This Way Out (Caroline)
An interview with Jeff Martin
by Jen Beatty
The character of Idaho‘s name is a far cry from the poppy, loftiness that one would hear from the House of Love and the Cocteau Twins. Frontman Jeff Martin sounds like he was spawned from the vocal schooling of J. Mascis and Lou Barlow, but the overall sound of the band stands alone.
“It’s original, ambient, and textural kind of stuff,” said Martin recently of the band’s music. And it attracts an audience that “seems to be often really intelligent but slightly unhip. They seem to be the really focused type… For the most part, people are at least intrigued.”
The L.A. act has been touring with the Cranes. For this tour, Martin was accompanied by former Pet Clark guitarist, Dan Seta. Seta also lent strings on Idaho’s current CD, This Way Out (Caroline).
The band finished their tour and were in town for an independent performance at Mama Kin. Prior to the show, Jeff Martin and I sat down to talk about the tour, the band, and their sophomore effort.
How was it touring with the Cranes?
It was really great to play for big audiences. I really felt that we had something that they didn’t. We complimented each other. Let me rephrase that. They used DATs and everything was very safe. We were going out and really putting ourselves on the line. It balanced out.
Are you keeping the touring band for the next album?
Two-thirds I’m going to keep: Dan (guitarist) and Mark (drummer). The bass player is going to go on and do his own project.
How did Idaho get started?
Well, my old partner, John Berry and I had been working off and on together for 10 years, at least, but only off and on. We would record for a few days and come up with three great songs. I never thought anything of it. But the last time, it really worked. I guess about the eighth time we got together over those 10 years we came up with about half of the songs for the first record. A friend of ours, Kim White, was asking us to hear what we did and we thought, “She’s the only person we know in the industry and she’ll hate it, but we’ll give it to her anyway.” She got it. She loved it, and gave it to Brian Long at Caroline Records.
So, Idaho is actually your baby project and you bring in other musicians to accompany you?
Yeah, I had a partner, John Berry, but that didn’t work for me. I knew that I really needed to work alone. But then, I’m lacking the complementary, creative aspect of working with other people. The next record’s going to really benefit from that.
Have you been writing material for this next album?
I don’t write songs… I generally write and record them instantly. You could say I just throw something on tape and not even think about it. There’s something to be said for working that way. But I want to experiment with comparing arrangements and thinking about tension and release.