Interview: January Jane and Matt Pinfield

January Jane

Recently I was able to schedule a Zoom interview with BMG’s newly signed pop rock band from New York City, called January Jane. The band is comprised of vocalist Pat Via, guitarist Mitch Mitchell, and keyboardist Peter Scialla. This great new band was discovered by music scene legend, Matt Pinfield, and in this interview I learned how January Jane got started and the crazy circumstances that led to Pinfield working closely with the band. I asked January Jane about their strengths as artists, their songwriting process, and how they would describe their live show. The band released a new music video today for their single ”Versions of You” off of their upcoming EP Your Drug, that will be released everywhere music is sold this summer. Read our full conversation where I describe January Jane as being one hit song away from being at the tip of everyone’s tongue.

Thank you so much, Mitch, Pat, and Matt Pinfield for connecting with me today. I wanted to ask you guys about the new EP, titled Your Drug, from your band January Jane and how it all came together. What stood out most from these recording sessions?

Pat Via: I think that it was just the, all the different places that we recorded. I mean, it started in our studio here and then hadn’t traveled all through Brooklyn, and I’m sure the other, Staten Island, too. And yeah, we were in LA a long time. Yeah, we bridge time and space with this because a bunch of the songs we started really back in 2017. And then when we signed with BMG over the summer, then they’d selected some songs too, and Matt picked I think a nice smorgasbord of tunes. And that creates, we think a delightful delicious, succulent, and scrumptious meal. (Laughter)

Mitch Mitchell: I mean, absolutely scrumptious…

Pat: So it’s extraordinary, because some of these songs including “Versions of You,” which I guess is the single that’s out now, we started that in 2017 in this room, and then opened it up again maybe a month ago before it’s released. And it’s amazing. So, it’s like we have pre-COVID, then COVID, and knock on wood, hopefully post-COVID all in the song. It’s a lot of life experience in there.

And you threw out several different words, including “scrumptious” that would go great on a hype sticker right in the front of the CD, right? (Laughter) So I understand, Pat, that you said that you and Mitch, were the original members of the band. And then Peter (Scalia) joined you guys after you discovered him playing piano at a private event in New York City. What do you feel each of you brings creatively into January Jane?

Pat: I mean, I think collectively we’re like, it’s like stages of a rocket. You know, you’ve got you’ve got the thrusters, you’ve got the scrumptious top pointing at the what NASA calls at the point, to point to Elon Musk. (Laughter) I feel like we bring at different times, we all bring different things. I think also, we bring the laughter, which is good. And that’s always the good foundation for a band is just is just having fun. I think that we all bring now which support but obviously, you know, Mitch brings guitar, and Peter brings piano,

Mitch: And Pat brings the vocals.

Pat: Imagine those in one nice, nice rocket. It’s about balance. And it’s about rockets. (Laughter)

So Matt, what made you drawn to this band? And what do you think are January Jane’s strengths as an artist?

Matt Pinfield: Oh, I mean, it’s really a crazy story. Because the whole thing started with these guys, I was ticked off to them. You know, at the time, I had already worked at Columbia Records for about seven years as Vice President of A & R and had successful records with Coheed & Cambria, Crossfade and a bunch of other people.  I’ve done these records, but when I left and wanted to do my own thing, and get involved with other artists, but I was just waiting for the right one to find. So, a friend told me, “you’re gonna have to check out these guys!” And at this point, the nucleus again was Pat and Mitch, even though they had a band playing with them, but they were always the nucleus in the front line of the band. So, it was a crazy story. I was literally getting what they call in New Jersey, there’s a path train that goes to New York City. So it only goes from Newark, through these towns like Harrison, New Jersey City, and so it’s the northern part of the of the state. But I think another thing you know, is in the days of Blackberries, I feel my phone in my hand and it literally is sizzling, like I was burning my hand! But what is going on is it’s some kind of like, I don’t know, ancient aliens extra terrestrial thing…I’m like, What is it? So my Blackberry just sizzled and it went away. And to make a long story short, I had no way to reach my friend who was telling me where they (the band) were and I hadn’t memorized the venue that they were playing at. So I went through this whole crazy thing where I got off the train by the World Trade Center. I went up to a guy who looked really nice getting his baby out of a car with his wife, because with big cities, not everyone is super friendly, and I asked the guy if I could borrow his phone, call my girlfriend back in Jersey and I said, “Go through my voicemail. Here’s my passcode, and find out where this venue is.” Well, finally means to an end, I got the address. I went to this place, I met Pat standing outside of it. And Pat and I just started talking and he goes, “Matt, I’m Pat, the singer from January Jane.” And so here was this old, like movie theater…we think it was probably a porn theater from the 70s days or Saturday Night Fever. (Laughter) It was definitely that kind of look like that was that back in the day. But now it was being used for bands and for people to not only do showcases, but to rehearse. And I went up and saw the guys play. And I was immediately taken by Pat’s incredible voice, and Mitch is an amazing guitar player, these guys were both so talented. That I was like, “wow, I really would like to work with these guys!” So we hit it off, and I love the fact that their musical tastes have such a wide spectrum. You know, Pat, of course loves singers, everybody from Michael Jackson, to Michael Hutchinson, and INXS, and even Depeche Mode. And, so many different people. And then at the same time Mitch’s “Guitar Hero” was Eddie Van Halen. But he could also love Depeche Mode, he loved everything and so these guys have their musical tastes, and it’s all over the place. And I think you can really hear that there are many different influences. It doesn’t sound like it’s from one time, it’s kind of a feel good vibe. A track like “Versions of You” that you might get an essence of some of the great stuff that was going on in the 80s because it had a real groove. And it was danceable, and it had a big hook, but it’s very modern. And it’s just perfect right now. So I started working with them back then. And then we formed this label called Whiskey Vinyl. Me and Pete, the keyboard player, decided well what are we gonna do? We’re gonna put the music out ourselves, we’ll do our own thing and figure out what’s happening. Because we’re not going to necessarily wait for the record labels. And then it’s sort of this long journey and incredible friendship with the guys that’s like a brotherhood. We’ve been through so much together. So, nothing makes me happier. Literally, like yesterday, getting to finding out about more radio stations that are into the single, and it’s so simple for me, because I love the guys. And I also have been along on this road with them. And you know, now I live in Hollywood, in Los Angeles. But when I was in New York, and New Jersey, we were inseparable. We always did so much stuff together. And I’ve seen these guys, they’re writing so many great songs, material built up, I mean there’s got to be 40 or 50 songs, maybe more. But we felt that the songs we put on this upcoming EP and the stuff that we’ll follow, on the next EP and album, were really perfect for right now. And I thin these are really good songs that make you feel good, and take you out of that whole thing that’s going on (COVID). We don’t need downers right now. We need some music that just makes you feel good. And also it’s got something really good to offer.

Yeah, that’s what I was kind of immediately drawn to when I heard these songs that were just presented to me, pretty much like “cold calling,” but they really drew me in. I mean, Pat’s voice really complements Mitch’s guitar playing extremely well and compared to other bands that I’ve reviewed, everything works really well with this band. I’m excited to hear what the future holds for January Jane.

Pat: You two have just made our week!

Mitch: The best endorsement ever! Obviously, we appreciate you enjoying the music, and Matt, that’s our brother. We loved to hear that story. Yeah, that theater was something. (Laughter)

Can you guys describe how the three of you, in January Jane, do your songwriting? How has that evolved over time?

Pat: Obviously, it’s different every time. Honestly, especially with the songs that we have…I mean, there’s been instances where the first time we ever wrote we literally sat down for 10 minutes, and we wrote a song. Which coincidentally will be on our second EP coming out. But that one’s called “New York City Lover,” but we just sat down and penned the song and it just kind of happened. And I think with a lot of our music, it’s like that. Other times, it’ll be one of us has an idea. And we’ll just kind of bring all of our ideas to the table. And again, it just comes together super quick. And that’s also the appeal of working with Mitch and Pete. It’s really this thing where things come together very fast and when something’s gonna work, and so far it’s been a recipe for success.

How do you guys get feedback as far as what’s working/not working in the songwriting process? Do you try to test material live?

Mitch: We used to be playing live, but now we just ask our parents. They love every song. (Laughter)

Pat: At this point you have to trust each other, and that builds up over time. And we have a secret weapon, which is Matt Pinfield. Booth expert anyways. So, Matt obviously was instrumental. But it turns out even of piecing together this first EP, because we have 50 songs to choose from, and then with the Hall & Oates cover we did, that was done right before the release, and they (the label) just kind of tagged that on there. But you have to trust your brothers, you have to trust your team, and your band.

Mitch: And so I think, between Pat, myself, Pete, and Matt…if all four of us are on the same page, I mean, that’s where we’re going.

So Matt, let’s talk a little bit about some of the production details that have went into some of the work with them. What types of vivid memories stood out from this process of working with them?

Matt: You know, what was cool about it Adam, is we went through this whole period where we were testing different waters in different studios over time. So we did some recording in New York City, we did a bunch of stuff at Energy Studios in North Hollywood. And so we were on this journey together working on different songs, and they wouldn’t take their own metamorphosis. And it was interesting, because what I’ve read, when I found out about the band was just not only how diverse they were, but the kind of songs that they could write, and they could write songs that could cross many different genres. But the cool thing about that is, it’s the stuff that’s genuine, it’s authentic, it’s songs that are coming from who they really are, always has. Just like when you’re talking about running in New York City, or even like Your Drug from different observations and things you guys have seen. They’ve lived in New York City, played New York City….and, just for me, they’re the kind of the quintessential “new sound of New York.” Like the last few shows, they’ve been packed out. There’s so many people there, and they’ve played really crazy places too like, St. John’s?

Pat: Yeah, St. John’s.

Matt: The biggest church in New York City. And it was like one of the most insane, beautiful looking places in the world for a band to be playing in the middle of this gigantic thing, was just incredible! But then you see them playing on Bleecker Street, the legendary Bleecker Street of the West Village and also packing out on The Rouge. But, like I said, when it comes to the songwriting and everything, I look for things that I really trust. There’s a couple ideas I have and I like to let an artist do their thing. But if I make a suggestion, it’s just because I think it might add a little something. Something that they would have thought of anyway, so as an A&R guy I have come up with and helped the artists over the years…and it’s the same with these guys. But really, they are great songwriters the structure of their songwriting is really great. I think more than anything is sometimes you got to get them.

Pat: Please continue to talk. Keep the compliments flowing! (Laughter)

Matt: And the thing that I’ve got to say to Adam that’s really cool is, when the band and I hung out together, they’re just the coolest guys. You’d want to hang out with them because they friends everywhere they go really easily. There’s like this karaoke bar on Eighth Street. I walked in with just groups of people and do karaoke all night in New York City, and it just kind of shows that they are doing really cool stuff. It was just a part of like that whole, New York City village scene. And these guys are just immersed in that and even when they were in Los Angeles, or wherever they happen to travel and play, they just make friends and have the ability to really draw people in. And then they use those experiences for songwriting. So I think that that’s really the best thing.  But when I think there’s something that’s maybe a little better than something else, like a song, when we say let’s focus on this song, that’s the extent of it. Because with every artist you work with in your life there are moments like when I was working with Coheed & Cambria, there was a chant at the end of “Welcome Home” that I came up with on the record. Or with Crossfade I helped arrange a song, but everybody’s different. And you always approach the doing A&R and working with an artist in the best way that’s most comfortable for them. You don’t want to over impose yourself as a person, but you want to get the best out of them. So you want to encourage them to do the best version of song that they can do. And I think that’s really not abused.

Yeah, that makes sense from both the artist’s perspective, and from your point of view too, that makes perfect sense.

Pat: And also with Matt, it’s, it’s one of these things where when you have someone that has so much knowledge of all of music, all of recorded and live music ever…when someone like Matt gives you a suggestion, it’s the greatest thing in the world, because it’s coming from a place where we’re brothers, and the fact that he knows so much about music, knows every lyric to pretty much every song we’ve ever sung together or heard together, he knows them all. And so to have someone to be able to guide you through this whole journey like that, between the writing and the whole process of being musicians, out playing live and getting through all sorts of different parts of the journey, it’s really something special.

Definitely. So we’ve talked a little bit about the live performance as a powerful tool for many artists to gain a connection with their fans, and expand their audience. So how would you describe January Jane’s live show back when you guys were playing regularly? And what are you most looking forward to when you can play live?

Pat: Luckily, we have the St. John Divine Performance Suite. Thank God we have all these things that were professionally videotaped, because I still watch it. I’m like, “Oh, yeah, I remember doing this.” And it was a lot of fun. We cannot wait to get back out there. I mean we had our tickets booked for South by Southwest, we were going to go down there and do what we do. And that’s when the whole world kind of came unraveled. Just connecting with fans and connecting with that crowd is like the most electric thing in the world for us. And we feel that we’re ourselves on stage. And that’s where we can be our best. And as far as describing our live show…you just got to come and find out! But it’s one of those things where you’ll definitely have fun. And hopefully, we’re friends at the end of it.

I understand you guys shot a music video for your new single, “Versions of You.” I got an early glimpse of the video and the final product. It looks great! How would you describe the overall look and feel for somebody who hasn’t seen it yet? And who directed the video?

Pat: Peter Roessler directed the video, and it’s basically a take on the song that has the different versions of love, lust, and all these different ups and downs of different versions of yourself and of who you’re with and who you are with everyone around you. Also how that can manifest in relationships with others and it’s quite a ride. So yeah, we love that you got a chance to see it and yeah, we’re super excited for that to come out.

Yes, I heard that’s going be coming out relatively soon. Also this record features a brilliant cover of the Hall & Oates song “I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do)” that strongly complements Pat’s vocal ability, and Mitch’s impressive guitar playing. But what are some artists both, past and present, that each of you admire and look to for inspiration in your own career?

Pat: I mean, there’s a whole Venn Diagram where Matt mentioned some of the artists that we look up to and it started with anything from like Van Halen and Metallica, to Depeche Mode and The Beatles, and Michael Jackson, Prince, and INXS was one that both Mitch and I were huge fans of. And we just did three new covers. We did three covers and we’re going to decide on which of the three of them will be on the next EP, Netflix show, but we have to list every one of these things. You can draw from every different kind of music. I mean we even talk about classical music sometimes. And it’s from that “Hilda’s” commercial, it’s a three hour conversation about Bach or something…it’s just normal things that people do on a Wednesday. (Laughter) Our influences are all over the place. And it could be anything from Prince. And then an hour later, we’re talking about Soundgarden, then we’re talking about Led Zeppelin, Sam Cooke, then George Michael, and it just goes on and on and on.

Mitch: We love music! 

Pat: It’s the common ground that we find between all of those artists that really helps us put these puzzle pieces together, the songs that we create, and also the one we’ve listened to for a cover. It’s one of these things that when we do a cover, and we listen to the original song, these ideas just kind of come up and they come from everywhere.

I got to go pick up all those names Pat just dropped along the way. (Laughter) But in all seriousness, it definitely blends well into your guys’ sound. I’m really excited about what you guys will continue to create. And from Matt’s perspective, what advice do you often give to young bands, looking for a creative boost, or if they experience any type of writer’s block along the way? It (writer’s block) doesn’t seem to be a problem for January Jane.

Matt: One of the things that’s just so rewarding, as far as I’m concerned, is when you were working with the band, everybody can suffer through writer’s block, it can happen. And that could have to do with anything. Artists that I know, through the pandemic, some use that as an opportunity to write more, and others felt that there wasn’t enough stimulation coming in for them to want to write from that emotional standpoint. So it really depends on the individual artists. But I think the advice I would give a young artist is just never give up. And that’s the most important thing, to not give up. To be true to yourself, and believe in what you’re doing and what you love. Don’t be a follower, do what’s really in your heart, because a lot of times, when people are trying to “chase” they do something exactly like something successful at that moment. By the time they get their music out there, just be true to yourself, because what you’re doing now could be the next real trigger that connects people and you could be a real trailblazer. You could really influence a lot of people. The most important thing is yourself, you know? And that can mean anything for a young band and I know right now it’s very it’s very tough for everybody. From January Jane to the people from so many different bands I’ve talked to…like, Sammy Hagar was on my show this week and everybody misses doing live shows. I mean, everybody is really bummed about that. But I think the main thing for a young manager is when they do get the opportunity to go out and play again, get in front of a crowd, don’t be afraid. Dave Grohl once said, “Don’t be afraid to suck, get in the garage, do whatever you want to do. Play your instrument, you will get better. Just keep practicing.” And really be true to yourself. But my advice is always don’t give up. And don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do something that you really want to do. If you really believe truly that it’s something you love, and you believe in it, then it will happen.

Yeah, that’s a great point. And I think I think with a band like January Jane, they are one tour, just one perfect support type of tour, or one great single away from really taking off. I think they have the sound that’s really going to resonate with people. They have a ton going for them.

Matt: They absolutely do. Really appreciate those words, but I wish we could get back out on the road because there’s like a new unit. I mean, no matter whether you’re young, or an older band, everybody wants to tour. Everybody wants to get out and perform. But the thing is when people see January Jane, they’ll totally understanding how great the band is and they’re going to love their show. And I just know that no matter who it is, they’ll win them over. And I think that’s the thing that they have.

So the last question I have for you guys today is if you were to give a few words explaining to someone who’s never heard your band before, why they should listen to you, what would you tell them?

Pat: I think that if you want to hear a new type of sound that makes you feel like you’re walking on air. I mean, that’s a hard question to answer. We’re basically here at the beginning of a new party, and we don’t want it to end. And that’s where our music comes in. And especially coming out of this crazy time that the world has been in and still going through. And our heart goes out to everyone is still going through a hard time, but this is a party that’s hopefully starting up again, and we can’t wait to get out there and party with everybody. And we hope that people take that away from our music, that it’s there for them to feel something that they haven’t felt in a while, all different emotions.

Mitch: We say that we were “all the fun of a great New York City party, with none of the hangover.”

Another perfect statement for the hype sticker on the label of the CD! (Laughter) Well, thank you guys so much for your time. Any last remarks for your fans or anything you want to share with us today?

Yeah. We’ll see you on tour! Hopefully very, very soon. And even if it’s six feet apart, we’ll be there.

Thanks again, Matt, too for taking the time to chat with us. I can’t wait to hear more from the band in the near future. If you ever come through DC, I’ll be there.

Pat: Oh man, I love DC! Take care, Adam!

Photo Credit: Peter Roessler