Summer Mood Cycle: An Interview with Jungheim

On Twitter, Chicago singer/songwriter Jungheim has apologized for delays in the release of her upcoming EP, Post-Breakdown Dilemma, but as a listener, it’s hard to find fault with her pace and productivity. After her debut EP Novella dropped almost a year ago, she closed out 2017 with a series of singles in the same vein of exquisitely melancholy guitar pop her Bandcamp page calls “a mixture of sad and gay.” 

So far, 2018’s work has been no less gay, but a little less sad. Her latest single, “Cycle,” is a pleasant piece of fun in the sun that pairs her relaxed vocal delivery with an electro-pop beat and sweltering synth bass. Released on recently-formed Beach Cats Records, it shows an up-and-coming artist reaching for new sounds and developing her songwriting voice, but above all, it’s a beach-ready summer bop.

With work still in progress on Post-Breakdown Dilemma, Jungheim spoke to The All Scene Eye about the making of the EP and her goals for the release.

You recently released “Cycle” on Beach Cats Records. How did that track come together?

“Cycle” was an instance of me just messing around with my DAW and seeing what type of sounds I could create. I’m terrible when it comes to creating diverse drum patterns, but I knew that I wasn’t looking for a clever beat, which is why the drums are basically just a kick and snare with a hi-hat thrown in. I forget if the synths or the guitar came first–they seem very blended to me. The synths were a mixture of a saw lead, a harp, and a slightly softer synth, which all seemed to fit well together. Overall, the instrumentals only took the first thirty minutes to create. Maybe less. It took me almost two months to write actual lyrics to it, but “the summer cycle” was just the first thing that popped into my head, so I knew I had a chorus.

How did you get involved with Beach Cat Records?

It started when @carpetsoul on Twitter messaged me about this idea for a compilation of summer songs, which caused “Cycle” to be created. Leon was pretty cool and relaxed about the whole thing. I forget how we even started following each other. I’m pretty sure it was through Olivia Hudson. I thought it was awesome that he was starting Beach Cats Records, so when he said that he was still willing to release “Cycle” through the label–I had taken too long with finishing the song, so the compilation had already been released–I was more than happy to add a contribution.

Your last single before that was “Quarrel.” When did you write that song? What inspired it, lyrically?

I wrote “Quarrel” back in October of last year. That was an interesting period of transition into college, and so I wanted to reflect on that sonically. Right before “Quarrel” was my other single “Aware” and the Novella EP, which were both very acoustic-driven, so I wanted to try and create a more ethereal soundscape.

I had come up with the song title before the lyrics or even the subject matter were conceived. I eventually came up with a story of two young people engaged in a lover’s quarrel. It was meant to be somewhat of a fantasy-like antithesis to my parents, since from a young age I’ve felt like their constant arguing was toxic. I wanted to write lyrics about a couple whose constant desire to tear each other down would never turn into anything good.

“Widening veins, there’s nothing to gain / and I know that you will quarrel again” is just me saying “hey, this really isn’t gonna get any better.” I never understood the appeal of arguing so aggressively with a loved one when there’s clearly a misunderstanding that can be worked through.

If you could describe the making of Post-Breakdown Dilemma in one word, what would you choose, and why?

God, one word is so difficult for this EP. Probably “UGH,” just because when I had originally thought of it, I had imagined it being so much easier to make. Prior to this EP, the only way I would be working with someone was through collaborating on vocals (or piano, in Olivia Hudson’s case). I’ve held the reins of my music for such a long time that working with a drummer and a bassist ended up being harder for me to get used to than I thought; you’re no longer tackling everything on your own time 100% with just a computer and some instruments in front of you. Taking everyone else’s availability into account resulted in the EP being delayed past this summer.

I do think this was beneficial, though, because it gave me a reality check and taught me to not give away information about my songs to the public so prematurely. I’m also giving myself more time to experiment with mixing and producing, as well as figuring out what other instrumentals belong in these songs. I would’ve never thought of these things if I had continued working alone. It can be hard to give part of yourself away to other people, but those songs almost end up becoming less egocentric and more fully realized when other people tag along. Maybe “eye-opening” is the word I was looking for.

What kind of lyrical themes came up in the process?

As I was writing the songs for Post-Breakdown Dilemma, I had noticed the lyrical themes of each song carried into the others pretty nicely. The first track was just me discussing my periodic shift in mood, and how I may currently feel fine, but I know that eventually everything will turn dark again, as usual. I absentmindedly ended up writing about one of those dark periods on the second song, and then the third song is an interesting surprise that ties the previous two together. I didn’t plan on the songs to work together lyrically so well; it just happened subconsciously. It still feels really cool to have these songs that belong together, like some bizarre movie trilogy or something.

Tell me about the bassist and drummer you worked with on Post-Breakdown Dilemma. How did you end up working together?

I’ve been working in person with my bassist, Julia. She’s someone I’ve been around since high school, but I only recently realized that we operate on a similar wavelength. We have similar feelings about our futures and about music, and we both have depressing humor around each other. The idea for us to work together happened pretty casually through social media conversation, and at the beginning of June, we both said, “why not give it a try?” We’ve worked together ever since.

My current drummer, Tyler, lives in Philadelphia, so he’s just helping with drum tracks for the recording process, but he’s been a big help. I got into contact with him through Olivia, and he’s such a sweet guy. The distance prevents us from working together physically, however.

Are you planning to perform these songs live as a trio?

I definitely want to perform these songs live, but Julia and I are still struggling to find a local drummer to get things started. I think the various types of energy these songs give off would make for a wonderful live experience. I’m literally so anxious to start performing with Julia and the rest of the future lineup, it’s nearly eating away at me.

What’s your biggest goal for this batch of songs?

I’m really hoping that people can connect with these songs, or at the very least enjoy them. My friends all seem to really love them, so that’s been my gauge of what to expect. I’m not anticipating any crazy breakthrough, simply because I don’t want to get my hopes up, but it’d be nice if more people started listening because of the EP. That’d probably be my 100% success goal.

Where do you record? How has that space impacted the music you make?

I’ve been recording everything in my basement for the past year. The isolation allows me to just mow through things and experiment with sounds without worrying about outside opinion.

I feel a little more unhinged when I’m in my little studio. I used to record in a big kitchen, so I’d always have to stifle myself whenever I sang a lyric that I felt wasn’t ready yet. It was definitely a much more insecure environment for me, but my basement is a source of comfort. I can wake up and immediately open my laptop to record something. One time I was humming a song idea in the shower and I ended up recording it a few minutes later. Ideally, I’ll be working in an actual studio sometime next summer, but I really enjoy figuring things out for myself and making compromises in my basement.

You’ve collaborated with Olivia Hudson on her projects as well as your own. What was it like working on her upcoming debut album?

It’s been almost entirely mysterious for me. She’s kept me well in the dark for this album, which is new for both of us. We loved sharing our music ideas with each other, but both of us felt like that was almost spoiling the experience of listening to a new Olivia Hudson or Jungheim track for the first time. For her “Sorry” single, I had sent the acoustic guitar tracks over without even knowing how the rest of the song would sound. I’ve sent other bits and pieces to her, but even with those I’m not sure how everything will be pieced together. It’s frightening, but I kinda like that. She’s a pleasure to work with. It’s almost like trusting someone to blindfold you and walk you through a forest fire.

Tell me about your experiences in the music community around Chicago. Who are some other artists in the area we should be paying attention to?

I’ve been gradually attempting to engage the Chicago music scene more, mainly because it’s so important to feel less alone. I don’t even care about “connections,” I just want to know that there are people like me making music near me.

I’ve listened to this album Catch Some by a local band called Bernie and the Wolf, and it honestly pisses me off how many of their songs show up as <1000 on Spotify. They’re so well-produced! They’re definitely an instance of an artist with songs bigger than their audience. More people should check them out, especially if they’re a fan of rock. I also remember listening to the compilation record from Sematary Records and loving every single track on it. Everyone on that label deserves more attention than they have.

How did you first become a musician, and what made you want to start writing songs?

I was listening to a Michael Cera album when I had the incredible idea to start making music as Jungheim. I bought a crappy $30 acoustic guitar online and I just started churning out random instrumentals until I started writing lyrics to them. I’ve always been into writing, but I could never flesh out a full story. Songwriting seemed to be a better method of writing, so I started doing that instead.

The first two years of Jungheim were definitely messy. I remember trying to start a pop punk band called Forever Alumni, which introduced me to the idea of electric guitar and got me into wanting to write more electric-driven music.

What’s the best concert you’ve ever been to, and what made it special?

This past Wicker Park Fest I was able to see CJ Run perform live. They’re a phenomenal rapper, and Olivia Hudson and I were right up against the rails. They just dominated the stage; I was so proud of them. We were able to have a pretty good conversation with CJ after the show. It’s just crazy knowing how we had talked a few times online before and now I was seeing them perform at a festival. We took some selfies, and I also remember making a lot of CJ puns–they didn’t like the puns. Even now I’m like, “wow, my friend performed at Wicker Park Fest!” That was incredible. I had some snickerdoodles right after that, which pretty much topped the day off. This is also a long-winded way of telling everyone to listen to CJ Run.

How do you know CJ Run?

I saw their EP ForgetMeNot pop up on my Twitter timeline earlier this year and decided to give it a listen–best decision I’ve made in my life. I gave them a follow immediately, and from there I became an instant fan. It’s impossible for me to hate a CJ Run song.


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