Artist Spotlight: Justine Bowe
By Anna Seeman
Tufts senior Justine Bowe sat down with the Tufts Observer to talk about her latest musical project, Photocomfort, a combination of soothing vocals, haunting lyrics, and catchy instrumental rhythms that get you hooked. Bowe admits, “I only want people to want to listen. I don’t want to make people listen.”
So, tell me about Photocomfort. Do you classify it under any sort of genre?
I have a really hard time figuring out what genre it is. So, I kind of rely on the help of other people to tell me how to define it. So far, we’ve come up with atmospheric folk or something like that… But there are so many genres that it’s almost useless… It’s just what it is, I guess.
Where do you draw your musical influences?
I actually don’t listen to a lot of music. I haven’t listened to much new music in the past few years. It’s a lot of noise at once, when you’re writing your own songs, to listen to other people’s songs. But, I guess I listen to a lot of The National; they’re probably my favorite band. I also listen to a lot of Simon and Garfunkel, and Antony and the Johnsons. And then I also really like a lot of pop music. I love Rihanna; I think she has amazing songwriters. I’m a pretty big fan of Britney Spears… I’m not even talking about the ’90s, I think that she has the best songwriting team behind her, and that’s what I’m listening to.
Where do you find inspiration for lyrics?
The lyrics are a really important element. I kind of chalked [the concept of Photocomfort] up to: when something happens that I find upsetting or jolting—the place where we retreat to, our comfort zone, wherever that is inside of ourselves. Mine is very visual—it relies on images from my childhood or really comforting dreams that I’ve had. So, all of the songs are about trying to get back to that place, and the process of rebuilding from there, lyrically, and musically.
So, do you produce it all yourself?
I do. I have a great friend [Mike Moschetto]… He recently started a recording studio after he graduated from Emerson. So he and I record all our things there. Sometimes if I’m really stuck on something he’ll provide me with a couple of options for a sound for something and then I’ll pick it, but we do work very much together.
How would you describe the production and recording process?
First, I write a song. Writing is different for everybody, but for me I usually start with a melody—it’s all mental until I sit down and work it out at the piano. Then, I usually go into the studio with a demo, which I’ll have recorded on my computer. At that point, I’ll enlist the help of some of my friends. Sometimes I have the music written down, other times I’ll play them something on the piano and ask, “Can you please play this on your instrument?” And then, drums go first, then bass, then guitar, then everything else. The process can take a really long time, especially for vocals for me, because I want every line to be perfect. I’m totally a perfectionist when it comes to this. So after I have a CD of things like that, I bring them down to a professional audio engineer. He goes and does a bunch of mixing stuff in the process, and then you get it mastered, and that’s how you get a CD!
Download Photocomfort for free on Bandcamp.