December 9, 2021

New Fury Media

Music. Film. Media.

Jonathan Carpenter takes us through all things Foreign Waves, why he left The Contortionist, and more

Foreign Waves, for those unfamiliar, is the new project of Jonathan Carpenter (ex-The Contortionist). What’s really impressive about Foreign Waves – and Carpenter’s work ethic especially – is the fact that he’s producing all of this music while having a family. As part of The Contortionist, he was part of both Exoplanet and Intrinsic, the band’s first two full-length albums. To say he’s a big part of the last decade of progressive metal is not an incorrect statement.

With Foreign Waves releasing a new song, “Resilient” (which you can listen to below), Carpenter stopped by TNF HQ to discuss all things Foreign Waves, balancing family with making music, and why leaving The Contortionist was the right decision for him.

When you left The Contortionist, did you ever think you’d be making music in this capacity again?

I definitely did not feel done with making music at that point, it was and is a deeply ingrained part of me. It feels good to get back into the process of finishing an album, I had poked at it for years, finishing a couple songs at a time. My workflow is so solid now and I’ve been more productive than ever.

You released two full-length albums with The Contortionist before leaving the band in 2013. What went into the decision to leave, initially?

It came down to knowing that I could not be both a touring musician and father, so when I found out I had a baby on the way I had to make a really tough decision, but one ultimately was correct and I’m super happy with. I really can’t imagine missing out on weeks or months of my kid’s lives, I need them as much as they need me.

Has starting a family affected how you’ve created music? If so, in what ways?

Patience! I would say there’s been this nice slow burn to how I’ve developed my tastes in the past few years. It feels less and less like a competition… love to just enjoy chill music while driving in the car etc. At the same time though, I’m still myself- I’ll listen to Archspire or something super brutal and then switch right over to Billie Eilish to balance it out.

You’ve been working on this project for a long time. How old are some of these songs?

Some of these riffs are from like 11 years ago before I was even in TC, but then some of the later tracks were written and recorded in the last few years. There is somewhat of an unintentional correlative progression on the album with when they were written. There is some overlap, but overall I think the listener would hear the maturation of songwriting between the first full song and the last.

What kind of challenges do you have balancing melodic and harsh vocals?

Doing both live on stage is the hardest thing of all because it feels like the low and high screams disrupts your vocal chords and blurs the accuracy of me hitting notes. Then again I have a really contrasting sound, my singing is super soft and breathy, so for me to record these next to each other is tricky cause I need to make it realistic. I will admit, writing vocals in the studio mindset and not constantly thinking about a live setting is much more fun, it feels like I have a blank canvas that I can go crazy on and use layers more.

What’s on your playlist currently?

I’m just gonna give you a list of bands that I’ve really come to love recently: Alt-J, Glass Animals, slenderbodies, Local Natives, Electric Guest, Humanity’s Last Breath, Car Bomb, Brand of Sacrifice.

What have been some of the challenges and benefits of creating music yourself?

The biggest challenge no doubt was not being able to stop the writing process and feeling frustrated by that gap of time. There were times where I felt like just stopping and releasing an instrumental version just so I could move on. I was able to pull the vocals together in the last couple years after getting outside my comfort zone and doing many collaborations with different projects. It’s a lot of fun though to have an inner vision that is connected to a world that I’ve been building for a while now. I’m not even sure yet what forms it could take in the future, but I love the idea of working on something more visual that could do more storytelling than song lyrics allow.

You’re often noted for your lyric writing abilities. When you’re writing lyrics, how do you get into that frame of mind?

For me, having a consistent place to jot down notes is important and my process now includes having access to a series of Google Docs that keep track of primary ideas and information that is being developed or has been vetted and is part of the narrative now. Otherwise I find that having an unorganized ‘graveyard’ of ideas is helpful to dump off lines or words or links that I found interesting. Those moments where everything aligns and I’m able to be recording or writing music focused and in the zone- doesn’t come often. I’ve tried other means of jotting down ideas, like audio logs but I’ve never gone back and listened to those even once. I think it’s just helpful for me to say things out loud and know they have been put out there if I need to reference it. That materialization of it being written or recorded somewhere seems to assist me in feeling confident in being able to reach for a line or idea when I need it.

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