Ask a Local Musician: Ian Jacoby

Eric Koeppel, photos by Andrea Paulseth

Here's the next in a series of interviews we did with some of the Chippewa Valley’s longtime musicians regarding the local music scene, what they like about it, and what we fans can do to improve it. This week’s interview features Ian Jacoby, a vocalist/keyboardist for numerous Chippewa Valley bands, most notably Laarks. Enjoy and stay tuned for more to come …

Note: Ironically, after we did this interview late last year, "local musician   Ian Jacoby" moved to the west coast for school, performing in our area  on return visits.

What is your favorite thing about working as a musician in this area?
I love the amount of creativity and creative people that we have here. I think EC (and Menomonie and Chippewa) are all really lucky to have so many artists creating all the time. Not just in music, but in film, comedy, and visual art too. It's definitely one of our biggest strengths, culturally speaking.

What is your biggest frustration as a musician in this area (if you can, focus on one thing)?
I'm frustrated by the fact that people around here seem to want everything for free. People think shows should be free and they think albums should be free. I don't understand that philosophy. Making art is hard work; it costs bands money to play shows or record. It's disheartening when people say that they don't want to come out because there is a cover, and then you'll see them later at a bar that night. It wasn't always like that. I remember getting into Amateur Love shows as a kid, and having the place packed with people. I think Eau Claire will take an even bigger step forward when we can get back to that kind of a mentality. I don't think it is too much to ask.

I love doing all-ages shows because I was born and raised here, and I remember the feeling that the only good shows were 21+. I love seeing teens and younger college kids at our shows, because those are the people that are going to inspire and change things in the area. If they are inspired, those types of people can do anything.

What is the best experience you have had performing at a local venue?
We've had tons of good experiences at almost every local venue we've played at. One of my favorite moments recently was doing a really fun all-ages show with Laarks and the Memorial Improv team. I love doing all-ages shows because I was born and raised here, and I remember the feeling that the only good shows were 21+. I love seeing teens and younger college kids at our shows, because those are the people that are going to inspire and change things in the area. If they are inspired, those types of people can do anything.

How about the worst experience you have had performing at a local venue?
Once I was in a ska band in high school that played a walkathon at 8:30 in the morning. Does that count?   (Interviewer note: Yes, yes it does)

What do you find challenging about selling CDs in this area?
I think people have a hard time selling CDs everywhere, which is why our record label stopped pressing new albums and why there aren't too many record stores out there anymore. People like digital. I think we all have to get creative about how to make our projects unique. We had the idea with Laarks that if you download our new album (Fiat Lux), then you also receive a pdf with artwork, lyrics, liner notes, and an explanation of the concept behind the album. A lot of bands do stuff like that these days.

If you have performed in other areas, what do you feel sets the Chippewa Valley apart from other music scenes (good or bad)?
I love playing here. Sometimes we get bigger crowds in the twin cities, but I have to say that Chippewa Valley audiences are always engaged. There is always good energy here and I'm proud to bring out of town bands to Eau Claire and say, "See? This is what's up here." They are always impressed and surprised. I like being able to be proud of my hometown. We've had some really good shows on tour, but I think I'll always like playing here best.

Is it possible to have a successful tour in Western Wisconsin or do you feel that you have to go outside the area for a good tour?
You have to define what "success" means. Does it mean a bigger audience? Making money? I think you can definitely have successful tours throughout the Midwest. A lot of bands do that, I'm pretty sure that was Daredevil's plan for a long time. It's nice to have a home base or network to be able to branch out from. I think you can definitely have success here, but as with anything, the trick is to not have any sort of expectation of where you "should" be. That is toxic thinking and can make you resentful in a hurry.

Don't feel like anyone "owes"  you anything. Be gracious and giving and above all be honest. Respect the craft of songwriting and performing and work hard. Practice more than you think you should.

What advice would you like to give to local concertgoers?
Concertgoers: Keep going to shows! Keep supporting music! Get involved. Don't be afraid to talk to people and don't assume that just because you want to help (promote, play music, make art, whatever) that people know you want to help. Connect and be active. Like I said, I'm really proud of our city and a huge part of that are the concertgoers. Also, buy more merch. Especially lots of Laarks shirts. We have many strange sizes of t-shirts left over that really need to go.

What advice would you like to give to local musicians?
Don't compare yourself to anyone else. Don't feel like anyone "owes"  you anything. Be gracious and giving and above all be honest. Respect the craft of songwriting and performing and work hard. Practice more than you think you should, and any sort of respect or accolades or success will find you. Like I said, preconceived notions are your enemy. Also, I feel like we need more synth bands, so you know, get on that you guys.

What are your favorite local bands or musicians to see live?
Oh boy. I like a lot of local music. Daredevil will always be my favorite. We grew up with those guys both musically and in real life. I am a huge fan and respect Jon so much as a songwriter. I think The Frenettes and Adro are both doing interesting things, and I really enjoy the weird sounds that Ben Hinz makes in his various projects. I am excited whenever I see new bands, because you know those kids are always hungry and trying to find their own niche. It takes a lot of guts to say, "here's who I am" on a stage, so really unless it is awful or scary music, I'll probably have something good to take away from it. Oh, I do HAVE to mention SloSlyLove, a project by Feng Meng Vue. He's a really smart guy and it's music that hasn't stopped playing on my iPod for the last month.