12.13 is the newest music project from queer, multi-instrumentalist, James Eugene. Centering around Alternative Rock, Funk, Motown, Glam Rock, vintage Post-Punk, Cyberpunk, and Jazz, the flourishing sound is still considered to be in the making.
The name 12.13 refers to the numerological cycles of transformation and rebirth in nature, history, mysticism, and culture. James Eugene ensures that 12.13 strives to be an expansive, orchestral evolution of his previous lo-fi work on U N N A.
Tapping into the latest single from 12.13 we have the slow-paced but everlasting progressions in, “I Can’t Read/Always Crashing in the Same Car.” The ominous sounds sustain through a chamber of reverberation as the atmospheric elements slowly introduce you to a soundscape of foreboding tenors.
Major piano chords, warm horn notes, distorted audio clips, and elusively flowing synths allow you to embrace all that will come into play as the rhythmic tempo of the percussion comes heeding in. As we grasp onto the luxurious vocal performance that James Eugene emits from this composition, we hear passion poured into the intricately flowing lyrical motifs.
We’re fond of the constant advancement that “I Can’t Read/Always Crashing in the Same Car,” embodies as the time signatures transition, and we drastically sway through the intensity of the musical foundation pulsating before us.
There is such an eclectic array of instruments that beat down the soundwaves in a fashion that has us wanting to know more about the essence of the story unfolding. Through abstract hues of ambiguous trademarks, the mystery weaved into this piece will forever be up to the listener to interpret the way they see fit.
All it takes is 12.13 to encapsulate ingenious ideas, and newfound levels have been chartered.
Welcome to BuzzMusic, James Eugene. We love the energy provided to us under the moniker 12.13. Where did your inspiration spark the creation of this song? Thanks so much for having me! This track is made up of two of my favorite David Bowie songs. Since I was young and discovering myself in terms of creativity, sexuality, and what it is to be a musician/performer I’ve looked up to him as a mentor of sorts. To me, Bowie’s music can be summed up in a lyric emphatically stated in Rock 'n' Roll Suicide: “you’re not alone!” This project was a tribute in that sense. I’ve done various covers in the past and generally prefer to re-imagine them from a different perspective than the original. At some point I thought “wouldn’t it be great if there was a smoky jazz version of Always Crashing in the Same Car, what would that sound like?” and I just took that idea and ran with it. Another great passion of mine is film and film scores. A lot of my music has a narrative side to it and this one is no exception. To elevate the concept I had the idea to attach another Bowie tune, "I Can't Read" from much later in his career and meld those two different Bowie eras and create a larger arc to the story. In your own words, what does “I Can’t Read/Always Crashing in the Same Car,” mean to you as the artist? What are you hoping that your audience takes away from this track? I’ve always identified with the personal struggle presented in both of these songs, they may even be two sides of the same coin. Persevering through turmoil is unfortunately something we all have to do and usually in the confines of our own skin. But knowing and recognizing that people struggle, that even Bowie was a person with doubts and challenges just as I, that can be uplifting in and of itself. It may seem dark but these depictions of inner struggle show the beauty of it, the need for them in the process for change, for growth. That's what I aimed to convey in my retelling. Could you please take us into the creative process behind this song? It was definitely a long journey full of experimentation and constant learning. In my head, I heard this track as a backdrop to a cyberpunk movie with a jazz bar scene. For the dark opening, I incorporated processed vocal layers, street sounds, and ghostly atmosphere to make them dirtier and dystopian. I'm constantly consumed by sci-fi films and cyberpunk art but also soundtracks from various movies played a big part. My previous project U N N A (available on Soundcloud) was much more minimal and the idea was to stretch my skills.
I wanted to contrast the outside sense of a broken world with the interior of an intimate jazz club, to take the listener on a journey as if they were following a character through the bleak city. The transition is intentionally jarring and once we're in the jazz club the song starts with the few elements you might see in a small jazz band and slowly builds on more instruments. Both the orchestration and jazz elements were ambitious for me so I focused on making them as cinematic as possible. I rearranged the chords to the original song to suit the jazzy tone but I also wanted to emphasize the pathos of Bowie's original. As far as guitar solos in Bowie songs, Always Crashing in the Same Car is highly regarded so I wanted to honor that by arranging it note for note. That's where the orchestration ultimately peaks and where the emotion really swells. I tried the solo with a few different instruments before settling on the sax to bring it to life, backed by those lush vintage strings. There's something very warm and sweet about Motown string arrangements and I wanted to emulate that as support layers during the solo. The tone really shifts and that's where a moment of clarity breaks through the dystopian clouds. Then we descend back into the darkness of a vicious cycle to finish. Honestly, every song is a lesson and this was my biggest undertaking thus far. It allowed me to gain a lot of confidence in areas I hadn't delved into before.
How was your mindset when recording “I Can’t Read/Always Crashing in the Same Car,” compared to your current mindset?
I recorded this cover and another original single, Creep the Plunge of All that Rises, as my debut release for 12.13 (streaming everywhere and available on Bandcamp). These two songs serve as an introduction to the aesthetic of 12.13. I definitely wanted to show a range in the work but also express my passions and inspiration. It may seem counterintuitive but even though 'doubt' is a big theme in the song I wasn't very riddled with doubt during the process. Or rather, I had a clear vision and even if I didn't know how to technically accomplish the ultimate goal I knew the feeling I wanted to achieve and how it should sound, which were great motivators. With the newer music, I'm a bit less concerned about if it really speaks the scope of my abilities and just letting each new song live on its own tangent. Also, the recording process was so long for the Bowie tribute track that I was just so relieved to finally be done with it. Finishing it was an accomplishment in itself but it's also getting a lot of great reaction from listeners and fans of Bowie's music, so that's very rewarding.
What's next for you?
Ha, glad you asked! So I'm currently finishing one more single that's on the louder, 90s alternative spectrum entitled 'Matrimony'. That should be coming out mid-summer. I've also started working on a 5 song EP that's very explorative of all the above themes - got some real rockers too. I'm really happy to be back in the studio experimenting with new sounds. This has been such a great year for new releases and I'm inspired by all the artists who've been working on albums the past year. Time to turn it up.