With one EP out, two singles, and an upcoming album, The Telescreens are quickly finding their way through the crazy world of music. While the band identifies within the alternative rock genre, their sound is ever evolving. Based in Los Angeles and New York City, the Telescreens have continued to experiment with their sound and release tracks that are both deeply emotional and fun to listen to. I got the opportunity to talk with singer, songwriter, and guitarist of the band, Jackson Hamm, who explains his process of making music as well as some of his biggest inspirations.
THE TELESCREENS INTERVIEW
TESS (HIGHLARK): Hi Jackson, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me.
JACKSON HAMM (THE TELESCREENS): Yeah, no problem.
TESS: So, which musicians/bands have influenced you the most?
JACKSON: I’d say right now my top three are the Beatles, David Bowie, and Kanye West.
TESS: How did you come up with the band’s name?
JACKSON: The Telescreens is from 1984, George Orwell. Its got a special significance to me that will be disclosed as the songs roll out, I think then it will make more sense why the band is called the Telescreens. In 1984 the telescreen is the kind of machine that big brother watches the people through. The way I look at it is that I have reversed that by making it a good thing instead of a bad thing – I make the Telescreens something for the people.
TESS: Each of your singles and EP have very cool and unusual cover art – is there any specific meaning behind these covers?
JACKSON: Yeah, the very first EP, As of Late, I don’t know if I’m going to make that part of my modern discography – it’s more of a high school release. I know you like those tunes, they’re good tunes and I like them, but I’m not sure what I’m gonna do with them. Recently in New York I’ve been playing new songs at shows because the styles of music are different and I’m exploring new genres, but the artwork is always very important because it is the first visual experience you get from the music. Music to me is a very visual experience as well, when you listen to music a lot of visual things pop into your head and with artwork you can explain where you were at visually when making the song. In terms of the old stuff, it’s like the evolution of man through the evolution of music, it’s simple, but cool. Crazy is like a brain on fire, being melted of all its sustenance. That had to do with how grueling making crazy was, it was a year of such intense days – day after day, after day of songwriting. We took a very maximalist approach to that song and just recorded everything we could possibly think of to see what we liked and at the end stripped it back. I wrote it probably senior year of high school and tracked it over the summer before university and did a lot of production up until January and mixed in February. That process was very taxing on my brain and our drummer, Alex’s brain. So, the single cover is representative of what we were going through.
TESS: That’s really cool! So, as we just discussed, your songs are very personal and clearly come from your own life experiences, do you ever find it hard to be so open about your life in your music?
JACKSON: It’s interesting that you get that. I sit with my lyrics for a long time and they’re actually written from a bunch of different perspectives. So basically whenever I say “you” in any of my songs, it is me in 3rd person talking back to myself. I write it in a way where it can be interpreted to be about a girl in my life or someone else’s life – so it can be interpreted and related to in many different ways. Anybody who listens to it can get their own story and have it be personal to them. But, for me it is 3rd person me talking to myself and that 3rd person manifestation is not always the clear me. It’s a lot of my doubts, pains, insecurities, fears, and all that. It is a lot about explaining emotions and how to portray things like love and fear. To me the most powerful emotions are ones that have physical connections – when you feel anxious or scared. Even awkwardness – I like awkwardness a lot because when you feel awkward there is a physical thing that goes along with it and that doesn’t happen with all emotions. But in terms of it being hard to open up about it, no because if I didn’t have music I would be insane. Being able to open up in my music is like a safe haven. I couldn’t not be open about it, it would be too much for my brain.
TESS: So, as we talked about earlier, Your first EP, As of Late, was released on SoundCloud while you were in high school. Was it difficult to continue working on your music while transitioning into college in a new city?
JACKSON: No no no, I’m only going to college for music. My whole focus is on this music, this art. Clive is a great place to learn and be, but it’s just that. It was the opposite, when I went to college my focus became more on music than it was in high school.
TESS: That’s great. Now that you have completed your first year of music school at NYU, do you feel that your way of writing and recording songs has changed?
JACKSON: Absolutely! New York kinda picked me up and slammed me down. It broke me and put me back together. I got really addicted to the process and became kind of a workaholic. It was not very mentally healthy, but I got a lot done. I got a lot better and my knowledge expanded more than I could ever hope. I learned a lot about recording, production – and all that. I wouldn’t do much else. I would stay up for days at a time and be constantly doing that. The downfall is I would sometimes forget about things that were necessary, like going to class, but New York definitely changed me. I think in the coming record you’re gonna see off the bat that the genre is much different now. It’s gonna be blurring some lines between a bunch of different stuff – it should be cool.
TESS: Oh cool, I’m excited to hear the new album! Lastly, The Telescreens have one official music video out that I really liked – for your song “Stuck.” Can we expect more music videos from The Telescreens?
JACKSON: Yeah! It is coming, and the new record is on the way. I set up a studio in the back of my house and I’ve been in it every day.