Indie 101: Jeff Klein

When Marc featured the title track off of The Hustler album by Jeff Klein on Episode 17 of the show, I think I asked him to replay the song three times. After patiently listening to The Hustler on repeat for 15 minutes he said “Oh! And you have to watch this video! I think he should be a comedian.” We watched it, and for the first time in history, I agreed with Marc.

This is the video he showed me:

So, when I interviewed Jeff you can bet your britches that I needed an explanation for the significance behind “the monkey tapping on the window.” “Videos are what happens when you have too much time in a tour-bus or hotel room. There’s always your trusty MacBook to help you out. Its kind of funny, considering how serious my music can be, how much of a smartass I am. I think it’s just nature balancing things out. I’m as equally obsessed with Andy Kaufman and Woody Allen as I am with Nick Drake and Thurston Moore. Monkey Tapping On The Window is the first in a series of children’s songs I’ve guested on that my friend Ed Harcourt has recorded in our hotel room but its more a frame of mind than just a song. Also, it’s more for mentally disturbed adults than children, I suppose, but I don’t think that’ll help us when it comes down to marketing the thing. Parents have disposable money, asylum patients don’t,” said Jeff.

If you pay great attention to detail you probably noticed that Jeff was smoking a cigarette in that video. However, don’t assume that this means that Jeff wants to take a smoke break with you at a show. He has recently decided to quit! “Quitting smoking is the worst idea I’ve ever had. Well, one of the worst. I keep daydreaming about cigarettes like they were Tootsie Rolls in that old animated commercial. I’ve been a 2 pack a day smoker for most of my life. Added to the fact that I'm a super neurotic, addictive person. I spend half of my day sweating and pacing. I used to spend the other half smoking but now I spend it sucking on this nicotine inhaler. It’s been a week now, and everyone keeps asking me ‘but doesn't your body feel better already?’ The sad truth is my body feels like it’s best friend just died and is trying to figure out how to fill the void and move on. It’s quite the emotional and physical struggle. But I’m hanging in,” he said.

Speaking of Jeff being neurotic and addictive, when I asked him if he had any weird habits or obsessions he replied, “I don’t have enough time to answer this question. Everything I do is a form of weird habit. I never wear a pair of socks more than once. I wear them then throw them away, making way for a fresh pair. I’m also obsessed with smells. I secretly smell random things. Like pieces of paper, pens, my fingers, furniture, you name it and ill secretly try to smell it when nobody is watching. I’m also obsessed with thrift shops. My friend Shayla and I frequent about 4 thrift shops a day buying random junk when I’m not on the road. I’m a pack rat.”

Jeff has been writing and performing his own stuff in clubs since he was 15, and he was in musicals when he was 5 or 6 years old. When I asked if anyone in his family had a musical background he said “Not one bit. Though my brother Eric is a huge music fan. He just doesn’t play. No, wait, my little niece Lara started playing the piano. She's like 6 and has a Steinway baby grand piano that she plays Mary Had a Little Lamb on, I play piano for a living and don’t even own one, ha. Maybe someday she'll give up on it and I’ll inherit it. Lara, if you're reading this (can 6 year olds read yet?) Uncle Jeffrey needs a piano; why not switch over to ballet or something!”

Jeff Klein has been lucky enough to meet a lot of his heroes but said that if he could sit down for 5 minutes to pick Tom Waits’ brain that he would be in heaven. “Genius doesn't even begin to describe him. I feel like he would have the greatest insight and stories out of any other artist,” he said.

Jeff just finished up a tour with Gutter Twins, “Touring with the Gutter Twins has been fun. Everyone involved are some of my best friends. Not to mention the drummer Cully is also the drummer for my solo stuff. I helped co-write some stuff for the GT album and play guitar all over it, so it just seemed natural for me to be involved in the live representation. I also got to travel to Turkey, which was pretty amazing. Although after 93 days with no break, my brain was kind of fried,” said Jeff.

Jeff was also one of the musicians who played at Jupiter Records 25 bands in 25 hours event. “I honestly don’t even remember it. I may have been the 25th act in the 25th hour. Jupiter records was a cool little shop that I was truly bummed to see disappear. The 2 brothers that owned that store were pure music junkies and really had a vision to help raise awareness of local music. It’s sad how record stores are disappearing. The fact that my grandchildren will only know what record stores are through seeing them in old movies like High Fidelity is sad,” he explained.

Jeff’s future plans include doing more shows with Gutter Twins, and possibly headlining a tour with Ed Harcourt this summer. He also has an 18-track album coming out in January of 2009. “Its my favorite thing I’ve ever created so I’m very excited. It will be followed up with a bunch of touring I assume,” said Jeff.

Two fun facts:

1. Jeff’s favorite breakfast is bacon, egg and cheese breakfast tacos. “Anything involving bacon. Anybody that doesn't appreciate bacon is suspect. I would wear bacon cologne if they made it,” he revealed.

2. Ani Difranco does the female vocals on The Hustler album.

Here is a clip of Marc featuring The Hustler

“I wrote the song at about 3am while walking through The French Quarter of New Orleans. It’s basically about my beautifully twisted love affair with this city. I’ve made my last few records in New Orleans and sorta live there half the year. In fact that’s where I am right now,” Jeff said.

Jeff performing California off of the Everybody Loves a Winner album

You will love Jeff Klein if you love: Clem Snide, Ryan Adams, and Josh Ritter.

Jeff Klein at Myspace.

The Merry Andrews Show at Myspace.

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