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Disturbing Wildlife: An interview with Invisible Familiars

Brooklyn based musician Jared Samuel introduces his band Invisible Familiars and talks of William Blake, coconuts and their delicious debut LP Disturbing Wildlife.

Written by Gemma Dietrich

Invisible Familiars is the creation of the talented multi instrumentalist Jared Samuel. His debut LP Disturbing Wildlife, which he penned on a houseboat named Gypsy docked in Jamaica Bay, was released on Other Music Recording Co. this January and does a fine job of making life feel much better. Whilst his captivating lyrics promise you that it’ll all be ok, Invisible Familiars converse with your inner secret self and stroke your soul in the most reassuring of fashions. Speaking of his work in such a graceful and modest fashion you can’t help but be somewhat endeared. I’m not sure he fully appreciates his own brilliance yet. Perhaps that’s part of the charm.

Tell us about your band name. How did it come about?
I took the name from a passage in a Joseph Campbell book that’d been recommended as a sort of beginner’s skeleton key to start making better sense of the world around me. I was puzzled by it, almost to the point of social paralysis. Invisible Familiars are unseen beings or forces of confirmation that are felt. Not made of felt, like a muppet, but like muppets (esp. the benevolent ones in the film Labyrinth), they are there when you seem to need them most and come along to help encourage you in your path. So many wonderful friends came and played on the record and there were a lot of mysterious circumstances that lined up in our favour. Nothing as obvious as a spirit animal materializing and remaining in the room… Although our assistant engineer, Normyn, is the most dashing dame dachshund ever to man a Manley mic preamp.

Invisible Familiars jared samuel
Where does your inspiration come from lyrically?
Sometimes from things overheard. I’ll use bits of dirty truth from other people’s conversations and use that to get me rolling. I’m certainly not the first to do that. Sometimes it’ll be a matter of at first singing phonetically so as not to interfere with the melody and then just repeat it enough times so that more recognizable words start to form. On our next single ‘Act One’ the seasons just kind of tumbled out of my mouth right along with the chorus melody. That sort of dictated the shape of the rest of the song and I got my own meaning of it after it was all done. My real secret is that 90% of my lyrics are stolen from Jimmy Buffet songs, played backwards. Again, we’re talking phonetics. (Laughs.)

Invisible Familiars jaren samuel heart
The artwork on your debut album is incredible. Who’s responsible for that?
Thank you! A startlingly talented young man named David Barth did all of the illustration. All of the hand-written print work, including the liner notes and titling, is by a young man that is a bit older but still startlingly talented, named Alex Holden.

Invisible Familiars, Shaking Through.

What’s your favourite thing about being a working musician in New York?
The sense of community. A feeling of unity within the struggle… Maybe I shouldn’t use that word. There are real struggles going on in the world for basic human rights. I just mean that I know a lot of people that I try to look out for and vice verca. The cost of living here makes it seem seriously cut throat. I remain grateful for all the people New York also somehow beckoned here because I’ve experienced more joy making music with them than doing nearly anything else I could ever imagine.

Invisible Familiars live
Who/what inspired you to want to make music?
I think that it was just a natural attraction and has been a need for as long as I can remember. I always knew I was going to play music. It certainly wasn’t a sound business decision! I took piano lessons for a little while from age 6 because I was forced to, where I pretended to read music that I was actually playing back by ear. I abandoned actual instruction for a while until I found more personal mentorships in my teens and beyond. As far as who, it was everyone I ever listened to. Even the horrible shit- what pop radio would force on us in supermarkets and movie theatres, TV theme songs, commercial jingles. I think on some level we either seek to emulate it or to embody its antithesis. Either way it’s all an influence. Oh, and the birds and stuff. Yeah, nature.

Invisible Familiars portrait
What’s your take on the music industry as it is?
Don’t get me into trouble now. I have a favorite William Blake quote that goes “When nations grow old the arts grow cold and commerce settles on every tree“. A friend and mentor of mine, Paul Dooley, used that line in a gorgeous tune. He’s a musical wellspring who writes about 200 songs a year. None of them are boring and at least half of them are brilliant. But, you know, he paints houses for a living… I feel like these days my main concern is the struggle against streaming music sites and their inability to offer transparency and fair payment for artists. I don’t know quite how deep the water will get but I’ve got a snorkel around here somewhere.

Invisible Familiars live 2
You’re stuck on a desert island. You’re allowed to take one album. What would it be?
I don’t think I would want one because then it would become “thee album”. I’d have to become very precious about it like “Oh no! This is my only album and what happens if it gets exposed to too much heat or salt air or a sea lion comes along and licks it?” I’d like to trade in my record option for copious coconuts, please.

‘Disturbing Wildlife’ by Invisible Familiars is out now! Catch them live in New York this month: March 12, BSP Lounge, Kingston & March 26, Rough Trade, Brooklyn.

If you’re anything like me you’ve likely spent far more and gotten far less in return. Go get it kids.


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