Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Sam Jayne - 1974-2020

Normally on Wednesdays I would be celebrating Ed Lover Dance Day and write about a hip hop record that I love.  Unfortunately, I'm just not able to do that today as my mind is completely consumed by the news that Sam  Jayne was found dead in his car after being missing for a few days.  Sam's music was so incredibly important to me and even though he hadn't released anything new in a bit, his discography is one that has been present in my life for over twenty five years.

I first heard of Sam Jayne in 1994, likely at the tail end of my junior year of high school.  He made an appearance on two songs on the Beck album One Foot In The Grave.  You have to understand that in 1994, Beck was just about the most important thing in my life.  He opened up a whole world of music and sounds that I had never heard before.  Sam's backing vocals on the songs "Outcome" and "Forcefield" stood out on an album full of standouts and the picture of him in the liner notes (which I have put above) is one of those indelible images of indie rock that will always be burned into my brain.

Sam's backing vocals made me want to explore.  In this pre-internet era I was in while still in high school, I honestly cannot remember how I figured out that Sam had a band called Lync.  I have to assume I read it somewhere, but this is one of those missing pieces of the story that I just can't place.  No matter how I put the pieces together, I bought the Lync album These Are Not Fall Colors.  It's hard to really state the importance of this moment.  Lync was pretty much the first band that I discovered on my own while exploring the new-to-me world of indie rock.  Beck was my gateway, but Lync was the first step I actually took in the direction I wanted to go.

Even today, I am floored by the sounds captured in These Are Not Fall Colors.  It's a whirlwind of a record with jangly guitar chords one minute and thick fuzz the next. Angelic vocals on one song, impassioned hollering a few songs over.  It's really a quintessential indie rock record in my opinion, gathering together disparate sounds, molding them into something new and releasing it back into the world, grinning the whole time.  I don't think I knew that Sam was only two years older than me when I first heard Lync, but it isn't too surprising as he captured feelings of youth and energy that resonated with me so forcefully in that moment.

By the time I bought These Are Not Fall Colors it
was either late 94 or early 95.  Lync was broken up by then, so I never got to see them play.  Their first couple of 7"s were also pretty tough to find.  Today, you just go to Discogs and scoop up the Pigeons or Mhz 7"s with minimal hassle.  But in 1994/1995, you had to dig in stores.  Luckily for me, my buddy Alan had gotten bit by the record collecting bug a few years before I entered the scene.  He had these two 7"s and let me take them off his hands.  It was one of the early instances of hunting and collecting this type of music for my record collection.  It's also one of the earlier memories I have of my friendship with Alan.  The Lync 7"s are some of the most important records in my collection, even if their financial worth to the rest of the world doesn't match the esteem I hold them in.

Around this time, Love As Laughter entered the picture.  I first heard of them when I bought a compilation album called Periscope.  I bought a lot of compilations in these early, halcyon days as it was a good way to discover new bands, but this one was a guaranteed purchase as their was an unreleased Beck song on it.  The Love As Laughter contribution was a song called "Super Christ."  It was upbeat and lo-fi and had a wacky guitar sound that I loved.  I doubt that I knew it was the same guy from Lync the first time I heard it, but just like Lync, Love As Laughter instantly connected with me.

From here I picked up the Love As Laughter cassette Clear Sky = Blue Dye.  I love this album.  It's right up their with These Are Not Fall Colors for me and it captures this perfect energy that few home recordings of the era did.  You can hear the ideas in Sam's head as they poured out of this tape, from the perfect opener of "Cigarette Constellations" to the wacky wordplay of "Zookeeper Vows" to the childlike giddiness of "Pirate Song"  There is so, so much to love about this tape and I haven't even mentioned my favorite song, "The Spokesmodel."

Loud, fuzzy and with unintelligible lyrics, "The Spokesmodel" is one of my favorite songs of the 90s.  What really pushes it over the top are the soaring backing vocals during the chorus.  High pitched "ahhhs" that blast the song into rarefied territory.  With the pounding drums and static filled recording, it's a special, special song to me.  My love for this album also created the bane of my record collecting existence.  The first, self titled Love As Laughter tape.

That first tape is mentioned in the liner notes and in twenty five years I have never been able to find one.  It is the number one record on my want list by a considerable margin and even though I know I will probably never find one to call my own, I always hold out hope that by some miracle, I will finally be able to add it to my collection.  If you ever see one or hear of anyone that has one, please let me know.  It's so very important to me.  My quest for this record also sparked the more recent communications that I've had with Sam over the past few years, but we'll get to that in a little bit.

The next time I as able to get new music from Sam was during a fertile period in 1996 where he released the full length album The Greks Bring Gifts and no less than four new 7"s (not to mention the very excellent split 7" with Ringfinger that came out in 1995, but that one kind of blends into the Greks era for me).  The Greks Bring Gifts was the perfect followup to Clear Sky = Blue Dye.  It was a ramshackle collection of songs and noises, sounding more like a collage of ideas than a proper full length record, but man there is some brilliance in here.  I will always love the song "Uninvited Trumpets" and "High Noon" is a true highlight of these early LAL years.  The 7"s were equally wonderful and confounding with songs, noise, pop and chaos all rolled into one identity.

It was during this time where I was able to see Love As Laughter play a show finally.  They played with a band called Plastique (who had just changed their name to The Seductive) at a place called Meow Mix on Houston Street in NYC.  The show was weird.  Sam was there, he had some drum machines/noise making devices and a guitar and he proceeded to play nothing that I recognized from any of his releases.  It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was certainly memorable.  I went with my friend Joe.  Joe was close friend from high school and early college that I've lost touch with over the years after a falling out that we had that I'm not even totally sure of the reason for.

Joe wrote with me at our college newspaper and we interviewed Sam for it.  Joe took the lead on this one as he was similarly taken with Sam's work and in particular connected with the noisier weirdness whereas I tended to prefer the ones with more traditional song structures.  I am sure I have a copy of the issue with that Sam interview in my attic somewhere, but I don't remember the article at all.  All I remember is sitting with Sam outside of the club and getting crazy answers to the sort of dumb questions freshman year journalism students ask.  He was kind and weird and funny and just seemed like someone from another planet.  The kind of person I was happy to support.

I will admit that the next two Love As Laughter releases are the two I am least familiar with.  When #1 USA came out, I bought it right away, but I didn't form the same type of attachment to it.  Similarly, Destination 2000, the first release for Sub Pop didn't get lodged into my head the same way that the earlier records did.  These records are where Love As Laughter started to transition into an actual band as opposed to the solo Sam Jayne chaos I was used to.  Maybe they just moved on without me and maybe I was just interest in different things now.  Well, Love As Laughter came roaring back into the forefront of my musical life when Sea To Shining Sea was released in 2001.

From the opening "Ba da ba da baaaaaah" gang vocals of "Coast To Coast," Love As Laughter is back, even if they sound nothing like their prior records.  This is a full-fledged indie rock powerhouse.  Sam's vocals and melodies are the catchiest they've ever been and not once during the course of the record am I lamenting the loss of the bedroom fuzz.  They followed this up in 2005 with an album that is even better, Laughter's Fifth.  This is the most consistent of the full band records and in particular the middle chunk of the record ("Survivors" through "Canal Street") is essentially flawless

The last Love As Laughter full length came out in 2008 on Epic/Glacial Pace.  Holy may not have been my favorite album released under the LAL moniker, but it had its moments. Aside from some self released singles, this was the last of Love As Laughter's output.  But, I didn't make any meaningful contact with Sam until a few years later.

Sam was active on Twitter.  Posting absurdities from time to time and at some point, probably around 2014, I reached out to him.  I expressed my admiration of his music and asked him if there was any chance he had another copy of that first cassette kicking around anywhere.  He did not, but he was so kind and genuinely appreciative that someone liked his music.  He also sent me a copy of the CD Thru The Past, Brightly Vol. 1., an extremely difficult to find collection of early Love As Laughter songs.  I would continue to reach out to him over the years, gently prodding him to put those first two tapes on Bandcamp (he never did) or reminding him that the twenty fifth birthday of These Are Not Fall Colors was coming up.

At one point I bought a cassette of Love As Laughter and Lync songs off of eBay.  It was a total homemade deal, but I made MP3s of it and sent them to Sam so he could help me identify the songs.  He spent the time to make a track list for me and helped me identify which songs were on that elusive first tape.  Eventually, kind of out of nowhere, Sam reached out to me and sent me MP3s of that first LAL tape.  It was two long MP3s, one of side A and one of side B with no track listing.

It was such an amazing feeling to be able to hear these songs that had eluded me for so long.  It wasn't a replacement for being able to get my hands on the actual tape, but it was so, so kind of him to send me the songs so I could at least listen to everything.  And really, it is the music that is the most important thing, even though I do like my physical media.

We don't know the circumstances of Sam's death as I write this.  All I know is that Twitter is full of people posting about how they loved and miss him.  I did not know Sam Jayne well.  I couldn't consider myself one of his friends and I can't imagine what the people who are close to him are going through.  But Sam was a hugely important and influential figure in my life.  he's been with me since my first steps into punk and indie and kept popping back up over and over throughout the years.  I adore his bands, I adore the records of his that I have and I'm really sad that Sam is gone.  He leaves a wonderful legacy behind.

And no matter how fruitless the hunt is, I will never, ever give up my search for that first fucking Love As Laughter tape. Thank you Sam.


  1. Thank you for this. I adored Sam, his endless creativity and dedication. His charismatic voice. The chaotic, exuberant energy of Lync and these early LAL songs. I too hold a special place in my heart for the Spokesmodel (and the revolution boys eat apple pie...) I too have been looking like mad for that extremely elusive first tape, and would be eternally grateful if you could somehow share these mp3 (and/or the Thru the past brightly comp, impossible to find). Please let me know if you can help, my email is jane.opinion AAAAT gmail dot com

  2. Thanks for this post. He sometimes would bartend at Enids when I was the cook there(2005 then 2008-13) and he was around doing music with other guys who worked there. He played Santa at the Enids Christmas party one year. Even though I did not know him well at all it hit me hard yesterday when I found it. Love and laughter to all this difficult year.