In this interview with JHARIAH🌹 @JhariahClare, we will dig a little into his career and talk about his latest EP To Mend the Sun. I was going to write more here but the interview is informative and entertaining enough! I will say I believe Jhariah Clare will have a long and fruitful career in music and the arts.
Did the music or animation come first and when did it click for you to combine them into the perfect way of introducing your latest EP? In other words where you an animator or a musician first?
It’s a bit complicated but to put it simply I think the seeds were planted for me to be an animator from the very start. I’ve wanted a career doing art for a living since I was 5 years old. As a kid, I really wanted to draw Manga and graphic novels as a career. In high school, I started freelancing to make some money and realized I really loved commercial illustration as well, so I figured with those two skill sets, the plan would naturally be to go to art school, keep freelancing, and then go on have a career in illustration. Whenever I’d envision it, it felt attainable and even exciting to some extent, but something about it just didn’t feel ambitious enough. I think my parents still wince at the idea that “Freelance illustrator with a variable income” wasn’t a hard enough career path.
Alongside all of that, I was also discovering the role music would have in my life. I started teaching myself piano when I was 8 or 9 on this toy piano my sister had sitting around and then in middle school my music teacher introduced me to FL Studio. So I started producing electronic music! I had a YouTube channel where I’d upload videos of everything from playing video games to unboxing toys so I figured I might as well post my music too. The songs never gained any real traction but I enjoyed it a lot and would continue to do it for fun all the way into high school.
Senior year was where the art and music really started to converge in a way that was meaningful. At this point, I’d been introduced to theater, started learning how to sing, and started writing my first album. It was a real passion project and completely consumed my life. It was all I’d think about. I was in AP Studio art that year, and part of the class requirement was creating 12 art pieces that told a story and then submitting them to the AP Board to be graded. So I instantly thought, “I have this 12 song concept album and it’s all I really want to think about”, so that became the project. I loved the idea of spending my senior year working on this big visual element to go alongside the music, and from there it just kept growing. It became videos and elaborate promo art and all these different representations of what the music was. It was all so exciting and energizing! It was ambitious. By the time I was choosing where to go to college, Illustration just seemed way too small for the vision I had, so I decided to study animation which I’m still doing now.
That was my very long-winded way of saying, both paths sort of ran parallel to each other before eventually converging.
In your video “The “Making Of” To Mend The Sun – Pratt Animation II Final Film” where you are interviewing yourselves, are the people involved in the video part of those who help make the music or great friends or?
That was an assignment for one of my animation classes. We basically had to record an interview of some kind and animate it. In that video my lovely girlfriend @femaleoppressor interviewed me and Cole, who wears a LOT of hats. We started working together pretty shortly after meeting each other through some mutual friends and now we’re basically a duo. We both do production for the songs, and he does all of the live drums, mixing, and mastering.
Personally, I can barely draw a stickman so I cannot even begin to imagine what it takes to do animations! How much work does it take to do what you did in your video? Do you have any tips for those who might want to follow in your footsteps?
To be perfectly honest, it’s a MASSIVE amount of work and it requires a lot of patience haha. I worked on that short film in February and didn’t finish until May. Even then, it required a lot of change and a few cuts to even get finished in time for the deadline. For anyone else interested in doing animation, the most important thing I can say is that anyone can do it! Of course, your tools and equipment are always a factor, but even with minimal resources, you can do a lot. Our first animation assignment was to make something called a zoetrope. It’s essentially a cylinder with drawings that you spin to create the illusion of motion. That’s just to say that whatever you have, you can start and just build from there.
But to be more concrete, I use a mix of Toonboom Harmony, Adobe Photoshop, After Effects, and Cinema4D, for most of my work. There are great resources online for free that will teach you how to use all of that. I pretty much taught myself how to use all of those programs watching YouTube tutorials and slowly figuring it out, besides Harmony, which I started learning in college. So my advice is really to just be patient, spend a lot of time learning, and even more time doing it.
Tell us about your background in musical theater and how the experiences taken from it inspires what you are doing now with your animations, short films, and music.
My favorite part of musical theater is that it’s a HUGE effort. Even small productions involve dozens of people, months of work, hundreds of hours refining every element of it to the greatest degree possible. It’s also such an amazing convergence of all these different elements of artistic expression; the music, the visual aspect, dancing, acting, and so much more. It’s really a spectacle. I started out in theater because my art teacher asked me if I’d be interested in designing and painting sets for my high school’s production of Hairspray. After being around it so much, I caught the bug and just had to try being on the other side of the curtain. I auditioned the next year and ended getting one of the supporting leads. It was extremely uncomfortable and new, I’d never stood on a stage and sung, let along in a musical. But I quickly in love. Between that being behind the curtain and being in the spotlight, I realized that I just enjoyed all of it so much. More than any individual role, I just loved the culmination of it all. That’s really what I took from theater and tried to draw inspiration from in my own work. I want it to feel like a whole experience rather than just an album, or just a short film. That’s something you don’t get to do in theater. If you’re playing a role, that’s the only thing you can do. But I think I’ve found something I can do that has no real limits.
In one of your fine videos you mentioned you originally wanted to have 15 tracks on your latest album. You decided it would take too long to finish it. What are your plans for the other songs that did not make it to your latest masterpiece “To Mend the Sun“?
“To Mend The Sun” was really to close the book on my first album “The Great Tale”, which is weird seeing that it’s gained WAY more traction in a few months than the first album ever did.
Those 15 songs are all still around and comprise their own self-contained story. It’s going to be a concept album that will be released in 3 acts. I’ve been building the world around those songs for quite a while and I’m excited to share them once the time comes. I don’t wanna say too much but it’s very theatrical, and it’s a really big project.
Which took the longest to complete, the animations or the music? Both works seem rather complex.
It really depends! Each song and animation has its own process and the amount of time involved varies a lot. For example, “Whose Eye Is It Anyway???” took ages to get right. It went through a lot of iterations and took me over a year to actually write and record. Then I had 2 weeks to do a final project for my Video Editing class and figured I’d take on the challenge of making an animated lyric video for the song in that period. On the other hand, “PRESSURE BOMB!!!!” happened really fast, right at the tail end of making the EP. The song just poured out of me and came together really organically, so we put it on. The music video for that was filmed 3 months ago and I’m still working on it. At this point, I’ve easily put in over 100 hours doing post-production and still got a few more bits to go before it’s finished. If I’d been faced with a deadline, It would’ve been a different video, but since quarantine started the day after it was filmed, I figured I had the time to really go all out with it. So really I just give each song and animation whatever amount of time it needs to reach its potential, within whatever limitations I may have at the moment.
You are currently finishing up your degree in 2D Animation. Do you plan on being a full-time musician, a graphics artist for hire or a full/part time job in the animation industry?
I think my ideal situation would involve me being a musician, touring, releasing music, etc while also being able to carry out my vision for that to its fullest potential. That includes animations, short films, merch, and who knows what else. I have lots of ideas for what I would do if I ever had the opportunity to do a big tour with a full production and stuff. AJR is a huge inspiration for me in that aspect. Their live show is basically like a Broadway musical. At the same time, I love directing and doing visual work outside of my music, so I’d love to keep creating artwork and music videos for other bands as well. Maybe I could be like the alternative theater kid equivalent of Donald Glover.
Now let us talk a little about your latest album “To Mend the Sun“: Really fine work by the way! I read that you recorded the vocals many times trying to get what you heard in your “mind’s ear“, I think it paid off!
“PRESSURE BOMB!!!!” to me seems to speak loudly about a extremely fast paced life and to make sure “not to smell the flowers.” When I listen to that song, I can hardly breath! 🤣 What’s the song really about to you?
I’m really glad you were able to connect with the song like haha. Singing the song isn’t easy to breathe through either! It’s a damn hard song vocally! But anyway, I think you really hit the nail on the head. The song is sort of a note to myself to just relax sometimes. I feel so passionately about all of these big, ambitious creative visions and it can be hard to take time to eat, sleep, and just generally take care of myself. And that’s just the creative side! I have terrible FoMo and It’s really hard for me to say no to plans when I’m invited places. So I can tend to stretch myself pretty thin. The song is a reminder for me to just have some moderation so I don’t overwhelm myself.
I ABSOLUTELY love the genre mixing song “Whose Eye Is It Anyways???“! “With the taste of the blood on your tongue like wine” – I believe I hear Ska, Broadway, and other influences there. Is the song about revenge?
Thank you so much! That one was a lot of fun once it started taking shape. For a while I just had that chorus and It needed a song to fit into, so once all the puzzle pieces came together it was really exciting. The song is about revenge, but maybe not from the typical angle a song like that might take. I’m a big believer that being vengeful hurts me much more than it could hurt anyone I’d want to get even with. As a kid, I had the opposite mindset, and it really set it back in a lot of ways, especially emotionally. Once I learned to let go of pain and anger, any feeling of wanting revenge just disappeared. The bridge was inspired by a quote I heard in the Netflix adaptation of “Luke Cage”. This character, Anasi, was basically about to be killed in the process of Mariah Dillard’s quest for revenge, and right before she kills him, he says “When one seek vengeance, him must dig two grave.” That moment was really impactful for me. When you’re caught up in trying to hurt people who hurt, you forget to make peace with your own pain, and just cause more suffering for yourself and others. Something like that has no place in the life I want to live, so I never wish harm on anyone
“To Take For Granted.” The style in this song is amazing to me. It’s one of my personal favorites! Tell us Jhariah, what is going on in that song?
I’m really glad you like the song!! Lyrically that song has a lot of layers. I wrote it that way intentionally because I wanted to have this sort of ambiguity if that makes any sense. I don’t think it’s an empty vague or song, but it leaves a lot of room for for the imagination. As cliche as it is, I’d like to leave it a bit unexplained but I will say, it’s about taking things around you for granted, as well as being on the receiving end.
Has the COVID-19 situation inspired any new songs or video ideas? Seems most everyone has a lot more free time on their hands these days.
Do you wanna hear something weird? That second album we pushed back, the entire story behind it is eerily similar to the COVID situation. When the craze around it first started we thought, “maybe we could release one of these songs from album 2 as a little something to tide people over. It’d be very timely and fitting.” The more serious things got the more we started to realize, wow that would’ve been in terrible terrible taste haha. I’m glad we didn’t. I won’t spoil too much but I’ll give you this. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched Black Mirror but it’s one of my favorite TV shows on Netflix. The creators put out a statement earlier this year saying something akin to “Yes we have a new season but with how things are in the world right now, it’s way too dark of a season for us to give people amidst all of this.” That’s how I feels about the album right now. That album will come (and may need some changes) when the time feels more appropriate. For now, Cole and I have been working on some fun new singles that I can’t wait to release.
Have you been able to play any shows either virtual or real world? Also, how are your fans and friends reacting to your labor of love?
The last show I played in person was in March and it commemorated the end of the “Great Tale” era. I announced the new EP that night, and got to play a show with some of my favorite local bands. It was the first show I ever booked myself and actually made any money from. It wasn’t much at all but it was a big deal because it meant progress. The next week I went and got the first chord of track one on “The Great Tale” tattooed on my arm. That was supposed to be followed by a bunch of shows to perform the new songs but of course that couldn’t happen.
Virtual shows have been a new part of being inside and I have mixed feelings about that. Overall they’re a lot of fun. I’ve liked to perform on live streams even before all of this. It doesn’t come close to a real concert though, but it’s nice way to connect with people who listen to my music. People seem to enjoy the interaction and I love it as well. I think as artists we get into a habit of constantly asking something of our supporters. Whether it’s streaming your new single or watching your music video, it’s a lot. I think live-streams are a great opportunity to take care of them for a change. To ask how they’re doing, sing them something they wanna hear, or just hangout and talk about something you both enjoy. It’s very intimate.
As far as the EP, the response has been insane! I never imagined people would connect with and enjoy it the way they have! It’s only been a few months and this 25 minute EP has been listened to more than my album was in almost 2 years of being out. It’s really gratifying seeing it grow like this and I’m so excited for where it’s gonna go. I wanna keep the momentum and release something soon. There won’t be another long wait this time.
Feel free to say anything else you want to say here!
Thank you again for taking the time to interview me! The last thing I’ll say is this: support Black art and Black lives. We all need to do our part to make sure we don’t live in a world where black people will continue to be murdered by the police for any reason. Things are very strange right now, but normal is not what we need to go back to. Normal didn’t have everyone’s best interests at heart. Right now is very transformative and exciting, and if we keep pushing, we will get close to creating a world that’s more safe, just and equitable for everyone.
All the songs on “To Mend the Sun” will give you a very unique entertaining experience. Most of the EP will energize you so, get ready for a ride listening here on Spotify!
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Bio and Story
Jhariah Clare is a visual artist and alternative rock/pop musician with influences spanning everywhere from Reggaeton, Salsa, and Hip Hop to Rock, Electronic, and Broadway Musicals. The Bronx-based artist has a love for writing high energy theatrical songs and taking every opportunity to mash genres together. However, before he delved into the music world Jhariah was primarily a digital artist and still finds that playing a huge role in the music. As a result, he also directs and produces the visual experience surrounding the music, which includes illustration as well as a mix of 2D and 3D animation. Currently, he is dividing his time between growing in the music scene and finishing a degree in 2D Animation, crossing the two wherever possible.
Hi! I’m a Black alternative musician/visual artist based in Bronx, NY! I’ve been creating art for pretty much my entire life, and as I grew to love making music, the visual aspect because inseparable from the songs. That’s manifested in me creating all of the artwork and animated material for my music. It’s something I deeply enjoy and hope to further expand upon by introducing new characters, more fleshed out narratives and short films. Sonically, I take influences from everywhere. Having some background in musical theater, it’s fitting that much of my inspiration comes from bands like Panic! At The Disco, My Chemical Romance, and Fall Out Boy. At the same time, growing up in the Bronx, I’m influenced greatly by Hip Hop, Latin music, and Reggae in the way I compose/arrange. The influences go on forever, but they all culminate in the form of theatrical, eccentric songs, paired with illustrations and animated visuals.