Andy C. Jenkins
Words: Sam Wittwer
Images: Meredith Jenks
May 22 2016
Hometown: Norfolk, Virginia
Current Location: Richmond, Virginia
How do you take your coffee? Black
What’s your Sunday Ritual? Drinking my coffee, Black.
I’ve asked musician Andy C. Jenkins to chat about his recent single, upcoming tour and the mystical nature of songwriting over lunch. This, as it turns out, is a bit of a miscalculation on my part. Motivated by seemingly constant hunger for pickle spears and thinly sliced meats, I ask him to meet me at a favorite local deli for sandwiches. I realize my mistake as I watch Andy thoughtfully respond to each of my questions, while still holding half of his roasted turkey sub gently aloft, untouched. On the other side of the small Corian two-top, with my prepared questions and ravenous hunger, have finished my sub in record time.
I pause, apologize, and promise to ask questions a bit more slowly to allow time for a properly sized bite of roasted turkey. He laughs it off, “It’s ok, I’m still trying to figure out how to talk about my songs” he admits in our small moment of solidarity. Until recently, Andy has been the sort of behind the scenes musician that doesn’t have to do interviews in support of the music he creates. That role largely befell his good friend and longtime collaborator, Matthew E. White. Andy co-wrote many of the songs on Matthew’s 2012 record Big Inner, a surprise smash that allowed Andy to shamelessly refer to himself as a songwriter when introducing himself. “It’s just one of those careers, writing is, that everyone thinks is kind of weirdly mystical. When really it’s just about sitting down to write.” He sighs before recounting the tale of a gig where a musician out in Los Angeles who invited him to the desert to camp and write songs together, “ok, it is mildly mystical.”
Andy got his start in songwriting by accident, specifically an accident from his youth in which he broke his back and was banned from excessive activity (namely – sports) for weeks on end. It started with a sentimental piece for Valentine’s day that referenced Charlie Brown with the kind of sweet sincerity that adolescence affords. It was around this time that Andy joined forces with Matt White, another Virginia native, to form The Great White Jenkins. The rollicking folk pop band saw enough success to garner a national tour – or at least enough to justify hopping in a friend’s van and booking gigs around the country via MySpace and cold calls.
The rising tide of Matthew E. White’s success lifted many boats in the Richmond music scene, and not least of which the boat helmed by Andy. Yet in with his thinly striped cuban shirt and mop of sunny blonde hair, Andy looks to be much more at home on a sandy beach than at the wheel of a ship. Looking like he just stepped off stage with some scrappy mid-century surf rock band is actually perfectly appropriate attire considering his newest single, Lazy Coast. The thumping reverb of an electric guitar opens a song that is the aural equivalent of driving down the coast on a sunny day watching a slow, distant fog roll in. This is driving music, pop with a tinge of melancholy. It’s an intentionally feel-good track with a few lyrically dark edges, “There are so many quotes about interesting songs always being about love and death, I wasn’t trying to fight that.” Andy cites a range of musicians, but each sharing a variation on this feel-good-through-the-difficulty vibe that is a cornerstone of great pop – Kevin Ayers, John Prine, Haruomi Hosono.
In a few days, Andy will be off to Nashville before meeting up with Fruit Bats in Iowa to support them on a series of dates for their newest record, Absolute Loser. It’s a notably land-locked stretch of midwestern gigs for Andy’s soft surf sound. The recent release of worst-case-scenario tour Green Room from fellow Virginian Jeremy Saulnier comes into the conversation. We both agree that it would be safest for Andy to try his best to avoid violent neo-nazi punks, knock on wood (or, in our case, Corian.)