Interview: Jack Victor
In the year and some change since the Asheville-based indie rockers of Midnight Snack amicably went their separate ways, music has continued to flow from their various new endeavors. Among these projects, Katie Richter (vocals/trumpet) has found a home in the local trio Kismet and in early November 2018, Zack Kardon (guitar) released an EP under the name Southern Pine.
Now it’s ensemble frontman Jack Victor’s turn to share his solo creations via the moniker Slow Packer. Out Thursday, March 28, his four-song EP Angel Can’t Swim incorporates the talents of Richter and Kardon, their former bandmate — and Victor’s brother — Mike Henry Johnson (mixer/co-producer), as well as fellow Asheville musicians Carly Taich, Alexa Rose, Maddie Shuler, and Derrick Johnson.
Prior to the collection’s release and the first Slow Packer show two days later at The Mothlight, Victor spoke with Asheville Stages about how the new endeavor came to be and how it’s helped him grow as an artist.
Edwin Arnaudin: Why did Midnight Snack break up and what kind of relationships have you maintained with your former bandmates since the split?
Jack Victor: The decision to stop playing as Midnight Snack was a really difficult one. There were many factors that played into it, but I think the main reason was that after so many years of focusing primarily on one project, we were all itching to diversify what we were working on. We all learned so much from being in that band, and each of us latched on to different parts of the the music-making process. The jobs (of being in a band) that we used to delegate amongst ourselves we’ve now taken and continued to work on independently. However, we still continue to collaborate all the time, and I still consider these folks to be my best friends. Just about all of our new projects overlap in a way to create some new formation of our old band. So, the spirit of Midnight Snack is still alive and well.
EA: How did Midnight Snack wind up using its Echo Mountain studio time that the group won at 2018’s Music Video Asheville?
JV: We haven’t used that recording time yet, though I’m hoping we can use it soon to record some of our new projects now that they’re really taking shape.
EA: What’s the significance of the name Slow Packer?
JV: The name Slow Packer is from a song that I wrote recently. I think I’ve been searching for a moniker for my original music for a while, but I really struggle with inventing names. Especially these days, it feels like every good band name is already taken by somebody. So, after I wrote this song “Slow Packer,” that name was really resonating with me for some reason. I liked the idea of using a name that came from the music itself. The music needed its own identity.
For me, the words “slow packer” bring to mind an image of someone mindfully gathering their belongings in preparation for a big move. This person is excited about what is to come, but nostalgic for the place that they are leaving, which they have grown to love. I’ve noticed that this feeling of change makes its way into each of my songs in some way. I’m hoping that the name helps to tie the music together, and to make it even more meaningful to the listener.
EA: The contents of what would become Angel Can’t Swim — and your plans for releasing them — have gone through a few changes before reaching its final form. Please talk a little bit about the collection’s evolution, why you decided against certain release concepts, and how you finalized the track list.
JV: Indeed! I recorded several more songs than I ended up putting on the final track list for Angel Can’t Swim. It has taken what feels like a very long time for me to figure out what I want my original music project to look/sound/feel like. Over that time, my idea of what this record would be has changed. I spend a lot of time thinking about the flow of a record, and inevitably go back and forth about song order and what songs to include or cut. In my view, these four songs feel like they are deeply connected to one another and that they belong together on an EP. My intention is to release the other songs, either as singles or as a part of future collections, when the time is right.
EA: On both a lyrical and instrumental/sonic level, what themes/styles do you feel like you have more freedom to pursue as a solo artist that perhaps weren’t as pronounced in Midnight Snack?
JV: These are my songs, but Slow Packer is much bigger than just me. I’m still collaborating with lots of other musicians to make these sounds. For Angel Can’t Swim, I worked with my brother, Mike Henry Johnson, who recorded and mixed the record, helped with production, and played many of the instruments. There were also several other singers and instrumentalists on the recordings. Musically, I think this EP sounds very different than records I’ve made in the past. But I also hope the next one sounds different. Every record is a chance to try something that feels new and interesting.
EA: On a related note, in what ways were the writing and recording processes different for this EP versus your past projects?
JV: For this EP, I wrote all of the songs on the guitar, which was a new instrument for me. In the past, I’ve always composed on the piano. Being a beginner on a new instrument was very humbling, and it inspired different kinds of songs than I’ve heard myself come up with before. The guitar contributed a lot to the overall sound of the record.
EA: What are your upcoming plans for shows/touring as Slow Packer? And are you perhaps crafting another EP for release in the not-too-distant future?
JV: No big tour plans, but I have a full-band show coming up at The Mothlight on March 30. We’re opening up for this great band from Massachusetts — And The Kids. My plan for the next few months is to try create as much content as possible and be consistent about releasing it. I just started working on a new record that might be the first Slow Packer LP.
IF YOU GO
Who: And The Kids with The Restless Age and Slow Packer
When: Saturday, March 30, 9 p.m.
Where: The Mothlight, 701 Haywood Road, themothlight.com
Tickets: $10 advance/$12 day of show