If Jake Reeves’ clients had to occasionally wait a bit longer to see their attorney(which, he is quick to point out, none of them ever complained about!), that’s a small price for them to have paid to help him create music as his alter ego Silver People. “Once the day’s primary lawyering was done,” he says, “I would close my office door and just get onto YouTube, taking these deep dives on all these amazing free tutorials that are out there,” he says of that period, as he started dabbling in music production on the side of his full-time job as a lawyer.
A few years down the road, what began with that simple research has now come to full fruition in the wondrous album Gnome Country. Part singer-songwriter exploration, part production wizardry, and every bit an homage to a somewhat-forgotten era of music, the album is striking in such a way that you’ll wonder how all those disparate sounds came out of what was largely a one-man operation by the Atlanta-based musician.
“I started doing a little bit of that production stuff and started recording and got an idea to make a humble, acid-folk record,” Reeves explains of his inspiration for Gnome Country. “Also, I’m a big sci-fi fantasy nerd. I thought it would be really fun to do an album that had those touches, in a tongue-in-cheek way. There was this period from about 1969 through 1972 when all of these British musicians discovered and became fascinated with The Lord of the Rings. I wanted to do something with that influence, kind of an otherworldly, mystical kind of thing.”
“That was the original concept. As I got into it, I was learning how to produce, trying to make the stuff as professional as I could. And I was also mixing it as I went, trying to focus on the songcraft without becoming too overwrought.”
The music drives the bus on this album, as instrumentals like “Dosed” and “And The Clocks Were Striking Thirteen” feature a heady mélange of Eastern-tinged guitars, spy movie keyboards and swaggering rhythm sections that keep the music eternally groovy. Closing track “Gnome Country For Old Men” sounds like the processional music for some very cool yet dangerous Middle Earth regent.
At times, Reeves considered adding lyrics to those instrumentals, but ultimately liked them the way they were. “I thought it would be challenging,” he says of the decision. “I know people love lyrics and I know that’s how some people connect to the music emotionally. I didn’t want to have that. I wanted to challenge myself and the listener. It’s like there’s no added sugar.”
What words there are on the album, found on enchantingly retro folk tunes like “Fiddler’s Bill” and “Sons Of Avalon (The Wind Was On The Weathered Heath),” hew to aphorisms that suggest that listeners (or, perhaps more likely, Reeves himself) keep the ego in check, live for today, and, as Reeves puts it, “Eschew petty bullshit and focus on what really matters.”
While you can hear the influences of trippy rock bands such as Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd and Pretty Things, as well as the echoes of early British folk heroes such as Nick Drake and Bert Jansch, Reeves’ innate originality keeps the music from sounding too indebted to any one source. “I didn’t want it to sound pastiche,” he explains. “I didn’t want it to be mimicry. I wanted it to be loving and influenced by those genres, but I didn’t want it to sound like a tribute band.”
Although Silver People is mostly Reeves playing the instruments and twiddling the knobs, he does get some help from his friends, most notably Nicole Chillemi providing ethereal vocals. She figures on two of the record’s three, out-of-left-field cover tracks: A desolate version of Jackson Frank’s “Milk & Honey” and the strangely compelling “Flower Of Love,” originally by Turkish musician Bariş Manço. A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it take on Twink Alder’s “Gandalf’s Garden,” which opens the album, rounds out the surprising selection of cover material on the album.
As eclectic as the album is, it could have been more so, if someone close to Reeves hadn’t intervened as he tried to include even more of his favorite sounds. Reeves says, “My wife Kimberly said, ‘You’re going to have a 30-song album that’s going to be unwieldy in all different places. I think you need to get back to where you started.’ I pared things down and decided to get back to the original idea.”
Considering the sci-fi leanings on the record, it’s fitting whom Jake Reeves credits for his overriding philosophy on letting these tracks live in all their unkempt glory. “George Lucas said, ‘Art is never completed, it’s abandoned,’” Reeves explains. “So a guiding principle was to not tinker with this thing and turn it into something hyper-produced or obsessively polished. It just wasn’t going to be one of those records.”