Home Studio Stories: Jodaki

This week on Home Studio Stories, I chatted with Joon Daniele Kim, the mind behind the Philadelphia-based project Jodaki. His 2020 album Awk Rock is a passionate emo noise rock album that tackles themes of identity and mental illness. It’s brimming with honesty and vulnerability, and I highly recommend it if you’re a fan of acts like Jeff Rosenstock, Cheekface, and Oceanator.

Now, he’s gearing up to release another set of bangers with Jodaki (The Mixed Album). I sat with him to talk about the album, his recording process, and spontaneous rap features.

First things first, can you describe your sound?

I have a hard time describing it…I hate just saying it’s emo punk rock, I hate saying those genres over and over again. It’s all sorts of stuff. One song has strings and piano and the next song is a punk rock noise kind of thing. And then there’s a shoegaze song. And then a stripped back acoustic song. But my big thing is that I love keeping all the noise in and all the feedback and the distortion and stuff like that. If it’s done right, it sounds really cool.

When you started recording our own music, how did you learn how to go about it? Were you self-taught? 

So, when I started out I didn’t I didn’t know anything about gear. I just had an acoustic guitar and electric guitar. But I didn’t know anything about things like interfaces or really nice headphones or how to record or what a good microphone was or what-have-you. I just used this shotgun mic that you put on top of a DSLR camera. I plugged that into the microphone port on my desktop computer. So like, not really getting good audio at first there. I also didn’t know anything about mixing then, so the drums were all like, really quiet and there was no reverb on anything.

I didn’t take any lessons or anything. I was just occasionally watching videos. And one day my friend was like, “Hey, what are you doing, that sucks. You have to do this, you have to put that on there.” And I’d be like, “ohhhhhh okay.” Every time someone gives me a new tip, I add it to the tool belt. Now I’m getting to the point where I can freestyle that shit. And be like, “oh, you know, this is… not what any professional does…but it still sounds good!”

Were you recording music in your dorm back at Rowan?

Yeah, I was recording in the dorm the first year and then later in a campus apartment. I would go to the practice rooms in the music hall and go into one of those small rooms and record there. And then there was winter break when everyone left, but you could stay in the apartments. But there was no food or anything, so I was there starving myself recording music and watching Twin Peaks.

Did you ever have to record when roommates were around?

Oh yeah. When I was in the dorm, there would be someone right there in the same room as me watching TV while I’m trying to record vocals.

That’s always the thing I think of when it comes to these DIY studio setups – that the biggest hurdle is having to avoid people hearing you. That sounds so intimidating.

There really is no avoiding that. It’s really just like, you must bear the shame of being loud. [laughs]

What is your recording setup these days? I mean, I’m guessing you’re not doing the shotgun mic thing anymore.

Well, I have a slightly nicer pair of headphones now. When I first put them on I was like, “Whoa, audio quality can be really good and people should care about it!” As far as the actual setup, I have an interface for plugging in my headphones. You’re technically supposed to mix with monitors. But I’m a renegade, I just use headphones. 

Other than that…it’s just the guitar and the laptop and the microphone, really. That’s the main trio of tools. Up until now I was using an acoustic guitar and plugging that in and distorting it. I recently got a Fender Stratocaster, a Mexican one over there, so I’m going to be using that for recordings. And I have all sorts of plugins for piano and glockenspiel and drum machines. Recently, I’ve been working with a lot of other people to do stuff remotely. Like, instead of me doing the drum machine, I’m sending it out to someone else to record actual drums.

Have you ever recorded in a “legit” studio?

I’ve only ever recorded in the studio one time. It was at Rowan a few years back. That was when I did “Walking Cringe Compilation.” I regret not spending that time more efficiently. We recorded a ton of drum tracks. Then we recorded a little bit for one song and then we left cuz we thought, ”oh, you know, we’re gonna come back.” But that was in March 2020, so you know, the next week everything went down. I was like, “oh no! I wasted it!”

Speaking of “Walking Cringe Compilation” – that’s the song that Anthony Fantano reviewed on stream, right? I was hyped about that.

Yeah, that was about a year ago.

What was that like, having Fantano review your song?

Oh, it was cool. You know, to some extent, it feels weird. Like, it feels like, “oh, he threw me a bone.” And you know, I gladly ate it up! But it was still cool and it seemed like he liked it. He didn’t have anything negative to say, which isn’t always the case.

When I saw the stream, the chat was into it. I feel like that’s really important, because the chat won’t lie!

Yeah. Yeah, no that’s true.

So, on one of your latest releases, “Count On Me,” you have a rapper on the track. How did that collaboration come to be?

He was somebody I knew from high school. We were in the marching band together, he played sax. I played guitar in the pit. And I remember people saying back then, “oh, his stuff sounds really professional.” So fast forward to a couple months ago, and some other guy had posted, like, “oh, yo, if you have a song, send me it, we can do features. I can do a verse on it.“ So I sent it to him…and it didn’t really work out. Then I thought about it and was like, “oh, well, I’ll hit up this other guy that I know from high school.” I just went from there. And he listened, said he’d love to be on it, and did the verse.

I was excited when I heard it. I wasn’t expecting there to be a rapper on it. Did you create that track having a rap verse in mind? Or was it just a kind of spontaneous collaboration?

Oh, no, there was actually another verse there, a whole other singing verse. But I was like, “I don’t really like this one that much, it could use a little more…something.” Then once I saw that posting from the guy saying “hey let me rap on your song,” I was like, “oh that could work.” So I just went with it.

Earlier, you were talking about getting other musicians to record sections remotely and send you files for tracks. How did you find them? Were they people you already knew? Or did you find people online?

Well, on Facebook there’s a bunch of music groups for Philly. I’ve met people that way and I’ve done recordings with them. One drummer I knew from Rowan, and then another drummer I worked with, I learned about from the Philly Facebook groups.

This is kind of a big question – how much has the pandemic affected your ability to make music?

I feel like, at least for the beginning part of the pandemic, I was just inside and looking for a job… which I kinda regret now. Because I’m looking back like, “yo, I had all the time in the world to make music.” And I did make music, but I feel like I could have spent that time a little bit more efficiently. I don’t know, because now it’s like, I have that remote job. Working nine to five again, man, it just feels like there’s no time in the day for it.

Oh, that’s a good point. Most of the people I’ve talked to for this project, they’re working full time in addition to making music. Is it hard to want to make music after working all day? 

Yeah, it’s weird. Because all day while you work, you’ll be like, “once I get off, man, I’m just gonna pick up that guitar, I’m gonna record. I’m just gonna do this, I’m gonna do that, it’s gonna be great! At five o’clock, right when I get off, I’m going for it.” And then five o’clock comes and you’re like, “uh yeah, let me first get something to eat” and then, “oh, man, let me just take a quick nap.” Then it’s like, eight o’clock, and you’re like, “well, I don’t want to make too much noise at eight o’clock so, we’ll do this tomorrow.” I’m working a job now where I’m like, the happiest I’ve ever been as far as jobs go, and even then, working eight hours in the day…it’s exhausting. Even if you love what you do, it can make it so hard to do other things you want.

Screenshot from the music video for “Portrait of the Artist as a Dumb Man

Overall, what’s it like recording on your own?

I like it, but it can be kind of weird. It’s like…you’re doing everything at once. You’re not with a band. You don’t just say, “alright guys, let’s do it,” and then you do it. You don’t record a demo all together and be like, “alright, well now we have the bass, the drums, the guitars, we have all the starring parts and have a good idea of what this song might sound like.” 

When you’re doing stuff on your own, you’re laying down the drums – just the drums! – and then you’re adding the bass track to just your drums. And then the guitar to just that bass and drums and so on. There’s always this beginning point when starting a project where I’m like, doing the drum machine or doing something to set the song up. And it’s like, I just want to be fucking adding the last touches or recording the vocals and hearing how it sounds! But then once you get to the part where you’re finally laying down guitars and other instruments and vocals – really getting into the meat of the song – it’s cool seeing how it evolves bit by bit. 

Okay, here’s my most important DIY question. When it’s getting hot out and it’s summertime, do you have that terrible conundrum where you have to turn off your air to record music because your air is too loud? And you’re sweating and trying to record?

You know, I just leave everything on. There’s a beauty to all the ambience and shit. So I’m like, “Fuck it, leave it on.” I keep the noises!

You have Jodaki (The Mixed Album) coming out soon. Before we end here, can you tell me a bit about the album and how you feel about its upcoming release?

I have songs from that that have come out already, it’ll be 13 songs total. It’s funny, I’m not at a point where I care about things like stream counts. I don’t have a fan base where I have to be like, “oh, man, I wonder if they’ll like this one, I wonder what they’ll think.” But to the same extent, I’ll put out this next album and it’ll be all these genres, but then for the next one, it might just be five songs, a simple album. And I was wondering, “oh, man, I don’t know, does that make sense? Should I be following up one thing with something like that?” I have to stop myself from thinking like that because I really shouldn’t care. Like I said before, I’m not at that point in my life where I’m making music that people are waiting to hear. I’m making music for me, really, and if people like it, then that’s awesome.

Be sure to check out Jodaki’s releases over on bandcamp or stream them on Spotify. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to his YouTube channel.

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