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Jake Manders Dreams in Color on Acoustic Frequency

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Jake Manders | Patrick's Cabaret | Friday, March 6
"I have a lot of recurring dreams about Humboldt[, California]," Jake Manders says as he discusses the inspirations for his new album in the back corner of Spyhouse Coffee in Whittier. Extremely shy, Manders chooses his words carefully as he tried to articulate his thoughts about the record, Acoustic Frequency.

The album lives up to the title. Its immersive acoustic tracks are sometimes filled in with vibrations that encourage the listener to look beyond prosaic words and notes, and to connect to emotions much less tangible. While Jake lists Gregory Alan Isakov as a deep influence, his music runs parallels to Charlie Parr and Ben Weaver in its rawness.

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Since he hasn't received any physical albums yet, Manders slides a burned copy in a green sleeve with the tracks hand written on the back across the table. The album contains songs from when he began writing back in high school and found a kindred spirit in Eddie Vedder. Jake used to be engrossed in the grunge scene -- even going so far as to sign his classmates' yearbooks with a Pearl Jam drawing.

After high school, Mankato State University took two years of his life before he felt a calling to move out to California to try art school at Humboldt State. Manders was in for a surprise in what he found there. "I was really naive when I moved out there. All I knew was that it was in the mountains and on the ocean. I got out there, and there was this whole other culture to it. I didn't know it was known for the best pot in the world," he laughingly recalls.

"That was only a one-year deal, and I just took art classes," he says. "From there, I realized I wanted to be an artist. I played a lot of music out there, too. It's funny, because I remember I was really into the Smashing Pumpkins. There I was in 2000, and I'd go to parties and try to play grunge music, and people would be like, 'That stuff's not cool here. Don't you know any Phish or Dead?' I didn't fit in, but I tried."

After California, Jake returned to Mankato State to finish his art and teaching degree, leading him to his career as an art teacher at Park Center Senior High -- the same school where he began his music career by playing at pep rallies.

A phone call from the school interrupts the conversation. Jake pauses when it's jokingly brought up that there might have been a fire at the school. "Oh, wait," he says before he calls back. "What if it is one of the kilns?" It turns out to be a false alarm.

His students these days don't seem too impressed that their teacher is a musician by night, but that doesn't phase Manders. Although he isn't prolific at releasing new solo music, he is prolific at writing. The singer has hundreds of songs that he has recorded over 18 years. "About half of the album is really recent stuff, and the other half spans from when I first began writing to five years ago," he says. "I like to do that, because it's a transition for me. In my music, I relate a lot to visual artists. A lot of the work I make is layers upon layers upon layers. Some of them are love songs, some are about heartbreak -- it's a mixture of everything: slow songs, waltzes, instrumentals."

Many of his tracks touch on the subject of existentialism -- a subject that many musicians have pondered. "Teaching was my fallback career in case this music thing didn't work out," he shares. "When I was old enough to start going to shows, I went to see Soul Asylum. That's when everything changed for me, but I realized music wasn't a safe bet. I guess I was a coward. I didn't have the confidence back then. If my personality was different, I think I would have made a go of it. I was too shy and too scared. Now I'm finally confident in my craft and what I'm doing. I feel like it's taken me 18 years of playing to feel comfortable. It feels more natural than it ever has."

The road is calling to Jake, and he plans on touring this summer during the school break. Yet another place seems to be calling him back. "Those recurring dreams I have are always about Humboldt University," he says. "It's always the same dream, which is really weird. I'm driving, then walking around  the campus, but it's not the campus at the same time. There's a lot of redwoods and mountains, then you see the ocean. There's something about that place; it even has a different smell. I miss the smell -- it's like a flower or something. It's such an inspiring place for me. I guess my dreams are telling me to get my ass back out there."

Jake Manders will release Acoustic Frequency at Patrick's Cabaret on Friday, March 6, 2015 with Baaron (Ben Lubeck and Aaron Markson of Farewell Milwaukee) and DJ Dave Hoenack.
AA, $10, 7 pm
First 50 people will receive a free CD.

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