Poetic champions compose: pre-tour interview with Roamer’s Matthew Jacobson
Converging from New York, Cologne, London and Dublin ROAMER this month tour for the first time in Ireland, the threads of the diaspora weaving a new improvised tapestry of contemporary dreaming – even more than ever a case of words for music perhaps
What appealed to you most about the poetry of Cherry Smyth and how did you first encounter her work? Matthew Jacobson: We had talked for a while about collaborating with a poet. It was important for us that they were living so that they could be involved in the creative process. Lauren pretty much grew up in a bookshop and text has played a crucial role in her development as a vocalist and composer. After doing some research into Irish poets, she came across Cherry and was immediately engaged by her work. She sent us on some poems and we all thought it would be great to collaborate with her. Lauren got in touch (they both live in London) and she was very receptive to the idea.
In Roamer you’re with singer Lauren Kinsella, saxophonist Matthew Halpin and bassist Simon Jermyn.How did the four of you best ignite at the first stage of working together, and how have your preparations for touring progressed since? We have known each other and performed separately in various ensembles for over ten years but the four of us had never shared a stage together. We have all spent lots of time abroad and in fact I am the only one of us currently living in Ireland. Simon was coming home from New York for some other work last summer and he contacted me about playing. Myself and Lauren had been talking about putting a group together for a while and I had recently heard Lauren and Matthew perform together and thought they had a unique rapport. We organised one rehearsal before a two night run at Arthur’s Blues and Jazz Club in Dublin. There was a great vibe and the whole music-making process felt incredibly natural. We got an amazing reception from the audience and the whole experience convinced us that we should pursue the group further. Given that we live in four different countries and in order to develop new material and showcase it around the country, it was important that the band spend a longer period together. We applied for an Arts Council of Ireland project award to do this and luckily we were successful. We will be spending four days in the Tyrone Guthrie Centre workshopping new compositions, followed by four Irish performances.
Is this jazz and if so what do you mean by calling it so? If not how would you describe your style? We would certainly take no offence if people call it jazz. As with a lot of the music that we are all involved in, it can be difficult to categorise. There is certainly lots of improvisation, there are all kinds of grooves, there are melodies, there are harmonies, there is a lot of spontaneity and there is space for all four of us to express ourselves.
Who writes the music and how much improvisation live is there? We all share the writing; all of our compositions leave a lot of room for creativity and improvisation.
In what sense do you see the group name of Roamer best applied as a metaphor for your project? Coming from a small country with an even smaller improvised music scene has meant that travelling, studying and performing in other countries has been a huge part of our development as artists. It also fits with the idea that the music doesn’t have to stay in one place and can weave between different musical spheres.
Is the essence of the project a process of dramatising words on the printed page via a transformation, deconstruction or even another engine for creation:What liberties must you take with it? In this project we are using the works of Cherry Smyth to stimulate musical creations. The texts will be set in traditional and literal settings as well as abstract sonic and improvisational settings. The poet herself has said stated, “I love how it can have another life and audience beyond me.”