Within the very specific sub-genre of coming-of-age films, there's a surprising amount of variety. On PONYBOY, the latest EP from Jimi Somewhere, the full filmic spectrum of the loss of innocence is lovingly put on display. From The Outsiders, the 1967 novel and 1983 movie that inspired the EP's title, to the unrelenting sun-drenched turf war of Edward Yang's masterpiece A Brighter Summer Day, Jimi Somewhere's PONYBOY recalls some of the most vivid depicitions of the pain that accompanies growing-up.
With his bright-blue hair and cinematic influences, Jimi Somewhere is a character from the mind of 20-year-old Norweigan musician Benjamin Schandy. Just like some of his biggest idols, Tyler, the Creator, Kanye West, and Kevin Abstract, Schandy is just as interested in realizing a living world as he is making music.
Benjamin Schandy adopted the moniker of Jimi Somewhere as teenager to translate his grand ideas into music. On his debut release, Memoria, he depicted a lonely world as experienced through the eyes of an isolated teenager—too big to fully comprehend, but small enough to feel distinct. His new EP, PONYBOY, he has refined his vision for it. Considerably lighter in its aesthetics, but just as informed by darker thoughts with songs like "I Shot My Dog," Schandy's latest as Jimi Somewhere finds him settling into a groove and sticking the landing. If Memoria was his short film, PONYBOY is his confident debut feature-length.
Feeling claustrophobic due to to Norway's oppressive winters, Schandy took a bold leap and recorded PONYBOY with some of his best friends in Los Angeles. During his three months there, the change of surroundings influenced his worldview and saw his plans come into focus. With musings on young love and the heartbreaking yet formative moment of the loss of a childhood pet, PONYBOY is music for long summer nights when emotions run high. While he carefully chisels away at his debut album, which he's been working on for over three years, he first sets the stage with PONYBOY.
Read an interview with the Norwegian songwriter below, and listen to the PONYBOY EP, out now.
So could you tell me a little bit about where you’re from in Norway?
It’s this town called Hokksund, and then I live ten minutes away at this even smaller suburb kinda thing in the woods. I think it’s like 10,000 people, and then just a large hill surrounded by woods. There wasn’t even a store there when I grew up, just a school and that was it.
Is there any music scene in that area?
No not really. I mean, I lived there until I was 15. Up until then I was pretty much the only one around there that did music. I made a lot of bands in school with friends, but none of them really took it as seriously as I took it even though we were like 10 years old. I met my producer Milo [Orchis] in eighth grade, but he lived four hours away. There was never really anybody who I could make music with that lived close to me before I moved to a boarding school when I was 16, where me and Milo lived together.
When you moved around 15 was it just you deciding to move on your own?
Yeah that was just on myself, that was just to go to a high-school. My family is religious, they’re Seventh-day Adventists, and there’s this one high-school in Norway that’s made by Adventists. I met Milo, who produces, through this Adventists stuff too. So we were like, this is our opportunity to actually live together and make music everyday, so we just grabbed that opportunity.
What inspired you to take up the moniker Jimi Somewhere? What does that character represent?
I always felt like if I made music under my real name I would be more obligated to speak 100% truth, but I feel like if I have this character I can treat it more like film. I can write it and it doesn’t necessarily have to be 100% the truth, and for me that was more fun than to use my real name. Every time I write, I write from personal experiences, but I do like to bend the truth, or use my experiences and make them more cinematic. I like to be completely free when I’m writing.
I like it when I feel like artists cares about everything around the music as well, that draws me in. So I try to show that I care a lot about. It’s art, it’s not just money. I mean for some people it’s more about the money, which is cool, but that’s not what I’m here for or what I’m what interested in. I want everything we make to seem timeless, which is harder in the streaming era but we try.
Do you make a lot of music and then choose what to release? Do you find that a difficult process?
Not really to be honest, I just have a very clear vision. When I came up with the title I just knew what it was we were working towards. When I made the first song, I knew it was the intro, and when I made “1st Place” I knew it was the single. Everything just kind of fell in place, at least for the EP. We’re working on the album right now, and I tried on that one to make more songs to have more to choose from, but still it feels like everything is falling into place.
How does it feel to finally have music out after so long?
Oh it feels so good, it’s been a long process. We made the whole thing in early summer 2018, and it’s mostly been figuring out all the business stuff. When we finally got that I was super ready. It feels better to put it out now than Fall, because this feels more like a summer project. I’m actually happy it took as long as it took, because it’s now coming out in April which is the beginning of Spring and Summer which feels better and matches the project more.
What was the idea behind the name PONYBOY?
It’s inspired by The Outsiders [1983 movie]. I just saw that movie not that long ago and I felt a connection to the Ponyboy character. I felt like Jimi Somewhere and him had a lot in common. Just a lot of similar events in that whole movie that I had written about, I guess. I just felt it was good to represent this story.
if I made music under my real name I would be more obligated to speak 100% truth, but I feel like if I have this character I can treat it more like film.
You went to Los Angeles to record some of the project. What was that like?
I’ve actually been a couple times before. But this was our first time staying for a long time, it was like three months. It was a really tight experience, even though we weren’t going there to be L.A. or whatever. It was mostly just ‘cause we needed a change of environment. Norway gets really cold in the winter, and we just felt kind of stuck I guess, or claustrophobic. We just had to go somewhere completely new, and L.A. felt like the best place just for music and weather really.
Whenever we have a creative block, traveling anywhere really helps. Just going somewhere new and seeing something new. You just get cooped up if you’re one place for too long.
How did you come up with the idea to have a narrative thread running through your music videos this time around?
I take so much inspiration from movies and we all watch a lot of movies, so I always wanted to make something with a whole story. So when we finally had the budget, I was like, ‘Let’s just do this.’ It feels so much cooler to have a universe to dive into, it’s what my favorite artists often have done. Both Kanye and Tyler had videos that felt like short films, and of course Kevin Abstract, too. I don’t know it just creates a whole new dimension to the music to have that. I just love movies, so combining it with music is the coolest thing to me.
I noticed your videos took a huge step up as far as production goes, and you’re also in the director’s chair, too. Has filmmaking always been of interest to you and can you see yourself doing more directing, for music videos or otherwise?
For sure. I wanna direct not only my own, but it would be super fun for direct other people’s music videos, too. Even growing up I would make a lot of skateboarding films, and then I made a couple of short films in high-school I never put out. Movies have always been a big passion of mine, so finally being able to direct something real is great. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’m very visual so whenever I hear music I can always picture it in a video.
Could you walk me through the collaborations and how they were worked into the record?
I had Milo sing on “I Shot My Dog,” and then I worked with a good friend of mine Jakob Ogawa, who’s a super talented singer from Norway doing really well for himself, sings the hook on “Blue Skies.” I was super happy to get him to sing that hook.
"I Shot My Dog" is such a striking title for a song. Where did that idea come from and what does it represent to you?
I had this dog when I was in school that we had to put down, because he was getting aggressive towards different classmates of mine and he bit a girl in my class actually. So we had put him down, which I was really sad about because he was nice to my whole family but there was this one incident and he was getting older. My mum thought it was the safest choice.
I felt like “I Put Down My Dog” didn’t have as much punch, and back in the days they used to shoot their dogs instead of taking them to vet. It’s just more brutal but it also sounds more cinematic, and it has a lot more feeling to it. So I just wrote it like that, because in some way it did feel like we did. It also just has this shock value, which I think is funny because I’ve got a lot of DMs from people who were like, ‘Did you really shoot your dog?’
You sing, “Life was better when I was seventeen.” What about that age in particular do you miss? Or is this a line that simply represents that coming-of-age or loss of innocence moment?
For me I guess it’s just like… It’s not that long ago, I’m twenty now, but the whole transition from being in high school and having no worries to worrying about money and rent. It’s stressful and scary because there’s no guarantee that whatever I do I will be able to create something stable. So it was kind of me reminiscing to when things were a lot easier, and a lot more fun and simpler.
Obviously you’ve only just dropped PONYBOY, but is an album part of your future plans right now?
I want to put it out next summer. But I really want to just take my time with it, and make it as perfect and as honest as I can. The album is the biggest deal for me, and the thing I love most about music is albums. We’ve been working on this ever since we made Memoria, so we have album songs that are three years old, and some that are a couple months old.