Sporting percolating sounds that contort, flow freely in unison with emotionally-resounding verses, only to reverberate and fall back on themselves like waves in crashing onto the shore – Hollywood-based, New York-raised singer/songwriter Jose Ferrer, who performs under his moniker of Boxwood, has produced an uncompromisingly singular sound that not only exhibits his introspective preoccupation with the nature of emotions and the human condition; but also with generating soundscapes that can conjure images evocative of wide open space, bathed in the shadow of imminent dusk approaching. The instrumentation that accompanies Ferrer’s music is deceivingly minimalistic, in stark contrast to the lushly-layered, almost orchestral sounds that grace his most recent release, entitled Sun Garden City. Preferring to mold his music solely to his convictions, Ferrer foregoes the conventional dynamic of implementing a full band on his recordings, instead utilizing a loop pedal to recycle sounds he has generated on his guitar, synthesizing backing beats accompany his vocals. The result is songs that resonate hauntingly, affirming their meditative nature in the lyricism and in the imagery they can inexorably conjure in tandem with the ethereal and markedly atmospheric arrangements. On Sun Garden City, Ferrer proves that where others see worldly emotions and thoughts, he sees sound and verses. He renders rhythms that contort and ricochet in an affirmed and equilibrate contrast that leads to his ability to distinguish himself from the heterogeneity and the monotony that oftentimes plagues other artists who produce their music using looping techniques. His prowess as a songwriter, when compounded with his innovative ability to channel emotion into sound makes him one of the preeminent talents producing music in South Florida today. One cannot help but draw parallels between the Boxwood sound and that of mid 90’s space rock stalwart Hum, which in spite of being a full band, and having placed considerable emphasis on heavy guitar shredding, showed the same propensity for producing vivid imagery evocative of empty space, and blanketed with emotionally resonant lyricism. We took the opportunity to sit down with Ferrer in an effort to better understand the methods that underlie his music.
From what we understand, you use a looper pedal to generate the sound of a full band without necessarily having a full band backing you on your tracks, a-la Brian Eno. Can you describe the process of making tracks in this manner?
Jose Ferrer: The writing process is always different. In the past I’d write songs and try out accompaniment with the loop pedal. Lately, anything goes. I’ll loop random noises then build around them till I flesh out a song. Sometimes I’ll loop a drum beat or a riff and start from there. I suppose it’s no different then jamming with a band except you have more patience with yourself. The hard part of using a loop pedal is putting together a song that’s well crafted and doesn’t sound like your a dude with a loop pedal.
When brainstorming to write new material is there any particular source of inspiration either within your life and experiences, or musically, that you find yourself turning to time and time again?
Jose Ferrer: Lyrically, I think I’m always writing the same song with slight variations, not on purpose. It goes something like this: There’s and giant boulder and I need to get it from point A to point B. I can’t seem to get a good grip on it. I can almost lift it. I know I can but if only…
I almost always feel like this in life by default, like i’m almost there. Just a little more. Of course we never really get “there”. It’s usually never enough with most people. I think we all feel this in some way or another.
I try not to write to bitch about anything. I’d rather inspire or put in perspective if possible.
In what ways can Boxwood the performer be distinguished from Boxwood the studio musician? Are there just certain mentalities that you bring into the studio that you try not to bring on the stage with you, or do you just try to carry the same mindset with you in any setting you perform in?
Jose Ferrer: I think it’s the same. My live performance depends a lot on how much work I put into at home. The better prepared I am the less I worry about on stage and the more I can let loose and put on a more engaging performance.
How do you go about transitioning from the trial and error approach of laying down your tracks in the studio, to performing in live setting, where there is less of a margin for experimentation and improvisation?
Jose Ferrer: Practice. There is little experimentation or improvisation live unless I mess up a loop or have some technical issue and have to crash land a song without you knowing anything went wrong. But this is just me, I could easily improvise live with a loop pedal if I wanted to.
While much has been made of your songwriting, what sort of vibe or ambiance do you try to replicate on your tracks in terms of the sound you’re trying to generate?
Jose Ferrer: None in particular, I’m open to channel anything… although I tend to filter through moody and atonal chords.
You’ve had numerous DIY-style releases over the past few years, and your most recent release, Sun Garden City, is no exception. What have you taken away from the recording process as an artist, and how do you feel it has helped you refine your ability to do it better every time you step foot into the studio?
Jose Ferrer: There’s still a whole world of knowledge to be acquired in the studio. I tend to have lo-fi leanings. Lo-fi frees up a song for the listeners to interpret it in their own way, to fill in the blanks. It’s like a blurring effect. But anyways, I’m learning to clean up my sound and hopefully have more control in the post production, at least for Boxwood. I’ll keep the lo-fi for side projects.
If there’s any sort of feeling that you seek to evoke from your listener with Boxwood’s music, what would you describe that as being primarily?
Jose Ferrer: Whatever… I’m gonna continue making music that makes me feel something and hopefully it will evoke something in you as well, ideally something positive.
Finish this sentence. Support local music because…
Jose Ferrer: You wouldn’t want your plants to die, would you?