- 21 Jan 20
As part of a special songwriter feature, we're looking at the homegrown artists behind some of the most outstanding albums of recent months. First up is sonic adventurer Jape.
“I live in Sweden and I just flew in yesterday,” Richie Egan, AKA Jape, notes when we meet on a rainy winter day. “It’s way colder in Dublin at the moment. In Sweden, it feels like Indian Summer, but this is proper cold.”
Egan notes that his adopted home also makes for a quieter environment for songwriting than the busy streets of Dublin city.
Indeed, you can almost hear the contemplative atmosphere of Sweden in his latest record, Sentinel, which subtly draws the listener in, “like trying to get a cat to cross the room”.
“I would like it to be an intriguing record,” says Egan. “I want people to not initially go, ‘This is the best record I’ve ever heard in my life’, but that it will intrigue them enough to go back and take another listen. I feel like if they do that, it will connect with them on a deeper and better level than something that’s really immediate.”
On Sentinel, the singer very consciously turns his back on contemporary fast culture.
“There really is a place for that Tik Tok generation,” reflects Richie. “That’s really cool stuff, but in the age we live in, I believe artists are starting to understand that we need to get to a place of depth again. That’s my little hope for the record – that it can scratch that particular itch.”
Instead of creating songs that try to hook the listener within the first 30 seconds – the point at which payment is secured from streaming services – Jape takes his sweet time. Half of the eight songs on Sentinel are over five minutes, and catchy hooks are at a premium. Nevertheless, he succeeds in captivating the listener because, in his own words, “There’s nothing worse than being truly boring.”
“I’m a little older now and I find it more interesting to do shit that’s never been done,” suggests Richie. “I want something that will reward you, but only if you’re in the mood to let it reward you. I was trying to find a balance between establishing the rhythm of the song, letting it be as it should, rather than truncating it.”
That’s exactly what sets Sentinel apart from his previous records.
“There was a sense of needing them to do well,” says Richie, carefully choosing his words. “On my past records, there’s been a couple of songs where I go, ‘I shouldn’t have done that one. That’s a little bit selling myself short’. But I feel very proud of this one, more than I did the other ones.”
According to the press release for Sentinel, the album is inspired by “the short time when he wakes up from a dream”. Jape’s fascination with dreaming even stretches to enjoying bad dreams.
“Since I was a kid, I loved having nightmares,” he reveals. “I love the way it’s a different reality every time when you dream. And when you wake up, whatever that reality was in the dream, it sort of stays in you for a while. Then it just goes god knows where until the next dream.”
It’s the simple things like dreaming, talking to a stranger or teaching his daughter how to ride a bicycle that inspire Jape these days. However, nothing can compare to the power of music and art.
“I saw Bill Callahan play in Copenhagen recently,” he says. “When he sang ‘Say Valley Maker’, it was the embodiment of the level we can reach through art. Transcending humanity for just three or four minutes. It was the same week that Kipchoge ran the two-hour marathon. When I saw the last minute of that, it was the same feeling of this rise above ourselves for a brief period.”
Like many musicians, Egan uses music as therapy. But it’s the combination of music and exercise that keeps him from “going crazy”.
“I think human beings really need a period in the day when they are awake but not thinking,” he says. “Some people can meditate. I can’t meditate. My brain is just too fast. So for me it’s exercise, and weirdly enough, a specific time. It’s got to be 40 minutes for me. Forty minutes and it just switches. But it’s always a struggle and I think everybody goes up and down. What works today may not work tomorrow.”
• Sentinel is out now.