An Interview With Jakob Kupferberg
A new EP release from Jakob Kupferberg is a massive and fun display of underground pop-rock with alternative undertones and a touch of a 90's rock feel at times.
The Sweet Surrender EP is acoustic guitar driven until songs burst out into full folk rock band style and it all happens while Jakob tells descriptive stories and songs hold true to genuine pop aesthetic.
Bands like Modest Mouse, Pearl Jam, Soul Asylum, and more come to mind as songs rock with a passionate and powerfully cinematic style.
With plenty of catchy guitar hooks and addictive choruses, you find yourself humming songs in your head hours after the fact.
What's possibly most alluring is Jakobs emotional and unique vocal style. Belting over melodic rock harmonies, songs swirl around you and surround you with a feeling different with each song.
There is a certain realness that comes through with these tracks and it's clear they come from real places.
It's been quite some time since we've heard such a haunting and compelling rock record complete with so much beautiful instrumentation and heart.
This artist has some real frontman power behind his performances and the songwriting is more in depth than what's on the surface most of the time.
Theatrical and special, Sweet Surrender is one for the books for sure.
We absolutely had to sit with Jakob to talk about the record and what's next.
TSWS: Okay Jakob, let's start with the Sweet Surrender EP. This record has a great variety of folk rock,
indie-rock and singer songwriter style tracks. It also felt personal. Where did this EP come from?
This EP is a culmination of a political awakening I had whilst doing a university degree exchange in
Melbourne. A personally transformative experience, I guess you could say I found my purpose
after a lot of years of searching in the dark. Over the course of a few months I realised what I
wanted to do in my professional life, and my songwriting started to reflect that.
TSWS: The record gets almost theatrical at times and your vocal approach is addicting. What bands or
artists really influenced you?
My artistry is informed by Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine. I believe he is one of the
most eloquent, passionate, underrated lyricists in contemporary music. Another huge influence is
the quirky chords and charismatic composition of Jeff Buckley. Ani DiFranco’s fierce
experimentation with guitar tunings has also played a big role in how I approach my sound.
TSWS: Is this a concept record? It seems like it is.
It is most definitely a concept record. Climate change, environmental destruction, mental health,
our kids pointing the finger at our incapacity to act, and how love, the individual and spirituality all
fit into that – that’s what you hear on the record. I wanted the record to sound like a journey –
because my life since Melbourne has felt like a journey with no return. But also a painful one –
cause these are difficult and heavy subjects to grapple with. It all culminates in this spiritual high
point – ‘Sweet Surrender’ – which is the sound of me finding a footing in life whilst studying
Human Rights in London. That’s the ending of the EP and it marks the beginning of a new era for
me – personally, creatively, and spiritually.
TSWS: How did all of this start for you?
I played piano, flute and trumpet in school, but it wasn’t till High School that I picked up the guitar
and started playing around with creative ideas. The riffs, chord progressions and musical ideas
came easy, but it was in my mid-twenties that I found my voice lyrically. I had to go through a lot
of dark times, insecurities, confrontational experiences and personal growth before I was ready to
say something profound and genuine.
TSWS: What kind of NON-musical things inspire you to write?
Injustice is a common theme for me. Like many people, I’ve experienced a lot of that on my own –
and seen it happen to so many others – so that’s a driving force in my songwriting for sure. On this
particular EP, the song ‘Sefina’s Song’ for example is actually about a little girl in the Pacific Ocean
whose home is about to be washed away by rising sea levels, essentially a problem that we in the
West have been instrumental in creating. The song has a sound reminiscent of doubt – but also
fury – cause what she’s experiencing just isn’t fair. Also – the song ‘A Letter to Caroline’ was my
first take on the climate crisis, written in Melbourne in 2015. You could almost say it was my pre-
Greta Thunberg moment – Caroline being my fictional granddaughter who has to live with what
we’ve left her to inherit.
TSWS: What are you doing when you're NOT working on music?
So I’ve been super lucky and feel incredibly grateful to have landed a role in the UK where I can
actually put my passion into practice. I work in a charity arm of a housing association where we
support young people, old people, homeless people, people with mental health issues,
unemployed people, and so forth. Needless to say, the current health situation has left our team
with plenty of challenges to grapple with. I’ve also taken on the mantle of getting our company on
the journey to net-zero which is a big agenda in the UK, something which I have been very
successful in doing. In my ‘spare time’ I also do a part-time PhD on human rights and climate
change, and my overarching ambition is to work on displacement issues in the Pacific, ideally in
New Zealand or Fiji.
TSWS: What's next for you? Anything in the works even now?
Yes indeed, I love that you ask! I am currently planning the recording of my debut album. It will be
a development from the sound, lyrical landscape and overall message of ‘Sweet Surrender’. Called
‘The Great Awakening’, it’s a project that I’ve been working on since 2017 and marks a new
beginning – for myself, my music and my hope for the world. The aim is to get the first single out
around spring. Hopefully, the album will fit into the overall mood of the world in 2021 – this new
beginning, desire and capacity for nature, community and spirituality. The last 4 years have been
tough. I wanna kick off 2021 with a message of hope. I also have an EP on grief and spirituality
ready for recording, 6 tracks written following the very sad passing of my mom in 2019, a
lifechanging event that shook my world and forced immense growth and soul-searching.
TSWS: What kind of advice would you have for other up and coming artists and bands out there trying
to get heard?
Do your own thing, find your voice, be yourself. If you don’t feel confident in who you are – like I
did – then take time to find that confidence and that voice. You will end up coming off far more in
tune with yourself, life and the world if you listen to all the little voices inside you – not just the big
voice outside you that expects you to succeed. Also – don’t shy away from using modern
technology and the possibilities it presents. Authenticity is not nostalgic – it’s the ability to
communicate in a way that feels natural and organic to you.
TSWS: Is there anything you'd like to say to fans before we go?
Yes – this – my music – is a conversation. It’s not me preaching to you – it’s me taking you on my
journey and hopefully that will give you some inspiration and strength to go about yours. I love
deep talks just as much as I love goofing around – and you’ll see that at my shows. Life is balance
and so is art. We have to love who we are – and what we do. I love my music because it gets me
through tough times. I hope it will do the same for you too.