I spoke with the talented and uniquely charming singer of The Constellations, Elijah Jones. Even if you think you are not familiar with The Constellations, trust me you are. Their music has been featured in an endless number of television shows, films, and video games. If you watch House, Suits, Vampire Diaries, Royal Pains, and Chuck, you have definietly heard their music. Their song “Perfect Day” was pretty much played in its entirety in the hilarious film, Horrible Bosses. The Constellations music will be featured in the new Hugh Jackman and Jennifer Garner film, Butter. It was such a pleasure to speak with Elijah and get the inside scoop on his new album, the tour, video shoots, and so much more. The Constellations are an all-around fantastic band that really demand your immediate attention, so check them out now. Their new album, Do it for Free, comes out on June 12. They will be doing the entire Vans Warped Tour this summer (June 16 – August 5) so go and see them live. I think The Constellations will be the one band that finally gets me to attend Warped Tour, so that should tell you how amazing they are.
Lena: I’m addicted to your Southern Gothic album. It’s one of those CDs that you get that is fantastic from start to finish. That’s very rare.
Elijah Jones: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Lena: “December” is one of my favorite songs. Your voice has a very sexy David Bowie edge to it in that song. I loved the production that went into it and the harpsichord, at least I think it was a harpsichord.
Elijah Jones: Yeah, it was a harpsichord that we layered with a filter.
Lena: The arrangement was beautiful.
Elijah Jones: Thank you. When I wrote that it was in a half time version of that and we sped it up and slowed down the vocals. It was a strange way to approach a song but I think it worked.
Lena: It definitely did. You guys remind me of Beck.
Elijah Jones: Oh, thank you. He’s definitely an influence. That guy can do whatever he wants.
Lena: Yes, he can make anything work.
Elijah Jones: That must be nice.
Lena: It’s great that you got to work with Cee Lo and Kate Micucci (“Love is a Murder” video).
Elijah Jones: She was great. She’s awesome and a super nice woman. Cee Lo is absolutely one of my influences, growing up in Atlanta. It was definitely an honor to work with him.
Lena: Are you going to work with him in the future?
Elijah Jones: I don’t know. He’s a busy guy. He’s about to put out a new Goodie Mob record, he’s doing The Voice, and I think he’s working on a solo record as well, but I’m not real sure. I haven’t been in touch with him for a little bit. Every once in a while he’ll shoot me a text but he’s busy.
Lena: He should get you guys to perform on The Voice.
Elijah Jones: I know, right (laughing). That would be nice.
Lena: Your video for “Perfect Day” is fantastic, too. You look like you are a barrel of fun to hang out with.
Elijah Jones: That was a fun video shoot, definitely. I think that was a very visual representation of the first record, definitely. It was a party and we just filmed the party.
Lena: Ah, so naked people normally walk around at your parties (laughing)?
Elijah Jones: It gets like that sometimes (laughing). It definitely gets like that.
Lena: I don’t know, after watching that video, who doesn’t want to bathe in balloons?
Elijah Jones: Yeah, absolutely (laughing).
Lena: Your sound is very 70s and not over-processed and Auto-Tuned, and all that other stuff that they throw in there today. Your sound is very organic.
Elijah Jones: Well, thank you. We definitely try to stay away from the Auto-Tune stuff. I don’t know, I think that the imperfections that you capture by not using some of the technology that is out there today, the imperfections, I think, are what adds to the personality to the music. Some of my favorite artists are not necessarily traditional singers like Tom Waits and Bob Dylan, but they have character in their voices. The imperfections tell the story a little bit better; they have more personality.
Lena: I definitely agree. Have you heard Jack White’s solo album, Blunderbuss? It’s really good.
Elijah Jones: I haven’t, I will have to check it out. I love his contribution to music right now. He’s pumping out vinyl like nobodies business and I think his approach to the record industry is really needed.
Lena: Definitely, everything today is so over-produced it’s crazy. That’s why I barely cover bands anymore and will only cover bands that I really like. I don’t want to talk to a bunch of bands that just go into the studio and reproduce the same thing over and over again. It’s boring for me and probably for them.
Elijah Jones: Yeah, I definitely agree with that. I think there is a lot of pressure, we are doing this new record and there was a lot of pressure to kind of recreate some of the success that we had on the new record and I think that kind of forced me into really, not turning my back, but definitely I made sure that I did everything that I could to try to tell the story and blend some of the same sounds that we used without reproducing what we have already done. I think we were pretty successful doing that. The new record is a lot more soul inspired and there are a lot more songs that kind of strayed away from the spoken word and hip-hop. We definitely still have some hip-hop elements in it.
Lena: I’m not a hip-hop fan but you do it right.
Elijah Jones: Thank you. Hip-hop to me is important because it was a new form of music that was created basically from poverty and the streets. That’s where blues came from and that’s where jazz came from. All true American music comes from just a reinterpretation of what music can be, especially American music. Hip-hop is definitely one of those forms that came about around the same time that punk rock came out. I think it’s the other side of the story of poverty, the streets, and the state of America. I think that’s why it’s so important and worth checking out. It’s not for everybody though, so I understand.
Lena: Actually, I do like the old school stuff like Run-DMC.
Elijah Jones: That’s definitely what I was thinking about.
Lena: The new stuff is what I can’t get into. (I do like Eminem.)
Elijah Jones: Everything gets corrupted when someone starts making money. There are still artists out there doing the real thing but they are hard to find. I definitely agree with you. I think the early 90s and the mid 90s were my favorite time for hip-hop. Hopefully, we are going to push forward and maybe more good stuff will come out sometime soon when people get tired of the old shit.
Lena: What I was saying about your sound and why I love it is because you’re a bit dangerous, but the right kind of danger, a very creative and inspiring danger.
Elijah Jones: I definitely write a lot about darker themes like drug use, dead hookers, and stuff like that. I just feel like it’s more interesting and not something that people like to talk about in pop music. Pop music is usually about love and lost love and stuff like that which is still definitely a relevant human emotion but I think some of the darker stuff, if you can apply that to the pop music, I think it’s an interesting combination.
Lena: What can your fans expect from your new album that’s going to be released in June?
Elijah Jones: It’s definitely going to be a more soulful approach. I’ve been listening to a lot of soul music on the road and it has definitely inspired me to incorporate that into the new record. It still has some of that hip-hop element. It still has some of the party element and I definitely made a political statement just because the state of our country right now and I think it would have been impossible for me not to. “Do it for Free” and “Let’s Get Paid” relate to the little guy getting trampled on. Do it for Free is the name of the record and is one of the songs on the record and it’s basically about how, as a musician, you are the last person to see your piece of the pie, which ends up basically being the crumbs (laughing). You’re doing it because you love it. You’re doing it because you love what you do and that’s the reward. “Let’s Get Paid” is on the other end of it and taking on a character, like a Wall Street scumbag, and the idea is me as the character I don’t care about, who I trample on. It’s all about money and that kind of thing, definitely a satirical approach to a pop song (laughing). A lot of people are going to get confused by that, that I’m actually saying these things (laughing). We have songs that are true stories about being on the road like “Back in Atlanta.” It’s about how much of the world that we have toured and being away from your friends and family. It’s about breaking down on the side of the road and then they joy of arriving back in Atlanta and seeing the skyline shining. Plus just having the blessing to have a home to come back to. “All My Great Escapes” is a true story about me getting arrested in Philadelphia for no reason, which falls under a political statement talking about how much power that someone can have over you if they wear a badge; it’s their word against yours. There are definitely some straight soul songs. “Right Where I Belong” is almost like a love song about where I grew up and how much I appreciated it but it definitely lends to Al Green and that kind of 70s soul music. I think some of the stuff that went into the last record like “April” is the new “Felicia.” It’s about a young girl that finds herself out on the streets trading her body for money, gets involved with drugs, and stuff like that and ends up losing her life, but it’s actually a happy song with a melancholy sense about it. “Black Cat” is about getting lost on the wrong side of the tracks and stuff like that. It’s all kind of some of the similar themes from the last record.
Lena: Do you have any special guest star singers on it?
Elijah Jones: No, no guest appearances but we had a couple of backup singers do some stuff that really lent itself well to the record. One of them is Macy Gray’s backup singer and they are just really exciting to have, some true soul singers backing us up on the record. No Cee Los or Asher Roths.
Lena: Do you have a song and a video idea picked out for your first single?
Elijah Jones: No, we have a video for a song called “Side By Side.” It’s kind of our first ballad, which I’m really happy to be putting out. I don’t know if it is going to be our first single but it is definitely an emotional song. I’m curious to see if that will be accepted or not but I don’t care, I think it’s a great tune.
Lena: I love your past photo shoots so I’m looking forward to seeing what you are going to do on the new album.
Elijah Jones: We just got done doing one, which is going to be some interesting stuff. We had a couple of girls come through and I got kind of naughty with one, it was fun (laughing).
Lena: I cover a lot of television and I noticed that your music has been featured in pretty much every show like Suits, House, Royal Pains, Chuck, Vampire Diaries, and also that movie, Horrible Bosses.
Elijah Jones: We are going to be in another movie, Butter, with Jennifer Garner and Hugh Jackman. The movie is about butter sculptures or something like that.
Lena: Oh yeah, I saw a preview for that film.
Elijah Jones: We are going to be in that and we will probably see a lot more of that with the new record because it’s more cinematic. We will probably do more stuff like that, television and movies. It is kind of the way that a lot of fans hear new music these days because not a lot of people watch videos.
Lena: Definitely, that has to be great for a band to be featured in hit shows (and films) like that.
Elijah Jones: Absolutely and we get a lot of press from that. I think when I was growing up that was seen as selling out but now it’s almost like that doesn’t exist anymore. It lends to discovering people’s artwork. It’s more of a collaboration now more than anything.
Lena: It’s become pretty much an industry standard that you have to do that.
Elijah Jones: Yeah, I would say so but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing though. It has definitely been good for us.
Lena: It also opens your music up to a whole new legion of fans.
Elijah Jones: Absolutely.
Lena: I loved it in Horrible Bosses. That film was Jennifer Aniston’s best work since Leprechaun.
Elijah Jones: I think so and I’m a huge fan of Charlie Day. He was amazing and Jason Bateman was great.
Lena: That movie was fantastic.
Elijah Jones: We were blessed to land that one. They played almost the entire song (“Perfect Day”) in a pinnacle part of the movie. I remember watching the movie and thinking are they still playing that song, that’s awesome.
Lena: I know that your music has been featured in a lot of shows so I looked you up to see if you were acting in any shows and your name actually comes up and says that you were in Sweatin’ to the Oldies 2 & 3 as Richard Simmons assistant.
Elijah Jones: (Laughing) That’s not true at all, but that is funny.
Lena: I know it’s someone else (with the same name) but I thought it was funny.
Elijah Jones: No, I’ve never done that (laughing). I don’t know where that comes from but it’s a joke on me.
Lena: Yes, but you could pull off the short shorts, leg warmers, and headband.
Elijah Jones: (Laughing) “I’m a pony. I’m a pony.” I have done some acting though when I was younger. I did some acting and a little bit of directing and theater. I definitely apply some of that stuff in what I do on stage, as far as taking on different characters and stuff like that, kind of having a vaudeville approach to some of the characters. I love acting and I would definitely love to do more of it.
Lena: Your behind the scenes YouTube videos kill me. I love the one where you are smoking through your nose. Do you still do that?
Elijah Jones: (Laughing) That was a necessity, I had just gotten my teeth whitened for a video shoot and they were telling me that I couldn’t smoke cigarettes for about a week or something like that, which lasted maybe a day. Yeah, smoking cigarettes through my nose, that’s retarded.
Lena: Well you shouldn’t be smoking. Do I have to give you the lecture (laughing)? (Yes, I went all mom on him because I care.)
Elijah Jones: I absolutely shouldn’t be.
Lena: Wait, you are doing it right now (laughing). (This is the first time I could really hear that he was smoking during our interview.)
Elijah Jones: I am absolutely doing it right now. I am chain smoking all the time. I blame it on the coffee because I drank three cups of coffee this morning so…
Lena: Coffee isn’t that bad but the smoking…
Elijah Jones: That’s probably the least of my problems right now (laughing).
Lena: There has to be another power eating challenge video with Wes. (Look it up on YouTube. Wes power eats a huge burger right before he has to go onstage.)
Elijah Jones: We will do something. I don’t know if it will be another eating challenge because I think he’s on a diet right now.
Lena: It made me laugh and there had to be a chapter two to that burger challenge like when things took a scary turn for Wes onstage. I can’t believe that he ate all that and went onstage an hour later. He had to have gotten sick. I don’t know how you guys do it.
Elijah Jones: We’ll have to do a vegetarian challenge because I’m a vegetarian now.
Lena: That must be hard to keep up on the road?
Elijah Jones: It is pretty difficult. I eat a lot of Subway and a lot of Taco Bell, which definitely doesn’t help me onstage (laughing).
Lena: Oh (Taco Bell) yeah I know, every band has a – “Remember when I shit my pants onstage story.” (Laughing)
Elijah Jones: (Laughing) I have more of a throwing up onstage story.
Lena: I swear, every band has one of those stories and they always insist on sharing them with me…okay…sure…(laughing). (Band members love to embarrass each other and I have a sick sense of humor so I honestly don’t mind. I guess it keeps things interesting.)
Elijah Jones: No, I don’t talk about those things, just unicorns and rainbows that’s it (laughing).
Lena: You guys are going to be doing the Vans Warped Tour this year.
Elijah Jones: Yeah, 41 dates, I’m looking forward to it definitely. We are also doing a remix thing for that. We have “Back in Atlanta” up on indabamusic.com for folks to remix. It’s an opportunity for fans to take a song of ours and remix it and folks can vote on it and if they win they get $500 and they get to come and hang out with us on Warped Tour. That will be a fun little thing. (Contest ends on May 23.)
Lena: The Warped Tour is going to be hot. I hope your bus has air conditioning. I want to see you guys live but I’m a shade above albino so hanging out in the sun all day… (I think this year I’m not going to be a princess about the sun and I’m going to go to Warped Tour and see The Constellations. This band is going to make me bust out my 100+ SPF sunblock.)
Elijah Jones: I hear you, I’m not much of a suntan guy and I don’t like to get up before 3 but it will be fun.
Lena: What is your set list going to consist of? Are you going to be doing to be mixing in some new and old material? How long is your set?
Elijah Jones: I think we are going to do a lot of the new stuff. We are definitely going to play a couple of the older songs and stuff like that. I’m just really excited about playing the newer songs but we will do a good mix. I think about a half an hour or whatever is standard.
Lena: We talked about your old album, your upcoming album, your tour, so what else do you have coming up that you would like to talk about?
Elijah Jones: We also have an EP that we released with a few new songs and then “Love is a Murder” with a video. It has a song produced by Andy Rose, a couple of songs produced by Ben Allen, and a song that we produced. It’s a nice little taste of what’s to come.
Lena: That’s right, you are working with a new producer on your new album.
Elijah Jones: Yes, Andy Rose and he is absolutely amazing and a wonderful person. He’s definitely a great producer and it was a new approach to what we usually do. It was a whole lot of fun. We did the record out in Santa Monica. It was a great environment to do a record. June 12th, our new record with new music.
Lena: Andy Rose was a film composer, right?
Elijah Jones: Yes he was. I think that definitely added to what we do. It’s a very cinematic kind of record and everything had to have a story and a feeling behind it. He’s absolutely amazing.
Elijah Jones Interview
New Album – Do It For Free – Available June 12 on 429 Records
May 17, 2012
By Lena Lamoray