Rob Jost – Low End Theory
Bassist Rob Jost makes less much more. Brooklyn-based bassist/singer/multi-instrumentalist Rob Jost was that obnoxious guy on his cell phone outside a bookstore in Portland, Oregon. He’s currently on a national tour with Imogen Heap and Kid Beyond.
It seems like Imogen has plenty of sounds in her laptop. What is your role on this tour?
She gave me a copy of her CD [Speak For Yourself] and said, “Well, this is it” until I change my mind! Mostly, she wants people to be themselves, so I listened to the album about thirty times and showed up knowing the material. I’ve been playing bass and french horn, adding whatever I can to support her songs, and the rest of the band is pretty wonderful.
Save for a spot by Jeff Beck and a few horn solos, Imogen performed and recorded most of Speak For Yourself on her own. It reminds me of your solo album.
Well, the sounds are different, but I do feel a kinship with her as far as the working process goes. For my album [Everything Changes], what worked best for me was to let the music come out in my most free time after a long night of playing or time away from home. It’s rarely a conscious decision, but just a commitment to let those things come naturally. At times I felt like an old man working his garden… you know, it’s work you do.
Do your songs start from the bass or from vocals?
It depends. The first song on the album came from a melody. Me and Michelle [Casillas] decided to do some recording at home and worked it through for a while without any vocals, but I figured it wasn’t ready and we sat in checkmate for a long time. Then I got a call from my dad, and as soon as the conversation was over I felt this overwhelming sense of gratitude toward him. The words came afterwards, and that became “Wide Eyebrow” my tribute to him. It made me realize that good sounds could really come out of my bedroom!
Speaking of Michelle, it seems like you two plus [drummer] Rob DiPietro are always recycled into the same bands. Are you under contract or just friends?
Michelle and Rob are like my musical family, and naturally they’re both on my album. Michelle’s band [Ursa Minor] just made sense immediately, and in some ways we’ve gone through tough periods where we doubted ourselves in trying to get back to that original feeling. But we’ve developed the kind of balance that enables us not to be too hard on each other to trust and lean on each other instead. Ursa Minor is like all relationships in that, even though it’s difficult, you can stick it out and turn it into something beautiful. I play bass for [Rob] DP’s band [Roda Viva] too, and his thing is equally amazing.
Does being a singer songwriter change the way you give as an instrumentalist?
I definitely pay more attention to the words and how bandleaders use their body language on stage. For me, singing is a muscle I need to exercise more often. I opened up a set for Imogen at a big venue in Dallas and it felt a little like that scene at the end of a Mork and Mindy episode when he’s talking to the black screen pretty vulnerable, but still a thrill. So you’re not tired of standing in the back, tethered to an amp? Oh no ”the bass is really my favorite. I know I’m doing the wrong thing if while I’m playing the bass I can’t hear everyone else in the band too. It’s the art of listening. I guess I’m not really trying to play the bass well; I’m just trying to make everyone else sound good.
First published in movmnt magazine issue 3