Having already established himself with a wealth of glittering releases over the last few years, Oxford-based singer and songwriter Jon Sandman has now returned with his soaring new effort 'Dear Friends'.
Originally written back in 2017 when he started growing apart from some of his closest friends from university, 'Dear Friends' acts a love letter to lost friendship and kindred spirits. With its bold and euphoric textures, matching his passionate vocal style, his newest release makes for a wonderfully rich and vivid listen throughout.
So with the new single available now, we sat down with him to find out more about his background and what has been inspiring him most lately.
What was the first band or artist you fell in love with?
Hard to choose. Sufjan Stevens, Grizzly Bear or Bombay Bicycle Club?
When I listened to each of ‘Illinois’, ‘Veckatimest’, ‘A Different Kind of Fix’, I remember being obsessed - back in the days when it was normal to listen to a whole album, and when I was first developing my own music taste. These were definitely formative albums for me, and I’ve listened to them a lot.
‘Illinois’ in particular is a masterpiece, in terms of both theme and sound. I love the fact that Sufjan Stevens set this course to make an album for every state - obviously we ended up missing 48 states - but ‘Illinois’ is such an accomplishment that it doesn’t even matter. It’s amazing how it expresses a place that I’ve never even been to. It’s beautiful. I also just love the really weird song titles - totally captured my imagination.
Did you ever form a band when you were younger and if so, what did they sound like?
I didn’t really start writing music until I was 16/17, and I’ll be honest - it was mostly to impress a girl that I’d met. I played trumpet and piano from an early age, and was involved in the local music centre.
I didn’t form any bands until after university - myself and my best friend Chris formed ‘Pylon Heights’ the summer after I left Southampton - although I did release an early version of my ‘Plans’ EP on SoundCloud, before I later mixed/mastered it properly and released it on Spotify in 2020.
Myself and my friend Tom did write a couple of “comedy” songs back in Sixth Form, as the ‘Keytones’ - we had two songs: ‘Don’t You Mess with a Physicist’ and ‘The Chemistry Rap’. We enlisted our teachers to perform it live in front of the school. We were clearly very bored.
What has been your primary inspiration in writing music?
It’s an outlet, I suppose. I sometimes find it hard to express myself, but with music it somehow feels easier. I also get a huge kick when someone listens to my music and connects to it in any way.
In terms of themes: heartbreak, depression, addiction - pretty much anything introspective and sad is good fuel for me. I guess I find sad things more inspiring than happy things.
However, I’ve written a lot of music since my ‘Plans’ EP that are much more upbeat, but under-the-hood many of them still tend to deal with dark themes. I like to take sad things and wrap them up in all kinds of different clothes.
I usually write lyrics with ‘flow’ and ‘symmetry’ in mind. For example, I’ll often write a verse, and write a second verse that could be the opposite side of the same coin. I love words that sound similar to each other.
I also have a thing for wordplay and dual-meanings, so you’ll find that comes out in my lyrics a lot. For example, in my next single ‘Maybe’ coming 29th March: “This electricity leaves me guilty as charged.” Little things like that. Makes me feel like I’m being clever. You get the idea!
What is a song you wish you had written yourself?
‘Orpheus’ by David Sylvan.
I first listened to it last year.. It’s enchanting - in terms of the lyrics, the instrumentation, and the vocal delivery. It really takes me to a different place. I can’t stop listening to it.
If there was any moment in your career you could relive, what would it be?
Don’t think I’ve had any real “career moments” yet. I’m too fresh. I really miss conducting a choir, though. This was a great experience at university. I’d love to do that again.
Which artist would you most love to share a stage with?
The Naked and the Famous. Because they’re Famous. And being Naked is the natural state.
And is there an artist you would love to collaborate with as well?
Father John Misty or John Grant. I think we’d write some very funny lyrics about some really dark shit.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I have my own studio space. I spend every day doing creative things, and working with other creative people.
Outwardly, I have a trendy and super minimalistic L.A.-esque studio flat setup, with nothing but a couple of houseplants, a laptop, some buttons to press, and lots of natural light. Hardwood floors. Maybe a rug.
However, I secretly have another room that’s full to the brim with synthesisers and outboard hardware, weird percussion instruments, RGB lighting, and a metric tonne of audio cables. It looks like the ‘real world’ from The Matrix.
Jon Sandman's new single 'Dear Friends' is available to stream now. Check it out below.