Dark themes are hardly uncommon in music, yet they can sometimes be delivered in a manner akin to being punched in the stomach – emotionally speaking. Emerging Leicester based minimal synth pop duo Jinjo attempt to ease this metaphorical blow, producing existential songs for the more delicate listener. We sat down to talk about their organic writing process, minimalist organ solos, and classic video games.
Frank Sparrow (Vocals/Synths) kicks off our conversation with some small talk. “I think a lot of the song writing for me and Dan comes from a gentle exploration of depression, existential sadness, or angst – whatever you want to call it…I like to think that this kind of music could offer some catharsis to other people who might be feeling that way.”
This tender approach to exploring heavy themes is central to the band’s style and approach to writing and production. For a start, the band is careful not to overcrowd their sound. When performing Dan Kent (Vocals/Guitars) swaps between guitar and bass and Frank plays with a sparse collection of midi controllers and laptops. “In Jinjo we use just a few instruments, 808 drum kits, nice and simple with basic analog synth sounds”.
Frank was partly inspired to experiment with more simplistic sounds by a show at the Nottingham Contemporary Theatre called Masters of Minimalism, and a particularly beautiful organ solo. “This guy was on his own playing an organ and he was holding these notes for a ridiculously long time – to the point where you just had to lose yourself in it and lose any sense of expectation.”
This minimal approach to instrumentation is also partly inspired by the mutual love the pair share for video games. Frank explains, “In games like Super Mario Brothers for the NES, the composer would have been limited by 5 separate voices that the console’s sound chip could make, with each voice restricted to one sound and only being able to play one note at a time. This resulted in some very colourful melodies! That basic restriction ended up lodging loads of memorable motifs into the brains of many people who, like us, grew up with video games.”
From this starting point Jinjo employ an “organic” stream of consciousness approach to their songwriting. “It tends to come about more from us jamming in the space than necessarily having ideas ahead of time. A lot of our creative process is just jamming for hours”. Dan adds, “we go over and over and Frank gets me to play differently or with greater complexity forever and ever until sound is reduced to an abstract concept we used to be familiar with, but we have an interesting pop song on our hands.” The bands single The Shore was the result of the pair’s very first jam together.
The duo’s personal sound is aided by some of their production choices. “I think of listening to Jinjo as some kind of incubation chamber… in the production we use a lot of short reverb which almost make it sound like we are in a bathroom or in a car or a small space.” This has the effect of creating the illusion of proximity between the vocals and the listener.
Jinjo hope to foster empathy and understanding in their songs– or as Dan eloquently phrases it, to “get the bedroom weenies to not feel so alone”. By tempering the thematic content of their lyrics with a personal, gentle sound, Jinjo offer something to ease you through the looming existential worries that our very unpredictable world will doubtless provide. They hope to achieve this in a way that soothes rather than rattles – an existential catharsis for the delicate.
Catch Jinjo at The Shed in Leicester on the 26th of September and the 4th of October and listen on their bandcamp page.