When he’s not studying engineering at Northeastern University, Jason Ebbs makes infectious beach rock jams. Ahead of his At-Home Concert on Wicked Local Wednesday, he sat down with web services coordinator Riley Greenstein. They talked about his new album The Deep End, opening for Hippo Campus, and the best beaches in Massachusetts.
YOU SPECIALIZE IN BEACH ROCK. WHAT DREW YOU TO THAT GENRE?
When I was growing up, I spent most of my summers with my family on Cape Cod. We would head to the beach at ten in the morning and stay until five in the evening. I’d just be laying there all day in the sun, taking “reflective walks” or whatever you wanna call it. I always had my iPod with me.
I’m 23 now, and just thinking back over my life, those days were always the days that I felt happiest throughout the year. I’d spend the rest of the year waiting for those beach days to come back. And, just relaxing on the beach all day, I would be listening to my favorite songs on my iPod, or now my iPhone. The happiness those songs made me feel during those times is what inspired me to start making beach-themed music. I just want to spread that same happiness to other people who can resonate.
WHAT SONGS WERE YOU LISTENING TO?
They weren’t all necessarily beach songs. Definitely a lot of Oasis and The Strokes in middle school. Oasis was my favorite band, so a lot of them. A lot of The Strokes, who I love. More recently, Hippo Campus and The 1975. More, like, indie pop oriented bands. Tame Impala for sure. Mac Demarco, he’s a very summery guy. Vampire Weekend for sure; they’re a very Cape Cod-oriented band. Those are the main ones that come to mine right now.
IT'S FUNNY YOU MENTION HIPPO CAMPUS, BECAUSE YOU ACTUALLY GOT TO OPEN FOR THEM RECENTLY.
I had the pleasure of opening a virtual show for them for Northeastern, which was crazy. I mean, they’re one of my favorite bands. When they told me that we would get to open for them, I immediately started sweating profusely and running around the house. I felt like a kid again, I was just insanely excited. But obviously, super nervous the day of. Even though it was a virtual show, super nervous.
We played for, like, 230 people. And I got the chance to talk to them after the show, and it was amazing. I realize how lucky I am, because not every musician gets to hear from their favorite band that they liked our energy, and they liked our set. That was crazy. I just feel so lucky for that.
AS YOU SAID, YOU GO TO NORTHEASTERN. WHAT IS IT LIKE BALANCING LIFE AS AN ELECTRICAL ENGINEERING STUDENT WITH BEING IN A BAND?
It can be very tough at times, and it’s definitely a worrying factor for the future for when it comes time to find a full time job. But throughout my academic career, it hasn’t been that tough to balance. Music has always been an escape for me. And whenever I find that music is starting to become tedious or it's becoming work, I try to step back. I want music to always be for me an escape and an outlet. That’s really why I'm pursuing electrical engineering as a career. I mean, my dream is to be a famous musician and do that for a living. But at the same time, the thought of having to do it for a living, it worries me sometimes. So I guess the balance is needed because it’s my outlet.
YOU DON’T NECESSARILY WANT MUSIC TO BE YOUR ONLY THING, YOU WANT TO HAVE ALL THESE OTHER POCKETS TO DIVE INTO.
I like to have options. Obviously, music is my main passion in life, but I don’t want to have to answer to other people. I don’t want to have to change my music to fit a label’s demands. I don’t want to be like “oh, I have to finish an album by the end of next month.” Whenever I’m writing music [with] deadlines, nothing good comes from it. So yeah, I guess having music as my escape is so important to me.
I THINK THAT KIND OF COMES ACROSS IN YOUR MUSIC ITSELF. YOU JUST RELEASED YOUR ALBUM THE DEEP END. RELEASING A SUMMER-THEMED ALBUM IN THE DEAD OF WINTER IS A SUPER INTERESTING MOVE.
Yeah, I had a very hard internal struggle about that. I released my first album Superego in June of 2019. But because it was released in the summer, that means I wrote most of the songs in the fall and winter before. That was also a very summery album, but I felt like I was pretending to be in the summer vibe. Whereas with this record, I wrote most of the songs between last April and August. So I was definitely in the summer mindset.
I had all of the songs finished and recorded by January, but I didn’t want to have to wait another six months for summer. So I figured, why not give everyone a taste of what’s coming? I want to make people long for summer. And then when summer finally comes around, they’ll finally have the chance to turn it on and listen to it in it’s intended state.
RIGHT, SO WE GET THE TEASE NOW, AND THEN ONCE JUNE COMES IT’S GONNA HIT COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.
The sun will come out and people will be like, “hmm, what music do I want to listen to? Oh yeah, that new Jason Ebbs album was pretty summery.”
IT’S ACTUALLY PRETTY INTERESTING, BECAUSE YOU WRITE THESE VERY SUMMERY SONGS BUT YOU’RE NOT NECESSARILY SINGING ABOUT HAPPY-GO-LUCKY STUFF. YOU SING A LOT ABOUT HEARTBREAK AND ENDING RELATIONSHIPS IN THIS ALBUM.
Right, I like to say that a bunch of my songs sound like heartbreak at a beach party, and that’s always stuck in my mind. In high school, when I started writing music, the songs that inspired me the most and resonated with me the most were songs about heartache and breakups. And I wasn’t necessarily going through one, but those songs always made me feel such strong emotions. So when I started writing songs, I started naturally gravitating towards songs about breakups.
I like writing love songs too. I mean, on this album, there are one or two love songs: “Baby Blue,” and “Come Over Tonight” is a song about wanting to be in love. For the majority of the time I was writing this album, I was in love, and currently am in love. So it was kind of hard to transport myself back to that mindset of what it’s like to be in pain as a result of love. But, you know, I really had to harken back to high school days and my mindset of the first album. Because I still enjoy writing songs about pain and breakups. and I don’t want to make sad music. The way to overcome the themes of the lyrics is to marry that with fun, poppy, beachy music.
NOW THAT THE ALBUM IS OUT, WHAT IS NEXT FOR JASON EBBS?
We filmed a music video for “Not Even Over,” the first single from this album. We filmed the music video in January. I’m planning to put that out within the next month or two. It’s a fun video, nothing serious. I’ve never been into the premise of super serious music videos. Production-wise, we worked really hard on it. But theme-wise, it’s pretty funny and not too serious. That’ll be coming out soon.
And, you know, just virtual shows. I would like to be playing them in person, but we have a couple of virtual shows coming up. We’re playing a small benefit show for Northeastern next week. Then, I can’t say who, but I’m gonna be opening for another large artist at the end of this month.
I am a little burnt out writing right now. If the sun comes out and the mood strikes me for inspiration, I’ll start writing for sure. But I’m not gonna force myself to write new songs if I don’t feel like it. They’re just not gonna be good.
FINALLY, IT WOULD BE REMISS OF ME IF I DIDN’T ASK THE BEACH ROCK EXPERT HIMSELF: WHAT IS THE BEST BEACH IN NEW ENGLAND?
I love that question. It’s been asked in interviews before, and I love that. I love that it’s being asked. I’m very biased to Cape Cod, like deep Cape Cod, all the way down to the end. My favorite beaches down there are Head of the Meadow in Truro, Massachusetts, and Cahoon Hollow in Wellfleet, which is where the Beachcomber restaurant is. It's a very famous Cape beach, you see shirts for them everywhere. So those are my favorite Cape beaches. Another one of my favorites is up in Gloucester, it’s Wingaersheek Beach. It’s a little bit colder up there, but the water’s gonna be freezing no matter what.
THAT’S WHAT SETS US APART FROM THE REST OF THE COUNTRY.
Yeah, Massachusetts beaches are freezing in the water, but nice to just hang out on. I think those are my favorites. Oh sorry, one more. I know, I know I’m answering way too long for this question.
IT’S ALL GOOD, THIS IS WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT TO KNOW!
Scusset Beach in Sandwich, Massachusetts, if you’re not looking to go too deep into the Cape. It’s, like, the first beach on the Cape, so that’s more convenient. Little less nice, but I love that beach.
Catch Jason Ebbs’ At-Home Concert tonight on Wicked Local Wednesday! Every Wednesday at 9PM, we play music from Boston-based bands you won’t hear anywhere else.
Jason's new album, The Deep End, is available now.