Conversation with Gregory Jameswood (The Leontini Vernacular): Shoegaze and Philosophy

Gregory Jameswood of Nossiennes talks with Puddlegum about his solo project The Leontini Vernacular, shoegaze, guitar pedals, and his love for philosophy.
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Some artists prefer the quiet life where they have the space to dissect their thoughts. Gregory Jameswood of Bristol, UK is one of these creatives. His passion for guitar tones, pedals, and songwriting intertwines with his love for philosophy.

Jameswood is in an experimental shoegaze band, Nossiennes, releasing music through Brighton’s Shore Dive Records. He recently released a solo project called The Leontini Vernacular, also through Shore Drive. We had the opportunity to talk to him about The Leontini Vernacular lo-fi shoegaze EP, titled Anthropause. The conversation bled into his favorite guitar pedals, and his love for philosophy.

Recording Anthropause

Anthropause has six lo-fi shoegaze and psychedelic rock tracks. Gregory tracked two of these with Dom Mitchison at Humm Studios, who also recorded Nossiennes’ Vivere EP. Four additional tracks on the EP are demo songs that Gregory recorded and mixed. The EP artwork is by Mexico City artist Axel Mendicuti.

“I’ve been making bedroom demos for years,” Gregory shared. “I like the idea of doing my own demos and making them better and better. I’m quite close to producing my own stuff as I’d like to hear it.”

Coming into the studio with Dom took a different approach of writing in the studio with an engineer. “Having someone else like Dom to do it quickly in a studio is much less stressful.”

Pedals and effects

Gregory builds his songs around loops, as you can hear in Anthropause. This led to a discussion about pedals and effects. “It’s nice to build textured sounds with loops. With most of the interesting sounds, we used an Echo Dream 2 which was incredibly fun.”

He went on to talk about his favorite pedals. “The Belle Epoch is my fav at the moment as it’s responsive and chaotic. You can make some interesting sounds experimenting with inverting two knobs at the same time while going through a drum machine for example. But like the [Earthquaker] Afterneath it self-oscillates so can go to sonic extremes.”

You can hear these effects in the songs. Gregory builds several loops in a song, and adds layers of guitar with varying effects on top of the loops. One effect inspired by Scott Walker is, “a mixture of high notes on the guitar looped and reversed through the pitch shifter.” He also tracked the drums in the studio, giving his songs a motorik beat.

Gregory’s philosophical studies

Jameswood sees music creation as secondary to his study of philosophy. “Studying to write a book on nihilism,” he extrapolates. He then lists his favorite philosophers: Nietzsche, Schelling, Fichte, Heidegger, Nishitani, Socrates, and Schopenhauer.

His project’s name, The Leontini Vernacular, reflects his philosophy. “Lyrics are somewhere in between philosophical musings and political cultural observations.” Even the name is, “a reference to Gorgias the Greek philosopher who came from Leontini, and who said:

Nothing exists;
Even if something exists, nothing can be known about it; and
Even if something can be known about it, knowledge about it can’t be communicated to others.
Even if it can be communicated, it cannot be understood.”

Gorgias of Leontini, the Greek philosopher

“The idea of a vernacular is like saying maybe there is a way to understand it.”

Lyrics pulling from his philosophy

If you look closer at Gregory’s lyrics, they naturally draw from his deep reflections. “I tend to put references to philosophy in my lyrics.”

He writes about the lockdown in his song Anthropause, and our inability to have power over this virus.

“You say if we lockdown things will be all right
We heal the plight
They say I wont blink before I see the light
It’s our demise

Humanity / will never be / viral free / virus free”

The Leontini Vernacular – Anthropause (BandCamp)

Gregory then explained the lyrics, which follows his philosophical theorizing:

“The idea of an Anthropause means it’s time to recalibrate and stop making the same mistakes. Take in the serenity of nature and reducing noise. But the message was also that viruses and viral natures like YouTube and popularity, ie speed, will never stop, and lockdowns may try to slow things but life can’t shake off its vital spirit to move. Some sort of truth is found in looking at this tension where we acknowledge we are powerless over viruses and viral natures. We can still decide to follow information, or our own inner selves. But ultimately the futures not been written and we can decide.”

If you’re looking for an artist whose songs have deep underlying meanings to wrestle with, you’ll love The Leontini Vernacular. His lyrics read like condensed philosophy, and that’s intentional. Not surprisingly, his songs are like a canvas for him to take on difficult questions that impact us all. We need more artists like this. And for this reason, we’re looking forward to hearing more of his work, and reading his book.

The Leontini Vernacular links:

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Kevin Flick
Kevin Flick

Kevin Flick founded Puddlegum in 1997 and has been engaging in music journalism off and on since. He's also a recording/mixing engineer and loves to help bands work through the creative process. He has coproduced and mixed for artists such as Saeyers, Midi Memory, and Cathedral Bells.

Rumors are that he's a Brighton Hove & Albion FC fan. He's also obsessed with coffee. Kevin resides in the college community of Bloomington, Indiana, where he studied at Indiana University.

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