RIVERSIDE, CA MONTHLY†† 20.000
A listen to This Way Out, Idaho's latest Caroline release, is like being gently awaken from a daydream. Your surroundings are a bit hazy and warm glow remains. So when Idaho's Jeff Martin begins our conversation, telling me "I drank all this salt water so I'm supposed to be running to the bathroom every ten minutes," my preconception of the man behind Idaho's graceful presence takes a sharp left.
Martin has just embarked upon a seven-day fast to rid all the toxins from his body. "You live off of this mixture of lemon juice, pure grape syrup, and maple syrup mixed with water and a little cayan pepper. That's all your body really needs to survive. Itís supposed to make you instantly run to the bathroom and just shit forever." Maybe a good healthful purging frees Idaho's spartan soul?
The band's previous efforts (The Palms EP and full-length Year After Year), touted the whole down and out vibe, which was well done and even vaguely spiritual, but lacking in focused emotion. Now with Jeff Martin as the singular writer (John Berry succumbed to addiction) Idaho meanders straight to the heart; on This Way Out still waters run deep.
"With John it was very difficult to just get him down in the room and get the guitar amp on," explains Martin.- "All the little problems just really took their toll and I just lost all my patience. I felt like a schoolteacher, 'like c'mon, get down here drink your coffee, tune the guitar, no, tune it again.' He was very talented but_"
On This Way Out, Martin (who plays most every instrument on the record) streamlined the band's ethereal mist into a heavy downpour. "It's a lot more honest, I think, and doesnít have quite such deadend feel," he says. "I felt like I would be cheating myself, and the person listening, if I went about it the way I went about Year After Year. When it came to writing the lyrics for that record, I would just get this empty feeling inside and I just couldnít believe that I had to put any sort of thought into it. I just wanted to get it over with or at least just put something into it that I could stand to hear back. With this record it wasnít so frightening to me. It was sort of a nice opportunity to focus in on some aspects of my life or things that might have been bothering me and try to actually articulate them."
Martin's crest-fallen poetry on This Way Out captures a beautiful emptiness. Idaho's revealing crescendos remain and pretty distortion still obscures the obvious pop element, but finally not so much that the song is lost. On the semi-jangly heartache of "Drive It," Martin' s lazy chorus peers out from behind textured weepy guitar. Instead of sounding simply depressed, Idaho is now startlingly empathetic, on tracks such as "Still" and "Sweep* sounding wistful rather than hopeless. Martin digs deep on the almost upbeat "Fuel" and desolate ache of "Glow," and though the sparse and largely hushed landscape is sonically serene, the emotional turmoil that This Way Out conveys is anything but quiet.
An admitted perfectionist, Martin already has a different vision for the next record which he's already begun working on with This Way Outís quasi-producer Marty Brumbach. Anxious to be able to accomplish live what Idaho creates in the studio, Martin's next effort is likely to be even more direct.
"It's really hard to get people to recreate the things that I do because I have a kind of odd style of playing drums and guitar and you can't get someone to really copy it," he asserts "I'd rather use someone else's strengths and then have that person come on tour so the music will have the same feel, think I've found people that I can work with who are willing to accept the fact that if s my band, although I'd welcome their input as long as their egos are in control enough that they can take me saying 'yea or nay" or 'do this do that'"
From a young age Martin was encouraged by his family to pursue music. He began piano lessons while still a near toddler and showed an affinity immediately. "I always felt that was a real strength of mine and that's always something that's given me a lot of confidence. Itís the one thing in my life that I've always felt has given me some sort of self-worth."
However, when Martin became more serious about -music, especially in the indie-rock arena, his parent's support wavered. "They never really thought .of it as a career and I always knew it would be. I was having big arguments with them up to about two weeks before we got signed about whether it was the right direction. They thought I was really crazy going off on this limb with John and writing this sort of odd, stark, dissonant music."
Though Martin's parents almost had him convinced that he wasn't going to make any headway with Idaho, the artistic spirit prevailed. Now if he can just get through that unappetizing fast, we'll have a new Idaho record this fall.