I first experienced Entresol years ago in an unsuspecting coffee shop. Just across the train tracks in a quiet part of town, Wandering Goat hardly seemed like a hub for harsh noise. Luckily, I was wrong.
The vibe at the Goat was a lot like most of Eugene; damp, dark, and wild. But beyond that, quiet. Combined with its idyllic forest backdrop, the Goat made for a perfect spot to simmer down and collect ones thoughts. Or of course, the complete opposite.
I had just ordered some biscuits and mushroom gravy when Entresol’s electric sermon started crackling behind me. A swarm of unfamiliar sounds rushed to meet their maker on the tiny stage. Janys was screaming into… something. Was it a pedal? Was it a box of mints? Whatever it was, it was loud, and it seemed to literally threaten the building with molecular destruction. It didn’t “sound” like something I would have liked at the time, but watching Entresol batter their equipment into oblivion, something clicked into place.
I loved that the music seemed to step outside of time; it was like it stopped time. Like Lingua Ignota meets Basinski’s Disintegration Tapes. And I wasn’t the only one into it – soon Entresol was collaborating with artists like Amulets, Sombre Lux, and Body Void.
This weekend, Janys-Iren was kind enough to answer questions for us, some of which I’ve wanted to know for years. I highly recommend streaming their EP 5ths for the full Eugene effect during this interview.
FB: Technically, you put six Entresol releases under your belt last year? Maybe just five? Either way, that’s a lot of work. Are you always inspired, or do you feel a sense of compulsion to release the songs into the wild as soon as you can?
Janys-Iren: I think it was 5, but maybe you found something I don’t remember, wouldn’t be the first time! Did I release that many? (Laughs) The pandemic has made time feel so unreal that it truly feels like I haven’t made or released content in SO long. It’s been kind of hard not to be down on myself about releases and new content. Which is honestly ridiculous.
Between the handful of EPs and launching the Patreon (patreon.com/entresol) which requires that I release a little something new for subscribers every month, I’m pretty sure I released more last year than I have in any other year since this project started in 2015. Wait- that’s not true. 2016 saw a lot of weird short cassette releases. Something like 14. A lot of that was 10 made for this tour, never released elsewhere sort of stuff that I’d probably be embarrassed to have people hear now. Lots of bad noise folk. (laughs)
FB: 5ths has some really uncanny sample work on it. Hearing a person ask for a cigarette in “Martin Luther King Jr. Park” or the rain-meets-airplane ambience in “Lincoln Slough” immediately took me to the back patio of Old Nick’s and the streets of Eugene. How would you describe the Eugene ‘sound,’ if it has one? Do all places have sounds?
Janys-Iren: I’m glad that you had that experience. That was kind of what I was going for. The tracks are, as you probably guessed, all named after where the field recordings happened. “Lincoln Slough” is funny because as it turns out, I apparently didn’t know what a slough actually was. That track should actually be called “Lincoln Street Drainage Ditch” which has less of a ring to it, for sure.
I dunno if Eugene has a signature sound, but I’m pretty sure someone trying to bum a cigarette while you’re trying to cross the street might be in it. I’m in the midwest now, which definitely has a sound from mid summer until the cicadas die. I am honestly trying to nail down all the field recordings I possibly can before those little fuckers show up and scream for like five months.
FB: What would you say is the strangest thing you’ve sampled or recorded?
Janys-Iren: Hmm… I dunno what rates as the strangest, but there’s definitely distorted urination on one of the releases on my b-sides bandcamp. I like having a second bandcamp for the weirdos.
FB:When did you start getting into pedals and/or affecting sound?
Janys-Iren: It was around 2015/2016. This project began as a very simplistic acoustic project, with some laptop produced noise on the recordings, but live it was like, punky singer songwriter. It wasn’t exactly what I wanted it to be, but I was kind of refusing to do the homework the project needed me to do. I’d messed with noise in more of a field recording and wave editing sort of way before that. I can be kind of luddite with gear sometimes, hesitant to learn new things because I’m afraid of not being good at things, or doing them wrong. You could say its a theory of mind problem, but I think I just really don’t believe in my abilities whatsoever. (laughs) My friend and then partner, Devin Oak, who’s project Entrail is a big influence of mine, its like incredible dark, chambery, synth/violin/vocal drone sort of stuff, anyway, they saw me limiting myself in big ways by kind of refusing to mess with pedals, and made a point to suggest I knock it off. They eventually took a more proactive role by gifting me a boss rc2 looper, which was part of my live setup until very recently. This project would probably be like shitty folk punk without their belief that I could do something more interesting, honestly. Not that there’s anything wrong with folk punk, I just want to make music that there’s, I dunno, a lack of? I’m really just trying to make music I would obsess about myself.
FB: You tend to contrast the ambience and samples with some supremely harsh noise. When you’re composing, do you think about the balance between the two extremes?
Janys-Iren: Kind of? I’m working on new material right now, kind of intended to be the spiritual twin to How Quickly We Normalize What Feels Like The End Of The World, which was really my last harsh release. Before this, I’d have said no, but I keep scrapping ideas because they’re not mean enough. I guess I feel like I have something to prove after releasing so much ambient in the last 18 months or so.
FB: Do you stick to pedals/analog gear or use plugins as well?
Janys-Iren: All of the above. Before I became a van dweller there was kind of a set “At Home Entresol Method” that involved beginning with a melody line, a fuckload of samples and field recordings and then putting all those samples aside, recording what I saw as the more central or musical portions of a song (guitar or synth, vocal, maybe percussion) and then taking a bunch of those kind of auxiliary sounds and running them through different pedals, processes, maybe recording them to tape over and over and degrading them, and then slowly assembling the pieces that seemed to fit together, like, textural layering, usually trying to stop before it made the song unlistenable. (laughs) Sometimes that might look like taking all these produced samples, bouncing them to my phone and playing them through that speaker into a contact mic through a DOD Death Metal pedal or the Afterneath (both of which I use like crazy, which I’m sure you can probably guess), and then looping that, slowing it down or speeding it up, tweaking it with any number of other pedals, sending it back to the computer for cleanup or further degradation.
It’s really more experimentation in a controlled environment than scientific method, for sure. A lot of the time it sounds like fucking trash, but sometimes you get something magical. All that said, now my setup is pretty different every time due to access to or lack of access to things like power outlets. There’s a lot more purely laptop things happening at the moment, for obvious reasons.
FB:Have you ever thought about making an Entresol pedal yourself? What would it do if so?
Janys-Iren: I can be pretty utilitarian, to be honest. The things I use the most are distortion, reverb, and loops+pitchshift, so I’d probably want an all in one box that let me do those things, but also switch their place in the pedal chain somehow, you know? I dunno how that would work. I’m not really a gearhead despite being a noise-adjacent artist. I sort of just break gear and hope it sounds good broken.
FB: If someone were completely unfamiliar with ‘harsh noise’ or what the term implied, what would you suggest they listen to?
Janys-Iren: Open 8 youtube tabs all at top volume playing traffic and construction sounds at the same time. (laughs). I guess that depends on if I’m trying to ease them into it or scare the hell out of them (laughs). If I’m trying to ease them in and give em a gateway drug or something, maybe Pharmakon or that new Prurient/Merzbow collab album. Both have great elements of noise while still having more of a musicality about them, and production that lends itself to making sense of what you’re hearing. Headphone asmr ear candy sort of stuff, and I love that. Really like, rewarding textures and pops and crackles. Feel good stuff.
When they’re ready to be punished, maybe some Black Leather Jesus or Hijohkaidan, or the Eugene homie Willowbrook. He can be pretty vicious. I find harsh noise to be more of a live thing for me. I rarely just sit and listen to like The Rita or whatever.
FB: Do you remember that time you stepped in to save the day for Zeta at Luckey’s when the opening band dropped out, and you rocked so hard you destroyed the speakers?
Janys-Iren: How could I forget blowing one of the mains and feeling like I didn’t know how my own gear worked? (laughs) Yeah, that could have been so much worse than it was. I’m just glad I learned that lesson at home and not somewhere on the road where I’d be dealing with a pissed off sound tech, booker, or bar owner.
FB: Outside of Entresol, you spent several years as a booker; what are your thoughts on the slowly re-opening world of live music? If you were to go back to that, what would you like to see done differently?
Janys-Iren: I think waiting until we reach the forecasted necessary percentage of vaccinated public makes sense. I love live music, it’s been my life for more than half of my life, its also kind of a luxury, and if we’re willing to get each other sick over access to a luxury, we’re basically miniature versions of the handful of billionaires ruining the planet.
As far as seeing things changed within the infrastructure of live music, I’d really like to see more government funding for the arts like in other countries. It was hard to structure things in a way that didn’t lean on alcohol sales to pay staff and bands to secure alcohol sales before, and I’m honestly fearful that that will only be worse moving forward. Hopefully we see more house shows, DIY spaces, etc. I know that my booking job, when it returns, will be very very different, but I’m lucky in that it looks like that venue will still exist, and I’ll still be responsible for a portion of the entertainment.
FB: Conversely, what are some moments that you’re proud of from the booking days?
Janys-Iren: A bunch of really cool stuff happened in the last few years. Big Business, Xiu Xiu, Jeffrey Lewis, Big Brave (their new album is incredible) Elizabeth Colour Wheel w/ Planning For Burial… and while it didn’t happen (but may still one day) confirming Napalm Death and The Locust even if the pandemic cancelled that one.
FB: When did you come into contact with Body Void? How would you describe your collaboration with them overall regarding Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth?
Janys-Iren: I met Body Void… I think it was 2015. I was booking Wandering Goat and they came through. They were called Devoid back then. They’re the kind of band you love to work with when you’re booking, they just kept growing. Every show there was more turnout and more interest and they’re good at self promotion. So they came through fairly often, usually crashed at my house and/or played with my old band, and we became friends. It worked out perfectly, time wise, that when their bassist Parker quit, I was able to step in and be their touring bassist on a UK run in January 2020. The intention was to do more, we were going to do a mainland Europe tour and play Roadburn Fest that year, but then Covid happened.
Being on opposite coasts (they’re based in Vermont), it didn’t make sense for me to travel across the country to record with them. So Willow (vocals, guitar) suggested that I contribute noise and soundbeds. I like adding noise to pretty much everything, so I agreed. It seemed like they had something of an idea for it in mind already, so rather than composing, I just did like 3 improv takes at home in my old house in Eugene, over midi tracks, and sent them 40 minutes of noise, so they could punch it in where they wanted in the recording process. It was probably the quickest and easiest collab I’ve ever been part of.
FB: As if you weren’t busy enough, you also just started up a GoFundMe for an upcoming ‘epistolary horror novel.’ When did you start writing that? What can you tell us about it?
Janys-Iren: It’s tentatively titled “Quieting The Cicadas” which is I guess kind of funny after griping about them earlier, but they’ve become this pesky nagging thing in my life after initially coming out here for the first time last fall. The initial concept came together spring of 2020. As something to do during lockdown I started visiting ghost towns in Oregon. There’s like 200 registered ones, and many have no occupants, so you’re not making any contact with anyone. On these drives I was listening to anthology horror podcasts and the PNWS podcasts (Tanis, Rabbits, Black Tapes), which if you’re not familiar area amazing. They’re like X-Files meets Twin Peaks, but in the form of a fictional “investigative journalism” podcast. I found myself wanting to kind of mash up all of those interests.
I tend to obsess over new interests, and all of those things, horror, ghost towns, and the podcasts kind of turned into a hairbrained scheme to write a horror novel that poses as a guidebook to ghost towns. There’s two “writers”: one is a researcher who contributes history portions, and one is an explorer, and the book will basically be presented as their shared “guidebook in progress.” So readers will kind of have something of an immersive experience, reading a book presented as if it’s in the process of being written/happening as they read it. I’m in the second draft process right now. Hopefully it’s as fun to read as it’s been to write.
FB: Many Entresol compositions go beyond the standard measures of keeping time or rhythm, focusing more on telling stories. If you were to compare the novel you’re working on to any of your musical work, what would it be?
Janys-Iren: Oh man. That is an interesting question. Shit, I guess probably the inevitable soundtrack that I’ll make to accompany it afterward, if I’m not tired of making related websites, message boards and dark web content.
FB: What’s the last book you read? What’s the last book you recommended to someone?
Janys-Iren: The last book I finished was Mrs. Frisby & The Rats of Nimh. (laughs) I dunno what happened in my childhood, but that book was somehow never something I read, and it seemed like it had to happen. It was kind of lackluster, honestly.
I am currently trudging through JJ Abrams and Doug Doerst’s book “S.” More as research than anything. It’s also an epistolary piece, but in classic Abrams style, its lush and beautiful, incredibly hard to follow and objectively bad. It’s becoming kind of a guide of what I don’t want to do with Quieting The Cicadas. And the last book I recommended to someone was “You Can’t Win” by Jack Black (no, not that Jack Black.)
FB:What’s next for Entresol? Do you see yourself continuing to move through different mediums?
Janys-Iren: I have a personal rule with creativity, which is that I don’t have a particular medium. Not that I’m specifically challenging myself to do all kinds of different things, but if something interests me, I want to be allowed to try it. So I try to make a point of letting myself experiment with any medium that feels good at the time.
There’s an upcoming harsh EP in the works (which may become a full album) as well as, at some point, a second book in the same universe as this first one. Sometimes you build a universe that you want to live in for awhile, and I’m not quite done with the one I built for this book.
Check out Entresol’s discography of noise both harsh and mellow here, and don’t forget to peep their work on the new Body Void album as well.