DROPPED SEPTEMBER 8 2023
“It’s as intellectually stimulating as it is emotionally resonant, offering a mirror to our collective struggle with self-understanding.” ~Vents Magazine
DROPPED AUGUST 4 2023
“A rousing call to make the journey to a magical place that two people create together” ~Independent Artist Buzz
DROPPED JUNE 30 2023
“A testament to Jaymes’ artistic prowess and his ability to craft music that resonates deeply within the listener’s soul.” ~Divine Magazine
Singer-songwriter Stephen Jaymes might be best described as Charles Bukowski ditching whiskey for psychedelic mushrooms while feverishly ingesting Rumi poetry and Phil Ochs records. The LA-based artist is a punk poet; a wounded-romantic; a sonic noir auteur and a post-apocalyptic hippie. Today, Stephen welcomes a new era of sharply-focused creativity with a series of four singles seeding a path to a debut full-length album.
“My songs are searching for truth and authenticity, but not always both at the same time,” Stephen says. “I try to refuse all invitations to tell the big lies, and then I see what’s left.”
Stephen is a self-contained artist. He is a gifted multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, singer, and producer. His music exudes the stylish playfulness of Prince with clever turns of phrases and occasional funk flashes, but it also conjures the stateliness and mystique of Leonard Cohen. Film and television editor Christal Khatib (Scandal, Transparent) hears “both of those ghosts and Johnny Cash too – all visiting the same body.”
Stephen writes with a strutting, folk-punk songwriting sensibility. In his songs, he brings to life shadowy characters and dark alternate realities in order to highlight the brightness underneath with literate and lacerating lyrics. His mixture of highbrow thematic writing and down and dirty rock n’ roll living makes Stephen the ultimate unfamed celebrity—a rebel-hearted poet soaking up the dark magic of Hollywood and prompting bystanders to snap their fingers as they try to remember his name.
Stephen was born north of Detroit, growing up in a house of varied musical tastes. His father played 1960s and 1970s folk while his older brother blasted new wave and punk acts like Ramones and Elvis Costello. At eight, his school bus driver salvaged an acoustic guitar and taught him how to play the songs he was listening to.
Stephen stoked his passion for songwriting while attending Harvard University by performing sharp-witted They Might Be Giants-esque songs about topics like relativity theory. Privately, however, Stephen was writing sincere songs influenced by Phil Ochs and Bob Dylan. After graduating, Stephen moved to Prague and busked in the streets with other expat songwriters. He taught himself to fingerpick the early Leonard Cohen catalog in a rented room, living a life very much like the one reflected in those songs. He then moved to LA where, for a few years, he performed regularly at cafes, picking up a loyal following before going on a self-imposed hiatus from public performance.
To date, Stephen has released a brace of singles and EPs, including the Sweet Violin EP. Stephen’s creative continuum finds him growing from a lo-fi, folk troubadour à la Palace to a refined songwriter with more polish but no less edge. Previously he had embraced the first wave of digital home recording. Pretty quickly, however, Stephen felt his songwriting was losing to engineering rabbit holes, and he turned his back on digital home recording as well as performing. He has volumes of song notes spanning decades that are mostly on cassette.
In 2008, Stephen got a first generation iPhone and jailbroke it to download a four-track recording app. Enchanted by the paradox of digital recording sounding like hiss-filled cassette four-track demos, he commenced producing and recording his music. His coming clutch of singles marks a further step toward his sonic ideals. “These new recordings are the first time I’m collaborating with a mixing engineer who really gets my music and achieves the sound I’ve always heard in my head,” he shares.
The darkly seductive folk-rock first single, “Chief Inspector,” features smoky vocals, a juicy, noir detective-series narrative, and a clever arrangement. One standout passage reads: “You put him away, that was the play/Now which way – are you gonna stand or will you run?/Is it done anyway?/All you’ve got’s a loaded gun.” The song’s accompanying video will feature a loving nod to Hollywood noir, with a specific homage to The Long Goodbye.
After “Chief Inspector,” Stephen Will release “Tokyo,” in which he conjures a magical personal space with an infectious blues-rock riff inspired by early Joe Walsh. “I noticed in punk and new wave songs as a kid that singers like Joey Ramone would often use ‘Tokyo’ as a filler word, a nonsense exclamation that rhymed,” Stephen says laughing. “I like the dissonance of using a very specific word to mean anything, and I decided to create a mythological place with the name Tokyo.” In Stephen’s “Tokyo,” one is garden-walled off from brainwashing, shame, and fear of the coming future.
Following “Tokyo,” Stephen will release the smoky piano ballad, “Virus Vaccine.” It explores the idea that sometimes you think you have to go to the source of a toxin in order to get immunity to it. “That can be a bad idea in the context of relationships and romance,” Stephen quips. “You think you’re building strength by tolerating pain, but it’s bad science for the soul.” The song’s narrator justifies his ailments as part of the healing path, with Stephen singing, “I’m gonna make this virus my vaccine/It’s killing me now, you know what I mean/But I’ll be getting stronger, yes I’ll be getting clean/And I’m gonna make this a fixable machine/I’m gonna make this virus my vaccine.”
The final single in the coming series, the haunting and poetic “Damn The Judgment,” revisits the escaped-prisoner-stalks-detective story of “Chief Inspector,” but this time from the prisoner’s point of view. The song is pure folk noir, a self-cleaving ballad teeming with themes of forced reconciliation, revenge, and self-destruction. Here, chilling passages abound such as, “The strangest of sensations/You feel it creeping up your mind/Someone long forgotten has escaped your senseless bind.”
Up next, Stephen is focused on releasing his debut full-length album, King Jaymes. He has a vast catalog of songs in his historical hopper, but he says the new songs feel more relevant. “I love that I have a bag to dig in when I come up dry, like John and Paul picking out a song from when they were teenagers,” he says. “But right now I feel new songs coming that answer to the strange and terrifying and exciting period we’re all living through, so those get priority.”