Paul Jacobs

Paul Jacobs evokes good times and awkward moments on his new album

We spoke to the Montreal singer-songwriter about Pink Dogs on the Green Grass.

It’s the room where I spoke with Paul Jacobs that struck me first. Flowers were painted across the wall, a green carpet covered the floor. When I asked about it, he answered that he’s been spending a lot of time in the house (due to the pandemic) and he wanted to replicate the outdoors.

“It looked like a dentist’s office, somewhere really sterile, so I needed to uplift it,” he says. “Then I put on a green carpet. So it almost looks like you’re outside.”

This gives us a glimpse of Jacobs’ artistic mind, one that always thrives to make different things. This shows through his music. Every record he releases is different from the last, revealing a new side of his personality. With his latest release, Pink Dogs on the Green Grass, he goes a step further, pushes boundaries and explores a genre that will grow with him.

“I feel like I’m getting older and I just kind of want to do something that I’m able to do. I can’t be going crazy in my 50s and being a punk in my 50s or anything like that. I don’t know. Either way, I enjoy this type of music. I just wanted to do it. So I just did it.”

Jacobs is a well-known figure in the Montreal music scene. He’s the drummer for post-punk band Pottery, as well as a solo act since 2017. His solo career is defined by its particular sounds, reminiscent of Kurt Vile, Modest Mouse and Cass McCombs. Jacobs mentions Modest Mouse’s drummer, Jeremiah Green, as an inspiration during the recording of his album.

“I was inspired by the Modest Mouse drummer a lot. Even with the album, I was thinking back a lot to being a kid. I guess maybe those influences did spark up through that. Modest Mouse is also kind of folksy. But, you know, in a weird way.”

cult mtl may 2021 issue magazine cover paul jacobs montreal
Paul Jacobs on the cover of Cult MTL May 2021

Pink Dogs on the Green Grass is strong with nostalgia. While his newest album is a reminder of the good times, Jacobs still mentions those awkward moments we don’t want to go through. He doesn’t shy far from uncomfortable memories and always tries to imbue them with humour, which he achieves with his music videos. Jacobs is behind every one of them, from the storyboard to the animation. Taking more time to perfect this peculiar art was part of Jacobs’ pandemic learning.

“I learned how to use these programs. And I don’t know, it’s all easy for me. I just like to stay busy. I don’t force myself to really do anything. It just comes naturally, I guess. Doing those animations was a lot of work, but I told myself I would do it, so I knew I would do it.”

Jacobs contemplates the opportunity he had of having this much time to work on an animated music video, and not knowing if this chance will ever come again. He explains that if he had been working as usual, making a video would have taken way more time.

“It takes me like a month to animate a video. So it would have taken me like, yeah, two months for one video because I would have to do it in between work.”

Jacobs’ solo career is constellated with references to his multidisciplinary art. From music to visual art, he gives himself to what he wants to create, what feels the most like him at a certain time. He constantly wants to make better, do better and work on new ideas and projects. While he never regrets his projects and is always happy with the final product, he never feels fully represented by his albums. This prompts him to do more.

“It’s almost like, whenever I make something, I like it at the time, but then right away, I want to do something better. So I am happy with the album, but I feel like I’m ready to do more. So I could never say, like, ‘Look at the album — this is me, completely. This is the best I’ll do. I’m happy with this. I don’t need anything else in my life.’ Because I still want to make more stuff. I am happy with the way it turned out. And I feel like I don’t cringe at anything I did through releasing any art or any of the music. I don’t regret it. I guess it represents me, at least in the time.”

When he started recording and working on Pink Dogs on the Green Grass, Jacobs was on the road with Pottery. When the pandemic struck, he started recording from his apartment in Rosemont. This unexpected turn of events helped him explore organic sounds.

“It’s just something I can do on my own. Making music on my own is just something I like to do. I like to play the drums. I like to play guitar, play bass, piano. It’s just like painting or drawing or anything. You get to make something at your own pace, your own freedom, whatever. It’s just a good way to express yourself.”

“Christopher Robbins” by Paul Jacobs, from Pink Dogs on the Green Grass

While making music alone is something he loves, he expresses that he still really enjoys playing with Pottery. Each band member has their own ideas and efforts are made to ensure that everyone is represented in the music they’re playing. While Jacobs has the opportunity to express himself with the band, he notes that everyone is expressing themselves in a band. The two projects — his solo career and his band — are very different, but great on their own.

Jacobs thinks about his newest album. The release is an opportunity for him to show his work, but also to move on to other creative endeavours, ones that will push him even further. For the moment, he just feels like he wants to connect with people.

“I really felt like trying to connect with people in a way. You know what I mean? Like trying to have an honest feeling with music is what I appreciate from it. Creating a feeling — that’s all it’s about, to me.” ■

For more about Paul Jacobs, please visit his Bandcamp page. This article was originally published in the May 2021 issue of Cult MTL.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.