to the top of the charts.An established star in Scandinavia, José’s critically adored album Veneer is currently bedded down in the UK Top Ten while his single ‘Heartbeats’ continues to trouble the sharp end of the singles chart – and it’s a similar story across Europe. It’s uplifting then, in an age of spin, hype and wall-to-wall hyperbole, to note that José’s music has required no lavish production (he records on basic equipment, at home) no exotic packaging or gimlet-eyed marketing strategies, to make it cherished by thousands. For once even the Sun got it right: ”In a world of musical clones, the Argentinean Swede is a thrillingly original new talent”.In purist rock connoisseur heaven, it should always be thus, but, let’s face it, when did the last genuine solo troubadour (as opposed to drippy acoustic balladeer) go so swiftly from critical acclaim and cult adoration to international stardom, while still retaining every inch of credibility? Even Bob Dylan had a few problems with the latter! Ultimately, José’s success restores faith in the power of the song and the lone vigil of the singer-songwriter, laying himself bare for our empathetic pleasure. That José is still in his mid-20s makes his achievement to date doubly impressive – and his future one of appetising prospects.Relying simply on his own masterfully eloquent classical guitar and a voice that marries mature assuredness with poignant delicacy, José has been creating his inimitable sonic world since the late ‘90s, though his recording career didn’t begin in earnest until 2003. His achingly emotional melodies and thought-provoking lyrics – all sung in perfect, crystalline English – combine in a manner at once familiar (think Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Will Oldham) and subtly exotic (shades of Brazilian Tropicalia – early Silvio Rodríguez, Cuban Nueva Trova). His songs are so timeless – you feel like they’ve always been around – yet there’s a clean freshness to José’s music that makes repeated listening an endlessly revivifying delight.Born in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1978, José was bought up in a house that teemed with all kinds of music. His Argentine-born father’s natural taste for Latin American music was only rivalled by a penchant for American and UK pop classics – and the eclecticism rubbed off on his young son. After these fledgling dalliances, José followed his own path, initially playing bass in Black Flag-inspired rock combo Back Against The Wall, before flirting with hardcore in Gothenburg’s Renascence and dipping into indie rock with the unlikely sounding Only If You Call Me Jonathan… But these rites of passage only led him back to the voice and six-string, and, after a series of lessons in classical guitar, the beginnings of a very personal style. Vocally, José admits to the influence of some appropriately intimate-toned forebears: Eliot Smith, Geoff Farina and Songs:Ohia’s Jason Molina among them. He’s also happy to point out the positive effect on his music instilled by listening to such disparate artists as Cat Power, Tortoise and Joy Division.After these tasteful and diverse influences had done their work, José’s rise was meteoric. After untrammelled Scandinavian success in 2004, José signed to London-based indie Peacefrog, releasing his UK debut, the EP Crosses, in February ’05. Press hosannas and some jaw-dropping, heartstring-tugging UK shows set off the proverbial buzz and by the time the debut album Veneer was released in April, word had spread like wildfire. With the press salivating, radio went into meltdown, with more plays on BBC Radio 1 than a play-listed record! Sessions were recorded for everybody from XFM’s John Kennedy to Radio 4’s Loose Ends and there was also a rapturous live session for Radio 1’s Zane Lowe that culminated in a wondrously singular reading of Massive Attack’s ‘Teardrop’.Touring in support of the album, Jose reinforced his magnetic qualities, tantalising his live following with another magnificent make-over – Kylie’s ‘Hand on your Heart’, which has to be heard to be believed. By the time he embarked on another major UK tour in February ’06, Jose had capped twelve months of incredible live shows including a support slot to the Dalai Lama in Sweden – which may just have pipped other bills shared with the likes of Arcade Fire and Juana Molina…Meanwhile, another cover, ‘Heartbeats’ (originally by Swedish band The Knife and a Veneer highlight) was gaining wide UK currency thanks to its use in the high profile Sony Bravia TV campaign, helping usher it into the upper echelons of the UK chart in January 2006 (it was even a ringtone Number One!). José’ played ‘Heartbeats’ on Top Of The Pops in January and was the subject of a Channel 4 TV documentary titled Orchestra Of One in early February.Still full of energy, José is currently hunkered down with his other project, the band Junip, working with a premier league UK production duo (details to be unveiled in the very near future). The words ‘world’, ‘his’ and ‘oyster’ spring to mind…(text by Peacefrog)