PLANETS align ON Jupiter Styles' Album Be Good
A new moniker and collaborators from Sean Neumann
Sean Neumann is constantly influenced by his friends. The native Illinoisan admittedly doesn’t look up to celebrities or anyone he doesn’t know personally. If pressed for someone outside his friend group, he’d pick Leslie Feist. Otherwise, the life-long musician keeps his influences close to home. Not that there’s a lack of talent in the area; Neumann has surrounded himself by a slew of gifted musicians from central Illinois (he’s quick to cite Ratboys, Nnamdi Ogbonnaya, and Kyle Lang, among others). Not surprisingly, Neumann recruited several of them for his new record, Be Good, the first album under his new moniker, Jupiter Styles. The result is a perfect summer album that exudes the emo alt-country aesthetic of the Midwest.
Growing up in the suburbs of south Chicago, Neumann has been recording solo material under Single Player since the age of twelve. He says, “I was playing in bands with my friends, but then I’d write songs that didn’t fit into those bands so I’d just file those demos in a different folder on my computer which I ended up labeling ‘Single Player.’” Never quite content with the name (“It was just a pun on video games and it felt cheap, you know?”), Neumann recently transitioned to Jupiter Styles after receiving the nickname from a friend while attending college in Urbana.
With Ratboys pretty much his full-time job (Neumann is their touring bassist), he was able to lean on his colleagues throughout the creative process of Be Good. In fact, Ratboy’s own Julia Steiner and Dave Sagan were major contributors to the album; Steiner lent her hand as producer and Sagan played guitar and keys. Neumann also recruited a couple of other Chicago musicians to complete the line-up. Seth Engel of Lifted Bells layered additional guitarwork to the album while Pet Symmetry’s Marcus Nuccio filled out on drums. Neumann laid the foundation with his own guitar, bass, and vocals. He says, “Everything’s sort of pre-written in my head and then brought to life when I sit down individually with everyone. My friends influence me so much.”
While the new album conjures similar sounds from previous Single Player releases, Neumann strongly associates it with a transitional period. He says, “A lot of stuff was and is changing in my life, and I think that’s what the album is about. You can hear it in there in some ways -- the songs are a bit longer, there’s grand pianos, I feel like I’m allowing myself to open up a bit lyrically and be more of an open book.”
Clocking in at just over twenty minutes, Be Good is light and breezy, with playful moments that are pounding and fuzzy. Most tracks are layered through some distortion. Warm synths fill out the shorter songs while jangling guitar riffs melodically intertwine à la Built to Spill and Guided by Voices. It’s the ideal album for a backyard hang this summer.
The album is bookended by two standout tracks. Electric opener “Sure Fire Way” gradually builds into glorious guitar harmonies while Neumann proclaims, “Now I know I’m just a kid.” Closing track “Baby Steps” showcases ex-Pinegrove member Nick Levine on the pedal-steel, his sliding notes beautifully layered over gentle acoustic guitar strums and Neumann’s soft vocals. “Life Like” is a jangly alt-country banger that’ll have heads bobbing. Neumann is never keen on settling with any single particular sense of sound. The album’s constant shift between long-and-short and gentle-and-bombastic keeps the listener engaged throughout its duration.
A record release is slated for July 13th via Other World Recordings, with the band playing a release show at Subterranean on July 14th before embarking on a three-week tour with New Orleans alternative sad-rock band Treadles. And after that? “Hopefully recording more and touring more,” Neumann says, “And just more of that forever and ever!” As long as he’s with friends, Neumann is more than a single player. He’s Jupiter Styles.
Be Good (Other World Recordings) features Sean Neumann on guitar, bass, and vocals; Dave Sagan on guitar and piano; Marcus Nuccio on drums; Seth Engel on guitar; and Nick Levine on pedal steel. It was recorded and mixed by Seth Engel at Pallet Sound in Chicago, Illinois. The album was produced by Seth Engel, Dave Sagan and Julia Steiner, and mastered by Dave Downham at Gradwell House.