The Creepy Jingles take a High Dive on debut album
Gaslight my fire.
Three years ago, Kansas City garage rockers The Creepy Jingles released its self-titled debut EP with local label High Dive Records. In the intervening time, the band has become a staple of live shows around the region, playing on bills with artists as disparate as rapper Cuee and country singer-songwriter Jenna Rae. They even opened the release show for Frogpond’s comeback album, TimeThief.
Now, The Creepy Jingles have put out its debut full-length album, entitled Take Me at My Wordplay, also on High Dive, and it’s a massive step forward from the band’s first recordings. Both the band—Nick Robertson on drums, Travis McKenzie on guitar, and Andrew Woody on bass guitar—and frontwoman singer-songwriter Jocelyn Olivia Nixon’s music and lyrics sound bigger and more confident.
It’s a fascinating release, and as suits such a big step forward, dipping into full-blown psychedelia and country-tinged songs when the mood suits them. We reached out to Nixon to do a track-by-track breakdown of Take Me at My Wordplay.
The Pitch: Your song titles show off your love of portmanteaus. Is also making the album title a portmanteau your way of letting people know what they’re in for right from the start?
Jocelyn Olivia Nixon: It’s a meta joke about how people get hung up on my song titles and sometimes miss the actual words in the songs. I’m poking fun at perspective and perception in general by arguing that, depending on where you are standing, you might only see things from one particular angle.
Sometimes it’s sincerity and sometimes it’s satire. I’d hate to really define anything because that doesn’t leave much room for someone else’s opinion—or even my own to change.
If we are being honest about the nature of truth, it has a very fluid quality to it. We all have our own definitions for these words, but they are constantly shifting, evolving, and becoming. What was pain in my past is now comedy. What was once weakness is now strength. People, places, and things I once thought true now look like immature bullshit to me.
The album, in general, is an effort to evolve, show more of what we can do, and keep people guessing. The album starts with pop songs and grows progressively darker, weirder, and more eclectic as you go on.
“Conundrum and Bass”
Using this as the album opener really shows that The Creepy Jingles have grown since the release of the self-titled EP, but it’s catchy and loaded with harmonies, just like always. Have you been frustrated with the perception of your band?
Don’t judge a book by its cover lest ye be judged. It’s only frustrating in the sense of being limited or confined as just a rock/punk band. I’ve always thought of us as a pop band who can be a little noisy from time to time. People have to classify things in order to explain them and when we have limited information, we use association.
However someone defines it, I just hope they dig it.
The first EP was intended to be lo-fi and very from the hip. We did it in 3-4 days. It was always a plan to start smaller to give us someplace to go in time. I definitely am wanting to build towards a bigger story with the band as a whole.
I’m a songwriter first and foremost, and I’ve been honing my craft for nearly two decades—writing whatever strikes my fancy, genre and/or theme-wise. My creative process is left to whimsy, so I’m not consciously trying to do one particular sound.
This song kicking off the record is a proclamation of what’s to come, and a nice bridge from the rock and roll of the verses into something a bit grander and nuanced.
“Trojan Horse Girl”
Putting this out as the first single seems very appropriate. It feels as though the lyrical content is intensely personal, but also accompanied by a monster-movie video. What made you want “Trojan Horse Girl” to be the first thing folks heard off Take Me at My Wordplay? Is it a kind of Trojan horse in and of itself?
Yes, very much so—get you in the house and lock the door. The video mirrored that theme, as in what appears sweet and innocent is actually pretty sinister.
Lyrically, it definitely came from a personal experience about being deeply hurt by someone I loved and trusted. It was an agonizing and eye-opening experience—having the carpet pulled right out from underneath you.
Working through it all, I began to recognize and examine the hypocrisy within myself, and the pain that I had caused others with my own actions. We are all on our own path and have our own unique set of circumstances and challenges to learn from and overcome. There’s no wrong way to eat a Reese’s and all that.
Musically, it was a defining moment for us as a group. For me in terms of identifying how to write a “Creepy Jingles Song” by keeping in mind space for the guys, and leaning into everyone’s strengths. I think we all individually and collectively shine here, smashing the champagne over the bow on our new vessel and setting sail towards the new adventure.
This is one of those songs where even the guitars feel like they’re playing percussion. Was the idea for the song to mimic the stop-and-start, lurching nature of a bad relationship?
I do believe my feelings work their way into influencing how I’m composing a melody and accompanying myself with guitar or piano on a subconscious level. I did know what this song was from the jump.
It’s about loving someone that can’t love you back. I had a bad habit in the past of falling for unavailable people and acting stupidly surprised when it didn’t work out—just wasting my time trying to fix people who didn’t want help. They just needed someone to take advantage of.
It definitely smartened me up as to what I felt I deserved out of myself and relationships with others, and how to navigate those moving forward.
“Working Class Clown”
This song is about a relationship of different sorts: Capitalism. How has balancing musical goals and day jobs impacted the band over the last few years?
Juggling these two opposing worlds seems to remain a constant, unfortunately—working a full-time job to take care of my individual needs all while trying to continuously create and lead the band forward somehow. I end up getting worn out and run down at times because I always throw all of myself fully into whatever I’m doing.
This song is about trying to balance all these spinning plates within life, career, love, and finance, and attempting to find some sort of harmony with it all. It’s about growing up, knowing your value, and demanding some fucking respect for what you bring to the table.
“Fall of the Cabal Game”
What is it like to write a legit protest song?
I have an endless wellspring of venom for bureaucrats and the few making decisions for the many. The majority of us are disenfranchised by a system that was built to fail us.
Being a trans woman, I’m angry and disgusted by far-right-wing conservatives who are exploiting their power and pushing their hateful rhetoric. They spread ignorance with the agenda of misinformation and fear, from the mouths of paid-off political pundits, to create legislation designed to control women’s bodies, harm our LGBTQIA/trans youth, punish the families that support them and the doctors who are trying to save their lives—all in an attempt to weaponize identity and profit off destroying lives.
It really gets me seething, so this gives me an opportunity to fight back and get a few of my own licks in against the bullies.
“Breaking the Fourth Walmart”
This is full “psychedelic, baby!” and there are lyrics about the devil. As much as The Creepy Jingles have been called a garage band, this is a full-on ‘60s moment. What were you drawing from here?
I had the tune for a while but hadn’t really tried to tackle the words until one morning, a friend called and told me about this crazy dream he had about teenagers drawing magic sigils that opened portals. My friend seemed pretty shaken up as he was relaying these bizarre images to me.
I felt possessed by it, as well—almost like a virus that was being spread by word of mouth. It really got stuck in my crawl space. I started drawing parallels between the rise of meme culture with myths, legend, and folklore. I believe it was also heavily influenced by Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles, so it ended up having this occult graphic novel backdrop.
There’s keen patience and thoughtfulness with how Nick and Andrew are slowly building to the climax while Travis came up with the radical tornado sound from him experimenting with his rainbow machine pedal. We kept egging him on to make it crazier and I think it’s the perfect landscape for the weirdest song on the record.
What about recording this album allowed you all to branch out and add in these extra touches, like the piano hidden in the background of this track?
This song was actually written on piano from the start. I just started doing this tumbling, rolling thunder thing, hammering on the keys. I was trying my hand at a song with the full-throttled intensity of something in the vein of “Helter Skelter,” and this is what came out.
We wanted a bigger sound to match a bigger goal and we’ve grown tremendously as a live band over the last few years together. We wanted to continue to challenge ourselves and raise that bar. Then, throw in the fact that we were working with a brilliant audio engineer in Zack Hames, who understood what we were going for.
He was kind enough to drag his whole studio to a lake house cabin we rented in the Ozarks during a frozen November. These things naturally coalesced into the perfect atmosphere which freed us up to feel comfortable experimenting with new ideas, which led us to create something special together.
“Enochian Hymn and Her”
The title and the lyrics are very much of “one perspective” here. What was your religious upbringing, and how has it contributed to the music you’ve made? The whole “love and light from the sun” part could easily be an actual choral piece.
Growing up, my parents were elders at a Christian non-denominational church. I stopped going around my sophomore year of high school for a variety of reasons. I just felt like I wasn’t one of them. At that age, I was still burying who I was and I felt very at odds with the [sterility] of the environment. I didn’t understand the tithing, tax breaks, and shame associated with religion.
I think the biggest takeaway from that experience, and the influence on my art, was from the Biblical horror imagery spun in the Book of Revelation. It spooked me and kept me riveted in curious terror. So, I found it to be insane that this conclusion of the New Testament was so radically different in tone from everything else in the Bible.
What a strange way to end a story. I still find it to be quite fascinating to this day. Because of it, I rally against the peer pressure of touching hot stoves. I won’t do it, so don’t bother burning your dare.
“Gaslight My Fire”
You said earlier, “The album starts with pop songs and grows progressively darker, weirder, and more eclectic as you go on.” A song that starts off with “Lacey where’s your vape pen?” seems to prove that. This feels like a real-life event turned into song.
That line in particular was just me blocking out the first words that came to mind. But I liked the flow of it and it ended up sticking. It kind of informed where I could go with the idea of lamenting with a friend about a world that troubles you, and wanting to escape it.
When the fast part of the song slams in, it’s about what’s driving that stress—which, again, touches on all the huddled bullies out there who drag the reputation of the individual simply because they stand out from the crowd or have a dissenting opinion/perspective from the rest of the flock.
It’s a narrative about the black sheep and how being unique is seen as dangerous and threatening to those who can’t help but blend into the crowd.
“Tabooed Out of the Building”
There’s a theory we’ve long held that every local band, regardless of genre, has one good twangy song in them. Given the longtime conservatism of country music the last 30 years or so, how satisfying is it to make it a little weird again?
I’m probably not the first person you’d think of when it comes to country music, but I’m earnestly trying to honor and pay homage towards the legacy of great songwriters such as Willie Nelson, Hank Williams, Dolly Parton, and Johnny Cash. Artists like Lil Nas X and Orville Peck have already smashed that glass ceiling when it comes to tackling the genre, so I’m appreciative that they’ve paved the way for other queer creators to be accepted by that audience.
“Saved by The Bell Jar”
This title might be the most ironic piece of portmanteau on the whole album, but it seems like you’re more of a Dorothy Parker fan than Sylvia Plath. What are your literary influences?
Dorothy Parker is definitely more my speed, but I would say my favorite writers are Dante Alighieri, H.P. Lovecraft, Oscar Wilde, Lewis Carroll, Rimbaud, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Bob Dylan, Jack Handey, Steve Martin, Douglas Adams, and John Kennedy Toole.