JO PASSED – Their prime
The nicest thing anyone has ever – ever – said to Jo Hirabayashi, frontman of Jo Passed, is that his band’s debut album sounds like “fucked-up Beatles”. ‘Their Prime’, the full-length follow-up to Jo Passed’s two EPs, ‘Up’ and ‘Out’, does sound like fucked-up Beatles. It sounds like Lennon and McCartney discovered Can and Neu!, and maybe a little Sonic Youth and XTC along the way. It demonstrates that timeless knack for dreamy melodies – chord progressions that sound like they were created in a land far, far away. Lyrically, however, it’s imbued with a philosophical longing for answers to questions that have resurfaced for the first time since the explosion of counterculture in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
‘Their Prime’ is a record about identity and the loss of time that happens as a direct consequence of being in the city with nowhere to rent, no time outside of employment and no realistic expectations to live up to. It encompasses that fear of being beyond the glory years, the most creatively fruitful period of one’s life. Those years were lost to contemporary struggles for working relationships, home, identity and space. “It’s me owning my worst nightmare,” he admits. “A lot of the Jo Passed project has been about confronting fears. I was afraid to move away from Vancouver to Montreal on my own. Afraid to leave musical relationships I had. Afraid to bear the full responsibility of a project. Being open about those fears is a good way of dealing with them. You end up at this point where you hit 30 and you’re like, ‘Oh what happened? Am I done? Did I not activate my main creative energy?’ It’s a ridiculous idea but 30 feels a little like 1000 in rock n roll terms.” You can hear the frustrations and the jitters in the crashing loud-and-quiet motifs throughout the album’s twelve tracks, which offer up a patchwork quilt of sound, similar to Faust’s IV or Fugazi’s Red Medicine.
Jo Passed originally consisted of Jo and his friend and drummer Mac Lawrie. The two moved to Montreal together, and toured the far-right corner of North America. After Jo’s return to Vancouver, multi-instrumentalist Bella Bébé joined the band in January of 2016, and multimedia artist Megan-Magdalena Bourne joined on bass, after working on a video for the song “Rage” (from Jo Passed’s ‘Out’ EP).
Having worked with Bella, Mac, and Megan to create the live experience of ‘Their Prime’, it’s touring and hearing people’s reactions to the album that are at the forefront of Jo’s mind. “It’s like I’ve put all my negativity into a place and now I’m lighting it on fire as a way of releasing it… by putting it out on Sub Pop, ha!” Indeed, sometimes you have to banish the bad vibes to get to the great ones.