There is much intrigue and unanswered questions surrounding Jason Feathers. Just who are these mysterious specters who go by the pseudonyms of “Creflo”, “Toothpick” and “Ephasis” in their press release? Jason Feathers, a.k.a. Creflo, is described by Totally Gross National Project (TGNP) as a “red-chested god-bassed Southern rapper”. Toothpick is considered “a drummer-hype-piano-man all in one” while Ephasis is deemed “a heavily-seasoned guitar-crooning lost-cowboy”. A short feature length film exists as a prelude for De Oro, the bands debut album. I give you my every effort to unveil the mystery that is Jason Feathers.
The story goes that in a land not too far away, just outside Flori-bama specifically, lies a hidden infrastructure. The building harbors a mere number of outlaws and in-laws. Ever so often a lone traveller may pass by. If you consider yourself a bit of an outcast then you might very well fit in here. However, be wary friend, questions remain unanswered, dreams cease to exist. The inquisitive and the hopeful do not belong. One faithful evening, “two flashily-clad cronies” made the venture of experimenting with music. Together with Creflo, Toothpick and Ephasis created what is now documented as De Oro. A fourth contributor, who shall remain nameless, joined ranks. De Oro is the name of that mysterious place and that of the events which took place between these fugitives.
Now it is time for the facts. Jason Feathers is the side project of Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. Collaborators include the indie rapper Astronautalis, S Carey, also of Bon Iver and Ryan Olson, founder of GAYNGS and TGNP. Vernon acquires the pseudonym of “Ephasis” and combines hip hop with alternative rock. The combination derives from collaborations with Kanye West and working with Bon Iver. Astronautalis consumes the alter ego of “Creflo”. He acts as narrator for De Oro and the main character, Jason Feathers. His vocals are heavily distorted becoming hauntingly sinister. Through Astronautalis, rap and hip hop elements are added to Jason Feathers. We hear S Carey aka. “Toothpick” featured in the likes of “Leave Your Stain” and “Sacred Math” . Drum beats and piano notes furthermore emphasise his presence. Ryan Olson is our nameless bassist. He does much of the synth work and production.
Jason Feathers debut was recorded over several runs out in Wisconsin beginning in 2012. News of the side project came about in early August of this year. A short fictional biography and a one- minute feature length film were uploaded by TGNP. A full- length press release was posted to Stereogum shortly after. On August 11th digital streaming of De Oro was made available through Pitchfork Advanced until August 25th. De Oro was released as a hard copy in September via TGNP and as an LP in October.
De Oro is a nine track album that isn’t like anything you’ve heard before. Various songs are narrated by the merciless voice of Astronautalis. Creflo raps with darkly inhuman vocals whilst Vernon’s are fine tuned to a harmonious and melodic sound. I picture it in my head as good meets evil. Both work extremely well together. You also have clashing drums, hefty guitar and amicable piano, comparing and contrasting to either side. Album opener “Leave Your Stain” portrays just what you’re in for. A lively drum beat begins the song, leading onto some explosive synth. Highly pitched vocals from Toothpick opens the lyrical content with Creflo uttering “I’m like a God” in the background. The electronically altered singing of S Carey contrasts perfectly to the incoming ominous rapping of Creflo. Creflo raps the chorus as drums and bass darken. “Leave Your Stain” works in this sequence. Light turns to dark back and forth. It is a truly commendable introduction to De Oro and the creative process here is outstanding.
“Young as Fuck” is by far one of my favourite tracks off De Oro. The flow here is exceptional. The attitude is one of “I don’t give any fucks”. Humour is playful and overall “Young as Fuck” is stylish, experimental and exhilarating. “Courtyard Marriot” is noticeably more elegant than “Leave Your Stain” and “Young as Fuck”. This is partly due to yet another altering of Vernon’s vocal quality. Notice the change in animation. Instead of being overly synthesized they reflect a more realistic alternative rock ability. Sure there is still rapping present and electronica but in my opinion this song is downplayed. I would not call my opinion a criticism however, merely an appreciation of the fact De Oro is a dynamic album. Unlike previous tracks “Canary in a Goldmine” is not so humorous. A sombre tale of a gangsters paradise, the song mostly consists of narrative rap from Creflo. He depicts a bank robbery taking place. “Crooks” are said to be “sly as fox” and possessing “shotguns with the tips all sawed off”. The “Goldmine” is the bank and the “Canary” is Ephasis. With the canary in mind Creflo pledges to “put a fuckin’ shiv in his spine”.
“Hot Forever” is undeniably the most creative in musical terms thus far. Creative in the sense that synth is explosive. There are so many different sounds available. This is all down to the production expertise of Ryan Olson. The chorus, which only reveals the last part nearing the end, reflects light heartedness “Got some brand new heels but I love her lips even though she got some herpes on it”. “Sacred Math” reverts to a similar style of narration to “Canary in a Goldmine”. Creflo paints a portrait of nostalgia. He remembers “Spring break 81” getting “girls drunk on the blood red lawn”. Jump to “Spring break 2011”. Creflo now recalls mixing burns “in hell while Long John descends from heaven”. “Sacred Math” is a recollection of how Creflo transforms from a college student to the callous gangster he is today. The piano melody in the last half of “Sacred Math” provides an atmospheric ambience. An extension of this piece is carried on into “Cyclone”. Instrumentals act as a breaking point in the inherent humour of De Oro. A wave of tranquility hits us as we hear the voice of Justin Vernon. A song that is ambient in nature only flourishes with “I, I wanna stand in the rain”. Admiration has to be conveyed towards S. Carey and Ryan Olson.
Inherent humour of De Oro is revitalised in “Pay The Guard” as Creflo announces “Ok, this ain’t no college album playboy. This is a professional album/ Fuckin’ LeBron James, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, all ‘dis./ Ya ain’t fuckin’ wit me, Wilt Chamberlain. I got like twenny thousan’ bitches”. Spring break is mentioned again in his rap composition. “Pay The Guard” is one of the most powerful songs off the album. It contains Creflo’s timely verses, S Carey’s finely auto tuned vocals and Vernon’s deeply smooth tone of voice. Each contributing factor compliments the other and without one the song wouldn’t work as melodic as it does.
Sadly, “Gold Standard” is the closing track off De Oro. It’s one of the more ominous sounding tunes with it’s heavy guitar riffs and delicate instrumentals. It leaves us on a sombre note. Overall, De Oro is a work of carefully construed creativity. Jason Feathers may receive some criticism but the haters just don’t get it. You have four calloborators who all possess unquestionable skill. They choose to hone in on their talents to create humour and intrigue. De Oro is meant to be bizarre. I severly doubt that Astronautalis, Vernon, S Carey and Olson care profoundly if you choose to turn away from De Oro. Personally, I wouldn’t change anything about this album. It’s weird and it’s in your face but that is the reason I like it so much. Strange is a positive, not a negative. Why so serious?
Creflo, also known as Astronautalis, took the time to answer our questions at LDM this week. You can read our interview in full below.
First of all who came up with the idea behind the press release? I love it!
“It was mostly a group effort, cobbled together over numerous whiskey soaked nights. Once the record was done, we had a pretty loose story woven together, and our manager, kyle, helped us tie up some loose ends into that absurd thing that was the final product.”
How much of De Oro depicted in the story is fiction and how much is fact?
“Ummmm…let’s call it, “creative non-ficton””
Do you find each of your backgrounds in music influencing the sound of Jason Feathers?
“Certainly. We all come from very diverse backgrounds, with a wide and often conflicting variety of tastes, but this strange album is, most likely, the straightest through line connecting them all.”
How come Ryan Olson did not choose to be christened with a pseudonym to co-exist with “Creflo”, “Toothpick” and “Ephasis”?
“The Lord works in mysterious ways…”
Was there any alcohol involved in the making of this album?
Is it true that De Oro was recorded over a single weekend in 2012? If so, why release it two years after?
“That is not true. It was recorded over several weird runs out in the woods of wisconsin, starting in 2012. Just took time to make it right.”
What is the overall theme to De Oro?
“That is you get the correct mixture of whiskey and spf 100 sunblock, and you drink it right at sunset, while standing on the beach in front of Flori-bama…you trip so hard, that you will probably meet jesus. Or maybe just puke on your flip flops.”
Your vocals sound darkly sinister. What did you use to make them so menacing?
“Nothing. No effects. That is my natural voice. When i record my own solo records, i use auto to pitch it up several octaves to make my voice less scary and more marketable to indie rock babes.”
Was it difficult to combine rap with rock or did everything fall into place quite easily?
“Everything felt pretty natural to all of us. We just did what sounded best…and the result is that super weird record. That is something i am very proud of.”
Will Jason Feathers be a continuous project? Please say yes!
“Yes! Just like spring break and herpes…jason feathers is forever!”
“really is in step with Harmony Korine—and not the glitz of Spring Breakers but the muted depravity of Gummo, whose scenes of small-town life seemed calibrated to make you feel fascinated and disgusted at the same time.”- Pitchfork on De Oro