Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jay Van Raalte, a Lowcountry native, dropped a new record Something More and Kind of Less July 28 | Credit: Ashley Rose Stanol

Charleston musician Jay Van Raalte captures an ominous positivity on the new LP Something More and Kind of Less, reconciling loss and love with the fact that everything will be OK simply because there’s no other option.

Click to listen to Something More and Kind of Less

“There’s a kind of stubborn optimism,” said Van Raalte, who uses they/their pronouns. “The album is not particularly upbeat, but there’s a thread of Tom Petty — ‘I won’t back down, this isn’t going to stop me’ — that I don’t think I intentionally embedded but reflected how I was feeling at the time we made it.”

On the new 11-song record, Something More and Kind of Less, Van Raalte’s calming, graceful vocals spill across the eclectic soft rock compositions stitched together with bright drum fills and electric guitar rhythms.

Van Raalte previously released a music video for the single “The Road Ahead” before the album dropped July 28. The contemplative song was written during the pandemic shutdown and narrates an impatient wish for an answer to reveal itself as Van Raalte sings: “I just want to know the end / to cut out the middle and skip ahead.”

The acoustic ballad “Passing Through” is the oldest track that made it onto the new record, resplendent with tender lyrics longing for a love that stays, like the line: “Well I ain’t been to heaven but I know it tastes like you / I’d walk there on the sidewalk if you wanted me to.”

The new album was recorded at Van Raalte’s home studio. It was a team effort between Van Raalte and musicians Derk Van Raalte (their dad) and Matt Megrue tracking all vocals, guitars, bass, synths and keys, with musicians Matt Zutell of Coast Records and Bradley Palles contributing drums along with Van Raalte.

“This album started as what we jokingly called ‘the orphans project,’ ” Van Raalte said. “I had been writing all these songs for years, and some of them didn’t fit in with bands I was playing with at the time or they just got passed over for whatever reason.

“So the original idea was to get all of those songs recorded. And once we got working … these new songs just started pouring out of me. So this album ended up being about 50/50 of the old tracks that we were reviving and the new tracks that were being created in the moment.”

A natural cohesion

Van Raalte said there’s a natural cohesion that came about in the project as the songs took on a distinct shine from the current collaboration, whether they were written years previously or not.

“I don’t want to oversell the cohesion because it is a pretty scattershot album genre-wise,” they said. “We have a grungy, kind of Nirvana-ish, Smashing Pumpkins track that goes straight into an acoustic folk track. So there’s plenty of diversity.”

Songwriting was not something Van Raalte started out wanting to do, they said, and the skills they developed in their career came from learning to do it all on their own.

“I just wanted to play guitar as a little kid,” they said. “I just wanted to bash out some power chords to some Green Day songs. But then you realize you can’t play with people if you don’t know more genres, and you can’t really have a band if you don’t write songs. You can’t make your own records if you don’t know how to play more instruments or know how to record. And you can’t have a band if you don’t know how to manage yourself or book a show. So over time, I’ve developed a whole bunch of skills by necessity and songwriting is very much one of those.”

The biggest step outside of their usual creative universe was the song “Achtung,” they said, which was the second single off the new record.

“That song came together so fast. I made this demo in like 10 minutes. … It had this random drum loop that I put in to keep time and this weird fuzz with this messed up pedal, and it was just supposed to be a sketch. Everybody listened to it, and they were like, ‘That’s the song.’ It was all right there. That drum loop ended up staying. The fuzz ended up staying.”

These days, Van Raalte feels as though they sharpened their overall musicianship.

“Guitar is still by far my native language,” they said, “but I’m less of a guitarist who happens to write songs and more of an artist who is a guitar player. I still love riffing a screaming solo — there’s a track on this record ‘Cautionary Tale’ with two different screaming guitar solos going over top of each other in total guitar chaos — but I think my perspective has broadened over the last few years.”

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