One might think that quarantine would make interviews more difficult, and while it poses some challenges, artists are still very happy to talk about their work and creative process. Such is the case with central Illinois rock group The Telephone Junkies, who have become prevalent in the music scene of the area in the last few years. They’ve played shows from Urbana to Macomb and plenty of places in between, bringing with them a signature sound that has changed and evolved as they continue to improve. I recently contacted them to do an interview regarding their upcoming album.
The band's name has become a bit of an aptonym in the last few months, and ironically our interview was conducted over Zoom. This did not detract from the energy or the excitement the artist felt about their project. The group, comprised of brothers Jacob and Ben Ambrecht (guitar/vocalist and bassist respectively), Nick Kniss (guitar), and Jack Moore (drums) enthusiastically discussed the music that inspired this album. These influences were noisy and 90s focused, including Slint’s post rock staple Spiderland and Yo La Tengo’s I Can Hear the Heart Beating as One. During one recording session the group listened to the entirety of Sonic Youth’s discography.
The aforementioned recording process took place in Greenville, Illinois over the course of about six sessions. Jacob Ambrecht explained that the songwriting process, which took place last summer, was smooth, but that the recording and mastering has not been without difficulty. Recording was done throughout the fall and was concluded in February just before quarantine. Because the members are not all in the same city, it is sometimes difficult to get together and work on the album.
This process has changed the album, and it is considerably lighter than its earliest iteration. The initial “country rock type sound” was phased on in favor of some of their older, more lighthearted songs. This makes the album “poppier” and “less angsty”. Part of this change was initiated from feedback at live shows revealing that some of the songs were hard to distinguish from one another when played in succession. Also expect to notice some heavy fuzz pedal use, as they acquired one during the recording process. Jacob also clarified that this album would be more introspective than their previous work which often “focused on other people”. It draws from other parts of his life and is “more mature” than some of their previous work.
As it often does, the recording process brought the band closer together. One of the most vivid accounts of the process didn’t come from within the studio, but the journey home. Drummer Jack Moore described a late night return from the studio driving through small erie towns and listening to Slint’s Spiderland. Other notable moments included recording a hardcore punk EP off the cuff and almost getting into an accident during a food one mid-session.
Of course, recording music is much more than late night drives and near-wrecks. The band have spent plenty of time tweaking and fiddling to get the album how they like it. Jacob clarified that they weren’t rushed to finish the album thanks to their direct studio access. But they haven’t been dawdling, and the “light at the end of the tunnel” is visible on this album.
Photo by Jack Parsons.
This album is a continuation of their departure from their old sound, which they said would have needed a disclaimer a year ago because of how different it is from their previous music. But an extra year of working together has tightened up their music and given it a much more coherent identity, which they say has incorporated more humor. Jacob also said the album “has us at our most serious and our dumbest” and that it “develop(s) a sound that takes from past work but is much more”.
With the album nearing completion, you can expect to hear it this summer. Until then, you can find The Telephone Junkies on Spotify. Be sure to write them if the album “changes your life”.
Top image provided by Telephone Junkies.