With the 10th anniversary vinyl reissue of their debut album, Stereochronic, Norfolk indie rockers You’re Jovian are restating their fundamental sound even as they continue to push into new sonic territory. We spoke to frontman Elliott Malvas about the group’s history and future.
Norfolk-based band You’re Jovian has been a mainstay in Virginia music for a little over a decade now. Upon the 10th anniversary of their first record, Stereochronic, frontman, guitar player, and mastermind Elliott Malvas decided it was time to re-release the record on vinyl. We got the chance to catch up with Malvas over Zoom and ask him about the re-release, the band’s history, and much more.
Noah: What made you want to re-release this record?
Elliott Malvas: It’s the first time it’s been on vinyl, so to me it’s not a re-release, although it is technically. It’s a little more special to me to have it on vinyl. It’s been 10 years and I figured ‘why not?’ It seemed like something I should do. I was feeling a little nostalgic. Long Division gave me the idea to celebrate yourself after 10 years, actually. They did a ‘10 year anniversary of being a band’ show at Toast. Initially, I thought the idea was kind of weird, but it turned out to be really fun. I’ve been trying to get Stereochronic on vinyl for a while and I’d saved up some money for it, so a 10 year anniversary seemed like the right time to do it.
ND: What does Stereochronic mean to you, in terms of this thing that you’ve created, as well as just the name itself?
EM: I thought of the name when I was working at a thrift store. They had all of these records that said “stereophonic” on them, I thought that was cool. There’s also “chronic,” and to me that means good; like “Oh man, this weed is chronic.” It became a play on stereophonic and chronic. It’s also in stereo, there’s a lot of cross-fading in stereo and weird effects on the record. That’s the name, but it also symbolizes a good time in my life, too. This is a good time as well, but in 2011 and 2012, those were moments I felt like I really grew into myself and made a lot of great memories and met a lot of good people. A lot of late nights on the beach where I’d ride my bike up to the north end at 2 am. I was kind of a nightcrawler back then.
ND: Are you currently signed to a label, or is it all you independently?
EM: It’s always just been me. I have talked a bit with Slumberland a while ago, and also Egghunt Records, but nothing came to fruition with any of that stuff, as most things do. I have been fortunate enough to work with Harper and Ben from Funny/Not Funny records. They’re based out of Harrisonburg and they’re amazing.
ND: You’ve also done some work with Jeff Ziegler, right?
EM: Yeah! I’ve done two distinct sessions with him. I hate to say “records” because to me a record is a full length, but I’ve done two sessions over the course of two years.
ND: What’s it like working with him? I’m personally a huge fan of his work.
EM: I like what he’s done. He’s become more of a modular synth dude lately. Jeff also has a band that he started called Arc in Round. He’s opening up for us at our show at Ortlieb’s. Working with Jeff is cool, I knew that going into it and I was a little bit nervous, but at the same time it wasn’t because of who he is or what he’s done; going into any recording session you’re nervous because you just don’t know. I love recording, but I love recording more when the basic tracking is out of the way and you have a general idea of what it’s going to sound like. And then you start overdubbing and mixing and the song comes to life, and it’s fun. I get so nervous just thinking about if it’s going to work.
Also, driving from here to Philly. Geographically it was more daunting, but it was fun. It was like a mini vacation. I stayed up there for a week and did all of The Sound of Who We Are, then went back up for a week and finished it. About a year later, I went back up and did three songs with him. That didn’t have the same feeling or success.
That’s the Singles record. It’s about three songs, and really they should’ve been on The Sound of Who We Are, but the timing just didn’t work out. Recording with him was fun, though. His studio is really fucking dope. It was in a random neighborhood; you could see the skyline downtown from his backyard. He lived in this weird apartment complex and had his own garage door that opened all loud and slow and creaky, there was a shitty car parked in this little alley. Then you would open up another garage door and you’d be in his garage, but it wasn’t a garage, it was a live room. He had a downstairs setup with a nice couch and all the gear you’d ever want. It was super cool, he’s very down-to-earth.
ND: How has You’re Jovian changed over these 10-plus years? How has it stayed the same?
EM: I’d say it’s changed a lot, personnel-wise. Playing live, it’s a lot about whoever’s available and when they can tag along. There’s always a pool of people who are willing to help out. If I have some shows and someone can’t do them, someone [else] always can. With each change, the voicing of the band is a little different. Right now, it’s the best it’s ever sounded. Everyone’s super comfortable. It actually feels like a real band, and we make our decisions as a group. Even though I’m writing the songs and they’re learning them, they’re still playing them. They’re people and they interpret their way, and it has its own sound.
It’s also kind of stayed the same, because it’s always been just me. I’ve never sat down and had a concrete thought about how something’s going to turn out, it just happens. People are always like, “You’re Jovian is shoegaze,” and I don’t hate that, I’m not not proud to wear that on my sleeve, but I have indie rock and alternative rock roots, too. Growing up I loved Weezer, I loved Pavement, and recently I’ve had a flourish of activity with indie music. It’s not quite shoegaze but it’s still me. Those are the tracks I make as The Compound. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter where I record, the fundamentals sound like me and like You’re Jovian, which is cool.
ND: When you’re writing a song, do you write a sort of “skeleton” of the song and then loop a riff over and over while you hop on drums or bass, or now that you have more of a consistent band, do you bring the song idea to them and try to work it out?
EM: You play guitar, do you know the Boss RC-2 pedal? The red looper? I have four of those. I love them, I’ve had them since high school. It’s kind of the ultimate tool. If you have a riff in your head, you can loop it, and maybe before you do another guitar track you can grab your bass and find a root note. Now you have a backing track. Then I’ll pick up my guitar and noodle over it, and that’s how I’ll write most melodies. That usually becomes the chorus of the song, and I’ll try to find something that’s not as moving to be the verse, so when you hit the chorus, it opens up and it’ll be cool. I always feel like I write the chorus of the song first and not the verse, and the vocals kind of interplay with that. The verse is always kind of boring and sets the chorus up.
Those pedals help so much, and let me just loop things, and then I’ll hop on drums and drum along to it until I’m comfortable. Then I set up the 4-track, hit record, and capture it. I’ve gotten a lot better at capturing it in its rawness and whether it works itself out or not, at least it’s on a cassette and I have a timestamp of it. Whether I end up pursuing the song or not, if I spend 10 minutes doing that, that’s 10 minutes of something I want to be doing, and it’s all positive. Whether that song comes to fruition or not, in that moment, it’s just awesome. I appreciate doing that more now, especially because I feel like I haven’t written a song in months.
ND: Do you feel a pressure to always be writing something? Like, whenever you pick up your guitar, do you feel like you have to come up with some kind of riff that you can turn into a song, or are you able to turn that off and just kind of play for yourself?
EM: A little bit of both, but definitely some pressure. My friend said that being a musician is a curse, and I never understood that, but there’s some truth to it. You’re always as good as you once were and if you let yourself be nostalgic and sit back and reflect on it, then that’s the beginning of the end. You’re also always your own worst critic, and that can be hard sometimes, but it’s good. It keeps me creative, and I want to create. Sometimes you realize that you want to write and finish a song, other days you work for eight or nine hours and you don’t want to play guitar at all. Or, I just want to riff.
You definitely pay attention. Sometimes you realize that you haven’t written a song in two months and get freaked out. Sometimes you try to sit down and force yourself to do it, and you just won’t feel it, but before you know it you have 10 voice memos, a tape full of unfinished songs, and you just feel like you have to finish something. When I was young and writing a lot of songs, I had some unfinished ones. I’ve gone back and re-written some of them, and some have turned out really well. That’s equally as gratifying.
ND: What’s your take on the idea of a practice or recording space? Do you feel like that’s important in your songwriting and playing?
EM: Totally. You’ve gotta have an outlet to play loud and do things. If you write music and never play it live, or never put your amp past 1, then you aren’t seasoned. You aren’t seasoning yourself to be that tasty medium rare steak you want to be, or that tofu or whatever. You’ve got to season yourself, whether it be in a garage like this, or on a livestream that sucks, or at a shitty show. You need that yin yang. Also giving yourself some confidence. I love being in musical spaces and producing sounds, it feels good. Sound can be damaging, obviously, but any time you make sound, why wouldn’t it be validating? It feels good.
ND: Why did you start You’re Jovian initially?
EM: I played in a lot of bands and I felt like I could do it myself. Then it was trying to build it and make it consistent. I started out on drums, and then when I got my first multitrack recorder I felt like I could do it all myself.
ND: When we were working at Handsome Biscuit, I remember you telling me that you weren’t a big reverb guy. Are you still not a big fan of it?
EM: Yes and no. There’s two types of reverbs to me; there’s recording reverb, which helps give a song room in a stereo mix, and live, I don’t try to dump it on more than I need to. I break up my signal into two different amps, and they have different pedals going into them. I really love the Reverberation Machine by Death By Audio, I actually have two of them. I have an ABY box, too. I have pedals that I consider my dry signal, and then ones that I consider my wet. I have the Reverberation Machine on constantly going through one amp, and my dry signal goes through another amp. My dry is really just my delay and distortion. I get a big sound through this. I’ll also use a wah pedal through the wet signal. Wahs are fun, but if you put it in your main chain, it just completely overwhelms the sound, so running it through another amp is a smoother transition. But to answer your question, I like reverb, but I won’t dump it on everything if I don’t have to.
ND: What are the favorite songs you’ve written with You’re Jovian?
EM: Oh man…“Sentimental Doubt” is always a classic. I feel like that was my real first masterpiece. I love “Seasons of You” a lot, those two were tracked in the same session and I didn’t finish them until a year later. “Sound of Who We Are,” too. They all have S in the name, maybe that’s why.
ND: One of my personal favorites is “Pieces.” Could you tell me the story behind it? Like, who is the person who’s leaving pieces of their hair?
EM: A lot of people, really. Lately it’s been me, with all the hair I’ve been losing. My dog, too. It’s more of an analogy, really; like after somebody leaves, you find their hair and pick up pieces of it. I do remember when I wrote that song, it started off as a riff and in my head, I knew that it would be a song. I didn’t have an album yet. I was living with my parents at the time and I didn’t have a bed. I slept in their guest room. I had my amps and shit in my room. They were going out of town that weekend and I moved all my shit downstairs to the living room and hashed out that song. It was great. I knew that it would be the opening track to that album. I love the two-measure part in between the verses with the floor tom, it kind of breaks it up a bit. Suburban Living always did that, they have those songs where they’d have the tom and snare. I was like ‘I want to do one of those.’ I recorded the album [They Were Selected And Divided] with Mark Padgett, who did Stereochronic with me. That one’s been more of a rock song live lately; we kind of flex our rock muscles a little more with it.
ND: Were you the only person who played on Stereochronic?
EM: Yes, but I had some backing vocal help from my friend Stephanie. She lives in LA now, but she helped me out with some vocals. Around that time she had a band called the Vaginasaurs. We played that record release show with them, actually.
ND: How many times has the band changed its lineup?
EM: A bunch. Our bass player had a kid when COVID hit. He lives in Richmond and has a super nice basement. I was buying a bunch of shitty gear to leave there so we could just drive and plug in and play, but it kind of became evident that it wasn’t going to work out. Our drummer left, too. Over the whole span of the band, probably about 10 different lineups. People have come and gone.
ND: What are you doing when you aren’t working or gazing at your shoes?
EM: Being a devoted husband, which has been pretty rad. I work a lot, too. If I had two weeks off, like one to recover and one to create I’d probably bang out a bunch of stuff. I’ve been a dog dad, too. I’ve just been taking care of the family. I did lawn work today, too; I’ve just been living the American dream.
ND: Do you feel yourself coming into a dad rock era?
EM: Not quite, but there are some cool dads out there. My old bandmate was playing with his band Broken Beaches last night and I went to see them. He had brought out his wife and kids and was smashing shit on stage, that’s not too bad. I felt like I could do that, and he’s almost 50.
ND: What are some of your favorite You’re Jovian memories over the years?
EM: Oh jeez… I’ve never really thought about that. The first one that comes to mind is a show in Kentucky. It was in this Bible Belt town but the show was booked by some punks – who might’ve been the only punks in town – and we pulled up and played the show. It was great, and all of these small-town punks were loving it. I have family that lives near there, so we drove back to my grandma’s house and we were up partying.
We also played a show in Charlottesville at Magnolia House and we lost our drummer, Kenny, before the show. We couldn’t find him. His phone was off. He comes in all sweaty and out of breath and we’re wondering if he’s okay, but he says he just wants to go ahead and play the show. He wasn’t playing well, and then he disappeared again after the show; we ended up finding him. We were late to the person’s house who we were going to stay with…
You’re Jovian is kind of a stressful band to be in, actually. I’m hoping these shows coming up will be some good memories, but really I just like hanging out with my friends in the van. That’s what it’s all about, whether it’s a good show or not, you’re playing outside of your hometown and you’re just hanging out. We’re playing a show in New Jersey at a place called In The West. I love that place, the people who run it are mega-freaks and they love shitty amps like I do. They make everything themselves, they’re DIY to the hardcore and they’re super accepting. Meeting people like that means a lot to me. When you step out of a town like Norfolk or Richmond that’s actually quite small and doesn’t take care of itself and you see that, you bring it back home with you and it’s super inspiring.
ND: What’s the favorite show you’ve played in the past 5 years or so?
EM: We actually opened for Kurt Vile at the NorVa, that was pretty cool. They were really nice and they dug it. I had played there once before but it wasn’t like that. We also played a show in New York at ALPHAVILLE, that was a really good show. I love ALPHAVILLE as a venue, I don’t know if they’re still around or not. In The West, too. Every time we play there it’s really good, and they record every set they have. We play pretty often, but I don’t really think about it… I kind of see it as an objective, like we have to play this show and then we can hang out.
ND: What year is your [Fender] Jaguar?
EM: It’s a 1966, it was crafted in October. I don’t know the actual date. I got it refretted recently and that was the first time I had actually seen the neck heel. The dude at Alpha Music who was working on it sent me a photo. I dropped it off for work and it took months. I was like, “I miss my fucking guitar!” The guy who was working on it sent me a text message, which was super kind. He had it on his bench and was working on it. He had it all taken apart and sent me the pic of it. The date said October 1966, and I said, “Damn, that’s old.” I knew it was the 60s. I bought it relatively cheap at the time from a dude who came into Alpha Music and was trying to sell it. They passed on it, and I followed him out to his car and bought it from him. We actually had mutual friends and he let me pay it off in two payments, which was really chill. That was about 2009, so I’ve had it for a while. It was about $2,000, but I knew I wanted it. At the time you couldn’t find American Vintage guitars. This was before Reverb, and I didn’t like using eBay. When it came in, I didn’t care what it was or what color it was, I just knew I wanted a vintage Jaguar. It just plays so much nicer. Your hand contours it just right, and every chord just feels so awesome.
ND: Is that your number one guitar?
EM: It’s kind of always been my number one. I have a few others… I have one that I’m about to practice on now, it’s kind of a Japanese-lawsuit Telecaster copy. I cut two of the strings off because that’s how the guitar player in The B-52s played, and I have that Halloween cover set [as the B-52s] coming up. I have another cheap late 60s Gibson SG knockoff, and I have a Squier Jazzmaster that every so often I just fuck with. I made it into a 12-string lately. It’s always been just the Jaguar. You really only need one guitar.
ND: What are some bands you’ve really been digging right now?
EM: At work I always hear that Misfits cover song… “Hybrid Moments,” by Helvetia. I’ve been diving into that record [Gladness], it’s demos from like 2005 and 2006. I’m a big demos person. When I was really young I worked hard to get my hands on those Weezer demos that now have come out… I had all that shit before it came out. I love the grittiness and the rawness of demos, and then hearing the actual recording and hearing the nature of the song. That record from that dude has the “Hybrid Moments” cover on it, and it’s all demos and lo-fi shit. He played drums in Duster, from some of the research I found on him. I’m not really a big Duster fan, but I had listened to that record Stratosphere…that was like, the thing in the beginning of the pandemic. It was perfect timing, because it was dark and cold outside.
I recently got back into Interpol. Turn On The Bright Lights is always a fall record for me. I listen to SiriusXM college radio and they play some cool shit sometimes; all the band names are super funky and not good, which I love. I’m a late bloomer, I remember when Broken Social Scene’s main record came out and I was talking shit about it. Eventually I got it and everyone was like “We told you so!” and gave me a hard time, but I deserved it. I don’t listen to a lot of shoegaze though. I think when My Bloody Valentine released the songs that were hard to get on Spotify, I revisited a lot of that stuff and was pretty amped up. For me, my whole philosophy is: if you embellish yourself in a genre you’re doing, then it’s very singular. Occasionally I’ll throw on an old Byrds record because I love their 12 string… I try to pull shit from everywhere.
I will say this – I have to be cool for the interview right? – there’s this band called Minimal Man. They’re super weird and there’s not a lot about them on the internet, but I found a live concert and it’s like, noise and art rock. Their album came out in, like, 1985, and I got into this pretty hardcore a few weeks ago. I shared it with Wes from Suburban Living and he hadn’t heard of it; I had a cool “gotcha!” moment. Big Bite is awesome, too. I had some friends see them in Richmond and they walked away stunned… They’re super serious. Some people will act serious but really they’re chill and cool, but they’re serious. They come to a gig and they’re there to do a good job and fuck you up; afterwards they kind of party, but they never party before they play. It’s so cool that they wear that on their sleeve, when most bands would be ashamed of that. The other guitar player in that band put out a solo record during the pandemic, which was really good. It had drum machines but it was pretty shoegazey.
ND: Something that I’ve noticed and really dig when I’ve seen you play is the custom grilles on your amps. Do you reupholster them? How’d you start doing that?
EM: I always collect unique fabrics, because I like to collage and want to use them. I don’t like painting with collages anymore, because whenever you paint with one it looks like a first grader did it. I try to pull patterns and colors from things like fabrics instead. I had all this fabric in my garage and I had these shitty, beat up Peavey cabinets that I bought for super cheap. I just decided to wrap the grilles in the fabric and see how it looks, and I fell in love with it. Right around the corner from my house is a Fabric Hut, and I get lost in there now. I love Peavey amps too; people hate on Peavey but they look sick and sound great. They’re so unique and weird, they have a long history and they’re super cheap. There’s nothing special about how they look, and the front covers come off so easily, so I spruced them up. I just took off the grille and put it face down on the fabric, folded it back, stapled it, and put it back in. We’re kind of a boring band, so we might as well look cool.
ND: With all of the tours you’ve been on with You’re Jovian and Swirlies and more, and all of the shows you’ve had outside of Virginia, what makes you come back here? What makes you stay in Norfolk?
EM: It’s where I grew up. Michelle and I have a house in Wards Corner. Back when Charlie’s was open, it felt right. I was so glad to live in Norfolk and live so close to Charlie’s when so many cool bands were coming through. Josh Coplon [of LAVA Presents] does a really good job; he’s come a long way with curating bands. A few years ago it was a really good musical area to be in, but still felt unique enough that when you left town and would play in New York or Philly, you still felt really unique. I kind of take a lot of pride sounding a bit like a hick, too. Saying “We’re from Norfolk, Virginia,” and you’re talking and use the word “y’all;” it really throws people off. Some of the best bands come from the South, so I’m not scared to be from Norfolk, or from Virginia.
It’s definitely not a good town to be a band in day-to-day, though. In Philadelphia, using Wes from Suburban Living as an example, there’s way more opportunities, because there’s more bars and culture. But whenever you do get out, I think coming back to Norfolk makes you feel unique. It’s home, too. Richmond, too. People say it’s changed and sure, everything’s changed, but really it’s the same. Richmond is an awesome musical town. Geographically you’re in a cool spot — if you’re looking for inspiration you have the beach, the mountains, farmland; a lot of different roads to travel. I’ve always loved Richmond in the heat, too. You walk outside and smell the sewer waste, feel the heat, and hear the birds chirping; you just feel like you’re in a city.
ND: That answers everything for me. Is there anything else you wanted to get off your chest?
EM: Nothing really. Stereochronic is going to be 10 years old and I’m excited, I want to celebrate. I’m hoping that re-releasing it will give it some more excitement and attention. We are going to do an official “10 year anniversary” show with the vinyl, and I’m going to curate it. I’m hoping that’ll be a good show and a good experience. People who may have missed it in 2012 can experience it again. For someone like me, original music is the best thing.
Speaking un-journalistically and taking an opinion, You’re Jovian is amazing. I’m a huge fan, and they’ve influenced and spawned countless other Virginian bands (Alison Blue, Community Witch, and more), and have always been supportive to younger musicians in the scene. The vinyl re-release of this record is something to be celebrated; you can pick it up from Bandcamp. They always put on a great show, and hopefully they’ll be up in Richmond sooner than later.
Photos by Noah Daboul