Arriving in the hotel hall where he accepted to give some interviews, Jeff Martin looks worried. "I'm looking for my mother", confides the singer of the Californian band Idaho, that celebrates its 10 years existence by publishing a compilation of unreleased tracks. "She's lived in Provence for some time now and we have to meet here. But fortunately, she won't be able to follow us on tour..."

Indeed, Idaho started its European tour yesterday in Geneva. This afternoon, Jeff Martin will perform a solo gig at the brand new Fnac in Lausanne before joining its band in Neuchatel for a concert at The Cargo with the New Yorkers of Firewater. "I have never given a concert like the one I am going to give at the Fnac", explains Jeff Martin. "I am a little nervous about playing in the middle of people doing their shopping. Some will be taken aback; others will come to hear me. But it will be nice to play solo with the piano. I have just discovered this instrument that I did not really know before. I think there will be more of it on the next record."

Short cuts
10 years after Idaho's beginnings, Jeff Martin remembers the first times when, whereas Nirvana and grunge were hitting the charts, they decided to take short cuts by creating a melancholic folk-rock, announcing the emergence of new bands like Sparklehorse, Palace or Lambchop. "Of course, our beginnings were difficult. I never thought Idaho would have any success, even if maybe a small part of my unconscious was hoping for it. We were doing a different, kind of dark music. And we were part of a small community of bands like the Red House Painters, Codeine or Low. It was very exciting but we knew that there was no hope for this kind of music to get popular. This finally turned to our advantage since we have gone our own way. In fact, it's wonderful that Idaho still exists. We should not be here anymore."

Identity crisis
"What makes us go on", pursues Jeff Martin, "is that Idaho's sound is not predictable. It evolves constantly and cannot be categorized. For example, Mark Kozelek, Red House Painter’s composer, has a formula he applies for each album. Some people probably say the same of us, but I think we are more into searching new ideas. I'm on a perpetual identity crisis about my music. I always think my career is beginning because it never really started."

Though Jeff Martin is often considered as one of those tortured songwriters that speak to no one, especially of their music, he seems very pleased in fact to touch on his lyrics, while he apologizes of not being really clear: "My songs are very personal. The older I get, the more personal they turn. In fact, I never think of what I write. I only try to capture emotions. I am not a storyteller. My songs have a soul but I am not able to explain them. They are so personal that if I ever tried to give an explanation, it would sound stupid."

"I am proud of Idaho's career", concludes Jeff Martin. “It is very slow, but constantly ascending. This tour will probably have an impact on the next record. Idaho has never been a live band. Basically, I write songs alone at home. I prefer my life to be predictable. But it is not the best way to succeed. Concerts make me grasp the tunes in a physical manner. Finally, it is very satisfying to play live, it makes the music change. So this tour will surely have an impact on our next record."

Stephane Gobbo

many thanks to Arnaud for translating this article