My Jerusalem Wants to Leave Blood on the Stage

I caught up with Jeff Klein of Austin's My Jerusalem, excited and energized from witnessing the taping of a Nick Cave performance at Austin City Limits. Which makes sense, since My Jerusalem and its brand of self-described "Gothic Soul" falls very much in line with Cave's oeuvre of frightening religious allegories and old-world romanticism.

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My Jerusalem, currently on tour with Peter Murphy, was formed in the late 2000s by ex-Twilight Singer Klein (guitar/vocals) and drummer Grant Van Amburgh. The band's ceaseless touring, including stints with the aforementioned Murphy, Psychedelic Furs, and X, among others, is where My Jerusalem has steadily built up a loyal fanbase. (Klein dryly refers to this procedure as "kidnapping other bands" fans.) They've put out an EP and two albums -- the latest being 2013's Preachers, a tour-de-force of detailed arrangements and gorgeous restraint. And according to Klein, a much different affair than My Jerusalem's forthcoming record.

"We're about to start recording a new record, and we've been testing out all these new songs live," he says. "A lot of the new songs I wrote on keyboards and especially bass. I rented an apartment in Brighton Beach which is where my grandparents lived when I was a little kid and where my mom grew up. It was the middle of winter and it was nice, being on an icy beach. I wanted to go to a place I felt connected to to conjure up some mojo, you know? It's a lot easier to write in those environments than sitting in my living room. I feel like I'm gonna be more challenged."

He remarks that in addition to the gospel, blues, soul, and postpunk elements that have been the cornerstone of the group's music, some reference points for the as-yet untitled new record include Gene Vincent and Sub Pop-era Nirvana, of all things.

"So far, the record's a little more confrontational [than previous work]. The key words we had when working on stuff was wanting to make something that was equally 'dangerous' and 'important.' It's not a complete left turn for us. But it's a little darker and intense, and I think that this record is gonna be a more proper interpretation of our live show. [Performing is] cathartic. Even the name of the band -- it's not a religious reference, but I'd like it to be like a spiritual affair. I just want people to feel something. We usually close the set with a song called 'Sleepwalking.' For me it feels kind of like the benediction at the end, from subject matter to just the energy of the song. It's about just being overmedicated in life and sleepwalking through it, but wanting to make a change against that, which I think is an important thing. And I love old Frank Sinatra and even Randy Newman - just cinematic music. And I play cinematic music - we're definitely not a band that just stands there when we play. We leave blood on the stage.

"I'm trying to get something out of it just as much as anybody else. It's really important that our music is always honest. But I think that when you're performing you almost have to transform into a character, what you were feeling when you wrote the song."

My Jerusalem is scheduled to play Crescent Ballroom on Saturday, July 26.

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Joshua Levine