A Word By Itself Can Create A Visceral Reaction – A Q+A With Memory Front

Photo provided by artist

Memory Front are a duo that creates dramatic electro-rock suites that plumb the dark depths of human experience, be they personal or political. Jesse, the band’s vocalist/synthesizerist, was kind enough to answer a few questions for Bored In Pittsburgh. Check it out below:


Who/what is Memory Front? A tagline or catchphrase, if you will. 

This is a tough one! Art rock. I don’t write many typical verse/chorus songs. A lot of the songs are sequences of non repeating sections. I tend to embrace weird noises and ideas, so I think art rock makes the most sense. 

Cliche question out of the way early; who/what are some of your influences, musical or otherwise?

I think people are surprised when they learn this, because on the whole, Memory Front doesn’t sound like these bands. It’s more the case that I’ve latched on to a concept or two from a pretty wide range of artists. 

I’ve been influenced by a lot of artists. Nick Cave for musical textures and the dramatic dynamics. Handsome Furs is a synth/guitar/drum machine duo. That’s our format and they inspired me to pursue that approach. 

The album that influenced my approach the most was Aeroplane Over the Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel. The lyrics are odd and surrealist. The imagery is shocking and beautiful. The whole thing really strains the bounds of reality. I think hearing this album showed me how to write about messy and difficult ideas and that you can just let all the wild ideas you have rip.

Sometimes a word by itself can create a visceral reaction. When I find one of those words I write it down and come back to it when I’m writing a song. I think Aeroplane Over the Sea helped me see that.

How did you get your start in music? 

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I started playing music growing up, and generally got obsessed with music, when I first heard Nirvana. I couldn’t have articulated this at the time, but I think that was the first time I realized art could be weaponized. I was pretty much hooked after that. This is probably a cliched answer, but aside from Nirvana, I remember hearing Led Zeppelin and just trying to learn all those riffs. Those are probably the big ones. I dove into jazz really hard after that, and kind of moved away from rock for a long time. 

Your lyrics and music are so raw and dramatic; how would you describe your songwriting process?

All the songs start with lyrics before music. I need to have something specific to write about. I think that allows me to think through the meaning without feeling like I need to count syllables for a line or worry about where a rhyme should fall. I often don’t try to make lines rhyme, and just focus on the feelings and narratives. That’s probably where that comes from.

I love Spoon, and their songs often have a detached approach, but I need to tap into strong emotions to make songs. When I’m writing or performing the songs, I try to just take a moment to remember the intensity of the emotions before I dive in. I don’t think I’d be good at adopting that cold detachment, but maybe one day I could learn to approach the music from that angle.

I think I’ve always been attracted to hard jumps between intensity levels, which is probably dramatic and theatrical. Nirvana was a formative band for me, and they’re famous for their loud/soft dynamics.

Is there a track you’ve recorded that you’re especially proud of? If so, why?

We are recording a full length album now. A pair of songs on the album tell different parts of the same story. I’m quite proud of them as compositions because they’re really personal and because I leaned into telling stories from my life a little more bluntly. I had been wanting to write some pieces with fewer cryptic allusions for a while and the moment came with those songs. I think I often write lyrics that paint a scene more than tell a story, and it was nice to lean into a narrative approach.

The first song is called “Spitting Blood,” and I never imagined there would be a companion song when I wrote it. The second is still untitled because it was just written. In both of them there are long segments which are just my voice and some sparse piano chords. I think those moments are really effective because the rest of the album has a lot of maximalist tendencies. It’s kind of scary to have nearly unaccompanied vocals, and it was liberating to hear those played back after tracking. 

How (if at all) has the city of Pittsburgh impacted your music? 

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I moved to Pittsburgh years ago, before development was moving as quickly as it is now. The city was a lot more rough around the edges. I really liked that actually. I think there was something about such welcoming people living in a gritty environment. I’m not sure I can point to one particular idea, but I think, or maybe hope, that influenced the narratives and characters in the songs. 

Are there any Pittsburgh artists that you’ve been listening to lately? 

There’s so much talent in Pittsburgh, and it’s really great to just go to a show and check out what everyone is doing. I recently caught Some Faith, which was cool. Hemlock For Socrates and Action Camp both put out albums not too long ago, and I enjoyed those. We’ve played with those bands, but it’s fun to watch as an audience member.  

Is there anything that I forgot to ask or that you’d like to let people know about you, your music, or anything in general?

These are all great questions. I guess I’d just add that it’s really amazing to share the music with people. Anytime someone comes out to a show or listens to the songs I feel honored beyond words. We are recording an album now and I hope people will check it out when it’s released and come hear it live. 


Many thanks to Jesse for taking the time to answer these questions! Make sure to check out Memory Front on Bandcamp and follow on Instagram and Facebook.


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