My iPhone photo library is my life in a nutshell. It’s either me jerking off and getting laid or looking at videos of Maru.
The eighties revival feels like it’s been going on for longer than the actual eighties. Impressive, given the decade’s many horrors. Jake Lore’s Born To Believe EP is shot through with the sounds of Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, early Tears for Fears, and a hundred other names you’ll go slightly mad trying to put your finger on. Such uncannily accurate pastiche should by rights be annoying, but incredibly it’s not only bearable, but addictive, thanks to Lore’s anthemic throttle, mammoth synths, deft songwriting and velvet baritone vocal calls. One listen to opener “Born To Believe” (perhaps the strongest cut on the album) and you know the score. It’s got a real big-room, epic feel to it like the sound of lighters blazing up in shadowy corners. Born To Believe features five haunted compositions of spiritual uplift, each representing a different shade of Lore’s sonic palette, which will surely send a few people up into the stars whenever it’s played. If not onto the dance floor.
We stole the guy away for an afternoon chat at Cafe Cluny in the West Village for this on-going series of food and talk.
You just shot a music video in Connecticut?
We were actually in the Berkshires in Massachusetts. It was really fun. It was the first real music video that I’ve done because the other ones were a bit DIY. I guess I’m as eager as anyone to see how it all came out. I saw some of the footage as it was being replayed in the monitor, but other than that, I don’t really know.
Is this a treatment that you came up with?
I was talking to Opening Ceremony and thought it was going to be a blog post or something initially. The woman there was really great and encouraging, and I had a really simple idea for the video, which she sort of got into and enjoyed. The idea for the video was to have these tracking shots of me jogging. Originally, the idea lent itself well to being styled, shot in the city, and doing it cheaply.
What does it mean for a brand like Opening Ceremony to get involved? The clothes are there, obviously, but what else are you agreeing to really?
This is my first time doing this kind of thing, so I’m not 100% sure. I think it’s kind of up to them? If the clothes are represented in the video in the way they make sense to them, they will present it as such. The video is not quite complete right now, so that’s up to their discretion.
We were talking about this earlier, but I interviewed someone yesterday, a songwriter from Chicago who’s making his acting debut in a movie, and that was a collision of music, film and fashion, especially with the involvement of Gucci. It wasn’t about the clothes at all, so I couldn’t really make sense of the whole thing.
In this video, I’m very clearly wearing Opening Ceremony clothes. I can’t speak with any authority here, but I would think that a company as big as Gucci or whatever entity that owns Gucci would have their stamp on a lot of stuff. They have enough money that they want to make a cultural contribution. They’re probably not wearing Gucci in this movie you’re talking about. I haven’t seen the movie, so I don’t know. They’re supporting art that they want to be associated with, maybe, without it being a product. But what do I fucking know? [Laughs] Maybe he’s fucking someone at Gucci.
Anything’s possible. What are your thoughts on—
Fucking people at Gucci? [Laughs] I’m all for it. I’ll fuck anyone at Gucci.
Well, I guess there’s a price tag on everything. Are there brands that you absolutely wouldn’t sell a song to? What do you do with Doritos?
On an ethical level maybe. I wouldn’t want to be associated with a brand—without naming anybody—outrageously polluting the environment or supporting far-right political associations, giving money to people impinging on human rights. I don’t think Doritos is knocking down my door looking for a track. [Laughs] I don’t think I would have a problem with that… It sort of ties into that detached sense of ownership over songs. When you write a song, yes, it means something to you, but it’s inevitably going to mean a whole lot of disparate things to different people. And I’m not super into micromanaging or controlling that stuff.
People must ask you about “Charlie” all the time. “Who’s Charlie?”
I’ve been asked that. It feels good that people want to know because, to me, “Charlie” is a question that I’ll never answer, nor any of the songs that I’ll ever write in the future. When you write a song like that, yes, there’s probably someone like that in my life that contributed to that creative process, but everyone has someone like that. It’s that someone you’re reaching for, but can’t quite grasp. It’s someone who inspires and frustrates them, someone who pleases and hurts them all at once. It would be crazy for me to say that Charlie is this very specific person because then the song’s over, you know? No one’s going to ask questions anymore. There’s that Francis Bacon quote about how the artist’s job is to deepen the mystery. I’m not saying that I’m achieving something that lofty necessarily, but I think you’re much better off providing your audience with questions as opposed to fixed answers.
I read something recently where you said—I don’t know how recent this was—“Charlie” is your favorite track because it’s a ballad.
I do like ballads.
There’s no definitive song that I like forever on any given album because it’s such a cyclical thing as a listener. How does it work when it’s your own songs?
I’m usually the most excited by whatever song I’m working on at the moment. When it comes to songs that have been recorded like the Born to Believe EP, “Charlie” is my favorite because the ballads have that emotional quality. I don’t want to say it’s more involved than the other songs, but maybe it is because a ballad versus a banger is all about getting the emotions to the forefront. Maybe, for some performers, it’s the opposite. For me, the ballads are more fun.
How do you feel about your previous act KOORTWAH these days? What was it like to completely shed yourself of that identity?
I did make this transition, but I haven’t been making music for that long. It wasn’t like I had this ten-year career as KOORTWAH that I shelved in order to reinvent myself as Jake. It was a relatively short-lived transition towards what I’m doing now. It was a weird way of starting I would say. It was only last year that I was KOORTWAH. When I first met Eric [Ronick], he was like, “You’re on the verge of making pop music. I’m not saying you should or shouldn’t, but if you want to, we should work together.” And we wound up doing that. At the end of last year, I was feeling really disenfranchised. I was making a bunch of weird choices, like, not showing my face and wearing these elaborate masks.
What brought that on do you think?
I’m not sure. Looking back, maybe the masks and the weird, digital distortion stuff on my face was a reflection of me not feeling entirely comfortable with what I was doing? Maybe I wasn’t quite ready to slap my face on and say this is me and this is what I’m doing. But who knows? Last December, or this January, I dismantled my entire online presence.
I noticed that. I couldn’t find a working KOORTWAH link on SoundCloud.
Maybe it was a slightly drastic move? I lost all of my Facebook fans and deleted my Instagram account, Twitter, blah blah blah… I think I needed a clean break. For the following six months, I didn’t have anything. I wasn’t on social media at all. I was just focused on figuring out what I was actually doing.
You don’t seem at all uncomfortable reflecting on any of this.
No, I don’t feel uncomfortable talking about it. I wouldn’t say that I go out of my way talking about this stuff. I want people to focus on what I’m doing.
I only ask because the most interesting to me is the psychology behind this stuff. I’m a fan of your music, but your decision-making is the most intriguing thing to me.
Sure, it was a drastic change. At the time, I think I still had this “I’m in my adolescence. I’m in my 20s dark thing and I’m covering my face.” Now I’m realizing that I was creating all these obstacles, unnecessary barriers, for myself. It was between me and other people, fans, supporters, and potential collaborators. I think it’s great to explore the dark side of things… I probably won’t become the fluffiest writer of bubblegum pop, but it’s good for shit to be uplifting too. There should be a balance between the lightness and dark—this is going to sound unbearably trite, so don’t just print that. I need to make sure I break up all of my quotes. [Laughs]
You’re giving me some good ideas here. In huge block letters this one.
It’s one of those terrible things, in bold, “It has to be a balance between the lightness and the dark.” Jesus Christ. Put a fucking gun in my mouth. That being said, I don’t think there are too many people out there turning on the radio in order to feel shitty about themselves. There’s this juvenile perception that harsh stuff is more authentic like the super harsh stuff is more universally authentic than something super fucking fluffy. For most of us, it’s somewhere in-between. And hopefully, with some fucking luck, we go to the fluffier side. I think most people would. There’s a balance to be struck there.
Well, what are you listening to these days?
Are you serious?
No! [Laughs] Do you remember them?
I mean, how can I forget?
No one will ever forget Aqua. I’ve sort of been toying with the idea of being a DJ so I’ve been listening to some house music and a bunch of Pleasurekraft, who I think is really fucking good. I always listen to Robyn because she always cheers me up. What else? This is not even a guilty pleasure, but I love Lana Del Rey.
I don’t care either because she’s fucking amazing.
She has a really unique way of singing and writing. She has an unusual combination of values that just works.
Did you hear about that scandal with her and The Guardian? I guess she said something like, “I wish I was dead already.”
Oh, right. Something like that. Something about worshiping dead celebrities. Kurt Cobain…
I don’t even know if that was taken out of context, really, because they have the whole thing on audio. I just think it was this stream of consciousness conversation. I can understand why The Guardian would want to bait with that line, but it’s unfair to her to focus so much on that one thing.
Cherry-picked quotes. I don’t know her personally, so I don’t know if she’s suicidal. I hope she isn’t. But she’s got this incredible character. I think it’s really powerful, but difficult to determine what’s authentic and what’s not. Either way, the whole thing is fucking working really well for her. Honestly, if I’d heard the Born to Die album before it ever came out, I would’ve been in love with it. If you asked me if this would be a number one album in America, I would’ve said, no fucking way. It’s so amazing when something like this takes off in the way it does because, it just goes to show you, the public’s appetite for things is not as predictable as we imagine it to be. Whether her character is 100% authentic, I don’t fucking know, but the quality of the music is way up there.
If she’s faking any of this, who cares? She’s doing a great fucking job.
People were so harsh about her SNL performance. First of all, maybe she was unhappy and uncomfortable being up there, but I’ve seen other performances where she’s fucking great. Furthermore, she got famous pretty meteorically quick, so there’s gonna be some lag time between that rise to fame and learning how to perform. It’s just that some people are prodigal in their talents. I’m sure there’s some horrifyingly obnoxious girl out there who can bang shit out if you put her on a stage like she was born to be up there, you know? You almost don’t need to train those people.
Can you recall an early memory where you connected to music?
I remember being a little kid in downtown Montreal with this girl I was friends with, and we bumped into Blur on the street. It was Damon Albarn. I was 12 and, like, “Oh my godddddd! Blurrrrr!” I was really into Blur. And I was 12. He asked me how to get somewhere and, as I was about to tell him, my friend Jane goes, “Oh my god, are you that big English band? Oasis?”
[Laughs] Jane, I don’t know you, but you fucked up.
“This is Blur! Can’t you tell?” I had all the Blur and Oasis albums. There might’ve been a rivalry between them.
When you were telling me that story, I just imagined you as the way you are now, just miniature…
[Laughs] And I was wearing this exact same outfit.
Your brother played a big role in your discovery of music, huh?
I really did get into music via my brother who’s, like, eight years older than me. He’s not anymore, but he used to be in bands. I don’t know what year this was, but I remember going through his record collection and finding his old Pet Shop Boys albums. And we had MuchMusic, which is like Canadian MTV. I’m sure MuchMusic has gone the ways of MTV—no longer showing music videos—but at the time, it did. I saw their video for “Being Boring” with the naked dude jumping up and down on a trampoline. I wanted to be a musician after that. [Laughs] I can proudly say that I’ve jumped up and down naked on a trampoline in the Hamptons. I doubt I looked anywhere as good as the guy in the video, but he’s a professional model!
What did you think you’d end up becoming when you were in school?
I have these crazy religious parents. I grew up in a household where this never felt real or possible. Rock stars were fictional characters and it was like this movie that you’d watch where stuff like this doesn’t actually happen. I just thought I’d be a doctor. [Laughs] Not that there’s anything wrong with being a doctor. And I’m glad there are doctors out there.
It wasn’t your calling.
I just don’t think I would’ve been a great doctor. I went to university, but the problem was that I couldn’t stay in one thing. I was so emotionally unstable and, in terms of my ambitions and interests, I felt like a sand dune. Everything kept shifting and shifting. I must’ve changed majors every semester. The problem with that was it doesn’t lead you to having a degree? [Laughs] “You’ve fulfilled the core requirements of eight different majors. Or, maybe not?” I got to my last semester at university and did something that’s unquestionably stupid: I took a semester off and went to Whistler and snowboarded. I was like, “Yeah! This is real life!” Then I panicked because I’m this privileged white Canadian kid who never fucking worked. My parents were like, “If you’re not going to school, we don’t want to give you any money.” I said, “Well, fuck you!” I went back to school. [Laughs] I wound up with a design degree, which is absurd in itself. I got out of school and got a job as an art director at the Jane Goodall institute. I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I don’t like chimps.
But that’s her entire thing! One plus one equals two. Jane Goodall likes chimps.
I know our connection to them is very important. They absolutely need us to protect and understand them, yes. As an art director, I was making flyers of one chimp after another… I’m just getting myself into trouble here. The Jane Goodall institute is gonna Tweet something about me after this. But it was like, if I see another photo of this ugly half-human I will blow a fucking hole in my head. I freaked out.
And I thought you loved animals.
No, no, no! I’m a huge fan of animals. I’m not making any friends here… [Laughs] This is terrible because now I’m backtracking. Chimps are wonderful! Primates are clearly our closest relatives, but I think that’s the problem for me. They’re too close to us. It’s like that scary mentally ill uncle who lives in the fucking attic. You go to give him food and he throws poop at you. That’s a chimp. “God bless him, but he’s scary and a cannibal.” I sound like a fucking jackass now. Chimps are great! If I go to the zoo, which I don’t like doing because they’re super depressing—
Yeah, “We can skip this part.” Now I’ve ruined my chance at that H&M campaign! This is the worst interview that I’ve ever given.
I hope it never ends. Do you have any pets right now?
No, but I have this obsession with online cats. I have a lot of pictures on my iPhone: vacation pictures, friends, 25% pictures of my genitals and 25% pictures of Maru. My iPhone photo library is my life in a nutshell. It’s either me jerking off and getting laid or looking at videos of Maru. I’m not really a musician.
This is a lot to take in over lunch.
I’m a professional Maru fan.
You’re a fan of tattoos as far as I can tell.
I like tattoos, but I don’t take them seriously.
What was your very first tattoo?
I got a really fucking lame ram’s head tattoo because I’m an Aries? Tragic. I was 14. It was at this really shitty tattoo parlor in Montreal East. Most of my tattoos I don’t even remember getting, but that one I remember because it’s like getting laid for the first time, which, FYI, was another bad experience. I’m probably not as covered as I’d like to be. I think people, in fairness to them, reasonably enough, think I’m quite invested in them and take them seriously. But the truth is that there’s an enormous disparity between what I look like to people on the street, at a party or online, and how I actually am. I don’t know what I look like to people. I probably look like an ex-con.
And what a beautiful thing, right? You’re like no one else out there.
I’m glad it works for other people. [Laughs]
You’re saving your back for a special tattoo?
At the moment, I’m convinced that I have a great idea for a back tattoo.
How long does something like that take? How many sessions are we talking about?
Oh god, I don’t know. I’m really impatient. It’s like, “Give me the Vicodin. Just bang it out!“ I really don’t know. I feel like a giant ape. If anyone’s a permanent teenager, it’s probably me. I just want instant gratification. I have this idiotic owl on my abdomen that goes down to my pubes and it was so painful to get. It’s huge and took forever to finish. Chimps are great, by the way.