Please, introduce yourself to our readers. Where are you from? How did you start Living With Hermits?
My name is Justin Bowsher. I can generally be found somewhere in the towns of Lexington and Wilmore, Kentucky. Right now I’m a freshman at Asbury College, which is in Wilmore.
I had been writing songs on the side for a while before I began LWH, but was without recording capabilities that I was sufficiently pleased with. One night, I was messing around, recording some piano tracks with my cheap microphone and multi-track software, and came up with Zamparetta. I was pleased enough with the sound quality to write and record an album. Living with Hermits is a fancy way of saying at the moment.
We love your instrumentation on your “disc”. How do you choose your instrumentation to express your ideas?
I’ll record the base track for any given song with the instrument I write it on, be it piano, guitar, or analog keyboard. From there, I’ll usually have some idea of the sound I want, based on either someone else’s style, or on what I think will provide a mood that rings true. The piano I used was ideal for a solemn, mournful tone. The rest of the instruments were trial and error. On Rook, to be honest, I was trying out a lot of styles and sounds for myself, just to see what suited me best. I have no code of expression, at this point, as far as instrument choice goes.
I have an unhealthy love for my newly acquired toy piano and glockenspiel, so those will have some relative prominence in future recordings. I’m interested in utilizing some horns, which can sound as jubilant or as somber as any instrument I’ve heard. there’s a guy on my hall who plays the flugelhorn, so expect that.
Who are you major influences?
Sufjan Stevens is my primary influence. I greatly admire his approach to composition, lyrics, and recording, as described in his interview with this site, actually. He inspired me to attempt Living with Hermits.
I recently got into some Stereolab, and their sound is bound to rub off on me quite a bit, in the future. Their chord progressions, alone, amaze me, especially on Sound-Dust.
Radiohead’s sound figures largely into my instrumentation and vocal stylings. Amnesiac is the album that got me into experimental/independent music in the first place.
Ester Drang’s Infinite Keys is great.
I owe the sound of my pop songs largely to the Velvet Underground, as well as Van Morrison’s Astral Weeks.
I love The Who, and model my bass playing largely after John Entwistle’s. I like Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, as well as Joni Mitchell.
I’m a huge fan of Charity Empressa. Anything experimental and strange is an inspiration to me.
What inspired “Dragon Gnaws His Tail”?
I wrote the lyrics to Dragon while sitting in church, one Sunday. That first line, “The Dragon Gnaws His Tail,” which came to me out of nowhere, provided the theme of futility as a result of lost focus. I used the allusion of Grendel, from Beowulf, because he strikes me as an aimless, irrationally motivated character, which makes him so scary. The narrator of the knight is both petrified and distracted, leaving us with a useless subject. While lyrically, the sadness of all this is buried underneath the knight’s account, the piano accentuates the reality of his position. So I would say the song came out of my sense of irony and fiction, as well as a bit of British Mythology. For the most part, I was extremely fortunate to have recieved that song, because it really did just come to me all at once.
What do you see as the future of Living with Hermits?
Well, I’ve got college to focus on, for a while. I fully intend to continue small projects, perhaps an ep, sometime soon. I’m always writing and messing around on the vast array of instruments I own. Hopefully, I can get some small gigs around campus, maybe even recruit a few further talented musicians to LWH. Whether with LWH or with whatever kind of vent for my music I can find, I certainly plan to continue making music.
How do you come up with your lyrics? Do you have an author or artist that particularly inspires you in this area?
Again, Sufjan Stevens’s lyrical aesthetic is a huge influence.
I love the daring of E.E. Cummings. While my lyrics sound nothing like his poems, I at least try to take the same approach to words as he does, using them for their sound every bit as much for their meaning. I love telling stories, and I love irony.
As far as writing lyrics when I compose a song; I tend to get a chord progression, to which I set a melody, which is then filled in by words that fit the meter of the melody. My first line is always spontaneous, and the foundation for the rest of the song (or at least the starting point). I have no idea where a song is headed when I start writing it, and if it wrecks, I’ll usually scrap it.
We know that you are also a fantastic short film director and writer. What is your future in this area and will you be making available any of your films to the public?
I guess you would say that filmmaking is a dream of mine. I only have the capability and time to make short films, at the time, and would love to submit an entry to a short film contest. I’ve been waiting to see what kind of equipment and facilities I will have at Asbury. I think film is one of the most accessible, influential, and complete art forms we have, and would love to pursue a career in filmmaking.
What are you listening to now?
I’ve been listening to a lot of funk, lately. Herbie Hancock’s Headhunters and Superfly by Curtis Mayfeild have proved some fun and educational listening.
I love anything by Richard Swift that I can get my hands on. The Novelist has sent me on a mad dash to find some undiscovered genre to exploit, hence my funk tear.
I’ve got Low’s Trust, some Philip Glass, Postal Service, Charity Empressa, early Phil Keaggy, and the Bee Gees in my rotation, right now. I’ve also been rediscovering the Beatles, especially Revolver and Sgt. Pepper.
That is all, for now. Thanks a lot for producing the album, and for the interview.