For context, Jared Cowen is a singer and guitarist from the Long Island area that currently plays in the group Baked Shrimp. With all of the extra time that a pandemic brings, he made his recently released his debut solo album. Our reflections and a few remarks from Jared are contained below.
“Beacon River” is the lead off track, as well as the title track of the record. The song reads like a 90’s jangle pop radio track, with vocals treated by effects and a bridge accented by some horn arrangements.
“Dirt Road” features some of the same instrumentation, but in more of a vaguely Grateful Dead inspired style. The drums are driven by some slick brush work, and the song draws a nice dichotomy between the A section and B section. The chorus features a descending stepwise melody that is a bit more abstract and somewhat reminiscent of a Billy Breathes era Phish tune with a tiny bit of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir” sprinkled in, topped off with a very hip sounding chorus tambourine. Some solos are played, dancing between motifs reminiscent of The Allman Brothers and Phish, until a studio fade-out advances the record.
“The Victim” harkens back to the neo-psychedelic movements of the 1980’s with heavy reverbs, a consistently jangling guitar, and doubled vocals tucked away neatly into the mix. The latter third of the song incorporates some significantly sci-fi vibes in the form of some yet unheard synth sounds, before another fade moves us along.
“Stup1d Tun3r” is a marked departure from the rest of the sound. In my best effort, I can only describe the sound as the long lost soundtrack to an early 80’s Egyptian breakdancing film. Complete with electronic drums and vocoded voice samples, this track provides a fun distraction from the more quote-unquote serious elements on the rest of the record. In a nice show of programming, the track also incessantly speeds up in the last third and brings in some incredibly high pitched Sonic The Hedgehog style synths.
“Penuche Took The Fudge” continues the theme of pseudo-80’s jams, this time making more of a turn toward radio friendly funk sounds of the aforementioned decade. Apparently Penuche took the fudge, he went so far, and the artist is not concerned with the fudge he left behind. The track takes a hard left turn into jazz fusion land for the chorus, and while I do enjoy the melodies, I think that the percussion sounds are a little jarring after the retro electronic sounds from the first half of the track. The melodies themselves are enjoyable and not unlike something found in a classic Phish song. After a few exchanges between the verse and chorus, the track amps things up momentarily into Disco Biscuits land, before settling back down for some soling in the original groove. The track culminates in an anthemic solo over the repeated mantra of the chorus.
“Ways To Pass Along The Blame” fits more into the activity of proggy psychedelic rock, more flowing and less funky or poppy than the previous tracks. Complete with cheesy strings for that vintage vibe, the track features the long lost and often successful guitar solo bridge. Essentially, this section introduces a new chord pattern, but no singing occurs, only guitar soloing. This segues into a repeated chorus with a wailing guitar solo, before an abrupt “stop” puts the cap on the track.
“What Are We Doing” features the sort of Dream Pop sounds found in previous tracks, with some heavily MGMT reminiscent vocals, and a healthy dose of verb and chorus or phaser for pretty much every sound.
“Lindsey the Bear the Chi” begins with an extended vocals and guitar segment, before Pixies loud-quieting itself into a spastic high speed groove. This is a brief distraction however, as the groove eventually comes to a halt for a slower chorus with a more heavy feeling. I think this song is about a dog or cat or bear getting hit by a car, but I really couldn’t be sure. Either way, the author went through a lot to get his point across.
The beginning of “The Froth” brings a bit of a new feeling to the record, and one that comes the closest to being unique and true to the artist in my opinion. The groove is mid tempo and hadn’t been used in any other song so far. The soundscape is reverb laden, and the mood of the track is not happy but not somber. The aesthetic features some vintage aspects but also some newer feelings. This eventually gives way to an arena rock style driving groove, not unlike something you could expect to hear from The Who. This is again a brief vacation from the first half of the track, and a return is ultimately made to the vocal and acoustic guitar driven intro sections. The form of the song cycles through before returning to the arena rock section for a blues solo section. The track then winds down with a repeated vocal line relating to the song’s title, ultimately fading out with some final delay soaked vocals.
“Beacon River” is definitely a wide ranging project with many different styles, and while this keeps things interesting I feel that Mr. Cowen is going to make greater records with more of a focus or theme. Thus, for bravery in the face of a lot of different sounds, I hereby award Jared Cowen 76 dirty tricks out of 77. Give Jared’s new record a stream, and also check out his band Baked Shrimp!
EB: Hey Jared, how are you doing?
JC: Hey! Great to hear from ya. I’ve been well and doing my best to keep busy during this wild time to be alive. Beacon River is what kept me busy for the first half of the Fall, and also Baked Shrimp recently finished up tracking our 2nd studio album, so that was tons of fun, exciting, and time consuming as well. Now it’s back to getting busy with practicing, writing, and brainstorming.
EB: Tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get into music? What kind of bands have you played in?
JC: I picked up my first guitar when I was four-years-old and attended my first concert at two- months old, so music has pretty much just flowed through my veins my entire life. My parents would be the people to thank for that one. The only instrument I really learned how to play fluently was the guitar. I play a little piano, some bass, I can play a basic drum beat, etc., but playing guitar is just what I did for the first eighteen years of my life before I went away to school for Music Industry, and decided to take on a larger music management role in my life. Nowadays on top of keeping my chops up, always writing and practicing, I also spend hours every day working on new ways to promote, creating videos, graphics, and tons of brainstorming. Prior to COVID it was doing lots and lots of booking. Every day sending e-mails, making phone calls, organizing spreadsheets, researching, etc. but it’s less of that now with live music sort of on hold and more of trying to stay relevant and maintain an online presence during this hectic time.
EB: What made you want to put this solo album out?
JC: “Going solo” was something I never really pictured for myself, or if I did it would be much further down the line in my life. But I don’t really consider this “going solo.” These were all just demos I decided to take to a new level. Every Fall I find that I always have a new project for myself because it’s usually when a new semester of school starts. Well this was my first Fall as a college graduate and also with COVID I wasn’t really looking to create any new bands since there would be nowhere to perform. Baked Shrimp also only wound up performing two times the entire Fall, and it was Jager’s (our drummer) first semester of college so there wasn’t a whole lot of practicing. I needed something to keep me busy, some outlet to getting new music out there and I thought a solo album would be the best way to go about it. I also had some experience doing something similar with Bubble Suit, Baked Shrimp’s last album which I did the mixing for. Also slightly different because this was recorded during the peak of COVID in New York so we weren’t able to see each other, so we had to send our recordings back and forth via Google Drive, so I loved that aspect of Bubble Suit. You just didn’t really see too many people doing this. So doing the mixing on that one prepared me to do the mixing for Beacon River, so I was able to really get creative.
EB: What’s the local scene like for Baked Shrimp?
JC: Our local scene we just refer to as “Long Island” in general, because we’re a little bit spread out from band member to band member. Prior to COVID; I thought we really were hitting a stride. We started out this year with close to a 20-date Winter Tour around the Northeast, which wrapped up at Beau’s Bar in Greenlawn, and we packed it out. We also did a similar thing after our 2019 Summer Tour, and that show was so much fun. Beau’s is like our grand finale venue where fans, friends, and family all come out for it and we play until like 1 or 2am. We love it there. Also in 2018 we did something called the “Five Night Special” at The Backstage in Woodmere where we did a residency five Tuesdays in a row, and each night was a different shrimp theme. This was great because every night had a new local opener, so it was so nice to see the scene come together, and every night built upon the last and the crowd’s got bigger and bigger. And of course I don’t want to forget Oyster BAKED which was an outdoor two day event we threw in Oyster Bay in August this Summer, socially distanced of course. I was a little worried about how this would go because the layout of the venue was a little small, but it went great, we had an unbelievable two nights on the water. So the Long Island music scene is alive, and we only hope it stays that way and everyone reopens once the pandemic is over.
EB: What made you want to gravitate toward the guitar?
JC: It wasn’t much of a choice for me [laughs]. My mom told me she signed me up for guitar lessons, handed me a guitar, and said go! I was four-years-old, I didn’t have a problem with it.
EB: What are your thoughts on live improvisation?
JC: Live improvisation is my bread and butter, it’s been the main focus of every band I’ve performed in, and of course Baked Shrimp is no exception. As much as I love all sorts of genres of music, and have seen some just great rock ‘n roll shows with little to no improvisation, nothing out there beats just watching a band get up there and perform improvised music. The reason is because you as the audience member, may as well be up there with them. They’re going to swing and miss at times, but that’s OK, because when they hit that home run, and everyone knows they hit that home run, that’s a moment of bliss. As a band, Baked Shrimp takes this very seriously. Roughly about 90-95% of our live show is just pure improvisation and we’re only a three-piece, so we know we have to keep it interesting. We want the audience to enjoy it when we jam, and not bang their heads on the table waiting for us to get to the next song. Hopefully that’s not the case. But we do improvisational exercises, song transitions, are just always working towards developing ideas within an improvisation. The #1 important thing is to keep the people dancing. Even if it’s weird, keep them dancing. If bodies are moving while you’re improvising, you’re doing something right.
EB: What are some of your biggest musical influences?
I was raised in a jam band household and come from a jam band world, so it definitely influenced who my biggest musical influences are. Trey Anastasio and Phish will always be my number one, but I also enjoy and learn from the Disco Biscuits. I say it all the time Jon Gutwillig is one of the greatest composers of our time. I’ve very much gotten into Dopapod over the last few years. Of course Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead along with classic rock – Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, The Who, etc. As of very recently (last year or so) I’ve gotten much more heavily into Steely Dan. And throughout High School I studied tons of jazz, as I performed in jazz band from the fourth grade and on. So Pat Metheny, Wes Montgomery, John Scofield, they’re all up there for me.
EB: Is there any particular song on the record that you could see yourself exploring further stylistically in the future?
JC: I think it’s going to be very interesting to see these songs develop in a live setting. I’ve had a few ideas, but my guess is just as good as the listener’s right now. “The Froth” is a song that has lots of potential to explore more stylistically, so I’m intrigued to see how that carries over.
EB: What kind of techniques could you see yourself dealing with on future solo recordings?
JC: Well for starters my next record I would hope to have a drummer in a recording studio rather than a machine. Not that the machine didn’t do what it needed to, but nothing beats an organic drum sound. I’d imagine that Beacon River will stand alone as very unique if I decide to eventually pursue more solo recordings. The vocals were recorded in my car, all of the instruments (besides bass and drums) were recorded via midi through my guitar, I self-mixed it, there’s just so much about this album that I just don’t see being replicated again for a future record. I always like to change it up.
thanks once again for reading, friends.