Happy (late) birthday to one of everyone’s favorite humans, Jesse McClendon. You forever show kindness and love to us all. I hope 21 is the best year with lots of new gear, loud shows, and parties with our friends. Luv u!
AH: When I first met you, you were involved with a bluegrass band. Now, you are involved in many different projects, can you tell me about mants, headwires, just friends, etc..
JM: Mants Brothers has always kind of been a thing for me and Tom. I think as long as we’ve been friends, we’ve been writing. When Mants actually started, honestly it was to escape from the bluegrass band. We just wanted to play more than 4 chords, you know? As for Headwires, it’s a dream come true for me. I’ve had a desire to play this genre of music since I first picked up a bass guitar. Just Friends is a collaborative effort between Dakota and I. We wanted to make a split solo album, and I decided to make it a collective. Several people see it as a band, but Just Friends could actually refer to one of us individually. I’ve been slowly contacting people of our music scene to be a part of it, and I’m hoping to turn it into something cool. Just somewhere for all of us to express ourselves individually without fear of getting outside of the natural expectations of the bands we belong to. Dakota writes ALOT of material and not all of it could really fit in with the Headwires sound. This is also true of myself and Mants Brothers.
AH: How has your taste in music developed throughout the years?
JM: I think over time, I developed an appreciation for the subtle nuances of a song. When I was young, I was all into very direct, straightforward music. It had to be in my face to keep my attention. When I was 16 I got into jazz. I played saxophone at the time and it all started when I heard the song “Strange Meadow Lark” from Brubeck. I think I’m involved with a big variety because I just love music. I love making it, and having no preconceived ideas of where the song will go. My taste in music has even changed drastically since I’ve been with Headwires. Everyone else in the band grew up listening to hardcore. I didn’t have that. So this past year has been a year of some serious listening. I got obsessed with Sabbath in the process, so I think it’s been pretty beneficial!
AH: Who would you say some of your main influences are in the different projects you are involved in?
JM: Sufjan Stevens has been a huge influence for me. For the new Just Friends record I’m drawing a lot from Milk Carton Kids. Also, PATD’s Pretty Odd is something I generally turn to for inspiration, though I think I turn to pretty much any style of music when I write. I try to draw from everything. Most of all I just try to let the song grow on its own. My writing process usually involves ACTUALLY trying to write, the song becomes garbage and I throw it away. Then I’ll be up late one night and suddenly an idea will hit me at around 2:30 in the morning and I’ll stay up until 4 or so finishing it. If I sleep before it’s done, I’ll forget it. But it usually starts with a chorus.
AH: I know you recently went to lutherie school, and you came back with the guitar of dreams for our friend Lucas. Tell me about that.
JM: school was like being at the beach. It was hot, humid and I was constantly covered in sand. Though instead of sand, it was sawdust. Haha. I actually loved every minute of it. I’ve always been into guitars, and I had never considered building or repair until Tom’s dad told me I should check it out. I kind of put it in the back of my mind like, “yeah right, that’s kind of a shot in the dark”. But the idea came back to me and I googled “guitar repair school” and Atlanta Guitar Works was at the top of the results. I left college and signed up for their course. I think I have yet to truly grasp all I learned there. I think more than anything, I learned to pay attention to detail. You know how people make surfboards by hand? There’s something about becoming “one with the wood” that will make you appreciate life more in general. Staring at a single piece of wood for 4 weeks will do that to you, I suppose.
AH: Tell me about the guitar you built lucas and any other projects you worked on while at school.
JM: It’s a Fender Jazzmaster copy, though I like to think of it as a “variation” than a “copy”. The body is Peruvian Walnut with a stripe of figured Maple, the neck is Birdseye Maple with a Macassar Ebony fretboard. The pickguard is also handmade with Avodire. I carved the neck by hand over two days (and one sleepless night, I was very concerned about what he’d prefer). It took four weeks to complete. I couldn’t be happier with the results, and I was so relieved he loved it. I didn’t want him to play it out of obligation, I wanted him to play it because he truly wanted to. It is very humbling that he said it was his favorite piece of gear in his feature. I also built a Precision Bass and a D-18 acoustic, though neither of them really compare to Lucas’s. His guitar is my pride and joy.
AH: What are your aspirations with music in general?
JM: I definitely want to repair more than build. Maybe after a few years of repairing, I can build more. But I want to become great at one thing, rather than just be okay at multiple things. As for music, I just want people to keep listening. Keep coming out to these shows. It’s beautiful, how a lot of us have really unfortunate things happening in our lives but when you come out to a show, we all just let it all go. It’s like, “did you get fired yesterday? Come to the show. Are your parents disappointed in you? Come to the show. Did your girlfriend break up with you? Come to the show. It will help”. Trust me, we’ve all had bad days. But if I could be the inspiration to someone that Dakota Wright, Chris Dupree and Payton Wilborn were (and still are) to me, I could die happy.
AH: Something I feel passionate about is incorporating other aspects of art into the music scene, how would you feel about this? Do you think the music scene would be open to this (bands or people watching the shows)? Why do you think music is the main focus in our area?
JM: I agree completely. The world needs more true art, free of capitalism and fear of rejection. I think that the people in our music scene are very open to all forms of art, and I think all of us need to work together to make the change we want to see. Overall, I think music is just something a lot of us are raised on. We grow up going to church and singing the hymns with our parents. Music is just the most accessible form of art in our area. By no means does this mean that all other forms of art are less important. I guess most parents would much rather have their kids singing hymns than making a mess with a painting kit.
JM: my favorite piece of gear I have is my Rickenbacker 4003. I’ve wanted one of these since I first heard The Raconteurs. It took me 5 years of buying, selling and trading to finally get my hands on one and I seriously doubt I’ll ever put it down. Unless I find another Rickenbacker 4000 series bass that I like better. There’s something about it that just works really well with my whole rig. It just complements everything, from the way I play to the pedals I use.
Video by Aaron Thompson