Today we’re throwing the spotlight on The Talking Tears, a one-man indie rock band by Jack Zenith out of Madison Wisconsin who’s latest release Eargasm hit the Bandcamp shelves on May 27th, 2022 (streaming everywhere else on June 1st). We get into their musical influences, which producer they really want to work with, the inspiration behind the album and a key phrase they keep in mind to stay positive when they find themselves being judged or critiqued.
Check out the album and read on for the interview below.
For those that aren’t aware of who you are yet, can you tell us a bit about yourself as an artist? When did you get started writing and releasing your original work?
Hi everyone! I’m a one-man indie rock band called The Talking Tears. I started writing music when I was four. My songs back then were about being in an imaginary band called the Dynorox that sang about lazer guns, dinosaurs and time travel. I’ve made a lot of music in the past, but a lot of it was lost in the sands of time due to my previous issues with drug addiction. I played in a lot of punk and metal bands back in the day. Music was really simple back then. Shows were every weekend, the concert stage was in the basement, and we were all rock stars once we had enough to drink.
I remember this young punk came up to me one day and said “You are literally my hero dude, one of the best singers I’ve ever seen.” I remember thinking wow you need to raise your standards a bit! But I found his words inspiring; Could I live up to that merit? I started to work harder on putting my heart into my music, and started releasing my solo work under the name The Talking Tears a few years ago.
Who would you say are your top three musical influences?
David Bowie, Beck, Joni Mitchell.
Your new album was just released to bandcamp and is out everywhere else on June 6th. What inspired the songs on Eargasm?
It’s a story about how easy we can lose love in this digital age, how it slips away from us tragically. But how even after we reach those dark empty moments, there is still a chance we can start over again and love can resurrect itself. (There’s a brief motif if you listen to the album on repeat that shows this). That was the intent anyway.
The first track Love Letter was also a collaboration with Every Passing Breath. How did that connection happen and can you tell us a little bit about the decision to work together on this one?
The collaboration I did with Jason was for an alternate single version of the track. The album version and the single version will have a version with just me doing everything. I collaborate with Jason frequently, because he’s got a really great attitude. We both make music for the right reason; To make music. So it’s pretty easy for me to work with him. Making this whole album by myself was actually a real challenge since I’ve done so many amazing collaborations over the past couple years. I have to remind myself how to push my own musical limits and boundaries as well.
Listen to the alternative “Love Letter” featuring Every Passing Breath here:
What I love about this track is that it really takes you back to a place that I think a lot of us can relate to, like being at a party when you’re young and someone catches your eye but you feel a little foolish just being around them. What’s the silliest thing you’ve caught yourself doing in front of someone you were hoping to get to make a good impression on? And… did it work?
I made a joke to someone and then realized it may have had the opposite effect than what I had wanted. Yes, it worked. I think people get really wrapped up in ideas about their anxiety about social issues. But everyone else feels pretty similar, that’s the thing nobody realizes. So, just go out on a limb, take a chance. Say hi. The worst that can happen is the person will say no, which is already the case if you aren’t talking to them. Love is about taking a chance on someone, and hoping that they will too.
When you began putting together the tracks for this album, what piece of the puzzle came first? Did you find you gravitated towards a particular instrument when producing these songs?
It depends with each song. I usually start a song with either a guitar riff or a keyboard riff, and then build on it. The music usually comes before the words. But I would say the very first piece of the song that comes to me is the concept, or the energy for it. It starts as a mood.
In “Dirt On U” you say, “everybody gonna know about what you do, remember even under mud you can find a jewel,” speaking to those who have been bullied or judged in some way and reminding them that they are not what’s said of them. Can you tell us one phrase that you tell yourself when you find you’re being critiqued harshly or ridiculed to keep yourself in a positive headspace?
Thanks for noticing this song. It’s a short and simple song, but the message is really important. I’ve had a lot of friends that have committed suicide over the years. I really just want people to know they aren’t alone out there. Yes, life sucks. It’s hard, sometimes. That’s for all of us. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you came from. So just remember to be kind to others and that includes yourself. That’s a very important part of the equation. Learn to love yourself, you are worth it. I would say two things that I always keep in mind about bullying:
1) It’s not you, it’s them. If people are making fun of you for any reason, it is always the case that there is some issue in their own life making them act that way, and it has nothing to do with anything you did wrong.
2) Make it better. I grew up hearing “it gets better.” But it didn’t. My friends just kept dropping like flies. It didn’t get better for them. So instead of sitting around and waiting for this imaginary better world, let’s make it. Each one of us, one moment at a time. That is my motto. Make it better.
What’s one record you can’t stop spinning lately?
I’m a big fan of indie music. I like the obscure kids that really put their heart and soul into what they make. A friend of mine from California is an artist called VIBE! and he has this little album called Dragonflies and Lullabies. I always find myself listening to that album and crying. It’s just so beautiful and profound. I don’t really listen to modern music, unless it’s from other indie artists. I would much rather listen to an album from some random artist with like 5 followers than some mainstream hit album. Because it’s probably going to be better.
You’re from Wisconsin which is famous for artists like Bon Iver and Violent Femmes. Which Wisconsin native would you be most stoked to land on a bill with?
Yeah, I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never heard Bon Iver and I only know the one song from the Violent Femmes! I think if I could do anything on or off stage with Butch Vig that would be a dream come true. He has really interesting production skills. Honestly, I want to do a collaboration track with Garbage so bad. I saw them play years ago, and there was this moment where Shirley Manson was singing “I’m Only Happy When it Rains” and it started to rain while she was singing it, and everyone in the crowd was yelling. I remember this feeling like man I really need to be on that stage rocking out too.
I actually saw that you’re also a visual artist in addition to your music. Do you find your inspiration for your paintings comes from a different place from your music or do they lend themselves to each other in some way? Do you ever put on an album to paint to or is it a different outlet for you all together?
This is my favorite question you have asked! Yes, I pull from the same creative space when I am painting or making music. So here’s how it works for me: I think about the pain of something I’ve been through, the suffering and [then] I take that energy, see it as something tangible, recognize it for what it is, and then I transmute it into an artform. The goal is to turn something bad into something good, so kind of like artistic alchemy you could say. So a lot of us artists have this same trick, and a lot of us have really sad things we’ve experienced, but we use those things as fuel to help us to create something blissful out of chaos. I try to avoid listening to any other music when I’m in a creative stage.
Finally, what’s the best place for people to keep up with you and your work?
Whatever platform you prefer! And if there’s one that I am not on that I should know about, let me know. I am a big fan of Bandcamp personally, but I also just checked out Qobuz which is also really cool and I’m going to start making playlists on there this summer, too. I would answer this question with a question. Which platform will you be listening to The Talking Tears on? Tweet it to let me know!
Thanks very much for your time Jack!