IAN SWEET: Concert-side Chat

If you’ve been tuning into the Record Hospital (every weeknight from 10pm to 5am), you’ve undoubtedly heard IAN SWEET and frontwoman Jillian Medford’s brilliant ear-catching vocals. Backed by her own masterfully pedaled guitar, bassist/resident comedian Damien Scalise, and drummer Tim Cheney, IAN SWEET ties together tenderness, technicality, and relatability into one heck of a performance. I’d seen Jillian a couple weeks prior at Boston Hassle’s Hasslefest and was completely blown away by her enrapturing stage presence and incredible voice. After another awesome WZBC performance at Great Scott complete with the notorious plastic-hand-suctioned-onto-her-guitar’s-volume-knob and a mischievous hunk of cheddar cheese I had the awesome privilege of chatting with Jillian to get more insight on how Shapeshifter came to be.

I love your ice cream song ["Slime Time Live"] so much! Could you talk a little bit about its creation?

That song is a lot about nostalgic feelings I was having. When going through a very dark period last year, I was thinking about things that felt really light...examples like Slime Time Live, and ice cream, and dancing... This whole album is centered around the idea of nostalgia. I wanted to go back to a certain time where I didn’t have to struggle or focus on this feelings I was having, so I wrote a lot about being younger and those experiences. I used to eat ice cream a bunch!

You have another song that mentions eating ice cream in bed...

Yeah, "All Skaters Go to Heaven." There was a specific time I remember of an ex-partner of mine...that song’s about him being a skateboarder and the things we’d do together, and how he was very neglectful and always just wanted to skate...He didn’t think about how if he really injured himself it’d [also] affect me, someone who really loved him. That line is just kind of me thinking back on that memory and continuing on the thought of things we did together and how he treated me, how that was one of the better memories: us sharing ice cream in bed. But also how he’s kind of a sloppy human being, and was going to get [ice cream] all over, and there wouldn’t be any consequences. He’d spill all the ice cream and not even feel bad for ruining something.

Could you talk about the title track of Shapeshifter?

Yeah, that song was written after the entirety of the album was already finished, and I actually wrote and recorded it while we were already mixing the record. We were going song by song, and I was like da[gnabbit], there’s something missing! I don’t feel my complete voice, I don’t feel like these emotions have been solidified! I sat down in my parents house, ‘cause we were mixing the record in LA and I’m from LA, and I just sat down in my parents house and "Shapeshifter" came out in five minutes.

A lot of people say (I’ve gotten it about five different times) that the song "Shapeshifter" reminds them of Bjork, and that is psycho to me! She’s like... my hero! I’ve listened to her since I was super young...and my boyfriend always tells me my voice reminds him of Bjork. I’ve loved Bjork forever. For anyone to think that I remind them of her is really huge.

But that song was basically just a way of tying the entire record together, how I have a way of loving too many things to take on just one shape. How that’s my identity of the whole record, is just being a shapeshifter, and loving bits of everybody but not myself, and how that’s ultimately affected me and my depression, anxiety, and relationships...

So is the album more of a (I don’t want to say diary) manifestation of your thoughts from a certain time period?

Yeah, the record is definitely very momentary, written within a certain time frame. I haven’t had these songs written for years and years, I wrote these songs in the specific amount of time where I was feeling this certain way, and knew that this record had to represent that period of time for me because I couldn’t carry on if I didn’t put that out in the universe for myself, and for people who always enjoy listening to our music. This was a different side of how I’ve always wanted to express myself, but I had to dig deeper and experience some tougher things to get these emotions out.

~ A huge thanks to Jillian for letting me crash her merch table for this interview + for the Shapeshifter CD that’s now part of the playlist + for being so sweet! ~