UNHAPPY HOUR by Jim Mill | INTERVIEW
Author: Sean Manuel
How do you cope with a year wrought with trepidation? 2022 was one such year for our spotlighted artist this week, Jim Mill. Mill's Unhappy Hour is his first full EP release since 2013's Aperture. Like John Lennon's first solo release entitled Plastic Ono Band, Mill's Unhappy Hour serves to be a documentation of music therapy as Mill addresses such prolific themes as loss, life, and how we humans endeavor to understand how delicate life is with our finite minds. Fans of a diverse array of bands like Pearl Jam, Tears for Fears, The Cure, and The Smiths will find a home in this release. Before Unhappy Hour drops on Friday, March 24, I encourage you to preorder on Bandcamp! The Bandcamp version includes an exclusive extra track entitled "Breakdown" guaranteed to raise your heart rate. Introducing Jim Mill...
Hi, Jim. Unhappy Hour is an unapologetically raw release. I understand you wrote, recorded, produced, and engineered the songs on an iPad by yourself over the last year. Take us phase-by-phase through the process.
I started writing for an EP around Spring/Summer of 2022. I was fresh off of leaving Wynward and had a few left over ideas I wanted to get out there before taking a break. In the meantime I was playing solo shows and having a hard time with the direction of the EP. I quickly got completely burned out with all the other emotional and personal things going on around me. I came back to it around late fall and cooked up most of the songs on the EP and figured out that the direction could be a benchmark of sorts of where my mind has been in the time I took a break from music, and what I was going through.
As previously mentioned, Unhappy Hour is very raw with themes of loss, life, and finding meaning in life forming its framework. Is the EP's heavy thematic framework indicative of art imitating life?
That's correct! You hit the nail on the head. Unhappy Hour deals with the relatable themes of loss, depression, and feeling the need to withdraw yourself from others to deal with those things.
"It's Okay to Feel" opens Unhappy Hour in strong Pearl Jam-like fashion. The chorus, "Don't take away this pain from me... It's okay to feel this way," is particularly affecting as you acknowledge pain and its attached emotions to be acceptable and necessary to the life experience. Is this song's placement as the opener an invitation to the listener to bear their vulnerabilities with you throughout the rest of the EP?
I kind of look at this EP as dealing with different stages of grief, and each song is its own stage. When you start to process what happened.. you question if it's okay to feel that way, then everything cascades from there. This song came from me trying to just distract myself with the next best thing instead of dealing with what I was going through. And with that the healing was prolonged and I was truly miserable. This song is my advice of sorts. "Hey, you're gonna go through a ton of stuff... and it's okay, it's healthy."
"Oh Where it Takes Me" turns "It's Okay to Feel" into a warmup track in a blistering 1 minute and 56 seconds. Whereas "It's Okay to Feel" presents openness to feeling, "Oh Where it Takes Me" calls for taking oneself "Oh so far away... From the rest of humanity." An unexpected ska section featuring a descending guitar line plays like a tantrum and leaves the listener in a post-rollercoaster adrenaline rush. When did this ska section come to be?
Great question! I was listening to Alvvays' newest album Blue Rev at the time, and their song "Pomeranian Spinster" really influenced the speed, reverb, and quirkiness of this song.. they also go into a lot of key changes throughout the record, and that was something I especially wanted to experiment with. Being a big fan of bands like the Descendents, the fast punky bridge came sort of naturally and it helped me achieve what I was hoping to do!
Unhappy Hour departs from the previous EP, 2013's Aperture, as you integrate fresh genre elements (namely, an 80s-esque production and songwriting style) into your sonic palette. The Modern English-esque (known for "I Melt With You") track entitled "Never Meant To Be" exemplifies this sonic development. At this point in the EP, is this track communicating a search for renewed purpose as "Time away spent looking for something new," suggests? What artists were you listening to at the time you wrote this track?
During my hiatus, I took to collecting records again, and really got back in touch with some of the more Post Punk songs I'd hear on the radio when I was a kid. Those always give you a sort of nostalgic feeling that's comforting. Some of the bands I was listening to pretty heavily at the time of writing and recording that one were The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, Joy Division, Tears for Fears, and Early R.E.M.
That lyric in particular was during my hiatus, I realized.. Okay, music might just not be my thing anymore. I've been doing it forever and it seems like I've gone nowhere. What the hell else can I do? Life is so short and I've wasted time on this hobby that I hoped would be more fulfilling at this point in my life.
"That's All We Are" touches similar notes as Pink Floyd does in "Wish You Were Here" with commentary on human existence as we live "Here, on this rock," and question "is this all there is," and "is it meaningless." What resonates most is the affirmation of identity coming from the "soul infinitum." Does this song subscribe to the belief life's meaning is what the living being makes of it? Or, does it emphasize the meaning as simply existing as a forever soul?
The song is the bookend to the EP. It's where you've endured all that you had and came out with the hypothesis that "Life is short and can end in an instant". But then that thought in itself is unsettling and begs you to find a way to process it.
If our souls are forever, that sounds pretty comforting. But maybe, it's that our soul goes on forever because of the "chemical" reactions we had and left behind us, the people we touched, the legacies we leave behind, etc., when the inevitable happens, which is bittersweet.
There is an exclusive additional perk for those who purchase the EP through Bandcamp. Tell us about it!
Yes! There is a 7th track on that version of the EP. It's an aggressive surfy garage rock tune called "Breakdown". It was one of the original batch of songs I wrote before the hiatus and is heavily inspired by Together PANGEA. Sadly it was a little more aggressive than the other songs so I left it off, but figured it could be a fun thing for people who support on Bandcamp.
Where can people go to connect with and support Jim Mill?
You can find me on Facebook Jim Mill Music" or TikTok @Jim_Mill. My songs are always streaming on all platforms!
Do you have any future releases/projects you would like to announce?
Nothing just yet. I think the next step would be a full length album with a full band behind me, but that won't be anytime soon.
Is there anything else you would like to share with us?
Be good to one another.
Artist Bio: Singer/Songwriter Jim Mill is best known for his aggressive acoustic rock and Eddie Vedder-like vocals.
About the Author: Sean Manuel is a Senior enrolled in New Jersey City University's Honors Program. A Music Business major, Sean specializes in the piano and bass guitar. Outside of academia, Sean performs in and manages the Bayonne indie-pop group BreakTime: a four-piece writing modern pop tunes with generous vintage allusions to artists such as The Beatles, The Beach Boys, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Are you interested in their music? Follow BreakTime @breaktimelivenj and stream their releases on all platforms.