Lexington artist Idiot Glee gaining national notice for EP

Contributing Music WriterFebruary 28, 2013 


    Idiot Glee

    When: 10 p.m. March 1

    Where: Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave.

    Tickets: $5. Call (859) 309-9499 or go to Cosmic-charlies.com.

    Learn more: Idiotglee.com

A funny thing happened when James Friley completed five songs for a new album under his indie pop nom de plume, Idiot Glee. He discovered that he was done.

The Lexington resident and Ashland native took the tunes — which he fashioned predominantly on his own through arrangements colored by keyboard melodies, loops and samples — and issued them this week as an EP, Life After Jazz.

An askew marketing maneuver? It didn't matter, because Life After Jazz was being released on Hop Hop, a Lexington label he co-founded with local music activist Ross Compton. Life After Jazz has picked up more than a little national buzz already, so it seems the notion of less-is-enough for a recording was right on the money.

"It's pretty exciting," said Friley, 24, who will lead a full-band version of Idiot Glee on Friday at Cosmic Charlie's to mark Life After Jazz's release. "I didn't know what to expect, really. It's just an EP. It's not even a full album. But it's gotten a lot of support.

"Basically I just started recording these songs that I have been playing live for a while. I kind of stopped at five songs and realized they sounded really cohesive and good together. The music kind of captured a moment in time. I could have added another five songs and eventually made an album. But that would have taken longer, causing it to come out in about two years and maybe not sound as together as it does now. So I just decided to put it out and have a clean slate for another album."

Life After Jazz follows Idiot Glee's 2011 debut album, Paddywhack, a record ripe with sunny pop reverence. Its songs — all graceful, warm and unhurried — spot-checked pop references from throughout the decades, from a stark melancholia reflective of My Morning Jacket material to the harmonic designs of Pets Sounds-era Beach Boys. But the keyboard colors that drape the songs make them feel thoroughly modern.

"I like so many different things," Friley said. "Luckily, they all bleed into what I do. Some of my favorite stuff is really what you might hear on the radio: Fleetwood Mac and some of the Beach Boys stuff. And then there are modern people that I really envy. There's this band called Twin Sister from New York, which is kind of similar to what I do. I think I kind of feed off them a little bit and other artists like them.

"As far as taking something from the '60s or '70s and modernizing it, ... well, all I'm doing is just taking a good idea and making it new with a new sound."

Life After Jazz doesn't shift the stylistic course that he embarked on with Paddywhack, but Friley was in the mood for a radical shakeup in how his songs were presented and promoted. Releasing the EP on Hop Hop was the first step.

"Having that control over everything is pretty awesome," he said. "I don't have to sell my soul to anybody that way.

"When I made Paddywhack, I was on a British label and signed a contract and all this stuff. And actually, I don't have any regrets about that except that they were getting the money from the iTunes sales. So I don't exactly know what the numbers are or if they owe me money or anything. Stuff like that. Plus, they're across the ocean, so all communication is twice as hard.

"So I like handling the EP on our label. If I find another label that I really like that's here — and I've decided it has to be here in the States — then I might try that eventually. But for now, Hop Hop is working out pretty well."

The next step was hiring a new publicist. Friley turned Idiot Glee over to Big Hassle, an established public relations firm in New York and Los Angeles with a wildly disparate roster that includes Crowded House, Dawes and Esperanza Spalding.

So how does a project for a fledging indie label in Lexington wind up in such high-profile company?

"I kind of wondered the same thing when I got a booking agent and again when I got a European booking agent," Friley said. "I think it's just timing. I got a load of good blog press a few years ago just on my own. I took that and started emailing tons of different people because I wanted to get bigger and tour the world.

"So I just started emailing booking agents everywhere, and record labels, and sending them links to the press and hoping they would catch on. Of course, 99 percent of them didn't respond or said 'no thanks' or whatever. But I think there was just enough buzz for some of these people to hear what I was doing, like it and think that it was relevant."

So far, the teaming of Idiot Glee with Big Hassle has been fruitful. Together, they have snagged some serious national attention for one of Life After Jazz's most evocative tunes, Pinkwood, on MTV Hive, which streamed the song a full month ahead of the EP's release.

"I think the MTV Hive post was cool. Just the other day, another site (Noisey.vice.com) premiered the rest of the record. And that audience is actually made up more of people like me. Big Hassle pretty much nailed that for us."


Idiot Glee

When: 10 p.m. March 1

Where: Cosmic Charlie's, 388 Woodland Ave.

Tickets: $5. Call (859) 309-9499 or go to Cosmic-charlies.com.

Learn more: Idiotglee.com

Read Walter Tunis' blog, The Musical Box, at LexGo.com.

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